I examine the meaning of gift and reward and their relationship to salvation. The key motifs are based on the italicised portions in John 6.
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day…57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” …60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offence at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
In this passage, it is clear that the reason why a sinner comes to (believes in) Christ is because the Father has (previously; in eternity) given the sinner to the Son. And if you do come, you will be given eternal life. We see the same promise in John 17:6 – “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.” This promise was decreed from eternity: Titus 1:2, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”
Every whosoever is familiar with John 3:16 – “God so loved the world 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The word “whoever,” or “Whosoever,” evokes for the English speaker the melodramatic notion “whoever chooses to believe.” A better translation, is “God loved the world in such a way that he gave his son, that those believing in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Here is Matthew Henry on John 3:16: “Jesus Christ came to save us by pardoning us, that we might not die by the sentence of the law. Here is gospel, good news indeed. Here is God’s love in giving his Son for the world. God so loved the world; so really, so richly. Behold and wonder, that the great God should love such a worthless world!”
And the “Pulpit Commentary”:
The Divine love is the sublime source of the whole proceeding, and it has been lavished on “the world.” This world cannot be the limited “world” of the Augustinian, Calvinian interpreters – the world of the elect; it is that “whole world” of which St. John speaks in 1 John 2:2. “God will have all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). Calvin himself says, “Christ brought life, because the heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish.” (See Commentaries on John 3:16).
The “world’ in 1 John 2:2, contrary to the Arminian view above, comprises those that were given to the Son before the world began (John 6:37-44 above), not those in the world who are those not given to the Son before the world began; as it says in John 17, Jesus does not pray (intercede) for the “world” (the non-elect) but only for those whom the Father gives him, gave Him from eternity. These consist of the disciples Jesus was praying for in John 17 as well as those who will come to believe in the future. The “all” (there is no “men”) in 1 Timothy 2:4 cannot refer to everyone without exception, for at least two reasons:
Many are not saved, which means God would be a massive failure, making nonsense of Isaiah 46:9-10 – “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”
2. The import of the “given” verses in John 6:37-44 and John 17 discussed above.
Yes, Calvin says God loves (with a saving love) the human race, not animals, not any other kind of being. This does not mean every individual, but only those who were given: from the Jewish nation and the “nations” (Goyim – Gentiles); those who formed “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).
Salvation, the whole process – those the Father gives to the Son, regeneration, repentance and faith, sanctification and glorification – is of the Lord. Therefore – as I recently read in an Anglican Purpose Statement, “we cannot save ourselves and salvation is through (my italics) Christ and Christ alone.” Don’t, however, be deceived. Because this statement is from an Anglican view, therefore an Arminian view, it does not mean that salvation is “of the Lord” (Jonah 2;9) alone, that is by Christ ALONE. What Anglicans, in general, mean is that there is no other external (outside oneself) entity by which one can be saved. The typical Arminian belief is that God is only a possible saviour, and therefore the Father is unable to give you to the Son unless he foresees that you will grant him permission to do so. So, Christ is the possible saviour, and has a great plan for your life – unless you have other plans. Can there be such a person as a real saviour, a saviour who doesn’t depend on the hand he is dealt, and if so, who is this amazing being? You, of course. That is the logical outcome of the Arminian position – praying on his knees for God to change people’s hearts but on his feet defending their “God-given” right to change it themselves.
In the John 6 passage above, we saw that sinners are the Father’s gift to the son. The next question is: Was there anything good (righteous) in those specific sinners that influenced the Father to give them to the son? By “good” is not meant loving kindness, but primarily acknowledging and bowing before Christ as Saviour and Lord – out of which flows loving kindness. No one, in the natural, therefore sinful, state wants to confess Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12, Psalm 14:1-3).
Therefore, you can only want to come to Christ, to see his kingdom, if he puts that desire into you. How do you get this desire. It should be simple (to understand) but often is not: “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3). So, before you can believe, you need to see, and before you can see, you need to be born again. Here, in contrast, is the Arminian view: “I see Christ, then with some help from his indispensable grace I open my door to him, and then believe. Next, I ask Him to regenerate me (make me born again). The unregenerate puts the cart before the horse. Who cares, as long as there is a cart and the horse; we’ll find out in heaven what comes first!
I move on to the second part of my title: reward.
In Did the Father turn his face away in sorrow from the Cross?. I examined the following verse in the song “How deep the father’s love for us.”
How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory
This verse is saying that the reason why the Father turned his face away was because of the great pain he felt at crucifying his son. Pure conjecture, and sentimental conjecture at that. A mystic, though, could very well be better informed.
Previously, I argued that the Father gave a definite number of sinners (the elect) to the Son as a gift, which, I should add, was predestined from eternity (Ephesians 1). Believers are the Father’s gift to the Son. Or more accurately, The Father, by His wise secret counsel, gave sinners whom he elected to salvation to the Son. Consider this gift in the light of “reward.”
Here is another verse from the song above, “Did the Father turn his face away in sorrow from the Cross?. This verse mentions the Son’s reward:
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with Allan my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom.
What is Christ’s reward? The first line of the verse tells us that saved sinners feel unworthy to share in Christ’s reward. What can this reward be? An extra thousand cattle on an extra thousand hills – spiritual cattle on spiritual hills, if you like? More glory than He had before He came to earth? No, because Christ cannot have more glory than he had before he came to earth: John 17: 4 “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
Here is an excerpt from Paris Reidhead’s sermon “Ten Shekels and a Shirt” regarded as one of the best sermons of all time, and rightly so. The emphases are his:
“I went out there motivated by humanism. I’d seen pictures of lepers, I’d seen pictures of ulcers, I’d seen pictures of native funerals, and I didn’t want my fellow human beings to suffer in Hell eternally after such a miserable existence on earth. But it was there in Africa that God began to tear THROUGH THE OVERLAY OF THIS HUMANISM! And it was that day in my bedroom with the door locked that I wrestled with God. For here was I, coming to grips with the fact that the people I thought were ignorant and wanted to know how to go to heaven and were saying “Someone come teach us”, actually didn’t want to take time to talk with me or anybody else. They had no interest in the Bible and no interest in Christ, and they loved their sin and wanted to continue in it. And I was to that place at that time where I felt the whole thing was a sham and a mockery, and I had been sold a bill of goods! And I wanted to come home.
There alone in my bedroom AS I FACED GOD HONESTLY WITH WHAT MY HEART FELT, it seemed to me I heard Him say, “Yes, will not the Judge of all the earth do right? The Heathen are lost. And they’re going to go to Hell, not because they haven’t heard the gospel. They’re going to go to Hell because they are sinners, WHO LOVE THEIR SIN! And because they deserve Hell. BUT, I didn’t send you out there for them. I didn’t send you out there for their sakes.” And I heard as clearly as I’ve ever heard, though it wasn’t with physical voice but it was the echo of truth of the ages finding its’ way into an open heart. I heard God say to my heart that day something like this, “I didn’t send you to Africa for the sake of the heathen, I sent you to Africa for My sake. They deserved Hell! But I LOVE THEM!!! AND I ENDURED THE AGONIES OF HELL FOR THEM!!! I DIDN’T SEND YOU OUT THERE FOR THEM!!! I SENT YOU OUT THERE FOR ME! DO I NOT DESERVE THE REWARD OF MY SUFFERING? DON’T I DESERVE THOSE FOR WHOM I DIED?”
“I was there not for the sake of the heathen. I was there for the Savior who endured the agonies of Hell for me. But He deserved the heathen. Because He died for them. My eyes were opened. I was no longer working for Micah and ten shekels and a shirt. But I was serving a living God.”
When I heard this last paragraph, I thought: “Paris, you’re wrong. Doesn’t John 3:16 say, ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whosoever believes in him will have eternal life.’ But here you are saying that God (the Father) so loved His son, that he gave Him these lovers of iniquity to become his adopted brothers and sisters. And the way the Father chose to do this, you would agree, Paris, was to unleash his wrath on His Son (with the Son’s full cooperation), the wrath these lovers of iniquity deserved What love is this! Indeed.
Here is a very moving excerpt (a short YouTube clip) from Paris Reidhead’s “Ten Shekels and shirt” about the reward of Christ’s suffering. The first 20 seconds show an excerpt from “The Passion of the Christ,” which is not the main reason for the excerpt’s poignancy.
What then can the Saviour’s reward be? Well, if he has saved you, then His reward is you, innit? The ones the Father gave to the Son, gifted to the Son, “the ones believing” (translated infelicitously as “whosoever”) in John 3:16, are His reward – the reward of His suffering. If we are born again, and consequently united to Christ through faith, “it should rejoice our hearts: for Christ herein has his rewards for his suffering.” (Jonathan Edwards). Isaiah 53:10 – “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” (See Jonathan Edwards, “For His sufferings, God promised Christ the reward of seeing sinners saved”).
“What motivated God to create the world, asks Mark Talbot (“When the stars disappear: Why do Christians suffer” – Christ the Center podcast, minute 50). One way to answer this is to say that God the Father loved the Son so much that He created the world in order that he might gather a people who would in fact become his Son’s bride and praise His Son forever throughout all of the eschaton (consummation). That’s the end of the story.”
And the end of the reward’s suffering. Not only the end of their suffering, but the latter’s intent.
“Why should I gain from His reward?” No, rather “Why make me, this unclean thing (Romans 3:13-18), his reward?”
You have won my heart, now I can trade my ashes in for beauty: How one does not come to faith in Christ24 Feb
There was a time – most of my professing Christian life – that I would not have cringed at the following statement said recently by an Arminian preacher: “If you allow yourself to be used you are enabling God.” This utterance is missing its often heard first-still-born sibling: “If you enable God to save you, he will.” You only have to give him the nod and He’s in there raising you from your stinking grave and bringing you into the Kingdom of the Son He loves.
So, you enable God to save you, use you, ostensibly because he respects your vile freedom. Horror. No you don’t enable God to do anything; He will get his purposes done.
I know what I’ll do, I’ll come to Rabbi Saul in a dream and ask him whether he wouldn’t mind pretending that I’m throwing him off his horse tomorrow morning when he sets out for Damascus to create mayhem among my sheep. And I also would appreciate it, Paul, if you also pretend that this blow to your head is what is going to bring you to your senses.
“The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33).
Originally posted on OneDaringJew:
Another song ( with great music and voice, sung by Kathryn Scott) is “At the foot of the cross.” Here is the first verse:
At the foot of the cross
This is another in the series, “The Songs we shouldn’t sing in church.”
Thomas Aquinas is purported to have said, “Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.” I describe what can happen when love, or anything, takes off, and knowledge takes a holiday.
Mother Teresa said the following in the ”Decree of Erection” for her congregation:
“To quench the thirst of Our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of souls by the observance of the three Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience …” (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, the Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta”, edited and with commentary by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M. C. (USA: Doubleday, 2007, p. 20). Where does Mother Teresa get the idea that Jesus is constantly “thirsting for souls?” I think the constant sacrifice of the Mass has much to do with it. In Roman Catholic theology the sacrifice is never over. This constant thirst idea is an aberration, because there is nothing in the Bible says that Jesus is thirsting in heaven. (See ”The constant thirst and constant sacrifice of Jesus Christ: The Charism of Mother Teresa”).
What about God from a Unitarian (non-Trinitarian) view. According to the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, “ Whenever God faced with anyone who appealed and prayed to Him with such a grieving heart, He related to that person with a sorrow welling up in His heart.” (“Let Us Become the Ones Who Can Understand God’s Sorrow”).There is nothing about this in the Bible.
What about God the Father (from a Trinitarian point of view). Did the Father turn his face away in sorrow from the crucifixion of His Son? I examine this question here. There is a very moving song called “How deep the father’s love for us.”
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory
Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
There are about two dozen comments on this song to be found here. The following two are representative:
1. What great inspiration!what a deep song on the love of God. again and again,i listen to this piece and i get broken in my spirit. this is one of the best xtian [sic] songs ever written in history to reveal the great love of a sinless Christ for a sinful human race.
2. The song is really amazing! It makes me feel as if we’ve just entered heaven and the song is played as we approach the face of God, getting to meet Jesus face to face. I love it!
The words are moving, but more important, mostly biblically on the button, except for this verse, (and perhaps “Why should I gain from His reward”) about the Father turning his face away in sorrow.
How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory.
Before I speak of sorrow, I need to begin with wrath. Ben Trigg (“Did the Father turn His face away”) presents a good case that the Bible never talks of God turning his face away in wrath, or for any reason. “No doubt, says Trigg, the wrath of God is visible at the cross.” However, in spite of “My God my God why have you forsaken me” (Jesus voicing Psalm 22:1, this does not mean that the Father turned his face away, for we read in Psalm 22:24 : “He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.” Jesus’s cry in Psalm 22:1 should not be truncated from the rest of Psalm 22.
The problem I have with this verse of the song is not, as in Trigg, that the Father turns His face from the Son as a sign of his wrath against sinners. This is the problem: there is a strong allusion, I would say assertion, that the reason why the Father turned his face away was because of the great pain he felt at crucifying his son. But who knows that other than the Father?
(In Christian theology, patripassianism is the view that God the Father suffers (from Latin patri- “father” and passio “suffering”). Its adherents believe that God the Father was incarnate and suffered on the cross and that whatever happened to the Son happened to the Father and so the Father co-suffered with the human Jesus on the cross. This view is opposed to the classical theological doctrine of divine apathy. According to classical theology it is possible for Christ to suffer only in virtue of his human nature. The divine nature is incapable of suffering. There is no consensus that the early church considered this a heresy or not – Wikipedia).
What we do know – which we get from the Bible; that’s all we’ve got, and it’s sufficient – is that at the cross, the Father’s full wrath that should have fallen on sinners, He unleashed on His Son. But then, who wants to sing songs, or preach, on the wrath of God in church “worship” (the songs part of church). It makes a person feel bad, and makes God look really bad.
Except for the contentious patripassianism bit, the song “How deep the Father’s love for us,” is, as someone said, “One of my favourite songs… Fantastic song, it truly speaks to me how truly deep our heavenly Father loves us, even when our voices are among the scoffers.” Here are the words put to music.
“Brainy quotes” from Thomas Aquinas: There’s nothing like a good sleep, a hot bath and a glass of good red wine18 Feb
Here are a few Thomas Aquinas quotes from Brainy quotes followed by my comments. “How can we live in harmony? First we need to know we are all madly in love with the same God.” Does this “we,” refer to everybody without distinction, including atheists, agnostics and materialists? Surely many people of Thomas’s day, as of any day, hate God. If Thomas is not referring to atheists, is he referring to Muslims and Jews? Consider Jesus’s words: John 14 6. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
In verse 7, Jesus says “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.” Thus, after the advent of Jesus, the God that the Muslims and Jews want to know, or think they know, is neither the Son of God (Jesus) or God the Father, and so, not the Christian God. As far as Thomas’s “madly in love” with God, although true Christians love God, many of these are not madly in love with Him. Thomas was genuinely in love with God; though today the phrase “in love” used about God often appears in schmaltzy boyfriend- girlfriend church songs.
“Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.”
There was at least one exception where this remedy would not have worked. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus says “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch” (Mark 14:34). And what about someone who had just lost a child to sickness or murder; and the many other situations. Or, to return to the Bible: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Would a good sleep, a nice hot bath, and a glass of claret dissolve that worldly sorrow? Maybe what Thomas really said was: “Some sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.” Here is an example from Jewish life. Jewish mothers often have a lot of tsorres (sorrows), which may be nothing more than the kitke burning in the oven. I doubt whether all the bath salts in the world could wipe away that sorrow.
“Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.”
In my teaching courses I was taught that a great motivation to learning something is being interested in it; and if you love it, you’ll want to learn even more. Biblically speaking, love of God and knowledge of God are two sides of the same coin – unless you’re a mindless mystic. It is true, though, that we can get lost in love, where our minds freeze up – which can be good for you.
“The things that we love tell us what we are.”
And the things that we hate? Do the things that we hate tell us who we are not? Of course not, and Thomas would, I think, agree. Surely it is things that we both love and hate that tell us who we are – and who we ae not. Be careful though: John says: I love Church. Does that tell us that he loves church? No, he might be lying. Ok, then; John doesn’t only tell us he loves going to church, he also goes a lot. So does this mean that he loves church because he never misses a Sunday? Hint: his wife loves going to church, and he loves her; or wants peace at home.
“How is it they live in such harmony the billions of stars – when most men can barely go a minute without declaring war in their minds about someone they know?”
When you knock a star over its head, it doesn’t see stars, bravely stagger to its feet, rip off its rolex, and punch you in the jaw.
“It is requisite for the relaxation of the mind that we make use, from time to time, of playful deeds and jokes.”
You said it Thomas, I feel much better now. I’d feel even better perhaps if I didn’t – like children – take play so seriously. Anyhow, why worry, as Thomas does and many Catholics don’t, about all this serious biblical and doctrinal stuff. Let us raise our glasses: “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there’s dancing, laughter & good red wine; at least I have always found it so, Benedicamus Domino! (Hilaire Belloc)
“In his article on the use of apologetics, “What’s it all for?”, the author holds the view – confusing to many – that “I am definitely an apologist and in the same breath say that there can be no objective proof for the existence of God.” Some hold the view that apologetics is useful, others the view that there is no objective proof of God’s existence, but very few would hold to both views. The author writes:
“Apologetics was never really or initially about proving God to someone who did not believe in God to begin with. It simply wasn’t. It has evolved into that kind of thing, and along with it, it has become an cyclical exercise nearing futility. Rather, apologetics is about the process of critical thinking about the way we already make sense of reality and the universe. It is the process of checking ourselves (as theists) to make sure that we are thinking about our understanding of God correctly and accurately. And it works most of the time. It actually does provide a logical framework based on our existing worldview that demonstrates our beliefs about God and religious truth are accurate.”
So, the author maintains, you are not going to convince an atheist that God exists, definitely not that a personal God exists, and certainly not that the being of this personal God is a trinity of persons. Apologetics is of most use in a theist-to-theist discussion. As Greg Koukl puts it, all he is doing in his “Stand to Reason” ministry is putting a stone in someone’s shoe. Make that a burning cinder, and I’ll agree.
However, continues the author, that does not mean “I think apologetic conversations between a theist and an atheist is entirely useless. But the point cannot be to show that the atheist ought to believe the theist is right. That simply will not work. Rather, the point ultimately is to apply a critical analysis of the argument itself. The atheist will point out logical errors in the arguments because they cannot have any kind of confirmation bias to disregard them. However, the theist has to keep in mind that the atheist will also point out perceived errors based on the assumptions the theist does not share. That’s where the theist has to be able to recognize where the atheist are coming from so he/she can discern which objections are valid and which ones are not, because from the atheist’s perspective, they are simply not going to be able to tell the difference.”
What can be very useful for theists in discussion with atheists is to get atheists to think about their thinking, which, in a nutshell, is what philosophy is all about. At the end of the the Backpack Radio episode “Thinking about thinking,” the presenter slips in the most significant remark of the whole episode: Christianity is foolishness to the natural man (1 Corinthians 1 and 2), and that without regeneration (being born again – John 3) – no matter how clear your presentation – no one can come to believe in Christ.
Having said that, logical argumentation, as the writer of “What’s it all for?” said above, can be very useful in showing atheists the inconsistencies they hold. For example, in Backpack Radio’s subsequent episode, James Anderson discusses “worldview.” He relates an anecdote about someone who used his book What’s Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions, in his apologetics class. The book is written in the form of a flow chart. The first question Anderson asks is “Do you believe in absolute truth?” If you say yes, you are directed to a specific section of the book; if you answer no, you are sent to another section. Anderson tells of someone who went through the book with non theology students In answer to the question “Do you believe in absolute truth?” about 90% said no. This answer led to a related track of the book. At the end of their journey, most wanted to change their minds.
Conclusion: thinking about thinking, that is, philosophy, will definitely not save you, but it can certainly get your unbelieving knickers in a knot. And if you’re riding furiously towards Damascus, that knot might be the (unguaranteed) means that God uses to pluck you off your high horse. As Anderson said, world views seldom change, but this change may occur under a crisis (death-beds generally excluded). Ultimately it is a work of the Holy Spirit – who, of course, never fails in what He wants to do. The fact that God never fails in what he wants to do is something the Calvinists on this page, if not most Christians, believe?
God uses different means for different people. One of these may be apologetics. What it ultimately comes down to is that No one can know God without His voluntary condescension (Westminister Confession of faith), in a word his grace, which by itself is sufficient to save – through faith, both divinely generated that turns a sow into a cat:
“Try and teach a sow to wash itself, and see how little success you would gain. It would be a great sanitary improvement if swine would be clean. Teach them to wash and clean themselves as the cat has been doing! Useless task. You may by force wash that sow, but it hastens to the mire, and is soon as foul as ever. The only way in which you can get a sow to wash itself is to transform it into a cat; then it will wash and be clean, but not till then! Suppose that transformation to be accomplished, and then what was difficult or impossible is easy enough; the swine will henceforth be fit for your parlor and your hearth-rug. So it is with an ungodly man; you cannot force him to do what a renewed man does most willingly; you may teach him, and set him a good example, but he cannot learn the art of holiness, for he has no mind to it; his nature leads him another way. When the Lord makes a new man of him, then all things wear a different aspect. So great is this change, that I once heard a convert say, “Either all the world is changed, or else I am.”(Charles Spurgeon, “All of grace”)
Christ blew Saul of Tarsus off his horse. That’s nothing; He blew me off my high horse.
John 1:13, Young’s Literal translation, reads: “who not of blood nor of a will of flesh, nor of a will of man (Greek aner) but — of God were begotten.”
Here is the New American Standard Bible (NASB): “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the NIV translation: “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
Aner has the following meanings in the New Testament:
A. with reference to sex
1. of a male
of a husband
of a betrothed or future husband
B. with reference to age, and to distinguish an adult man from a boy
C. any male
and last but not – by any stretch of the imagination – least
D. used generically of a group of both men and women
I asked a pastor the meanings in the NASB translation of:
Me – What does “not of blood” mean?
Pastor – It means not of human descent.
Me – What does “not of the will of the flesh” mean?
Pastor – It means “not of a man’s decision.”
Me – What does “not of the will of man” mean?
Pastor – Not of a husband’s decision; the same as the previous “not of the will of a man’s decision.”
In sum, for this pastor, and Arminians in general, “human decision” and the “will of man” cannot refer to the mind/spirit of believers but to their fleshly fleshy fathers. In other words, “human decision” and the “will of man” must, for Arminians, refer to the sexual desire of the believer’s Poppa. Which leaves the sacrosanct will of the believer intact and free to choose to be born again. If this is true, then when we read the last part of the verse “but born of God,” what this must mean for the Arminian is “but born of God (and of the believer – understood). If “and the believer” is not understood, that would make him or her a robot. Capiche?
But what about Romans 9:16? “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (NIV).
That’s easy” “desire,” “effort”; the husband’s willy, naturally. And if you don’t believe me, here’s the context of Romans 9:16 to prove my point:
10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? (NIV).
Here are the titles of songs sung at the same service:
Lord reign in me.
I lift my hands.
So far, very nice titles. Here is a verse from each:
Lord reign in me – Last verse: “Lord reign in me, Reign in your power, Over all my dreams, In my darkest hour, you are the Lord of all I am, So won’t you reign in me again.
Comment: If “you are the Lord of all I am,” why do you – in the next breath – warble, “So, won’t you reign in me again?” Say no more.
There was less than a minute interval between the above verse and the first verse of the next song.
I lift my hands – First verse: “I lift my hands to the coming king, To the great I am to You I sing, For you’re the One who reigns within my heart.”
Comment: So which is it? “For you’re the one who reigns within my heart” or the plea in the last verse of the previous song you sang a moment before: “So won’t you reign in me again.” Shouldn’t you be singing, “So won’t you feign in me again.”
The next song was Blessed Assurance. Last verse – “Perfect submission, all is at rest, I in my saviour am happy and blessed, Watching and waiting, looking above, Filled with his goodness, lost in his love.”
Put it all together, it spells smother: Blessed assurance reigning in me, reign me in again.
But who cares! They’re nice songs. Anyhow it’s too late to do anything about it one minute before proceedings begin.
Nathan Betts in God’s final word writes:
“The cross of Christ shows us the enormity of evil that needed to be dealt with but it also shows us a God that cares. The theologian, N.T. Wright beautifully calls the cross, “God’s no to evil”. [ N. T. Wright, Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (Harperone, 2008), 87]. In the cross of Christ we see that God is not distant from suffering or evil but one who got involved in the problem. The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ tells us that the real evil we see around us is not the end.”
The cross, says Wright, God’s no to evil. Is that what Wright gets from God ordaining/predestinating/decreeing the cross? “As you yourselves know — this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” – Acts 2:23.
The verse says that God (the Father) ordained the crucifixion of Jesus. God didn’t – oh what a distorted, but all too human, notion – fit his divine plan of redemption into what he foresaw evil man would do, namely, crucify His Son. To think like this is to drain the two primary colours of redemption from the blood of Christ – his wrath and love.
There is no evil in God, there is no sin in God, but he ordained this evil, this sin. Why did God foreknow the cross? For the same reason he foreknows anything: it was part of his definite plan, his eternal decree. Yet lawless men are held accountable for this evil. That is what the verse is saying, love it, hate it. Most professing Christians blanch at the thought – naturally.
There are so many songs sung in church that shouldn’t be. Lines such as “I’ll lay it all down again” (what’s this “it,” YOUR life!) and “I wanna be with you-hoo-hoo” are plain silly. (See Songs we should not sing in church).
Hugh Binning lived and died in the first half of the 17th century (1637 – 53). What he said about worship applies to all times and climes – whether it be of the formal or informal (no form?) kind”
“For the most part, our worship savours and smells nothing of God, neither his power, nor his mercy and grace, nor his holiness and justice, nor his majesty and glory; a secure, faint, formal way, void of reverence, of humility, of fervency, and of faith. I beseech you let us consider, as before the Lord, how much pains and time we lose, and please none but ourselves, and profit none at all. Stir up yourselves as in his sight for it is the keeping of our souls continually as in his sight which will stamp our service with his likeness. The fixed and constant meditation on God and his glorious properties, this will beget the resemblance between our worship and the God whom we worship and it will imprint his image upon it, and then it should please him, and then it should profit thee, and then it should edify others.”
When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as Calvinism understands it.
Todd Pruitt writes:
“I’m thinking about starting a support group for Calvinists who have been mistreated by Arminians, Mennonites, Amish, Mormons, Hindus, stamp collectors, and residents of New Jersey. More seriously, I do wonder what is behind the “Calvinists are meanies” posts to which we are treated routinely. Don’t misunderstand, I know there are prickly Calvinists. But I don’t buy the hype. I suppose we could trade anecdotes. For example I could write posts about the fact that the meanest and most self-righteous people I have ever encountered are Arminians. But what would that accomplish? Honestly, some of these posts sound a bit like, “I thank you Lord that I am not like this mean Calvinist.” What is more, until prominent Arminian theologians stop publicly comparing “the god of Calvinism” with Satan, then the reports of mean Calvinists are going to ring a bit hollow.”
“Certainly I am not the only one concerned by these conversations. Have we become this soft? I am trying to imagine previous generations of Christians complaining about their feelings being hurt. I am not trying to be glib, nor am I seeking to mock anyone. But I am genuinely concerned about the softening of our spines. I suppose we can ask Calvinists to be less confident in their doctrine or that they take a softer stand on Joel Osteen and substitutionary atonement. But then we would be robbing Calvinists of some of the fun in being a Calvinist. And who wants to be around an unhappy Calvinist? How about we do this: The next time a Calvinist acts like a horses rear end, forgive him. If he persists then confront him in a spirit of gentleness and continue to forgive him since the Lord has forgiven you so extravagantly. And I promise to do the same the next time I encounter a particularly nasty Arminian or stamp collector. (“My name is Todd and Arminians have been mean to me“).
Not all stamp collectors are Arminians; indeed, most are agnostics, at best. I bet, though, that most Christian stamp collectors are Arminians. Pruitt’s Arminian stamp collectors remind me of the physicist, Ernest Rutherford’s (1871–1937) contempt for non-physical (non-materialist) science: “All science is either physics or stamp collecting.” Noam Chomsky mentions another hobby to describe the same mind-set: “You can also collect butterflies and make many observations. If you like butterflies, that’s fine; but such work must not be confounded with research, which is concerned to discover explanatory principles.” One famous clutch of Arminian observations is the univocal interpretation in the New Testament of “world,” John 3:16 for example: God loved the world. See it says “world.” So it means everyone in the world. The Arminian unifying principle for instances of “world” in the New Testament is “every Tom, Dick and Whosoever.” Why do they think this way? Why do they ignore the basic rules of language use, of living language, of which the key principle is context? Fo one reason: they hate the idea that God does what he pleases, regardless of what pleases man; they hate that he chooses to have mercy on some reprobates while passing other by (“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”[Romans 9:15 Exodus 33:19), that he chooses to elect to salvation some deserving of hell, while giving others deserving of hell their just desserts.
John Owen gives a superabundance of contexts in which “world” is used, which, one would think, should sink the Arminian’s straight-jacket exegesis of “world” to the bottom of the lake of fire. Here is Owen’s exegesis of the “world.” (John Owen, “The death of death in the death of Christ,” p. 141 ff.).
The word world in the Scripture is in general taken five ways:—
First, Pro mundo continente; and that, — First, generally, ὅλως, for the whole fabric of heaven and earth, with all things in them contained, which in the beginning were created of God: so Job xxxiv. 13; Acts xvii. 24; Eph. i. 4, and in very many other places. Secondly, Distinctively, first, for the heavens, and all things belonging to them, distinguished from the earth, Ps. xc. 2; secondly, The habitable earth, and this very frequently, as Ps. xxiv. 1, xcviii. 7; Matt. xiii. 38; John i. 9, iii. 17, 19, vi. 14, xvii. 11; 1 Tim. i. 15, vi. 7.
Secondly, For the world contained, especially men in the world; and that either, — 1. universally for all and every one, Rom. iii. 6, 19, v. 12. 2. Indefinitely for men, without restriction or enlargement, John vii. 4; Isa. xiii. 11. 3. Exegetically, for many, which is the most usual acceptation of the word, Matt. xviii. 7; John iv. 42, xii. 19, xvi. 8, xvii. 21; 1 Cor. iv. 9; Rev. xiii. 3. 4. Comparatively, for a great part of the world, Rom. i. 8; Matt. xxiv. 14, xxvi. 13; Rom. x. 18. 5. Restrictively, for the inhabitants of the Roman empire, Luke ii. 1. 6. For men distinguished in their several qualifications, as, — 1st, For the good, God’s people, either in designation or possession, Ps. xxii. 27; John iii. 16, vi. 33, 51; Rom. iv. 13, xi. 12, 15; 2 Cor. v. 19; Col. i. 6; 1 John ii. 2. 2nd, For the evil, wicked, rejected men of the world, Isa. xiii. 11; John vii. 7, xiv. 17, 22, xv. 19, xvii. 25; 1 Cor. vi. 2, xi. 32; Heb. xi. 38; 2 Pet. ii. 5; 1 John v. 19; Rev. xiii. 3.
Thirdly, For the world corrupted, or that universal corruption which is in all things in it, as Gal. i. 4, vi. 14; Eph. ii. 2; James i. 27, iv. 4; 1 John ii. 15–17; 1 Cor. vii. 31, 33; Col. ii. 8; 2 Tim. iv. 10; Rom. xii. 2; 1 Cor. i. 20, 21, iii. 18, 19.
Fourthly, For a terrene worldly estate or condition of men or things, Ps. lxxiii. 12; Luke xvi. 8; John xviii. 36; 1 John iv. 5, and very many other places.
Fifthly, For the world accursed, as under the power of Satan, John vii. 7, xiv. 30, xvi. 11, 33; 1 Cor. ii. 12; 2 Cor. iv. 4; Eph. vi. 12. And divers other significations hath this word in holy writ,
which are needless to recount.
End of Owen
Now we know why Calvinists have that sickly other-worldly grin on their face. “You can tell he’s a Calvinist by the smile on his face.” – the late Robert K. Rapa, former pastor of Indian River Baptist Church, referring to the “Lighthearted Calvinist,” as he entered a Wednesday night Bible study. When it comes to stamp or butterfly collecting, Calvinists have more than one stamp or one butterfly to drool over; and a unifying principle to boot (not to boot out):
8 Remember this, keep it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. 9 Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. 10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’
There is a point in Grace as much above the ordinary Christian, as the ordinary Christian is above the worldling5 Feb
The New Testament says in many places that to be a Christian is to be “in Christ” and “Christ is in you.” Christians are born of God (born again), which entails that Christ lives – through the Holy Spirit – in them.
Jeremy Walker, in his “Life in Christ: Becoming and Being a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, says:
“I hope that you have come to know Him, that you have been blessed with possessing the unsearchable riches of Christ. If you do not yet possess them, they are proclaimed to be received and enjoyed by you. Believe that, and believe in Christ in order to receive them. They are not revealed to be regretted or resented but to be seen and known and obtained by sinners. They are declared in order to be grasped, so that sinners like us may live, like Paul, in a perpetual state of humble wonder.”
Here is the Apostle Paul addressing the Ephesian believers:
Ephesians 3 - “16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Christians are those whom God has regenerated (has birthed again – spiritually) by his grace after which he gives the gift of faith and repentance. As a necessary consequence, God, who is both transcendent and immanent, comes to live in the believer. The word in verse 17 “dwell” means to have a rich experience of God – the Spirit of Christ – living in you. Paul, addressing the Colossian believers, says: Colossians 3:16 – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms [and] hymns [and] spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God.”
It is possible to be a Christian and yet not have this rich experience of God dwelling in you. We see this in the famously often misunderstood passage of Revelation 3:20, even misunderstood by the great Puritan, John Flavel (1627 – 91), whose explanation “is Christ’s wooing voice, full of heavenly rhetoric to win and gain the hearts of sinners to himself.”
Here is Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” The Messiah is not addressing unbelievers but the “churches,” therefore believers. John Stott also gets it wrong. He speaks of God standing at the door waiting for sinners to let him in:
“Yes Jesus Christ says he is standing at the door of our lives, waiting.” (Stott is talking to the unsaved, those who are dead in sin, the unsaved – Ephesians 2). “He, continues Stott, is the landlord; he bought it with his life-blood. He could command us to open to Him; instead, he merely invites us to do so. He will not force and entry into anybody’s life. He says (verse 18) ‘I counsel you.’ he could issue orders; he is content to give advice. Such are his condescension and humility, and the freedom he has given us” (John Stott, “Basic Christianity,” Intervarsity Press, 1958, p. 124). (See God is knocking at the door of “woosoever’s” heart: John Flavel on Revelation 3:20).
“Sup” (with him, the believer) in Revelation 3:20 has the same meaning as “dwell” (Ephesians 3:17) and “dwell richly” (Colossians 3:167). This indwelling in the true believer, with its fits and starts, grows richer and richer. God doesn’t need unbelievers permission to come and dwell in them, because the last thing the dead (in sin) can ask or want Christ to do is open their graves. Here is Edward Payson‘s (1783 – 1827) “hierarchy” (my term) of “professors of religion” (Payson):
“Suppose professors of religion to be ranged in different concentric circles around Christ as their common centre. Some value the presence of their Savior so highly that they cannot bear to be at any remove from Him. Even their work they will bring up and do it in the light of His countenance, and while engaged in it will be seen constantly raising their eyes to Him as if fearful of losing one beam of His light. These he describes as the innermost circle. Others, who to be sure, would not be content to live out of His presence, are yet less wholly absorbed by it than these, and may be seen a little further off, engaged here and there in their various callings, their eyes generally upon their work, but often looking up for the light which they love.”
“A third class, beyond these but yet within the life-giving rays, includes a doubtful multitude, many of whom are so much engaged in their worldly schemes that they may be seen standing sideways to Christ, looking mostly the other way, and only now and then turning their faces towards the light. And yet further out, among the last scattered rays, so distant that it is often doubtful whether they come at all within their influence, is a mixed assemblage of busy ones, some with their backs wholly turned upon the sun, and most of them so careful and troubled about their many things as to spend but little time for their Savior.”
Charles Spurgeon, in his “The former and the latter rain,” says “there is a point in Grace as much above the ordinary Christian, as the ordinary Christian is above the worldling.” Spurgeon’s point is that it is not enough to rest on the fact that your sins have been forgiven, that you have been saved. There’s much more: there’s knowing God; knowing more and more who God is, and in so doing building up the “inner man.”
Related: Martyn Lloyd Jones’ sermon Experimental [Experiential] Christianity
Jesus, on the day of His resurrection met two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The one disciple’s name was Cleopas; the other disciple’s name is not known. We meet two of Jesus’ disciples who embody the basic state of mind of the disciples on the day of the resurrection, of which they were ignorant. They were frightened and in despair. What a great disappointment it was to these disciples that the One they called Lord had become a public laughing stock nailed to a cross. All of them were ashamed of Him, had forsaken Him, had run away to hide. Here is a record of the disciples’ encounter with Jesus on their journey to Emmaus:
13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles[c] from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened.
15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?” They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”
19 “What things?” Jesus asked. “The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.
22 “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”
25 Then Jesus said to them, “You fools! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!
Let us read again the key verse 25: Then Jesus said to them, “You fools! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures.
In the original Greek of the New Testament, there are different words for the English word “fool”, each with a different meaning, As a result, much of the richness of the original Greek is lost in the English translation of the NT.
Here are three examples: two from other parts of the Bible, and the third from our main text in Luke 24– the road to Emmaus text (v.25 above).
First example 1 Cor 4: 9:
For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 10 We are fools for Christ.
“Fools” for Christ in this context means that we are not fools in Jesus’ eyes but in the world’s eyes.
Second example: Math 5:22
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment….but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Here the word “fool” means morally worthless, dishonest , a crook. The Greek word for “fool” in this context is moros. If you call a person a moros in this context, you are pouring scorn on his heart and character, and according to Jesus, if you say this to somebody, you are in danger of hell fire.
Now let us go to the “fools” in our story in Luke 24.
25 Then Jesus said to them, “You fools! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures.
“Fool” in the Emmaus story does not mean morally worthless, dishonest , a crook as in our previous example. “Fool” in the Emmaus story means, “unwise”, lacking in understanding. And one should add that this lack of understanding is self-created, that is, one only has oneself to blame for this lack of understanding.
To recap: we have looked at three different ways the word “fool” is used in the Bible”
a fool for Christ, which is good in God’s eyes.
calling someone a fool, which deserves hell fire, and
a fool who lacks understanding, as is the case of our two disciples on the Emmaus road.
Let us see how Jesus deals with these two foolish disciples:
Let us now retrace the steps of Jesus and the disciples and accompany them on the walk to Emmaus. We go back to the beginning of the walk: Luke 24:13-14
13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles[c] from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened.
What were these two disciples talking about?
Everything that had happened to Jesus, namely, His suffering and crucifixion.
They were also talking about what they had heard in the upper room from the women who had been at the tomb of Jesus. These women had reported seeing two angels that told them that Jesus has risen from the dead.
These two disciples – as was the case with all the other disciples who were with them at the time – “did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (Luke 24:11).
15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.
God was content to keep them in ignorance for a little longer.
Jesus then asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” (v.17a).
Was Jesus asking them to reveal their thoughts? Obviously not. He knew exactly what they were thinking. He wanted them to talk.
The disciples then 17b. stood still, their faces downcast. 18One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19a “What things?” Jesus, who is still in disguise, continues to pretend ignorance.
19b “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
They then tell the stranger (Jesus) how they had hoped that Jesus was the one to redeem Israel. But the saddest thing was that he was crucified instead. They also described how some of their women had been told by angels that Jesus was not dead but was alive. But when some of their companions went to verify their story, they didn’t see Jesus.
The disciples thought it ridiculous that Jesus could have risen from the dead.
The question is: “Why were the disciples so unbelieving that Jesus had risen from the dead?” Didn’t Jesus tell them very clearly before His crucifixion that he would suffer, die and rise again? Let us go to the relevant passage in Luke 9, where Jesus predicts His suffering, death and resurrection:
18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” 19They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life. 20 But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christof God. 21Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
Mark’s Gospel contains more detail than Luke’s account of Jesus’ prediction of His death and resurrection. In Chapter 8:9 of Mark, As the disciples were coming down from the mountain after the transfiguration of Jesus, “Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.”
One would think that these disciples were very familiar with people rising from the dead, for there were several occasions that Jesus had raised people from the dead, the most notable being the resurrection of Lazarus, who had been dead four days. One wonders what the disciples were thinking when these resurrections occurred. Did they also discuss on those occasions what rising form the dead meant, as they had done on this occasion we are referring to here, namely, after the transfiguration, when Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead (Mark 8:9).
And then we read in Mark Chapter 9 that: Jesus “spoke clearly about this [His suffering, death and resurrection. Peter took Jesus to one side and began to scold him. Jesus turned and looked at his disciples. He scolded Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You are not thinking about the things of God. Instead, you are thinking about human things” (Mark 9:32-33).
We see that Jesus “spoke clearly” to His disciples about His suffering, death and resurrection. Peter scolded Jesus for saying that He was going to die. Jesus, in turn, scolded Peter, and called him “Satan”. (Where else in Luke do we read "Get behind me, Satan!"? In the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness (Luke 4:8).
Jesus must have been very disappointed in all of His disciples. When He rose from the dead, they still stubbornly refused to believe Jesus? As for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus had to go back to start from the beginning This time, Jesus does not only have to explain clearly to the two disciples– as He did before His crucifixion – he has to take them by the hand and walk with them through chapter and verse.
And so: Luke 24: 27…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Let’s look at one of the scriptures that Jesus explained to the two disciples.
Isaiah 53. The title of this chapter is “The suffering servant”.
3 He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.
I chose this passage, because it sums up what the scriptures are about – and is also a summary of what Jesus probably said to the two disciples – namely sin, the wrath of God, forgiveness, the suffering and love of God. It contains all the elements of the Gospel. What is missing is the name of the suffering servant – Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 53 is an accurate description of the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus. The staggering thing is that it was written several hundred years before the crucifixion. May we never cease to be astonished and thrilled by prophecy.
An interesting anecdote: The Jewish annual calendar of readings includes the whole of Isaiah except Isaiah 53.The Jews have stopped up their ears and closed their eyes to this devastating prophecy. They will say this is not true, and that the reason why they omitted Isaiah 53 is because the focus in that part of their readings is on consolation not desolation – not on suffering (servants). In Moshe Shulman’s http://judaismsanswer.com/haftorah.htm he argues:”There appears to be support for the view of the Rabbis, from the Dead Sea Scrolls, that Isaiah 53 does not relate to any consolations for the Jewish People. This is from the documents 4Q176, which is referred to as 4QTanhumin. Scholars see this fragment as a collection of verses consoling Israel.”He says:… an examination of these(haftorah) passages we see that they give messages of comfort for the Jewish people in exile. However, no matter what the interpretation of Isaiah 53 one takes, there are no words of comfort for the Jewish people.” (The desolation and consolation of Isaiah 53 in the Qumran scrolls).
If you are fortunate enough to get the opportunity to read Isaiah 53 to a Jew without telling him that it is from the OT, he’ll assume you’re talking about Jesus Christ, and that the passage is from the NT. (Most Jews, or anyone else, whether religious or not, know enough about the life and death of Christ to recognize Him in Isaiah 53).
What is our understanding of the resurrection of Christ? Owing to the fact that we have the New Testament scriptures, we should have far less excuse than the two disciples on the Emmaus road. With our NT in hand, we have much more information of the resurrection than these two disciples. For example, besides Christ’s own words, we also have the eyewitness accounts of the many who saw Christ after His resurrection. So, if we were to ignore this evidence, we would be more than thick-headed; we’d be hard-hearted as well. God has much more time for thickheads than for hard hearts.
Here are some of these eyewitness accounts of the resurrection:
Acts 1:3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
Acts 2:32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.
Corinthians 15:3 What I received I passed on to you. And it is the most important of all. Here is what it is. Christ died for our sins, just as Scripture said he would. 4 He was buried. He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as Scripture said he would be. He appeared to Peter. Then he appeared to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than 500 believers at the same time. Most of them are still living. But some have died. 7 He appeared to James. Then he appeared to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, he also appeared to me.
In the light of all these eyewitness accounts, we have far less reason to be like the foolish disciples on the Emmaus road who had forgotten what Jesus had told them before his crucifixion, namely, that He would die and rise again: They just weren’t listening: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” Luke 8:8.
What Jesus means by “He who has ears, let him listen” is “let him listen with “all ears”, with total attention, and let it sink in. In other words, don’t just acknowledge His words but receive it – deep in your soul.
We think of Paul’s scolding of the Corinthians. Even after the many visitations of the resurrected Christ, Paul had to admonish some of the Corinthians for their unbelief in the resurrection.
Cor 15:12 We have preached that Christ has been raised from the dead. So how can some of you say that no one rises from the dead? 13 If no one rises from the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, what we preach doesn’t mean anything. Your faith doesn’t mean anything either.
The evidence goes into the head but not into the heart. The Emmaus disciples were fools of the head, not of the heart. It is the foolishness of the heart that is the greater sin.
The Sword of the Word may draw blood but the Word may still not penetrate the heart. The reason is that many do not have the stomach for truth. Their question is: “How can I fit Christ’s life into my life?” rather than “How can I fit my life into Christ’s life?” They don’t want the whole body of truth. Where can we find the whole body of truth? It is to be found in and through the broken body of Christ.
We have completed the walk along the Emmaus road. Let’s go into the house of the two disciples. Luke 24: 30-31: As they sat down to eat,he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. Only when the Body of Christ is broken, and our hearts with it, can blind eyes be opened – by God.
“Messianic Judaism” claims to be a Judaic religion, not a Christian one. I, with the Jew, consider Messianic Judaism one among many Christian movements/denominations. Messianic Judaism is not a uniform movement, so it would be more accurate to speak of Messianic Judaisms. One could divide Messianic Judaism into two large groups in terms of Unitarianism versus Trinitarianism. Both of these groups are monotheistic. In the former, however, there is one God (one divine nature/being) in one person (the Father – of human beings), while in the latter there is one God (one divine nature/being) in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So, Unitarian Messianic Judaism (they would not use the term “unitarian” but simply call themselves “monotheistic”) sees Jesus as a creature of God, whereas Trinitarian Messianic Judaism sees Jesus as a person with two natures – divine and human, where his divine nature shares all the attributes of the Father, while his human nature is, by definition, a creaturely nature.
I observe that these two macro-Messianic movements generally have contrary beliefs about the salvific relationship between Christ/Mashiach and the Jew. Unitarians believe that faith in Christ is not necessary for salvation, while the Trinitarians hold that no one can be saved without faith in Christ. It is not difficult to understand the reason for these contrary views: if Christ is merely a creature (the Unitarian view), a messenger, it would be idolatry to believe in Christ when one should believe in God, the one true God. If, however, Christ is divine, that is, IS, then it makes total sense to say that if you reject faith in Christ, you will not be saved. The Bible is so clear that unless one is “in Christ,” one cannot come to the Father. The New Testament, especially Paul the Apostle, uses the term “in Christ” or permutations of it dozens of times. But then many Unitarian Messianic Jews don’t like Paul. Christians are born of God (born again), which entails that Christ >dwells – through the Holy Spirit – in them. Ephesians 3:16 – “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” All true Christians have Christ dwelling in them, and they dwelling in Christ. (In Christ and with Christ: I wanna be with you-hoo-hoo. But, not yet).
The above is background to an email conversation that I, OnedaringJew, initiated with a Unitarian Messianic Jew (a non-Jewish one, as most Messianic Jews are), who is a long-standing friend, with whom I hadn’t corresponded for a few years. I add my comments (in italics) after each exchange.
Am I right in assuming that you still believe that the Son of God was created by the father. If so, how do you understand John 17:3 “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
The distinction between “only true God” and “Jesus Christ whom you have sent” is obvious. So why would I think that this verse could be used to substantiate the trinitarian position that “Jesus Christ whom you have sent” is not merely an emissary but also someone who shared the only true God’s nature – his divinity? I didn’t think that this verse could be used to defend the doctrine of the trinity. I suspected that my friend would home in on that part of the verse, and miss the other part, which I intended to use to defend the trinity – “… be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). My friend, predictably, replied:
That verse is not saying that Jesus Christ is God.
1. The only true God
2. Jesus Christ
It does not say “you are the only true God and Jesus Christ.” Can God send himself?
Yeshua is the son of God – so are you. Yeshua was born of man – so are you. Does that make you God?
Since when is it eternal life to know “me” (OnedaringJew)?
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and One-very-daring-Jew.
I framed my question “Since when is it eternal life to know me” in response to my friend’s “Yeshua is the son of God – so are you; Yeshua was born of man – so are you.” Recall our verse: John 17:3 “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” My friend is arguing that Jesus is a creature like me. The verse says, though, that eternal life is to know not only the father but also to know Jesus Christ.” So, it would be blasphemy of any creature – moi, for example, to say “it is eternal life to know me.” So, if Jesus is a mere creature, he would also be guilty of blasphemy. “
Well said – but the verse does not say you are Jesus Christ. The verse says Eternal life = Know God Know Yeshua. It does not say know God who is Jesus Christ Jesus was born of a woman. Was God born of a woman? God IS.
Jesus for you is a creature. The verse says that eternal life is only possible if one knows Jesus. Conclusion: eternal life is not possible unless one knows who you say is a mere creature – Jesus. Yet the verse states that it is not enough to know God through (the intermediary) Jesus, but 1. one has to know Jesus himself. 2. Do you believe that a Jew who does not know – “know” includes trusting in the one who said “before Abraham I am” to reconcile him to the Father – will have eternal life?
I received no reply to this last email. Unitarians (some “Messianic Jews” and other kinds of unitarians) are stuck with surely what they must see is a contradiction – of their own making, namely that eternal life only comes through knowing a divine being – the only divine being, yet – here’s the messianic rub – without knowing Jesus, the Son of God, one cannot have eternal life. Therefore, the Son of God must be a divine being/essence/nature. Recall that the person of Son of God – who irrupted into time and took on a human nature – in union with the person of the Father (and the person of the Holy Spirit) refer to the “only God.” If this is incorrect, then it makes no sense to say that eternal life is to know Jesus Christ.
As to my question, Do you believe that a Jew who does not know – “know” includes trusting in the one who said “before Abraham I am” to reconcile him to the Father – will have eternal life?; my friend kept mum; probably because most Unitarian Messianic Jews believe that devout Jews do not need to have faith in Jesus Christ to be saved. This is also the (non-)belief of many Zionist Christians who have a “dual-covenant” theology; for example, John Hagee. For Hagee, a Christian’s haggis is a Jew’s poison.
I leave my friend for another friend, the Jewish “YourPhariseeFriend,” where we shall see that the Jewish view of Jesus has much in common with the Unitarian Messianic Jew’s rejection of the divinity of Christ.
“Christians, says YourPhariseeFriend in his “Heart of a Relationship” contend that Jesus was a manifestation of God. They compare Jesus to the fire of the burning bush that Moses saw at Horeb (Exodus 3:4), to the pillar of cloud that led the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21), and to the Angel of the Lord that appears throughout the Jewish Scriptures (Exodus 23:20; Judges 6:12; Isaiah 63:9). This argument is rooted in a misunderstanding of the relationship that the Jewish people share with God. The relationship between God and Israel includes many activities that are ancillary to the essence of the relationship. The essence of the relationship is God’s love for Israel and Israel’s love and reverence for God. As expressions of His love, God guides His people, He speaks to their prophets, and he protects them from their enemies. As expressions of Israel’s heart for God we offer sacrifices, we build a Temple and we follow His Law. All of these activities are only part of the relationship inasmuch as they express the heart of one party to the other. If you remove the heart from these activities, they remain empty husks.”
Here is the historic Christian position on the role of Christ in salvation as described by Scott Oliphint in his “Reasons for Faith: Philosophy in the Service of Theology.”
1. “Every philosophical position must rely on some outside source(s) of authority; a Christian philosophy must rely on God’s revelation of himself in his Word. Second, it is just the exclusivity of Christianity that is supposed to be (in part), not a reason for avoiding its use, but the motivation behind the communication of biblical truth. We tell others who are outside of Christ about him so that, by God’s Holy Spirit, they might repent and believe. If it were the case, as some (e.g., ]ohn Hick) would hold, that Christianity is meant to be all-inclusive, then there would be little need for the communication of biblical truth. Because, however, orthodox Christianity has always held that there is no salvation outside of Christ, We speak of him and teach him and preach him, for it is by that very communication that God is pleased to bring some to himself.”
2. “The fact that God himself takes on covenantal properties, properties that are not essential to him, but that nevertheless serve to characterize him, is the central focus of the good news of Scripture. It defines the good news for us – the news that God has come in the flesh and has, as God in the flesh, accomplished salvation for sinners. This is the preeminent truth of Scripture. It is the covenant, and it defines what we mean by covenant. In creating, God has “come down”; he has taken on that which is foreign to his essential being in order to relate to that which is essentially different from him.”
3. “One of the initial points to be made here is that our understanding of God is to be guided, directed, formed, and fashioned by who Christ is, The reason, therefore, that we are not to be deluded with plausible arguments is that ‘all the treasures of Wisdom and knowledge’ [Colossians 2:3] are found only in Christ.”
For Jews and Unitarian Messianic Jews, the divinity of Christ is a mythical mist; for them “ethereal life is to know Jesus Christ whom he (God) has sent.” For Christians, in blessed contrast “eternal life is to know Jesus Christ whom he has sent.”
What a hoot!
Originally posted on DR. RELUCTANT:
I’ve been working on updating the look of my blog today. I found this clip posted on Dan Phillips’ blog and thought it would be a great way to introduce Dr Reluctant’s new look. I am a lifelong Laurel and Hardy fan, but I’m sure they had no clue they’d be dancing to the Gap Band! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
In “Worship Music in Antioch – Cranking Up the Worship Band,” Pastor Scott Brown discusses with interviewer Kevin Swanson the relationship between music and worship. Brown says:
“I’ve experienced a situation a number of times where someone is in the congregation and they’re not singing. I ask them, ‘how come you’re not singing. They say,’I don’t like that song,’,or ‘I’m not going to sing a chorus,’ or ‘it (the song) has to be out of a certain century.’ My instructing is always the same: you have to prioritize your own actions. You have to ask yourself “is the song doctrinally accurate?” or “is the song true.” If the song is not true you shouldn’t be singing it.”
Here is a song I heard in a church Sunday last, where the words do not, indeed definitely cannot, match the singer’s aspiration. Here are two verses of the song “How deep is the father’s love for us.”
I just want to be where You are,
dwelling daily in Your presence
I don’t want to worship from afar,
draw me near to where You are
I just want to be where You are,
in Your dwelling place forever
Take me to the place where You are,
I just want to be with You
Hip hop ending
I just want to (wanna) be
I just want to (wanna) be with You
Here is the Youtube link to the song. I quote a few of the 93 comments posted there: 1. Lord take me to your home, I receive the anointing of the holy ghost. in Jesus name amen. 2. Anointed 3. Thank you very much for this beautiful song very touching (touching = anointed?).
What does the “worshiper” think these words mean: “Take me to the place where you are, I just want to be with you?” I try to answer that question here.
The Bible says (many times in the letters of Paul) that to be a Christian is to be “in Christ” and “Christ in you.” Christians are born of God (born again), which entails that Christ lives – through the Holy Spirit – in them. So far, we are dealing with the notion to be “in Christ.” Once regenerated (quickened, raised to spiritual life), believers are enabled and therefore can choose the good things of God. If, though, believers don’t only want to be in Christ but also with Christ, that I would call radical radical Christianity. Radical Christianity is be consumed with living in and for Christ.; radical radical Christianity is “I want to be with Christ – and I want it now. Here is the Apostle Paul: Philippians 1:21-23 – “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”
Jeremy Walker, in his “Life in Christ: Becoming and Being a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ,” explains the difference between being in Christ and with Christ, where “the anticipation of the dying saint” is to be with the Lord:
“To lack food is terrible; to lack money is distressing; to lack health is miserable; to lack friends is tragic; but to lack Christ is to lack the greatest and most necessary good-it is the most awful situation imaginable. If we had Christ, all else could be borne, but to live and die without Christ makes any number of other blessings little better than dust and ashes in our mouths. Second, someone might be with Christ. If to be without Christ is the height of woe, then to be with Christ is the pinnacle of bliss, for this is the very joy and blessing of glory. To be “present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 528) is the heaven of heaven. There is no greater joy, no happier prospect, no sweeter moment than to have the eye actually rest upon the Lord Christ, the glorified Savior of sinners. This is the anticipation of the dying saint, the prospect for the resurrection that makes every other hint of the glory to come shine with golden light. However, if we are to be with Christ when we die or taken to be with Him when He returns, we need to bear in mind that no one will ever be with Christ unless they are first in Christ.”
“In Christ is the very opposite of being “in Adam” (Rom. 5:12-21), which we are by nature. It is very different from being “in the World,” which we are by sinful inclination. It is not the same as being “in church”-there are many people who imagine that being in a church building from time to time, in regular attendance at church services, or even a member of some church, even one where the truth is preached, will somehow of itself guarantee their salvation. You can be in church and without Christ.”
In sum, when one is “without” Christ, Christ is not indwelling that person. “Without Christ” in our context, is not the opposite of “with Christ.” “Without Christ” means “not in Christ,” which is a spiritual state in this life. “With Christ,” on the other hand, means to join Christ where he is in his glorified state – on the right hand of the Father in heaven, and, as the song is written, this means now – during the church service.
So, do you still want to be with Christ (now)? Of course you don’t. So, stop being adolescent and singing those silly boyfriend-girlfriend songs. Don’t you really mean, ““Lord grant me to be with you but not yet?” And perhaps also “Lord grant me chastity and continence but not yet?” (St Augustine’s adolescent prayer). Wazzat.
Arminius taught that God votes for you, the devil votes against you, and you have the final vote. Spurgeon held to the Reformed position that salvation was totally dependent on God’s sovereign will.
Here is a part of Charles Spurgeon’s ironic “Arminian’s prayer.”
“There are many that wilI go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as l am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not—that is the difference between me and them.”
Now, no Arminian believes that it is good to boast of being better than the person who rejects Christ, and so would not really pray in this fashion. In fact he’ll protest that all is grace, that they are no better than anyone else; which, of course, is true.
I heard this prayer recently: “We pray that you will remove his heart of stone and give him a heart of flesh. We pray that he will surrender his life to you.” So, if you surrender your life, God will remove your stony heart that makes it impossible for you to surrender, that is, to come to Christ (to believe, have faith, trust). Which is it then; does God first have to regenerate you to enable you to surrender (have faith), or do you first surrender then get regenerated (born again)? The difficulty with the latter is, if you surrender your life to Christ, this can only be done if you’ve already been regenerated (enabled to do so by God’s grace), which renders regeneration obsolete. “Regenerate” means “qicken” means raised from the dead. Imagine in wartime asking your dead enemy to surrender.
A few days ago I was discussing this issue with an Anglican priest friend in my home over tea. He remarked: “Chicken and egg.” In other words, who knows what came first, regeneration or faith, and does it really matter? Of course it does, silly!
At a church service, this was a part of the preacher’s opening prayer: “Remind us of our sinful nature.”
No doubt, those “in Christ” still struggle with the “old man,” and I suppose we could call that the old “nature.” But we should be careful. Scripture teaches that Christians have a new nature, because they are a new creation. There, alas, still remains the struggle against the “old man,” also described as the “flesh.” The term “old man” in the Bible refers to those who have the Holy Spirit through rebirth (the regenerate); so the term does not describe those who are “unregenerate,” or “without the (Holy) Spirit.” So, ”old” not as in ”my old man’s a dustman, he wears a dustman’s cap,” but as in the the struggle with sin. “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Christians, in contrast, do accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, yet they still have the old man tussling inside.
In Romans 7:4-20, the emphasis is on the fact that although the Christian is a new creation, the battle against his old self, his old nature, his “flesh” is not over.
4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh,[a] the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
The Law and Sin
7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”[b] 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.
13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, the passage ends, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
In summary, v. 21 “I want to do good” – the new nature desiring to do “good” (be like Christ) but v. 23 the old nature, “the flesh,” warring with the new nature.
The focus in the next chapter of Romans (Chapter 8) moves to the victory of the new creation in Christ over the old creation in Adam. Christians continue to sin but their new desire, which is instilled in them through regeneration (born again) – is to please Christ, not themselves.
1. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c] And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
Here is Jeremy Walker on the new nature in his recent and excellent “Life in Christ: becoming a disciple of the Lord”:
The Nature Identified
“If anyone is in Christ,” writes the apostle, ‘he is a new creation.’ This is the language of a radical change. It speaks of something not simply different but genuinely new. It is not enough to speak of a tadpole becoming a frog or a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, for the language of transformation and metamorphosis falls short of the reality. Even the Ethiopian changing the rich color of his skin or the leopard changing his distinctive spots is insufficient. This is not alteration but creation, newness at the deepest level. It speaks of a thorough change. It deals not with appearance but with nature. If the Ethiopian could change his skin color, he would remain an Ethiopian. If the leopard could alter his spots, he would still be a leopard. But the new creation begins at and radiates from the core of a person’s being and changes everything he is. It starts with the inner man enthroning Christ in the heart, the seat of the government of our humanity, and begins its course there, creating anew from that point outward, nothing being overlooked or bypassed, all being more or less affected and increasingly renovated over time. This, then, is a divinely than heavenly power. Mere mortal strength could never begin or sustain such a work-human might and ingenuity can no more create a person anew than it can truly create anything to begin with. And, indeed, there is a sense in which this act of salvation transcends even the act of original creation. In creation, God worked from nothing. In salvation, He worked against sin.”
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, we read “Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new.” Here is John Gill in his commentary on the above verse:
“A new creature – converted persons; and designs not an outward reformation of life and manners, but an inward principle of grace, which is a creature, a creation work, and so not man’s, but God’s; and in which man is purely passive, as he was in his first creation; and this is a new creature, or a new man, in opposition to, and distinction from the old man, the corruption of nature; and because it is something anew implanted in the soul, which never was there before; it is not a working upon, and an improvement of the old principles of nature, but an implantation of new principles of grace and holiness; here is a new heart, and a new spirit, and in them new light and life, new affections and desires, new delights and joys; here are new eyes to see with, new ears to hear with, new feet to walk, and new hands to work and act with.”
When Christians sin, they don’t merely feel remorse (feel bad), but also the desire to repent. In contrast, “sin” and ”repentance” do not exist in an unbeliever’s lexicon. In Judaism and Christianity and some other religions, repentance always leads to reconciliation with God; while remorse often results in giving up on life. Remorse is the result of a guilty conscience that “kills” the soul, which sometimes leads to the premature death of the body as well. Remorse is the lot of the unbeliever, a worldly sorrow that leads to eternal separation from God. Here is the Apostle Paul:
“For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death (2 Corinthians 7:10).”
And 1 John 1
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
In sum, the Christian IS a new nature in Christ, filled with joy – bitter sweet, carrying his and her cross through life seeking to be in the hour of their death WITH Christ. The Christian is already IN Christ. Part of that cross is that dusty old man.
A Christian is a sinner who, through God’s grace, has been regenerated from spiritual death and given the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:1-10). What I would like to talk about here is how this ”born again” experience relates to Paul’s ”justification by faith,” and James’ ”justification by works.” I shall use and explain the following three terms in the discussion: ”salvation,” ”righteous(ness)” and ”justification.” These three overlap, but they are not synonymous. Salvation subsumes the other two.
Paul refers to the ”justification by faith,” while James speaks of the ”justification by works.” ”Righteousness” (being made right) refers to both kinds of ‘justification. Here is an example of righteousness with the meaning of justification by faith; ”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). The meaning here is that through faith we have been made right(eous) with God, that is, we have been justified through faith. Here is an example of righteousness with the meaning of justification by works: ”For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). In Hebrew, ”justified” means made right(eous); צָדַקTsadak; in Greek δικαιόω dikaioō. Here is a verse in Proverbs (17:15) that contains tsadak twice where the one instance refers to ”justifies” and the other to ”righteous.” מַצְדִּיק רָשָׁע וּמַרְשִׁיעַ צַדִּיק תֹּועֲבַת יְהוָה גַּם־שְׁנֵיהֶֽם׃ matsadik rasha oomarshia tsadik to’avat Adonai (YHVH) gam sh’naihem Pro 17:15 He who justifies TSADAK the wicked and he who condemns the righteous TSADAK are both alike an abomination to the LORD.
Let us now go to the heart of the matter. Consider the following passages: Romans 3:28 ”For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. James 2:24 ”…a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Let’s bring Abraham into the picture: Romans (Paul) 4:2 ”For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” James – 2:21 ”Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?” How can the Abraham of faith also be the Abraham of works? I suggest that James gives a clear explanation: ”So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:17-24).
James seems to be contradicting Paul and promoting the Jewish idea that faith means faithfulness (emuna), and emuna for the Jew means nothing more, nothing less than (faithfully) fulfilling the 613 plus commandments (mitzvot). James and Paul, however, are not contradicting each another?James emphasises that good works are the evidence/fruit of faith, and so if there is no evidence of faith, this means that one wasn’t justified (made right with God) in the first place. The Lord Jesus makes the same point as James: ”…for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). So, not one but two apostolic hammers are needed to hammer home the Gospel into immature Christian minds. Paul’s letters emphasise what it means to be saved. Here is Paul (or more precisely, the Holy Spirit) in his workshop, hammering away (through Paul): 1Cr 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. Gal 2:16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. Gal 2:17 But if, in our endeavour to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! Gal 3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” Gal 3:24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. ”Enough already, protests my works-orientated friend, what about the ”working out your salvation” bit? “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” …Phil 2:12 Although Paul is sometimes hard to understand (as the apostle Peter points out), he doesn’t talk in riddles (there’s little of the Talmud in his letters).
Paul’s letters teem with the conjunction ”for,” for it is an important linking word in logical argumentation. Good (and irritating) Bible teaches warn you to take special note of what the ”for” is there for. How many times have I heard the first half! of that verse to justify (sic) the argument that one cannot be justified (they mean ”saved”) by faith ”alone,” where the meaning is that salvation consists of faith plus works? They mean by that if you have faith, you need works as well to be justified/saved. Let me answer by examining the ”for” in the Philippians verse above. Why should Christians work out their salvation, and also work it out in fear in trembling? The ”for” in ”for it is God who…” answers both questions. Your body, dear Christian, is the temple of the Holy Spirit; God is in you. This indwelling is more astounding than God appearing in front of you. But, we don’t ”see” it. Recall Isaiah 6: ”In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” ”And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1-5). So, work out your salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you.
The reason why true Christians should tremble with fear (awe) is because the Holy Spirit of God indwells them. ”For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19).
Here is the blessed assurance of the believer: Romans 8:30 ”And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” So those who have been justified by faith will do good works. Good works is the evidence that the sinner has been justified, that is, made right with God. Good works are generated by the faith that brought about the initial regeneration of the dead soul from dead thoughts and dead works. If you have been justified, you will be glorified, from glory to glory, and you will receive eternal life, indeed you have received it – at the new birth. And finally a question: ”How can you have the assurance of Romans 8:30 (above) if you believe that God needs you to save yourself, for If you choose to be saved then you can choose to be unsaved again, as many times as your decide. Today, you may be dead in sin, tomorrow you’re alive in Christ. The next day (year/decade) you’re dead again, and so on.
“If in the last analysis, says Edwin J. Palmer, our salvation depends upon our free will to accept Christ, and if God provides the substitutionary atonement of Christ but not our faith, then we are in a miserable situation. Think of it – whether we say Christians or not depends on us! What a frightful thought! Salvation depends on us, who are by nature rotten and do not love God? On us, who as Christians still have the old man in us. On us who doubt waver and sin?” (Edwin J. Palmer, “The five points of calvinism,” p. 38. Baker books, 1972). God forbid! And so He does..
About five years ago, I gave a sermon in a church, as part of my practical for a Bible diploma. Previously, I had asked the pastor of the church why he never preached on sin. He told me that sermons on sin were the old days and people need to be encouraged rather than be condemned. Besides, he said, many of his congregation are either elderly, sick or hurting in one way or another. What they needed was encouragement. They needed, he said, to be told that when God looks at them, he jumps with delight. He did go over the basic outline if my sermon with me beforehand, but I later added some undelightful bits.
After church, he called me into his office. Four or five of the elders were already there. The pastor told me that that my sermon was bad. One of the elders said I was “very harsh.’’ One of the parts of the sermon I think she was referring to was: ‘’Therefore, it is not unreasonable to say that one can be poor as well as evil, frail as well as evil, jobless as well as evil.’’ I have published my harsh sermon elsewhere. What I’d like to do here is quote different parts of a sermon by anti-Calvinist Shawn McCraney on his rejection of “unconditional election” and Calvinist James White’s response, which are directly related to my harsh appraisal of “little gran’ma” (Shawn McCraney). (The Dividing Line, 9 January 2014).
“Those condemned to hell are not horrid murderers, serial killers, but they could be anyone that God has not elected. Little gran’ma who faithfully served the community, or twelve-year-old girls, who loved dolls and flowers before they’re taken, and babies, all created by God’s good will and pleasure for hell that never ends.”
“There are not any little old ladies who are good. If they are going to end up under God’s judgment, then they have lived their entire lives with hatred towards God. They have taken the gifts of God and abused them. They are sinners. And either you believe that sinners are worthy of the judgment of God or you don’t. If you think that little old ladies and 12-year-old girls who play with dolls are not worthy of God’s judgment then we’re not reading the same Bible; we’re not reading Romans 3, we’re not reading Ephesians 1; we’re not seeing what God did in the Old Testament when he brought judgment upon the nation of Israel. Your anthropology is not a biblical anthropology; it’s not consistent with biblical anthropology.
“Just in case those who have been elected started to think that they were elected to salvation because they’re so good and all that, Calvin clearly explains that the elect are chosen not because of any act of goodness present in them but solely based on God’s sovereign will. Calvin suggested that by God saving some, we are given a tremendous example of his mercy since we all deserve hell fire to begin with. That’s the thinking.”
“Yes that’s the thinking because that’s the Bible. We all deserve hell fire: the 12-year-old girl, the little old lady. These are categories you are saying would not deserve hell fire. They are enemies of God, are not holy, and honestly if you have a high enough view of God’s holiness and being and a realistic view of man’s sinfulness, these issues are not going to be all that pragmatic to you. But since they are, I have to wonder where you are within the spectrum of having a Biblical perspective of man’s sin.”
“Not one of us deserves God’s love and mercy, which I agree is true, if you think about it in that way, but to show his great love and mercy, he decided to save some reprobates while leaving the rest to become eternal kindling in the lake of fire.”
“What is the reason you think that God is under some obligation to save anyone, because that’s clearly in your thinking. Your objection is clearly to God being the one who makes the decision rather than rebel sinners. As if the judge of all the earth won’t do right, but rebel sinners will do right. I want salvation to be in the hands of the just God of all eternity, not in the hands of mankind. Romans chapter 8, what does Paul say about those in the flesh? What can they not do? They cannot submit themselves to the law of God. They cannot be pleasing to God. How do you understand that? Part of your problem is your anthropology, your view of man… There are no morally neutral creatures.”
White is undoubtedly referring in Romans 8 to “5 Those who live according to the flesh (fallen human nature) have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
He quotes R. C. Sproul’s definition of “unconditional election.”
“Our final destination, heaven or hell, says Sproul, is decided by God not only before we get here but before we are even born. It teaches that our ultimate destiny is in the hands of God. Another way of saying it is this: from all eternity, before we ever lived, God decided to save some members of the human race, and to let other members of the human race perish. God mad a choice; he chose some individuals to be saved to everlasting blessedness in heaven, and others he chose to pass over to allow them to follow the consequences of their sins into eternal torment in hell.”
“Sproul talks about God passing over them and they experiencing the just condemnation of their sin. That is not the way you presented it.”
A few remarks:
With regard to Sproul’s “from all eternity, before we ever lived, God decided to save some members of the human race, and to let other members of the human race perish.” Why should McCraney object to God’s foreknowledge of the future? Surely he believes that, unless he is an open theist where God doesn’t know what people will do until they do it. The problem Arminians have is that they are transfixed between the rock of God’s foreknowledge and the hard place of his fixed foreknowledge. Their problem is that if God foreknows from eternity what’s going to happen, then what will happen must happen. And “what will happen must happen” is plain English for “God’s decree.”
We read in Romans 9:
6b For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.”
10 And not only so, but salso when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
So, God’s election, that is, God choice of those he saves, has nothing to do with anything in themselves, because there is absolutely nothing they can contribute to their salvation. God’s grace is not only efficient but sufficient. It seems to me that the main problem with the idea of freely willing to come to Christ is the Arminian’s lack of understanding or rejection of the doctrine of “total depravity” (“radical corruption” is a better term); as James White puts it, a faulty biblical anthropology.
For the Arminian, what Jesus can do is based on what individuals want him to do. “This whole idea, says James White that God’s activity in time is limited by man again illustrates the difference between looking at scripture from the divine perspective or the human perspective. If man is at the centre and God is peripheral, if it’s all about what God can’t do without man’s help, that would work. But if it is first and foremost about God, God as creator, and God’s glory, man is therefore secondary to these issues.” (James White’s review of Stephen Gaines’s sermon on Calvinism, Dividing Line, 2 January 2014). (See “Who limits God?).
Rabbi Joshua Liebman says in his “Peace of mind” that religion is “at its best” merely “the announcer of the supreme ideals by which men must live and through which our finite species finds it’s ultimate significance.” If people were honest, says Liebman, “they would admit that the implementation of these ideals should be left to psychology.
Psychology can say much, obviously, about the psyche, but nothing about the God of the Bible. For Liebman, part rabbi, part psychologist, the ultimate aim of religion is peace of mind, which results from the discovery of ”ultimate significance.” To whom must a Jew run to find this ultimate meaning? No, not to the rabbi, says Liebman, but to the psychologist, preferably a Freudian psychologist. Oh the irony! Freud, the Jewish atheist is going to tell us how to find ultimate meaning.
The heart of religion is, says Liebman, “something outside ourselves.” I understand by that the existence of a transcendent being greater than ourselves. Alas, Liebman brings us back us back to earth that it is the job of psychology to make this something (someone?) outside ourselves incarnate. If that is so, religion then has little to do with the Bible, and everything to with the “Varieties of religious experience” (William James). Whereas the Scripture (Hebrew and New testament) says ”look up” Liebman says, “look within, because without’s within.”
If Liebman had been a Messianic Jew, he, firstly, wouldn’t have shackled religion to psychology, and second, he would have said that this making something outside ourselves incarnate is not the psychologist’s job but God’s; and this something made incarnate would be Someone, not something. (Some Messianic Jews, sadly, do not believe that God had a divine Son; so they don’t believe in THE incarnation)
Where Joshua Liebman speaks of ”ultimate significance”’ Viktor Frankl speaks synonymously of “ultimate meaning.” In “God in Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy,” I concluded that Frankl did not believe in God as a distinct divine being. I wrote there:
In 2000, an update to Frankl’s “Man’s search for meaning” appeared called “Man’s search for ultimate meaning.” What is the difference between “meaning” and “ultimate meaning”? Here are two excerpts from Frankl’s “Ultimate meaning.”
“… God, is not one thing among others but being itself or Being (capitalized by Martin Heidegger). (P. 147)
So Did Frankl, ultimately, come to believe in a transcendent Being called God? No.
“… whenever you are talking to yourself in utmost sincerity and ultimate solitude — he to whom you are addressing yourself may justifiably be called God” (p. 151).
To add to what I said in “God in Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy”:
God, for Frankl is, ultimately, me – and you. And, to take it where you may not want it to go: you are me and I am you – absorbed into the Universal Soul, where – to use Rabbi Akiva Katz’s terminology – undifferentiated oneness in the higher world comes into this world through specific differentiated channels like you and me. See “Jewish mysticism and Absorption into the Universal Soul.”
Here is the Lubavitcher Rabbi Tuvia Bolton’s response to “God in Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy” followed by my reply:
It seems to me that Frankl was not talking in terms of absolutes but rather what ‘works’. His god is very similar to the one realized by addicts in the seconds of the 12 steps of AA; god as we understand him. A Meaningful god works to fill man’s need for meaning.
But Frankl seems to have discovered a need much greater and more basic than that of the addicts…. and correspondingly a much ‘greater’ more ‘infinite’ god to satisfy it; man NEEDS ABSOLUTE meaning that only an absolute, totally meaningful god (or G_d) can produce. As evidenced by the several times he mentions the Ten Commandments as the absolute value.
But again; Frankl only seemed to be interested in what works to supply man’s needs; not the Jewish (Chassidic) idea of supplying G-d’s needs (Nachat Ruach l’mala)
My (shortened) reply:
Rabbi, as you no doubt know, Abraham Twerski, a Chassidic rabbi (like youself) adapted the originally Christian 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous method and made it Jewish. Judaism preaches that man is essentially good, where people are regarded as “much better than we think we are” (Twerski), and “knowing that they are able to enjoy a more productive life” (Twerski). So, the solution to inner turmoil for Twerski, for Frankl, for Joshua Liebman, and indeed most Jewish psychologists was to learn how to get rid of one’s negative self-image.
You say Frankl’s “god” goes beyond what works to an “absolute” meaning. I think his god is merely one that absolutely WORKS. As I said in my last two paragraphs of the article:
In 2000, an update to Frankl’s “Man’s search for meaning” appeared, called “Man’s search for ultimate meaning.” What is the difference between “meaning” and “ultimate meaning”? Here are two quotations from Frankl’s “Ultimate meaning.”
“… God, is not one thing among others but being itself or Being (capitalized by Martin Heidegger).” (P. 147). So Did Frankl, ultimately, come to believe in a transcendent Being called God? Let Frankl answer: “… whenever you are talking to yourself in utmost sincerity and ultimate solitude — he to whom you are addressing yourself may justifiably be called God” (p. 151). END OF MY REPLY.
Frankl’s “God is self” (my term) has much in common with Gerald Jampolsky’s (Yogic) “transformation of consciousness” that leads to inner peace. Deep below the dark regions of discord and strife lies the treasure without price longing to find you, the real you. Transform your consciousness and you will find your true self. This “transformation of consciousness” is the “foundation for inner peace” (which is also the name of the publisher of “A course on miracles” on which Jampolsky’s book is based). The “transformation of consciousness” is, of course, also the foundation of Eastern thought systems such as Buddhism and Yoga, which has become a key ingredient in Western psychotherapy. “Hatha Yoga brings about the Unity of the mind, body and spirit. Through this practice, the body is toned, strengthened and healed so that a transformation in consciousness can occur.”
Liebman says go within to find your true self, the real you; but not before you go outside – to Freud. For Jampolsky, in contrast, look within, and that’s good enough to find inner peace.
Rabbi Bolton said above: “Frankl only seemed to be interested in what works to supply man’s needs; not the Jewish (Chassidic) idea of supplying G-d’s needs.” That is true not only of Frankl but all Jewish psychology. A Chassidic psychologist may talk about you (if you’re a Jew) being a piece of God, but what it may turn out to mean is that God is a piece of you – of your needs.
Frankl’s view of God as someone who supplies one’s needs is taken to it’s extreme form in Reconstructionist Judaism, and much of Reform Judaism, where “God” is another name for community, for love, for a matrix of love wherein a positive self-image is nurtured – and where the image of God is possibly also dénaturé (distorted).
Originally posted on Grammargraph:
In Timeslive, we read:
The government must act urgently to independently verify the credibility of the National Senior Certificate examination results and of all future matric results, DA leader Helen Zille said on Tuesday.
DA’s Zille calls for independent audit of matric results.
In his “Travelling to South Africa: Two very different world views,” Joel Beeke relates a conversation he had with a fellow plane passenger:
“I had a long talk with a very intelligent 75-year-old Jewish woman on the 15.5 hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg. We talked for a while about her job and her family and about interesting things to see in Israel. She has made over fifty trips to Israel, and seemed quite pleased that I was taking notes of a number of her suggestions.
Before long we got to religion. She is a Reformed Jew, is big on women’s rights, and doesn’t believe in the after-life. Her “church” has 1400 members and is led by three Jewish rabbis. They are not looking for a messiah to come, but view the caring community of Jews as “the messianic fulfilment.” Her rabbis preach almost exclusively about horizontal issues, such as women’s rights, how to help the poor, etc., and seldom touch on our vertical relationship with God. They use the Torah as a background reference tool, but don’t really preach from it.
I got close enough to her that I dared to ask her about Jesus Christ. She said that has never read the New Testament, thinks that Jesus was just another rabbi, and sees no need to be born again. I then explained how we as Christians view the gospel, and why we think it is so important that Jesus is also God. I talked to her about our sin, and about our need for the active and passive obedience of Christ as our substitute and savior. She listened carefully, was not offended in the least, but didn’t buy into it. I asked her, “So then you feel that when you die, life is over, and that this life is the be-all and the end-all?”
“That’s right,” she said.
“Pardon me for saying this,” I responded, getting bolder now, “but from the perspective of being a Christian, that seems like such a narrow and small purpose for life. For us as Christians, we believe that this life is like a one-page preface to a massive book—it is only just the beginning. We strive to live all of life in the light of eternity, and anticipate being with Christ forever. ”
“Well,” she said, “I’m not saying for sure that there is no eternity, and no pie-in-the-sky for after this life, but I’m not betting on it. If I can just pass on my moral values to my two children, and they pass it on to their grandchildren, that, to me, is about the best I can hope for in this life.” That was about as far as I could get with this friend. I silently thanked God for His Son and for the biblical and Christian worldview, for its much larger vision of what life is all about.”
A few thoughts
With regard to Jews using “the Torah as a background reference tool, but don’t really preach from it” (Beeke’s companion above) what do Jews think of the the Hebrew Bible? (“Torah” has two meanings: 1. the Five books of Moses, and 2. the whole Hebrew Bible – the Tanach). There are roughly six Jewish movements: Ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and two other groups (which can’t be called “movements” unless in the sense of moving far away from traditional Judaism); these two groups, agnostics and atheists, comprise the bulk of Jews.
– All “ultra-orthodox” (that is, ortho-orthodox) believe, like all “Reformed Christians” (who follow the tradition of the Reformation), in divine inspiration, that is, the scripture is breathed out by God (a better term would be divine “expiration).
– Not all “Orthodox” Jews believe in the divine inspiration of the scriptures.
Conservative Jews consist of a wide coalition with differing views on how the scriptures were revealed. In contrast to the absolute Ultra-orthodox view and the view of most Orthodox, conservatives do not believe that the words of scripture themselves are breathed out by God. Thus the Conservative Jew would judge as unwarranted the extreme care that the Torah scribes took over each letter of the Torah when copying from one scroll to another.
- Reform Judaism. It originated during the French revolution, and was strongly influenced by the “Enlightenment”(which I described in an earlier post), which was a secular explosion of “free” thought that clipped the wings of the Roman Catholic Church. I have selected excerpts from what Reform Judaism says about itself. The full text can be found here.
“The faith and values which drive the journey provide a compelling vision of where we want to get to and offer such direction and signposting as we can make out.”
Comment: the faith and values of the Tanakh compel Jews to take the direction that it commands, which invariably is at odds with “where we want to get to.” It’s not difficult to “make out” the sign posting. The issue is does the Reform Jew want to follow the sign posting of the Tanakh? The Tanakh says – ad nauseam (for those who hate being told what to believe and do – that the majority of the children of Israel hate being confronted by the Holy one if Israel. Get the “Holy One of Israel” out of my face.
“When the Jewish people emerged from the ghettos of Europe, some were – or became – so frightened of what they found that they have rebuilt the ghetto ‘walls’.”
“Some recognise the new reality but are determined not to be changed by it. Reform Jews don’t underestimate the challenge of modernity but can also see that it offers new ways of understanding and thinking which help us grow and add to the meaning and purpose of the journey.”
“Reform Judaism is living Judaism. It is a religious philosophy rooted in nearly four millennia of Jewish tradition, whilst actively engaged with modern life and thought. This means both an uncompromising assertion of eternal truths and values and an open, positive attitude to new insights and changing circumstances. It is a living, evolving faith that Jews of today and tomorrow can live by.”
Comment: Philosophy is man made. Reform Jews – the majority of Jews, in fact – think the Jewish Bible is also man made.
One of the founders of the Wissenschaft des Judenthums (Science of Judaism) movement of Reform Judaism, Rabbi Abraham Geiger (1810-1874), argued that practices in Jewish history continued to change. He suggested that these changes not only made it easier to live as a Jew but these changes were also faithful to the spirit of Judaism. He advocated that unless Judaism continued to change, it would not appeal to the majority of Jews. Orthodox Jews consider Geiger to be a heretic of heretics. (For a fuller treatment of Reform Judaism see my The Eternal, History and Reform Judaism.
In Reform Judaism, there is not one single meaning to a biblical text. In his “New Words Inscribed on Old Tablets,” the Reform Rabbi Jonathan E. Blake, writes:
“The beauty of Torah stems from the variety of interpretations that can be surmised from its words. God’s wonder and majesty are exemplified within each individual’s commentary, and it would thus be offensive to suggest that only one interpretation of God’s word is valid. The Talmud exemplifies this basic theme, which depicts our basic right to interpret Torah, communicated; namely, that Jewish law is not contained within the heavens, but in the hands of the people ( Bava M’tzia 59b).”
“However, in whose hands does interpretation reside? Similar to the organization of secular society, tradition states that the majority creates and interprets the laws by which the whole must live. Yet with regard to Torah, tradition suggests that God spoke not only to the entire community, but also to each individual standing at the base of the mountain. We were each given the Torah at Sinai, and we are thus each entitled to own and interpret for ourselves each of God’s words. But in interpreting Torah for ourselves we must also consider the interpretations of the past.”
What does the Orthodox Jew think of the Reform Jew’s “we are thus each entitled to own and interpret for ourselves each of God’s words?” Here is the Orthodox Jew, Mordecai Housman:
“Essentially, they believe that you get to decide what to believe. The Torah, they claim, is man-made entirely, and has been continually changed and adapted, despite all evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, despite the fact that the Torah and history show that Judaism has never tolerated dissenters to the Torah’s opinion, they have the chutzpah (gall) to claim that Judaism has always been pluralistic, that the Torah supposedly has never demanded “uniformity of belief or practice.” This, of course, is obviously baloney. Take one cursory look at almost any chapter of the entire Tanach (Jewish Bible), and you’ll find recriminations against people who have even slightly deviated from the Torah’s teachings, even if they adhered to everything else.”
Many people who have a religion don’t believe the supernatural doctrines on which it is based. Joel Beeke’s Jewish traveller calls herself a Reform Jew, and like most Jews believes the “Messiah” is morality. From the conversation, it is clear that the reason why she calls herself a Reform Jew is that she attends a Reform Synagogue. Like most Jews, she doesn’t acknowledge any vertical relationship between God and herself, but only a horizontal connection to other people. What is important to her is loving kindness, where the “caring community of Jews is the messianic fulfilment.” (Beeke above). Caring and sharing is, of course, an important part of religion. In Christianity, however, good works on their own without faith in God, is a skewed religion. Here is a passage from the letter of Paul to the Colossian Christians explainng the relationship between faith and works (moral behaviour):
9 Because of this, we also, from the day in which we heard, do not cease praying for you, and asking that ye may be filled with the full knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,
10 to your walking worthily of the Lord to all pleasing, in every good work being fruitful, and increasing to the knowledge of God,
11 in all might being made mighty according to the power of His glory, to all endurance and long-suffering with joy.
12 Giving thanks to the Father who did make us meet for the participation of the inheritance of the saints in the light,
13 who did rescue us out of the authority of the darkness, and did translate [us] into the reign of the Son of His love,
14 in whom we have the redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of the sins.
C.S. Lewis wrote that God takes risks, therefore he is what is known as an “open theist.” Here is Lewis:
“The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free. Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. … If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will – that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings, then we may take it it is worth paying.”(C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity).
Lewis says above: “Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk.” What does Lewis mean by “what” in “he knew what would happen? In this passage it seems that Lewis is not referring to God’s micro ignorance of every future event but rather of his macro uncertainty of whether humans will use their free will for evil. If God was certain that humans were going to do evil, we could not describe God as taking risks.
As for God taking a risk (by creating humans), such a statement implies that when Adam and Eve sinned, God went something like this: “Ouch, what I dreaded could happen did. Oh well, it was still worth the risk.”
This “God of the risks” does not exist in any Christian movement except the modern movement – before Lewis – of “Open Theism.” It’s basic idea is that if God foreknows what a person is going to do, it’s no different from God decreeing what a person is going to do, because if a person wants to change his mind, he cannot change what God foreknew. In open theism, genuine human freedom implies that God cannot know future human thoughts or acts because divine foreknowledge implies foreordination, that is, predestination. (See “The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence” by John Sanders ).
Does anyone know how God would react in a risky universe? When it comes to humans doing bad, what Andy Stanley does know is that God is embarrassed and much more; he has knee-jerk reactions. That is why, says Stanley, the Carmen Christi (Philippians 2:6-11) is in Bible.
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Say you’re in a church where the pastor/minister teaches vital doctrines, namely, that he stands on revelation alone, and preaches the biblical doctrine of sin and condemnation and hell, and also that the only way of salvation is in the Son by His blood, His death and glorious resurrection, and the power of the Holy Ghost upon it all, and then in one of his sermons reads Philippians 2:6-10 and says – not once but twice – that what is described in that passsage is God’s “knee-jerk reaction.” That is what drives God in Philippians 2:5-12, says Andy Stanley, in the second video of the Louie Giglio’s four-part video series “How great is our God.”
My question is this: If God could not be sure whether humans would choose to be bad, then doesn’t it follow that God cannot tell what the content of this bad – or any human good – will be. This is pure open theism: God knows the past, knows the presence, but not the future. Man’s pristine freedom remains intact. Goodbye you Calvinist robots and hello CS and Andy.
What did Jesus see in me that he wanted to save me? Truth be told, I am – there’re many of us – a sensitive Jewish intellectual. Is it because I’m Jewish that Jesus saved me? Not at all. Is it because I am an intellectual, of sorts, that He saved me. That’s silly. Sensitive? There might be something in that. Sensitive to what, though? Why, to his pleading to let Him into my heart, of course. Alas, that too is way off course. So, what is the reason why some are reconciled with God, and others not? Let’s see.
Roger Olson (an Arminian) wrote a book “Against Calvinism.” Michael Horton threw the book at Olson with his (Horton’s) “For Calvinism.” Olson and Horton were in a conversation moderated by Ed Stetzer. In the last five minutes of the debate, Horton said that Olson would agree that there’s no such creature as a Calminian – a hybrid of a Calvinist and an Arminian – and also a poxymoron. “It’s either yes or no,” says Horton. Yes or no to what? To this. Either it is through grace alone that one is born again (Calvinism) or through “prevenient” grace, something that necessarily precedes the sinner’s will, if he decides to believe – in a nutshell, prevenient grace is a gentle divine shake-up. Actually, contrary to Olson and Horton, there are lots of Calminians, that is, if the songs they sing in church are anything to go by. I describe Calminianism elsewhere. I’m also reminded of the well-known apologist, Walter Martin, who called himself a Calminian, meaning that he believed in both human responsibility and free will. Sorry, but that combination is reserved for Calvinism, not Calminianism. If Calvinism is “yes” and Arminianism is no, then Calminianism is “yo.”
Stetzer, the moderator, asked Olson whether the differences between Arminianism and Calvinism would prevent Olson and Horton from working together in any way. Olson says no. His example: missions. Au contraire, missions is the last thing they could logically (in the interview, Olson hammers the importance of logic) work together on. It would have been nice if Stetzer had addressed that question not only to Olson but to Horton as well. Perhaps Stetzer knew that his Michael Horton had nothing in common with the Michael Horton of the soapie “Days of our lives.” His Horton remained mum on the question of whether a Calvinist and an Arminian could work together in the mission field. If, though, Stetzer had asked this question to Horton, Horton probably wouldn’t have been as brash as Martin Luther was (and delightfully so) to Erasmus. Here are Erasmus and Luther, as reported by Jerome Zanthius in his “Absolute Predestination With Observations On The Divine Attributes” (1811):
“Erasmus (in most other respects a very excellent man) affected to think that it was of dangerous consequence to propagate the doctrine of predestination either by preaching or writing. His words are these: “What can be more useless than to publish this paradox to the world, namely, that whatever we do is done not by virtue of our own free-will, but in a way of necessity, etc.? What a wide gap does the publication of this tenet open among men for the commission of all ungodliness! What wicked person will reform his life? Who will dare to believe himself a favourite of heaven? Who will fight against his own corrupt inclinations? Therefore, where is either the need or the utility of spreading these notions from whence so many evils seem to flow?”
To which Luther replies:
“If, my Erasmus, you consider these paradoxes (as you term them) to be no more than the inventions of men, why are you so extravagantly heated on the occasion? In that case, your arguments affect not me, for there is no person now living in the world who is a more avowed enemy to the doctrines of men than myself. But if you believe the doctrines in debate between us to be (as indeed they are) the doctrines of God, you must have bid adieu to all sense of shame and decency thus to oppose them. I will not ask, ‘Whither is the modesty of Erasmus fled?’ but, which is much more important, ‘Where, alas! are your fear and reverence of the Deity when you roundly declare that this branch of truth which He has revealed from heaven, is, at best, useless and unnecessary to be known?’ What! shall the glorious Creator be taught by you, His creature, what is fit to be preached and what to be suppressed? Is the adorable God so very defective in wisdom and prudence as not to know till you instruct Him what would be useful and what pernicious? Or could not He, whose understanding is infinite, foresee, previous to His revelation of this doctrine, what would be the consequences of His revealing it until those consequences were pointed out by you? You cannot, you dare not say this. If, then, it was the Divine pleasure to make known these things in His Word, and to bid His messengers publish them abroad, and leave the consequences of their so doing to the wisdom and providence of Him in whose name they speak, and whose message they declare, who art thou, O Erasmus, that thou shouldest reply against God and say to the Almighty, ‘What doest Thou?’”
“Paul, discoursing of God, declares peremptorily, ‘Whom He will He hardeneth,’ and again, ‘God willing to show His wrath,’ etc. And the apostle did not write this to have it stifled among a few persons and buried in a corner, but wrote it to the Christians at Rome, which was, in effect, bringing this doctrine upon the stage of the whole world, stamping an universal imprimatur upon it, and publishing it to believers at large throughout the earth. What can sound harsher in the uncircumcised ears of carnal men than those words of Christ, ‘Many are called, but few chosen’? And elsewhere, ‘I know whom I have chosen.’ Now, these and similar assertions of Christ and His apostles are the very positions which you, O Erasmus, brand as useless and hurtful. You object, ‘If these things are so, who will endeavour to amend his life?’ I answer, ‘Without the Holy Ghost, no man can amend his life to purpose’ Reformation is but varnished hypocrisy unless it proceed from grace. The elect and truly pious are amended by the Spirit of God, and those of mankind who are not amended by Him will perish.”
“You ask, moreover, ‘Who will dare to believe himself a favourite of heaven?’ I answer, ‘It is not in man’s own power to believe himself such upon just grounds until he is enabled from above.’ But the elect shall be so enabled; they shall believe themselves to be what indeed they are. As for the rest who are not endued with faith, they shall perish, raging and blaspheming as you do now. ‘But,’ say you, ‘these doctrines open a door to ungodliness.’ I answer, ‘Whatever door they may open to the impious and profane, yet they open a door of righteousness to the elect and holy, and show them the way to heaven and the path of access unto God.’ Yet you would have us abstain from the mention of these grand doctrines, and leave our people in the dark as to their election of God; the consequence of which would be that every man would bolster himself up with a delusive hope of share in that salvation which is supposed to lie open to all, and thus genuine humility and the practical fear of God would be kicked out of doors. This would be a pretty way indeed of stopping up the gap Erasmus complains of! Instead of closing up the door of licentiousness, as is falsely pretended, it would be, in fact, opening a gulf into the nethermost hell.”
To return to Michael Horton. Horton writes on “Rick Warren, Modern Reformation, and Desiring God – White Horse Inn Blog Highlights” that the “first Reformation was about God and the gospel of his Son. It centered on the justification of sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.” With regard to missions, I suggest that Horton would say that these “alones” (solas) are the three pillars on which missions should be based. Olson, because an Arminian, would leave out “through grace alone.” I suggest, therefore, that it is impossible for a Calvinist missionary to cooperate with an Arminian missionary except on social issues; in other words, doing things for others. For example, Rick Warren, who says:
“I’m looking for a second reformation. The first reformation of the church 500 years ago was about beliefs. This one is going to be about behavior. The first one was about creeds. This one is going to be about deeds. It is not going to be about what does the church believe, but about what is the church doing” (beliefnet.com/faiths/Christianity/2005/10/Rick-Warrens-Second-Reformation.aspx?p=1). (Quoted in Horton above).
The Arminian missionary and Calvinist missionary can certainly work together. And play together – golf; unless they’re holed up in the Central African Republic. This does not mean that an Arminian theologian, say Michael Brown, and a Calvinist theologian, say James White cannot team up to defend say the perspicuity of scripture. On second thoughts, maybe not the perspicuity of all scripture; for example, for the Calvinist, what is more perspicuous than the clear teaching in scripture that salvation is all of the Lord? The Arminian’s view of grace is that it is always necessary, sometimes effective but never sufficient, while for the Calvinist grace is necessary, always effective and always sufficient. In Arminianism, grace is only effective if the person cooperates with God in removing his hard heart, or, to use another biblical image, if the person cooperates with God in raising himself from spiritual death: Ephesians 2:4-5 – “God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened (raised) us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).
Ephesians 1 is clear: it is God’s will not man’s will that saves (Young’s Literal Translation):
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace to you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!
3 Blessed [is] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who did bless us in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
4 according as He did choose us in him before the foundation of the world, for our being holy and unblemished before Him, in love,
5 having foreordained us to the adoption of sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, in which He did make us accepted in the beloved,
7 in whom we have the redemption through his blood, the remission of the trespasses, according to the riches of His grace,
8 in which He did abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,
9 having made known to us the secret of His will, according to His good pleasure, that He purposed in Himself.
God’s election, that is, God choice of those he saves, has nothing to do with anything in themselves, because there is absolutely nothing they can contribute to their salvation. God’s grace is not only efficient but sufficient. Verses 3 -6 cannot be more perspicuous (clearer). The only thing you can offer God is what he offers you. This truth, like so may truths in the Bible, cannot be learned from human wisdom or philosophy. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards…(1 Corinthians 1;26). The reason why I find it difficult to call Arminians fellow believers is because the issue of the role of believers in salvation is central to the Gospel. If this is so, the Arminian Gospel is another Gospel; it’s not biblical Christianity. (See Greg Price “Election and Man’s Responsibility Before God”).
Where does the ability come from to believe. It is a gift of God. James 1:18 of his own will, “Of his own will he brought us forth (gave birth to us) by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” Not of our own will. God acts according to his own pleasure and counsel, according to his sovereign holy will. And in John 15:16 – “You did not choose you but you chose me. When you turned to Jesus in faith, what you did was to only accept your entrance into the kingdom of God. God had elected you to be a child of God. Once the decree is made, you cannot but (want to) persevere to the end.
Scripture says the Christian has been elected/predestined to be holy: “according as He did choose us in him before the foundation of the world, for our being holy and unblemished before Him, in love, having foreordained us to the adoption of sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:4-5). To say that God cannot ensure that you persevere to the end implies the rejection of God’s promise that all things will work together for good for God’s children. If God’s decree is conditioned on our will, how can we be sure about anything? If you will yourself to be born again, you can will yourself to be unborn again, and later born again again – and again .
Greg Price gives the following illustration of the “total depravity” of the natural man:
“We are like the stubborn insensitive 10 year-old, Glen, who lived to make fun of a fellow class mate called Jim, who had lost all of his hair in chemotherapy. Glen called Jim “marble head” every time he saw him. Jim pleaded with him not to do it. One day at a pool together, Glen fell into the pool. He couldn’t swim. He struggled to stay above water. Every time Glen surfaced, he called out “marble head, marble head save me.” Jim said stop calling me marble head and I will. Call me Jim. Glen refused even to the point that he could no longer keep his nose above the water. And just when Jim dived into save Glen from certain death, Glen could no longer yell marble head because his mouth was submerged under the water. He raised his hand out of the water in a gesture of shooting a marble. Marble head is going to stay marble head. That is our condition.
The upshot of Grep Price’s illustration is that apart from God’s saving grace, we will not change our attitude to God. That is a bald fact. If a drowning sinner really wants to be saved, if the arm he extends out of the water signifies a sincere acknowledgement to the power and holiness of the one who can save him, this desire to be saved has its source in God, not in the drowning sinner’s corrupt will. “When we were completely helpless to save ourselves, God died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).
How do you know you are among the elect? “Not every one who is saying to me Lord, lord, shall come into the reign of the heavens; but he who is doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens” (Matthew 7:21). You desire to do God’s will. You often struggle but you repent.
It seems to me that the main problem with the idea of freely willing to come to Christ is the Arminian’s lack of understanding or rejection of the doctrine of “total depravity” (“radical corruption” is a better term). For the Arminian, what Jesus can do is based on what individuals want him to do. “This whole idea, says James White that God’s activity in time is limited by man again illustrates the difference between looking at scripture from the divine perspective or the human perspective. If man is at the centre and God is peripheral, if it’s all about what God can’t do without God’s help, that would work. But if it is first and foremost about God, God as creator, and God’s glory, man is therefore secondary to these issues.” (James White’s review of Stephen Gaines’s sermon on Calvinism, Dividing Line, 2 January 2014).
Gaines asks, “Why would God be amazed by their (Pharisees) unbelief if he had predestined their unbelief? “Why, says White, would you be amazed by their unbelief unless you’re an open theist?” Open theism holds that God has to wait to see what his creatures will do. In Arminian theology, “open theism” is generally rejected, and in Calvinist theology always rejected. For most Arminians, and for all Calvinists, God knows what people are going to do.” So why is God amazed at the unbelief of the Pharisees? “The amazement, says White, is not an amazement of ignorance; it’s an amazement of knowledge. He knows their hearts. The God-Man remains amazed when his creatures rebel against his will. We should be amazed when men do not believe.” This unbelief provides insight to the depravity of the human heart, which, alas, Arminians rarely fully, and often hardly, appreciate. What is the doctrine of “total depravity” (“radical corruption). What it’s not is that people are as bad as they could possible be.
Here is Jonathan Edwards’ description of “total depravity.”
“The depravity of man’s nature appears, not only in its propensity to sin in some degree, which renders a man an evil or wicked man in the eye of the law, and strict justice, as was before shown; but it is so corrupt, that its depravity either shows that men are, or tends to make them to be, of such an evil character, as shall denominate them wicked men, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace. This may be argued from several things which have been already observed: as from a tendency to continual sin; a tendency to much greater degrees of sin than righteousness, and from the general extreme stupidity of mankind. But yet the present state of man’s nature, as implying, or tending to, a wicked character, may deserve to be more particularly considered, and directly proved. And in general, this appears, in that there have been so very few in the world, from age to age, ever since the world has stood, that have been of any other character.”
The Reformers – Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, for example, accuse the Arminian of not having a saviour but only a possible saviour – possible in the sense that if a person says to Jesus “keep aknocking but you can’t come in” this means that Jesus can only save you if you enable him to do so by inviting him into your corrupt heart. Actually, in Arminianism Jesus is no saviour at all, not even a possible saviour, because in Arminianism, it is ultimately believers who save themselves. Why glorify God in your salvation when it is you that unties God’s hands to save you? This is not what is meant by “having made known to us the secret of His will, according to His good pleasure, that He purposed in Himself” (Ephesians 1:9).
So can Roger Olson and Michael Horton hole up together. Sure they can if they want to. But should they do so – off the golf course?
Question: Isn’t it true that most Christian converts who come to accept the Reformed (Calvinist) position were once Arminians? And didn’t you say that Arminianism was, as Paul the Apostle would have put it, another Gospel. So why would Christ use another Gospel to save sinners?
Answer: Good questions. Let me think more about it.
The Jew protests that the Christian has set up a mediator, Jesus Christ, between God and man, while the Reformers of the 16th century, the first “protestants,” accused the Roman Catholic Church of setting up “a mediatorial caste between God and man — to obtain by works, by penance, and by money the salvation which is the free gift of God — such is Popery” (HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY by J. H. Merle D’Aubigné).
Jews and Roman Catholics will protest again: “We are not wrong,” which they are. There is indeed a mediator between God and man ; only one: Jesus Christ, the God-man.
When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. This faith is God’s gift to man but man’s gift to God. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as Calvinism understands it.
1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
In the above passage, the Arminian says that grace is God’s gift to all people without exception while faith is a person’s gift to God. In the above passage, the Arminian introduces an intervening step. After being quickened (raised up), one can say yes or no.
“Do you want to remain quickened or return to being strickened?
“Ok, but I’ll never give up on you; I’ll be prodding you corpse come eternity in case you change your mind.
“What love is this! I can come forth like Lazarus if I want. Love wins!” My love.
Fred butler, on his “Hip and Thigh,” writes:
“Evangelism Explosion, or E.E. as it is popularly known, was a simplistic evangelism outline developed by D. James Kennedy. The gimmick driving the E.E. presentation was two opening questions designed to break the ice with the person being evangelized, as well as provide a starting point for the evangelist to introduce his presentation. The first question asked something like, “If you died tonight, would you go to heaven?” Pretty much every person to whom I asked this first question responded positively with a “yes.” I don’t believe I can recall anyone I asked responding with, “No, I’m headed to a devil’s hell in a hand-basket and loving every minute of it.” The second question, however, was meant to add the rub that was to get the presentation going. It asked, “If you were to die tonight and stand before the LORD, and he were to ask, ‘why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you say?” The question is supposed to expose what it is exactly a person is placing his or her confidence in for salvation. Unlike the first one, I received a variety of unique responses with that second one. Anything from “my good works” to “I walked an aisle at a revival service when I was eight.” I can recall one time on one of those spring break mission trips to the Detroit area asking a 13 year old kid the second question. His reply was classic: “What would I say to God if he asked me why He should let me into heaven? Well, its your job.”
Last words of Heinrich Heine: Dieu me pardonnera. C’est son métier. (God will forgive me. It’s his job)
Heinrich Heine (born Harry Heine, changed to Christian Johann Heinrich Heine following his conversion to Christianity from Judaism) (13 December 1797 – 17 February 1856) was one of the most significant German poets of the 19th century. He was also a journalist, essayist, and literary critic. He is best known outside Germany for his early lyric poetry, which was set to music in the form of Lieder (art songs) by composers such as Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert. Heine’s later verse and prose are distinguished by their satirical wit and irony. His radical political views led to many of his works being banned by German authorities. Heine spent the last 25 years of his life as an expatriate in Paris (Wikipedia).
Jean-Henri Merle d’Aubigné (16 August 1794 – 21 October 1872) was a Swiss Protestant minister and historian of the Reformation. In the 1830s onwards he wrote his majestic “History of the Reformation in the 16th century.” (free ebook). He wrote:
“Whenever religion has been under discussion, there have been three points to which our attention has been directed. God, Man, and the Priest. There can only be three kinds of religion upon earth, according as God, Man, or the Priest, is its author and its head. I denominate that the religion of the priest, which is invented by the priest, for the glory of the priest, and in which a sacerdotal caste is dominant. By the religion of man, I mean those various systems and opinions which human reason has framed, and which, being the offspring of human infirmity, are consequently devoid of all healing power. The term divine religion I apply to the truth such as God gave it, — the end and aim of which are the glory of God and the salvation of man.”
Thus we have the Roman Catholicism (priest), the Reformation (God) and Humanism (man).
“Keep it simple, stupid,” from Turrentinfan
But first TULIP, the acronym of the Calvinist understanding of grace in salvation:
Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)
Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)
Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)
The overarching sovereignty of God is missing. Turrentinfan adds God’s sovereignty and rearranges the petals. He renames (which many Calvinists now do) “limited atonement” calling it “definite atonement,” not only because
1. the former is a misnomer, owing to the fact that God is never limited in anything, specifically in the salvation of sinners where his atoning power fulfills totally whom he intends it for (the “elect”), but also because
2. without this label change, TF’s “Keep it simple, stupid,” becomes “Keep it simple stupil,” which, although it has a nice ring to it, would be stupid. Over to TF.
Keep it simple, stupid.
TULIP is a great acronym for the doctrines of grace. But it’s not very American. Here’s another that may be easier to recall, next time people tell you that election, predestination, or Calvinism is “stupid.” You can respond, yes:
Sovereignty: God is in charge – we are not. All things happen according to his foreordinate counsel – from the death of Christ to the last hair on our heads.
Total depravity: In Adam we fell and our natures became corrupt, so that we do not obey the law of God and are not able to.
Unconditional election: God has chosen some of humanity for himself, based only on himself and his love – not based on us and our merit.
Perseverance of the saints: God will finish the work of salvation that he begins at justification, saving to the uttermost those who approach Him in faith.
Irresistible grace: God’s grace acts directly to convert the heart, change the will, and make a new creature, who then responds. God’s grace does not have to wait for the creature’s will, in order to effect a change.
Definite atonement: Christ’s death was particularly intended to bring about the salvation of the elect: his sheep – those that the Father gave him out of the world.
There are myriads of triads. One of these consists of the three branches of philosophy, namely, ethics, logic and metaphysics. For our purposes, morality and ethics are the same thing. Now, we all know what “relative” means: your uncle, I mean my aunt; agh I mean snip snip, Bob’s our aunt. Another example: what’s good for THIS goose, is bad for THAT goose. Last one; also about animals: one man’s meat is another man’s poisson (fish).
Al Mohler, in his podcast “The Briefing,”today (20 November 2013) talks about the public spat between Dick’s two daughters, one for and the other against same-sex marriage. Cheney says that he was once against same-sex marriage but changed his mind when one of his daughters took a partner, who were later pronounced woman and wife. Mohler said that Cheney is only one among several politicians who changed their views on same-sex marriage when one or more of their relatives wanted to marry their own sex.
Related post: Objectivity of good and evil: Go yang yourself.
Justin Brierley’s guest in his latest “Unbelievable” program is N.T. Wright. In most of Brierley’s podcasts, he asks his guests challenging questions. Not once, however, does Brierley challenge Wright. For example, Wright says that he believes in Satan (Hebrew “deceiver”) but does not believe “he” (the devil) is a person. That is why, Wright says, Satan is a sub-person, an “it.”
It seems Brierley was a tad intimidated by the blinding light coruscating from the great Wright throne; it was Brierley who, at the beginning of the podcast, remarked on the poundage of Wright’s latest volume – on Paul. Not something Paul would be able to carry about, or throw overboard, without some help.
Now, I’d bet my bottom if not my dollar that Brierley believes that Satan is indeed a person, that when he (Brierley; Satan too, I suggest) reads
You do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. 42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. 43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. 44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
he (Brierley, and Satan, for sure) believes that an “it” cannot be a liar, never mind a “father.” Wright, of course, believes that although “your father the devil” is a real creature, “it” is not a real liar, but a sub-liar. Eishegesis!
Wright also says he finds medieval descriptions of the devil and hell – pitchforks and unquenchable fire – as over the top. Never mind the other stuff Wright said about the devil, this is one time Brierley should have pitched in.
Glossary: Fire (Hebrew “Eish”)
What is Humanism
There exist various definitions of humanism, Here is one: “…a commitment to the perspective, interests and centrality of human persons; a belief in reason and autonomy as foundational aspects of human existence; a belief that reason, scepticism and the scientific method are the only appropriate instruments for discovering truth and structuring the human community; a belief that the foundations for ethics and society are to be found in autonomy and moral equality (Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy).”
“Seventy-five years ago, writes J Gresham Machen, Western civilization, despite inconsistencies, was still predominantly Christian; today it is predominantly pagan. In speaking of ‘paganism,’ we are not using a term of reproach. Ancient Greece was pagan, but it was glorious, and the modern world has not even begun to equal its achievements. What, then, is paganism? The answer is not really difficult. Paganism is that view of life which finds the highest goal of human existence in the healthy and harmonious and joyous development of existing human faculties” (my italics). And that exactly describes humanism.
In humanism “man” is not only the measure of all things, but all things are measured for his pleasure, his enjoyment. For the natural man, joy means enjoyment, lots of it – enjoyment of freedom, enjoyment of job, of family, of friends, of sex, of sport, of holidays, of gadgets – and enjoyment of church! “Enjoyment” here does not merely mean amusements, thrills and diversions (French divertissement “entertainment”) but has to do with such things as the relationship between lifestyles and happiness. (See “Enjoyment of life lengthens life: Findings and consequences’” by R. Veenhoven).
The chief end of Christianity
In Christianity, “salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God’s glory and that we must glorify him always” (Monergism.com). In several Protestant catechisms, the first item is this: “Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” The Christian glorifies God, which results in enjoying Him for ever. This enjoyment is the Christian’s ultimate happiness.
In his sermon on humanism, “Ten Shekels and a shirt,” one of the best sermons of all time, Paris Reidhead says “the reason for being [human existence] – is ‘Lamb that was slain, receive the reward of your suffering.’ The Bible says that this reward consists of those for whom Christ suffered and shed his blood: “1 Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him… 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. (John 17:1b-2, 9).
“Well now, says Reidhead in his sermon, the philosophy of the [contemporary] atmosphere is humanism; the chief end of being is the happiness of man. There’s another group of people that have taken umbrage with the liberals, this group are my people, the fundamentalists. They say, “We believe in the inspiration of the Bible! We believe in the deity of Jesus Christ! We believe in hell! We believe in heaven! We believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ!” But remember the atmosphere is that of humanism. And humanism says the chief end of being is the happiness of man. Humanism is like a miasma out of a pit, it just permeates everyplace. Humanism is like an infection, an epidemic, it just goes everywhere.”
It all depends, though, what one means by “happiness.” Here is John Brown: “Life,’ in the language of our Lord, implies happiness. When he calls himself, then, the ‘life-giving bread,’ he intimates that he is the author of true happiness; that he, that he alone, can make men truly and permanently happy” (John Brown, “True happiness and the way to secure it: Conversational discourse to the Jews – John 6:26-65″).
Christian Hedonism – an oxymoron
“Either/Or” is the title of a book by ten by the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, which describes two contrasting life views, the one based on hedonism, the other on moral responsibility. Hedonism (Greek, “delight”) is a philosophy that holds that pleasure alone is of intrinsic value. One would think the term “Christian hedonism” to be pointedly foolish ( pointedly – Greek oxy; foolish -Greek moron). John Piper does not think so, who coined the term “Christian hedonism.” Piper explains:
“A ‘Christian Hedonist’ sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? If the term makes you squirm, we understand. But don’t throw this paper away just yet. We’re not heretics (really!). Nor have we invented another prosperity-obsessed theology by twisting the Bible to sanctify our greed or lust. We are simply stating an ancient, orthodox, Biblical truth in a fresh way. ‘All men seek happiness,’ says Blaise Pascal. ‘This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.’ We believe Pascal is right. And, with Pascal, we believe God purposefully designed us to pursue happiness.
“Does seeking your own happiness sound self-centered? Aren’t Christians supposed to seek God, not their own pleasure? To answer this question we need to understand a crucial truth about pleasure-seeking (hedonism): we value most what we delight in most. [Original italics]. Pleasure is not God’s competitor, idols are. Pleasure is simply a gauge that measures how valuable someone or something is to us. Pleasure is the measure of our treasure. We know this intuitively. If a friend says to you,’I really enjoy being with you,’ you wouldn’t accuse him of being self-centered. Why? Because your friend’s delight in you is the evidence that you have great value in his heart. In fact, you’d be dishonored if he didn’t experience any pleasure in your friendship. The same is true of God. If God is the source of our greatest delight then God is our most precious treasure; which makes us radically God-centered and not self-centered. And if we treasure God most, we glorify Him most.”
“Does the Bible teach this? Yes. Nowhere in the Bible does God condemn people for longing to be happy. People are condemned for forsaking God and seeking their happiness elsewhere (Jeremiah 2:13). This is the essence of sin. The Bible actually commands us to delight in the Lord (Psalm 37:4). Jesus teaches us to love God more than money because our heart is where our treasure is (Matt. 6:21). Paul wants us to believe that gaining Christ is worth the loss of everything else (Phil 3:8) and the author of Hebrews exhorts us to endure suffering, like Jesus, for the joy set before us (Heb. 12: 1-2).” (John Piper, “What is Christian humanism?”).
Is it really either/or?
Contrast Piper with Paris Reihead. In his sermon, “Ten Shekels and a shirt,” he thunders: I DIDN’T SEND YOU OUT THERE FOR THEM!!! I SENT YOU OUT THERE FOR ME! DO I NOT DESERVE THE REWARD OF MY SUFFERING? DON’T I DESERVE THOSE FOR WHOM I DIED?” (Emphasis in transcript).
Is it, though, really an either/or. Isn’t the following possible: “I sent you out there for them, and I sent you out there for me; mainly for me?” If Christ died for me, surely there is something in it for me as well: to be with God eternally. And doesn’t the glorification of God include the glorification of the reward of his suffering – those he died for? It is true that “All things are from him and through him and to him” (Romans 11:36). Isn’t it true that some of those “things” is the joy God feels for what he has done for those he has redeemed – and glorified:
7 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed…10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them… 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.
The Christian’s future enjoyment
Here is Walter Marshall (1628–1680) on the Christians future enjoyment:
“The third endowment necessary to enable us for the practice of holiness, without which a persuasion of our reconciliation with God would be of little efficacy to work in us a rational propensity to it, is that we be persuaded of our future enjoyment of the everlasting heavenly happiness. This must precede our holy practice, as a cause disposing and alluring us to it. This assertion has several sorts of adversaries to oppose it. Some account that a persuasion of our own future happiness, before we have persevered in sincere obedience, tends to licentiousness; and that the way to do good works is rather to make them a condition necessary for the procuring of this persuasion. Others condemn all works, that we are allured or stirred up to by the future enjoyment of the heavenly happiness, as legal, mercenary, flowing from self-love, and not from any pure love to God; and they figure out sincere godliness by a man bearing fire in one hand, to burn up heaven, and water in the other to quench hell; intimating that the true service of God must not proceed at all from hope of reward, or fear of punishment, but only from love… sincere obedience cannot rationally subsist, except it is allured, encouraged and supported by this persuasion [of future happiness].”
“Let me, therefore, suppose a Sadducee, believing no happiness after this life, and put the question: ‘Can such a one love God with his whole heart, might and soul?’ Will he not be reasonable, rather to lessen and moderate his love towards God, lest he should be overmuch troubled to part with Him by death? We account it most reasonable to sit loose in our affections from things that we must part with. Can such a one be satisfied with the enjoyment of God as his happiness? Will he not rather account that the enjoyment of God and all religious duties are vanities, as well as other things, because in a little time we shall have no more benefit by them than if they had never been? How can such a one be willing to lay down his life for the sake of God when, by his death, he must part with God, as well as with other things? How can he willingly choose afflictions rather than sin, when he shall be more miserable in this life for it, and not at all happy hereafter?”(Walter Marshall, “The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification: Growing in Holiness by Living in Union with Christ,”Free ebook).
We need to be rescued. From what? From our fears, our miseries, our tears. Happiness is the ultimate goal of all – those in Christ and those who are not. The difference between humanism and biblical Christianity is that for the former, ultimate happiness is to be found in this world, while in biblical Christianity it is to be found in the next: “they long for a better, that is, an heavenly [country], wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God, for He did prepare for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16). “Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36).
Eye has not seen
“Therefore, whatever you conceive or see of God, if you think ye know what ye conceive and see, it is not God ye see, but something of God’s less than God; for it is said, “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive, what he hath laid up far them that love him.” (Hugh Binning, “The common principles of the Christian religion, Lecture 7 – “Of the name of God”).
My related posts
I present three Roman Catholic views on “faith and works.”
Catholic Answers Forum
Here is a recent question on Catholic Answers Forum: “Are the teachings of Paul, specifically in the book of Romans easily understood?” A comment from a reader: “As there is the teaching of salvation by Grace alone – and the scriptures are arranged — it’s called the Roman road study– by faith alone not by (catholic) works. But in the catholic religion it is confusing and not easily understood.” Response from Catholic Answers: “Sorry, but this is simply not true. We Catholics do not believe in salvation by works. We believe in salvation by grace. Faith and good Christian works are results and fruits of God’s grace.(Italics added).
Council of Trent
The Council of Trent was convened to counter the Protestant Reformation. Here is Canon 24 of the Council of Trent: “If anyone says that justice [justification] received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely fruits and signs of justification obtained, not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema. (Council of Trent sixth session, celebrated on the thirteenth day of January, 1547, Decree concerning Justification).” (Italics added). Trent (and modern Rome?) says it believes in justification by faith but will not say it believes in justification by faith alone, which is the main pillar of Protestant Reformation. (See Trent above). Trent has, in retrospect, anathematised, that is, cursed, damned to hell – the expert on the “Catholic Answers Forum.”
Contrary to Trent’s view of Protestants above, the Protestant believes most firmly that works are “the fruits and signs of justifications obtained” This Protestant position, though, would not say that works are “merely” (Trent above) the fruits of justification, because this might create the impression that works don’t matter in salvation. If you are an evangelical Christian and someone asks you, “Do you believe in faith alone?, you’ll politely growl – if the questioner is another evangelical Christian – “What a dumb question, of course I do!” The meaning of “faith alone” is that one is justified by faith alone, not by faith plus works. That is not to say that faith is found alone, for works are involved, but not as part of your justification but as part of your salvation. The general Protestant view is that works are the fruits and signs of justification obtained. It also matters much what kind of good works you do once you believe – not for the purposes of salvation but because “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). (See Faith and Jerks: The Bible out of context is a con; that’s why James White is not going to hell and David Stern’s Torah “Torah” in the Justification of sinners: A legalistic spanner in the works).
What is the latest Roman view? Here is Pope Francis on faith and works, or rather faith or works: If the Roman Catholic sources are true, it’s all about loving kindness, good works. Justification (reconciliation with God) says Pope Francis, is no longer about faith AND good works, but solely about works You can be an atheist, says Pope Francis, on condition that you’re good and kind.
“LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – The Holy Father is full of surprises, born of true and faithful humility. On Wednesday he declared that all people, not just Catholics, are redeemed through Jesus, even atheists. However, he did emphasize there was a catch. Those people must still do good. In fact, it is in doing good that they are led to the One who is the Source of all that is good. In essence he simply restated the hope of the Church that all come to know God, through His Son Jesus Christ.”
The Vatican, it seems is alarmed, at best; no wonder, for Pope Francis is indeed, if not in deed, trashing Trent. Here is Trent, Session 6, Chapter 8: “[I)t is most truly said that faith without works is dead and of no profit, and in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by charity [love].” Francis has thrown faith out of the Sistine into the cistern.
What is a Roman Catholic to believe? For starters, the Bible is clear: without faith in Christ, you will, after you leave this body, die the second death. Second, without one’s works, one cannot be saved. So salvation involves both faith (which alone makes us justified before God) ands works, the fruit of faith. But what to make of Paul’s “justification by faith without works” and James’s “one cannot be justified without works? Here is Craig Keener:
“[W]hen Paul says that a person is justified by faith without works (Rom 3:28), his context makes it clear that he defines faith as something more than passive assent to a viewpoint; he defines it as a conviction that Christ is our salvation, a conviction on which one actively stakes one’s life (Rom 1:5). James declares that one cannot be justified by faith without works (James 2:14)—because he uses the word “faith” to mean mere assent that something is true (2:19), he demands that such assent be actively demonstrated by obedience to show that it is genuine (2:18). In other words, James and Paul use the word “faith” differently, but do not contradict one another on the level of meaning. If we ignore context and merely connect different verses on the basis of similar wording, we will come up with contradictions in the Bible that the original writers would never have imagined. (“Biblical Interpretation” by Craig Keener). (See A Calvinist drools over the ORDO SALUTIS: Justification, and Salvation by works).
There are actually only two real denominations: drivel and drool.
- David Stern’s Torah “Torah” in the Justification of sinners: A legalistic spanner in the works (onedaringjew.wordpress.com)
- James White’s impassioned plea to Jason Reed to come home from Rome (onedaringjew.wordpress.com)
Originally posted on OneDaringJew:
In Why do you call me good?, I mentoned that Christians are often not any closer than Jews to the mark when it comes to the seriousness of sin; for example, Helmut Thielicke (and Philip Yancey, who quotes Thielicke approvingly in his “What is so amazing about Grace,” Zondervan, 1997, p. 175). Here is Thielicke:
“When Jesus loved a guilt-laden person and helped him, he saw in him an erring child of God. He saw in him a human being whom his Father loved and grieved over because he was going wrong. He saw him as God originally designed and meant him to be, and therefore he saw through the surface layer of grime and dirt to the real man underneath” (Helmut Thielicke, “Christ and the meaning of life,” Grand Rapids, Baker, 1975, p. 41). (My emphasis).
Two interrelated questions: First, who is Thielicke (and Yancey) addressing? Second, what does Thielicke mean by the “real” you?
Sin is the disobedience of God’s law. Sin does not only mean to wallow in the mire that only Christ’s blood can wash off. Sin means more than wallowing in the mire; it means swallowing it, absorbing the filth into your system, your graveyard; a system with one vital flaw: no channel for eliminating the rotting flesh and dead men’s bones.
9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
The letter to the Hebrews (Chapter 10) explains the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:33) in Christ’s blood. 15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
How does God “put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds?” It is a great deception to think that you can call upon Christ any time you desire to write his law on your heart. Why is this so? “There are those, writes Walter Marshall (1628 – 1680), that, out of zeal for obedience, but not according to knowledge contend so earnestly for free will, as a necessary and sufficient endowment to enable us to perform our duty, when once we are convinced of it, and of our obligation to it; and who extol this endowment, as the great benefit that universal redemption hath blessed all mankind with; though they consider this free will without any actual inclination to good; yea, they cannot but acknowledge that, in most of mankind that have it, it is incumbered with an actual bent and propensity of the heart altogether to evil. Such a free will as this is, can never free us from slavery to sin and Satan, and fit us for the practice of the law and therefore is not worthy the pains of those that contend so hotly for it. Neither is the will so free as is necessary for the practice of holiness, until it be endued with an inclination and propensity thereunto.” In the rest of his book, Marshall explains why we are not free to choose good unless God gives us this affectation, this “inclination and propensity thereunto. (Free ebook, 111 pages).
“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
Believers in Christ, according to the Bible, suffer three kinds of death. One physical and two spiritual. Every human being is born dead in sin. The first human pair was a masterpiece of creation.Then Adam and his wife died spiritually in one fell (fall?) swoop and eventually they died physically as well. All their progeny – in some way not revealed by God – sinned in Adam. This is what is meant by “Original Sin.” “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5). This death was a spiritual death (that is, everyone is born with a sin nature and thus alienated from God) as well as eventual physical death. With regard to spiritual death, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath (Epehsians 2:1-3).
Then there is for believers in Christ, in this life, the death of death in the death of Jesus Christ (John Owen), that is to say, the Christian’s spiritual death dies in Christ’s death. We follow on from Ephesians 1:3:
“1:4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” So, after believers’ death of death in Christ, they are made alive, they are regenerated, the yare born again; their wills are no longer in bondage to their corrupt hearts; God has replaced their corrupt stony hearts with the desire to come to him an follow him.” Non-believers in Christ die spiritually only once in this life. Their second spiritual death occurs after their physical death when Christ casts them into outer darkness.
Those raised in Christ will also have new bodies: 1 Corinthians 15: 35 But someone may ask, “How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?” 36 What a foolish question! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. 37 And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. 38 Then God gives it the new body he wants it to have. A different plant grows from each kind of seed. 39 Similarly there are different kinds of flesh—one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are also bodies in the heavens and bodies on the earth. The glory of the heavenly bodies is different from the glory of the earthly bodies. 41 The sun has one kind of glory, while the moon and stars each have another kind. And even the stars differ from each other in their glory.42 It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. 43 Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. 44 They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.”
And unbelievers, those who are raised not in Christ but by Christ, will they have new bodies? Yes, “There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both for the just and unjust.”—Acts 24:15. A vile body, to grace the state of their soul. How terrible.
If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed: Of damnable and non-damnable heresy, and blindness31 Oct
Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
Paul says in Galatians that the person who does not believe this gospel let him be anathema, accursed, that is “go to hell.” What is this gospel? Consider the doctrine of atonement. Does Paul teach penal substitutionary atonement, that is, Christ suffered in the sinner’s place to propitiate the wrath of God where the punishment the sinner deserved is put on, imputed to, Christ? Some say the Bible does teach that, and that is why they reject Christianity (see Randall Rauser’s “The death of Jesus, he rape of a woman and concept called imputaion” and comments), while others, the majority of Christians, say that the Bible does not teach that, and that is the reason why they are Christians. If penal substitutionary atonement is in the Bible, the question is, “Is it a damnable heresy?” There is heresy and damnable heresy. James White explains this distinction to a caller on his “Dividing Line” (October 29, 2013; 10 minutes from the end).
Here is my transcript:
(My clarifications are in square brackets).
Caller – How would you define heresy? Michael Brown, on his Line of Fire, describes it as an error that will send them to hell if they believed it.
White: That’s [that kind of heresy is] a damnable heresy. There are damnable heresies and non-damnable heresies. At least in the history of the church, that has been the case. And so a damnable heresy is a heresy that would demonstrate that the person promoting it is not in Christ. It would involve a denial of Christ, a promotion of a false Gospel, etc. indicative of a person who is not a follower of Christ. There are people who would hold to a heresy but are not damned a a result. So, for example, there are Christians, who out of ignorance are modalists [God is not a trinity but takes on alternate roles of father, son, holy spirit]. If the only people going to heaven have a perfect knowledge of the trinity, well, heaven is going to have a lot of space left over. The difference being between a person who knows the truth of what the trinity is and denies it, and a person who does not know what the truth is, and out of ignorance denies those type of things. So, there are all levels of heresy, and some are minor things. I mean you could make the definition that heresy is anything that involves false teaching. Since none of us has a perfect understanding of all things in this life, then we are all heretics on some level. I’ve got blind spots some place and I am going to find out what they re after this live is over. If you make the standard perfection – this is where hyper-Calvinists, hyper-Arminians and hyper people in general fall off the boat is they end up drawing the circle so tightly that they have to stand on one foot to remain in it. Ans so on that level, everyone would be a heretic. So, I think there needs to be some thought put into how exactly you would define these things. I would consider Todd Bentley a heretic. I would consider Benny Hinn a heretic. Their teachings are false and their lives are false. They’re obviously doing this for money, fame, power, they’re robbing the sheep blind, and that’s the kind of heresy unfortunately today in the Charismatic movement you’re not allowed to call that heresy or call them heretics or false teachers, false prophets o anything else because look at all their “fruit” quote unquote.
Caller – How would you distinguish, how would you define blasphemy from these things? Is that just an error?
White – No, well, I mean, the specific term mean to speak against. So, for example, when Jesus speaks of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, not being forgiven in this age or the age to come, the person is guilty of an eternal sin. He says this in the context of all sorts of things spoken against the son of man will be forgiven him but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. The reason for t hat is that the Holy Spirit is the means by which repentance comes…The point is you’re speaking against something. We need to be careful what we identify as blasphemy. It’s pretty easy to rile up your base by pulling out the blasphemy term, but fundamentally from a biblical perspective a blasphemous teaching would be a teaching that is so obviously false tat it speaks against the character and truths of God… For example, being drunk in the Holy Spirit; hat is clearly an attribution to the Holy Spirit of God of activities that are directly contrary and to his character and purposes…We have to be careful that every tine we see somebody doing something that is inappropriate in worship that that necessarily is blasphemous. We have to be very careful. It is certainly a very strong term. It’s been used against me many times by many a person saying “your teaching I blasphemous.” What they mean by his is that they disagree with my teaching. A consistent Arminian [your faith causes God to remove your heart of stone and regenerate you] would find my teaching [faith follows regeneration] blasphemous; in the same way that I would find their consistent teaching heretical. There has to be some specific speaking against the character and attributes of God for that to be an appropriate use of the term. We must be careful when we use it because it’s easy to slip into when we are preaching, you get all riled up, and you’re really convinced that what you’re saying is true.
End of transcript.
Jesus said, as White indicated, “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28). The reason why they are guilty of an eternal sin – and thus – eternal damnation – is given in the next verse: —30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” Yet Jesus also says that if they do not believe that “I am he” (the Messiah and arguably the divine Son of God as well), this would be a a damnable sin: “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24, ESV). Here, Jesus is talking to Jews who “believed in” (falsely) him. “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” (John 8:31-33, ESV). As White says, we all have blind spots. The question, though, remains: “What kind of blindness is damnable and what isn’t? In other words what does a professing Christian have to disbelieve to be addressed like this”
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
A boarding pier and shores dotted with waste in front of Castel Sant’ Angelo at the entrance of “Ships of Rome”, the tourist service on the city’s Tiber. Photo: AFP Tourist cruises along Rome’s Tiber River have stopped for the first time since they began a decade ago because the waterway is too dirty.
Christianity is about redemption. Protestants base their knowledge of redemption on the scriptures alone. The Roman Catholic and other Christian movements base their knowledge of redemption on both scripture and tradition. For the Protestant, only the scriptures are God-breathed, whereas for Roman Catholics, revelation is progressive (John Henry Newman). In this article, I examine James White’s response to Jason Reed’s “conversion to Rome” in his podcast “The dividing line, October 17, 2013).”
“I responded, says White, to the “conversion testimony” (note how it is a story of conversion not to Christ, but to a system of religion) by former Southern Evangelical Seminary professor Jason Reed today. This is a very important discussion, and it is one I hope will be helpful to those watching the developments at SES in regards to a wave of apostasy to Rome. Very important lessons about how it is not enough to be “non-Catholic” but instead how one must have a passionate, positive commitment to the very heart of the gospel to truly understand the depth of Rome’s errors. I truly believe Reed’s testimony illustrates to the fullest the need for Christians to understand the true necessity of such truths as sola scriptura, sola gratia, and sola fide. Clearly, Reed never had any commitment, or, it seems, by his own testimony, meaningful knowledge, of these truths.”
The following is my transcript of relevant excerpts from White’s Dividing Line podcast. White airs parts of Reed and responds. My interspersed comments and clarifications appear within brackets and in italics.
Reed – if Jesus said it, it’s enough.
White – Yes it is enough, no question about it.
Reed begins his summary statement – “Why did I become a Christian? Because I believe in the scriptures; I believe in the Bible.”
White – So you believe in the scriptures, you believe in the bible, that is why you became a Roman Catholic. You believe what it says in Romans 5, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” So you can look back on your justification. Except that Rome teaches that you can lose your justification, and hence peace with God, and you keep getting rejustified in the sacramental process, right? So, is that what you believe? And when it talks about Peter; it says he is our fellow elder and not the head of the church, right? So you believe the Bible. And that’s why you don’t believe those parts of the bible [where it says these things]?
(“How, asks William Symington (1975 -1862) can man he justified with God? This is the most important, by far, of all the questions that can ever awaken human inquiry.” Contrast the Roman Catholic system of justification described by White above with what Symington calls the “Catholic” (the body of true believers) system.”
“The Catholic system, so called because it seems to have been held by the great body of Christians since the days of the apostle’s, is founded on the principle that God is just as well as merciful. It maintains that the pardon of sin is procured by the work of Christ, by which be gave satisfaction to the justice of God on behalf of those to be redeemed. This is what is commonly known by the doctrine of atonement, deemed, in every age of the church, of such transcendent importance as to deserve the most complete and patient discussion.” William Symington, “On the atonement and intercession of Jesus Christ” – free ebook).
Reed – And I believe the church gave us the scripture.
White – The scripture predated the church, right? [Are you talking about] the Old Testament church? But the Old Testament church didn’t have the books that you accepted as canon. I thought God gave the scriptures to the church, Christ speaking to his bride. That’s the problem with Rome; Rome cannot have a dialogue with Christ [within the Bible] because Christ’s voice has now been subsumed under an authority, which is only a monologue. That is why you cannot ever have true Reformation within Roman Catholicism.
Reed – They have the teaching authority. Jesus Christ gave the Catholic church the authority to combat error.
White – Combat error? What if then [it is] she promulgates the error, who corrects her?
Reed – And I believe that Jesus taught us to believe in the eucharist.
(Aquinas used the Aristotelian terms of “accidents” and “substance” to explain the most important of Catholic doctrines, the “real presence”, which is called transubstantiation. In transubstantiation, the substance of bread and the wine changes into the substance of the body and Spirit of Christ. Although the senses can only detect the “accidents” (taste, texture, smell, sight), the communicant – claims the dogma – is eating the actual flesh and blood of the living Christ sitting at the right hand of the Father. The Catechism of the Council of Trent expands this belief by stating: “In this sacrament are contained not only the true body of Christ, and all the constituents of a true body, such as bones and sinews, but also Christ whole and entire”. Christ whole and entire is contained not only in the body but also in the blood).
White – Jesus actually taught us to follow his disciples who taught the sacrifice once for all finished, not to be re-presented.
Reed – To eat his flesh and drink his blood. There is so much I am leaving out. The Catholic church simply has no rivals. They’ve got the greatest thinkers…the Summa Theologica [Thomas Aquinas]. the greatest music, they’ve got a great culture, beauty, devotion, worship. They (Protestants) have nothing that competes. That’s why I am here [telling why he converted – as White would say – to “Rome.”
(Besides Aquinas, there were other great “Doctors” and “Fathers” of the Church such as St Augustine and St Anselm. As my mother always used to say – in Yiddish – about a place she admired: “The greatest doctors go there (In Yiddish, “Die greste Dokteirim geit dottern”).
White - [repeating Reed] Roman Catholicism, it’s got worship, beauty, and the greatest thinkers. It’s got the Summa Theologica. Long before Thomas these words were penned:
1 Corinthians 1
“18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart. 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
“There were not many wise according to the flesh (worldly standards) sophos, yes, philosophy. Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” I just heard boasting. No rivals, big thinkers, big brains. “So no man may boast before God.” That is why verse 30 says by his doing, by him you are in Christ Jesus, who became our wisdom from God.
(Aquinas’ Summa Theologica/Theologiae covers almost the whole of Catholic theology. He stopped working on it the year before he died in 1274. Now, fellow Protestants, don’t give Protestantism a bad name by saying that Aquinas believed that all he had written was straw. He didn’t say that. This is what he said: “I cannot go on…. All that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me.” Actually, now that I think more about it, if it was relatively straw, the issue is relative to what? I would think something analogous to what Richard Ganz said about Isaiah’s sense of his radical corruption (“depravity”) when he encountered God’s glory – the Son of God’s glory. Here is Ganz:
The Reformers called this total depravity. I think perhaps it would be clearer to call it radical depravity. It doesn’t mean that we’re as rotten and corrupt as we could be. In fact, everyone in this world could be even more rotten and more corrupt – from the best person to the worst person. It simply means that every part of our being – our moral, our intellectual, our spiritual, our physical, our heart – everything we are, and everything we do has been touched by sin, perverted and corrupted, and thus we are ruined without the grace of God.
That is the way it is with people! They can look good on the outside, they can do good things, but when you encounter Christ, what you realize is, “I am ruined.” When the best person in the world encounters Christ, by FAITH he realizes, “I am ruined.”This is why, when Isaiah sees the sin in himself, he experiences being torn into pieces before God, and he cries out, “Woe is me” (Isaiah 6:5). You have to understand what Isaiah is saying! What he is doing is taking a curse upon himself, and he’s doing it with the most emphatic language that he can use. What he is saying literally is: “Damned me.” And he gives the reason why: “I have beheld God.” This is the holiest man in Israel, and he sees himself as cursed, separated from God, because of one encounter, one glimpse of the holiness and glory of God.” (Richard Ganz, “Why is sin so important?”).
Aquinas was the most brilliant philospher-theologian of his time, yet when he beheld the glory of God, all his sophos wisdom was not merely like straw, but was straw. (See Thomas Aquinas: Philosophy and Education in the Middle ages).
White continues – It is obvious that Mr Reed had not been introduced to the biblical truths of the reformation. He does not understand the issues of the Gospel. He did not understand the issues historically that separated Rome form all those churches who stood against her; who today no longer stand against her, because they are no longer convinced of what they believe. They have degraded in their commitment foremost the word of God.
I’ve heard considerably more compelling arguments than what I heard in Mr Reed’s testimony. If you are one of those let me talk to you directly. When I rise in the morning I don’t fear the wrath of God. Why? Because I never thought about it, because I take it for granted? No. I do not fear the wrath of God because I know what has been done in my behalf will avail before that holy God each and very day. And I don’t have to say, ‘I have to get to Jesus today. I need to go and get in the car where Jesus is and get some more grace, get a little more propitiation because you see I approached what supposed to be the sacrifice of Christ just the day before yesterday. And the priest said hoc est corpus meam, this is my body. But according to Rome I can do that 10 times, 100 times, 1000 times, 10000 times, 25000 times in my life and still die in fear. I could die in mortal sin, not avail myself of the sacramental forgiveness and still go to hell. Same sacrifice allegedly. So I have to get in the car and go and visit Jesus again because I am not perfected by his one sacrifice. I have to go stand in front of an alter christus, another Christ [a priest]. He has to sacramentally bring Christ down from heaven and render him present, body, blood, soul and divinity upon the Roman altar, and this is how I am to somehow improve my relationship with God.
The reason, continues White, why I could never become a Roman catholic is because I am absolutely dependent upon the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, the perfect righteousness of another. I have nothing else to give. I know God is holy and if I do not have the righteousness of Jesus Christ, nothing else will avail. But you see Rome cannot give me the righteousness of Jesus Christ; it has no finished sacrifice, it has no finished work. You see the whole argument, Mr Reed and those of you who are planning of going across the Tiber river, if you’ve never read it, let me introduce it to you. The whole argument of the book of Hebrews is that the one-time finished sacrifice of Jesus Christ, perfects those for whom it is made. That is therefore is nothing to go back to. And one of the main arguments that the writer [of Hebrews] uses is that in the repetitive sacrifice of the old covenant there is a reminder of sin. You see, the high priest when he would go into the holiest place with the warm bowl of blood would see that he had been there before, that the blood was still dried upon the place of mercy, and that was a reminder that this blood of a goat, a bull is not going ever to cleanse anybody.
It was, adds White, pointing to something greater. The fact that it had to be repeated over and over again meant that it was imperfect and that is why there is only one sacrifice of Christ. It’s not re-presented so that you’re never perfected. It’s one time, singular, finished done. It is finished Jesus said. And what’s really really interesting is that when the writer to the Hebrews speaks of that repetitive sacrifice, there is a yearly anamnesis of sins, a reminder. A repetitive sacrifice, which is what you are limited to in Rome. The mass is an anamnesis of sin, because if you have to come back, you are not perfected. So all it does is remind you of the continuing presence of sin. But that word [anamnesis] is used elsewhere in the New Testament, and I’m so thankful that it is. Because that is the word that is used when Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” in anamnesis of me. Christians have a new covenant, and that covenant has a single perfecting sacrifice. And so you see I don’t have a reminder of my sins; I have a reminder of my sin bearer, and that is why I have peace with God. Now if that was not taught to you in seminary or in your churches, I’m sorry. But you can’t blame your seminary or your churches because you [don't] possess the word of God.
I could never, says White, go to Rome because Rome has nothing to offer but a treadmill of penances, sacraments, and never being able to know have you done everything that’s necessary to attain justification. In the words of the Word of God, I have justification, not because of who I am, but because of who Jesus Christ is…if these words meant something to you, you could never go there, because anyone who has actually, truly bowed the knee to Jesus Christ and understands [their] absolute dependence upon him can never give that up, can never trade that in. I pray for Mr Reed. By his own testimony, he never understood what the issues where. I hope these words will be taken the the way they were intended. (This ends White’s impassioned plea).
In the last moments of his podcast White says that he doubts whether Reed had read writers such as William Whitaker. White probably has in mind Whitaker’s “A disputation on Holy Scripture: Against the Papists, especially Bellarmine” (1849) – free ebook). Here are a few excerpts from Whitaker:
1. Indeed, when I compare our side with the papists, I easily perceive the great truth of Christ’s saying, that ” the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”
2. “We maintain that the mysteries of the faith should be concealed from no one, and allege, in proof, those words of Christ, ” What ye hear in the ear, that proclaim ye upon the house-tops.” Bellarmine, (Lib, iv. c. 12) has recourse to a strange and hitherto, I think, unheard of interpretation ;— that is, says he, if need so require. He gives the allegation no other reply whatever; and how proper and apposite an answer this is, I am content that others should determine….In the same way, when we maintain that the mysteries of the faith should be concealed from no one, and allege, in proof, those words of Christ, ” What ye hear in the ear, that proclaim ye upon the house-tops;” Bellarmine, (Lib, iv. c. 12) has recourse to a strange and hitherto, I think, unheard of interpretation ;— that is, says he, if need so require. He gives the allegation no other reply whatever; and how proper and apposite an answer this is, I am content that others should determine.”
3. “I perceive that the utility, or rather the necessity [of this discourse] , is threefold. In the first place, we have to treat not of the opinions of philosophers, which one may either be ignorant I perceive that the utility, or rather the necessity, is three-fold. In the first place, we have to treat not of the opinions of philosophers, which one may either be ignorant of, or refute with commendation,—not of the forms of the lawyers, in which one may err without damage,—not of the institutions of physicians, of the nature and cure of diseases, wherein only our bodily health is concerned,—not of any slight or trivial matters ; —but here the matter of our dispute is certain controversies of religion, and those of the last importance, in which whosoever errs is deceived to the eternal destruction of his soul. In a word, we have to speak of the sacred scriptures, of the nature of the church, of the sacraments, of righteousness, of Christ, of the fundamentals of the faith; all which are of that nature, that if one be shaken, nothing can remain sound in the whole fabric of religion. If what these men teach be true, we are in a miserable condition; we are involved in infinite errors of the grossest kind, and cannot possibly be saved. But if, as I am fully persuaded and convinced, it is they who are in error, they cannot deny that they are justly condemned if they still persist in their errors. For if one heresy be sufficient to entail destruction, what hope can be cherished for those who defend so many heresies with such obstinate pertinacity ? Therefore either they must perish, or we. It is impossible that we can both be safe, where our assertions and belief are so contradictory. Since this is so, it behooves us all to bestow great pains and diligence in acquiring a thorough knowledge of these matters, where error is attended with such perils. Besides, there is another reason which renders the handling of these controversies at the present time not only useful, but even necessary. The papists, who are our adversaries, have long since performed this task; they have done that which we are now only beginning to do. And although they can never get the better of us in argument, they have nevertheless got before us in time.”
What made Thomas Aquinas describe his writings as straw. The same reason why Paul “counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung/refuse, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8). Christ’s substance is not concealed under the accidents of the senses but is found in mystical (deep spiritual) union with Him. Oh that I may be “found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:9-11).
Related post: (onedaringjew) My conversion to Roman Catholicism and why I left
There’s exegesis – reading from the text; eisegesis – reading into the text, and “axegesis” a radical kind of eisegesis – a mutilation of the text. I find axegesis in many rabbinical interpretations; for example, the slaughter of laughter in commentaries of Genesis 18, explaining why Abraham and Sarah laughed when they were told they would have a son. Although Abraham didn’t ultimately slaughter Isaac (Hebrew for “he laughed”), “axegetes” go all the way: laughter lies slaughtered on the slab.
The Bible commentator Kley Yakor/Keli Yakar/Kli Yakar (Shlomo Ephraim ben Aaron Luntschitz ) describes the miracle: ”Sarah saw that a miracle happened to her against nature. She went back to her youth, when she was a girl. She felt that not for nothing did a miracle happen to her…She said, I who received back my time and period, it is because of my worthiness. Perhaps I will live much longer. But my husband’s youth did not return to him and he will not live much longer. Why then does he need a son in his old age? That is the reason that she laughed [Genesis 18:13].” And why did Abraham laugh” He was, says Rashi, rejoicing. Here is Rabbi Glazerson. In his chapter, “Isaac and the Philistines” (“Philistine and Palestinian,” 1995, pp. 99-100), he contrasts what he calls Isaac’s pure holy Torah laughter with the Philistines’ mocking laughter at Torah:
“We can, says Glazerson, see some of his titanic strength in his name יִצְחָק ‘Isaac.’ Coming from the root צחק “to laugh,” this name signals his lofty perception of the physical world: a passing shadow only worth laughing at. Someone whose world-view was so very much the opposite of the Philistines’ had nothing to fear from them. This is why Isaac acquiesced so easily in the test of the Akeidah, his Binding as a sacrifice. For Abraham it was a severe trial to slay his son, but for Isaac it was not at all hard to give up a world that was worth nothing in his eyes.” [Here is the relevant verse:Genesis 22:10 -Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter לִשְׁחֹט lishkhot his son]. (See The Slaughter of Isaac: An Exegesis “Axegesis” of Laughter in Genesis).
If the above rabbinical axegesis were not enough, we now have an “exogesis” – inspired by the imminent arrival (a decade or so away) from outer space – inner space may be more correct – described in “Exo-Vaticana: Petrus Romanus, Project LUCIFER, and the Vatican’s astonishing exo-theological plan for the arrival of an alien savior,” wherein Pope Francis is to announce an extraterrestial (“exoterrestial”) saviour: “The aliens, we read in the Examiner, will be carrying with them a message that transforms Christianity from an earth-centric faith system into a new galactic faith that welcomes extraterrestrials as our ‘spiritual brothers.’ Who will be the savior that emerges from the incoming extraterrestrial object secretly monitored by astronomers that, if Putnam and Horn are correct, the Vatican is preparing to soon announce in an “Urbi et Orbi” (Of the City and the World) speech to the world?”
Should I rejoice-laugh? Or should I, like Pope Benedict, be resigned? To the serpent messiah’s imminent galactic arrival and irruption into the belly of my soul.
For the last few months I have listened to many of Greg Koukl’s “Stand to Reason” podcasts. I learn a great deal and am very grateful to him for his wide and often deep knowledge. And he’s a Calvinist, that is, he believes that God is free to do what he wants including choosing whom he wants to save while passing others by – where the reason for His choice has got absolutely nothing to do with any human contribution or cooperation.
In a 2013 podcast (00.50), he tries to answer a caller’s (Sam) question: How can Jesus be the Savior of all and some at the same time? Here is the verbatim exchange – cut short by the predetermined commercials:
(I italicise parts for discussion)
Sam, a Calvinist, quotes 1 Timothy 4:10 and asks Koukl how from the Calvinist perspective can God be the saviour of all men: “That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”
Koukl – “If we built a highway in the wilderness and it was paid for by government money, and it was a public highway, would that be a highway for all men? Sure it is. But does everybody go there. Who takes advantage of it? The people that use it. It’s especially beneficial to them because they take advantage of the highway. In the case of Jesus it is clear that universalism is not the case, that everybody is not going to heaven – some are not. So when it says that he is the savior of all men, it cannot mean that he is effectively the savior of all men, but he is the one for all men from whom all salvation is possible. And if you take advantage of that, especially for believers, you’re on the road. I don’t know any other way to take that, Sam.
Sam – The reason why I ask you that is because you and I are Calvinist and you prescribe to particular atonement.
Koukl – Yes
Sam – So in what sense is Jesus the savior of all men?
Koukl – In the sense I described it.
Sam – But the way you described it sounds like he provided a way for everybody to be saved, that everyone has the potential to be saved. But how can a person have the potential to be saved by Jesus if Jesus didn’t actually die for them?
Koukl – Let me put it this way; it is a classic way of putting it. The cross is adequate for everyone but only effective or applied to those who fulfill the requirements. If you don’t fulfill the requirement for getting it, it isn’t effective for you. It is there for all men. It is adequate for everyone because Jesus’ work was not a quantitative thing but a qualitative thing. That was the reason why God became a man because it took the God-Man to do the whole job. It is adequate for everyone; it is only applied to those who satisfy the requirements, that is, faith in Jesus. And so he is the savior for the world, the only one who can rescue the world, and only faith in him saves. But everybody doesn’t exercise that faith. Why they don’t is a different discussion. We’re just trying to make sense of the phrase [ 1 Tim 4:10]. And I think that does the job.”
Here is Koukl in my nutshell:
Faith is adequate for everyone without exception (“all”) but it is only applied to those who “exercise” faith. Why everybody doesn’t exercise faith is not relevant to 1 Tim 4:10. But I think it is very relevant, maybe not in evangelism but certainly in a response to Sam’s theological question “It sounds like he provided a way for everybody to be saved, that everyone has the potential to be saved. But how can a person have the potential to be saved by Jesus if Jesus didn’t actually die for them?”
Koukl gives the strong impression that faith – as the Arminian would say – is not a gift from God but man’s gift to God. Sam is right; Koukl does seem to be saying that Christ died for everybody on earth (Koukl’s “world”) and thus gave everybody the potential to be saved. As the Arminian would say, God (the Trinity) was not certain that he would save anybody until he foresaw that some (say 100 million out of 60 billion) would exercise their faith in Him through the Gospel. Even if the ratio was very small, there would still be at the end of time 10 000 times 10 000 souls in heaven. Worth taking the “risk,” as only an Arminian could say, in this case, C. S. Lewis:
“The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free. Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. … If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will – that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.”
(C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity).
In Koukl’s very useful book “Tactics: A game plan for discussing your Christian convictions” describes how he would explain God’s offer of salvation.
“We know we’re guilty. That’s the problem. So God offers a solution: a pardon, free of charge. But clemency is on his terms, not ours. Jesus is God’s means of pardon. He personally paid the penalty in our place. He took the rap for our crimes. No one else did that. Only Jesus. Now we have a choice to make. Either we take the pardon and go free, or we turn it down and pay for our crimes ourselves.”
A Calvinist would have no problem telling a person, “Now, you have a choice to make,” for we read in Deuteronomy 31:11: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” Yet, the LORD said previously: “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people (Deuteronomy 7:7). And we read in John 15:16: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained/appointed you [set you in place], that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain…”
For both the Arminian and the Calvinist, God’s freedom and, indeed, human freedom are involved in coming to Christ. The difference between the Arminian and the Calvinist position is that in the latter position, God has to first release the will from its bondage to the “flesh.” Arminians (named after Jacobus Arminius) believe they have the natural ability to come to faith in Christ. Human beings believe what they want to believe. Their hearts (desires) predetermine what they want. This predetermination is not from outside but from within, so inwardly determined. Their wills are prisoners of their hearts, which in its natural state does not receive the “things of the spirit.” This is what is meant by the “bondage of the will.” What does the natural man want? Not Christ: 1 Corinthians 2:14 “The natural man (born with a sin nature) receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” It’s a delusion to think if you improve your “naturals,” God is bound to give you “spirituals.” Only God can do that – and only to whom he will: John 5:21, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” (See If you improve your naturals, is God bound to give you spirituals? Fiddling with free will).
How do Koukl’s descriptions of, as he describes it, exercising free choice tie in with his belief in “particular” redemption? Before try and answer, let us briefly examine “particular” atonement. The traditional term is “limited” atonement, that is, atonement/salvation/redemption/justification is limited to those on whom God exercises his mercy. In Calvinist understanding, everybody is under condemnation and deserves damnation. God’s mercy is dependent on nothing but God’s freedom to save some sinners and pass others by. It is true Arminianism generally also believes in a particular sort of redemption but only in the sense that not everybody is saved for the reason that they – being deadish, not really dead, in sin – did not exercise their free wills to give God the gift of faith in exchange for His gift of grace. The freedom to choose Christ before he has brought you to life (before you were born again) contradicts the following scriptures:
11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
In an earlier explanation (in 2011) of particular/limited atonement, Koukl explains clearly, off the cuff, it seems, in under four minutes the Calvinist position. I wonder why it didn’t go so well in his later explanation (in 2013) above. Here is the 2011 Koukl:
”As a Calvinist how do i deal with God/s free choice of choosing some for salvation and not others. there’s a kind of ambiguity in the question because I’m not sure exactly what they mean by how i deal with it. How i deal with the unfairness of it, how do i deal with it emotionally? I don’t know what else it could be meaning. Let me take a shot a couple of these things. How do ideal with the fairness of it. actually I don’t think fairness enters into the equation. when you think about it, God’s act of forgiveness of any individual is grounded in grace. that means it is unmerited and not required. If God was obliged to forgive under certain circumstances then it wouldn’t be grace. Paul makes this very clear in Romans chapter 4 where he says if I earn it then it has got to be given and God owes it to us. But if it is not earned and God justifies those ungodly people who put their faith in Christ, well that;s an act of grace. That’s the way I see salvation: it is a sovereign act of grace; God has never owed anybody forgiveness. He did not have any plan of salvation for the fallen angels. He didn’t have to develop a plan of salvation for us either. He chose to do that according to his good will and his mercies. It’s like a supererogatory act, that is, an act beyond the call of duty. He didn’t have to do it, but when he does it, it is supererogatory to the extent that he dispenses grace. So when he acts mercifully towards people, he can do what he wants with his mercy. It’s got nothing to do with free choice. Not our free choice; not our freedom, it has to do with God’s freedom. Can God cancel debts against him? Sure he can; that’s his side of the ledger. There’s no problem there. So I don’t think that God is obliged to give everybody the same shake. If that were the case then grace wouldn’t be grace; it would be obligatory for God. So I don’t think there is a fairness problem because I don’t think the constant of fairness applies to the situation. Why is it that God gives sovereign grace to some people and not to others? That’s another question and I don’t have the foggiest idea. This is something that is not addressed in the scripture. Some people have speculated on it but I haven’t heard anything convincing. It’s just a mystery to us. God is the creator; he can choose as he wills according to his good pleasure. And if he chooses too save some and not others, that is perfectly within his purview. He is the sovereign after all; he can do what he likes with his own, and there is nothing unjust about punishing people who are guilty. And so for those who do not receive free grace, they end up receiving a judgement that is deserved by them. The unfairness is not that some people receive grace; it’s that some people do not receive the judgment they deserve. So all those who are saved are saved by an act of God’s grace that they didn’t deserve, and that when they get punished, are getting punished by an act of God’s justice that they did deserve.”
Now that Koukl and Sam (and I) are sitting at the same table, eating the same cake, I hope they will allow me to elaborate and what all three of use believe.
If it is true that true believers in Christ is “born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:13 above), does this mean that they are zombies, puppets in the hands of God? Isn’t Koukl right that true believers “exercise” their faith? Of course believers exercise their faith; but only after it is given – God’s gift to man, not man’s gift to God. We are reminded of Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” All Calvinists hold that both grace and faith are gifts from God whereas the Arminian says grace (“prevenient” grace) is God’s gift to man, and faith is man’s gift to God. That is how they understand the two earlier verses in the chapter (Ephesians 2):
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
So, for the Arminian, we are made alive to the possibility of exercising faith in Christ, that is, of giving God the gift of our faith. All this sounds very similar to what Koukl is saying. Granted, he did not have (provide?) enough time to elaborate, which might have shed more light on what he was saying. In this case, what he had already said was already so Arminian in its expression that what would be required not more light, but a different light; something like this – from Alan Kurschner. Here is his exegesis of 1 Timothy 4:10, which takes a few minutes to read or speak, shorter than the time that Koukl spent on his caller, Sam.
“For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” (1 Tim 4:10). Here is Kurschner’s exegesis with which I conclude:
“What does “all people” mean here for Paul? Does it mean all people without exception or distinction? And most importantly, how can God be the Savior of those who do not believe? Or is there some other element that has escaped our notice? A universalist reading should be ruled out since that would contradict Paul’s unambiguous teaching in his corpus that many will indeed perish eternally. Next, the Arminian interpretation reads too much into the statement, “Savior of all people,” with two assumptions: (1) that the term “Savior” here must mean “possible Savior” and (2) it denotes “every single person.” But if Christ died for all sins, then there is no legal basis for him to punish or condemn any sinner to perdition; thereby making the Arminian an inconsistent universalist. What basis is there to punish the same sin twice: on the cross and on the sinner. There is none.
In addition, the context here does not state what Paul means by “all people.” He could refer to every single person, or he could refer to all kinds of people. Earlier in this same epistle, in the similar context of salvation and all people, Paul makes it clear that he is referring to “all sorts of people,” not every single person who has ever lived on planet earth. (See my exegesis on 1 Timothy 2:4 here).
Some interpreters have suggested that God is “Savior of all people” in a physical-preserving sense — if you will, a “common grace Savior.” And then he is a spiritual Savior, especially of those who believe. This is an unlikely interpretation since there is nothing in this context where Paul defines “Savior” in these two different ways. Further, v. 8b provides a soteriological [salvation) context, “the present life and also for the life to come.” And in v. 10, the natural reading is that Paul uses the same meaning for “Savior” for humanity in general, and believers in particular.
The most plausible interpretation of this verse is what I call the Monotheistic-Exclusivism Interpretation. What Paul is saying is that God (and by extension Christ as Redeemer) is the only true Savior in the world, therefore humanity cannot find any other competing Savior outside of the living God. They have no other Savior to turn to. It is not by mistake that the phrase “living God,” a term that suggests monotheism, is connected with this verse. This phrase is often found in the context of polytheism (e.g. Acts 14:15; 1 Thess 1:9; Josh 3:10; 1 Sam 17:26, 36; 2 Kgs 19:4). Since there is only one God who is alive, there is only one Savior for humanity to embrace. Also, earlier in this same epistle Paul makes a similar exclusive statement that there is one medium of salvation for humanity: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Tim 2:5). Here Paul connects this with the truth of “one God” with only one mediator, anticipating what he says two chapters later.
In addition, this is similar to Jesus’ exclusive statement:
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). And in the same vein, Peter proclaims: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). For all humanity, there is only one way, truth, life, Father, name, mediator, and Savior – especially to those who believe.
Finally, I want to conclude with another interpretation that is compelling. The term for “especially” is malista. George W. Knight III argues that this term here should be rendered, “that is,” thereby functioning as an explanation or further clarification of the preceding statement. The translation would be as follows: “who is the Savior of all people, that is, of those who believe.” So this interpretation does not view “those who believe” as a subset of “all people”; instead, “those who believe” identifies the “all people” (NIGTC, The Pastoral Epistles, 203–4).
I can’t resist the last word: What is distinctive about Calvinism? This: God so loved, and thus died for, the world, not Mars. He died for Jews and Gentiles, thus everybody – without distinction, not without exception.
Vern Poythress, my favourite thinking theologian, has this to say about junk DNA:
“About 1.2 percent of human DNA has code that is translated into proteins. What about all the rest? When geneticists became aware of noncoding DNA, the Darwinist framework provided an explanation. Noncoding DNA was interpreted as giving us a record of broken evolutionary pieces that no longer had a function—it was “junk” DNA. Francis Collins pointed to this “junk” as one evidence for the gradualistic character of human genetic origins.” (Francis Collins, a Christian, was head of the Human Genome Project. He is a theistic evolutionist and founder of the Biologos Forum). But further research has uncovered many positive functions in what was formerly termed “junk.” The ENCODE project (the “Encyclopedia of DNA Elements”) has endeavored to catalog systematically the noncoding DNA, and reports that more than 80 percent “have now been assigned at least one biochemical function.” The leader of the ENCODE project accordingly called for retiring the word “junk.”25 (Vern S. Poythress, “Adam versus the claims from Genetics.” It would seem that many other Christians, among them many preachers/pastors, agree that God doesn’t make junk. It goes like this “God doesn’t make junk. No one is junk. Everyone is valuable to God. You are God’s original masterpiece. Are you disappointed in yourself? Lift your head up high; God doesn’t make junk.” If we had to represent this sentiment visually, it would look like this:
Here is Helmut Thielicke (and Philip Yancey, who quotes Thielicke approvingly in his “What is so amazing about Grace,”( Zondervan, 1997, p. 175): “When Jesus loved a guilt-laden person and helped him, he saw in him an erring child of God. He saw in him a human being whom his Father loved and grieved over because he was going wrong. He saw him as God originally designed and meant him to be, and therefore he saw through the surface layer of grime and dirt to the real man underneath” (Helmut Thielicke, “Christ and the meaning of life,” Grand Rapids, Baker, 1975, p. 41). In other words, grime and dirt don’t mean junk.
I heard this in a recent sermon on love. “We must love ourselves. God doesn’t make junk. God doesn’t condemn because He doesn’t make junk.” Poythress and the others mentioned are talking about different kinds of junk. Poythress is talking about biological junk, while the others seem to focus on the human “heart” (the “inner man” – Paul’s Epistles). When Thielicke speaks of a “person”, and the “man underneath”, he appears to be talking about anybody who feels guilt, which is the whole human race (except possibly psychopaths, and even there we are not sure what they feel); and there lies the problem with Thielicke’s portrait of sinful man. Thielicke’s Jesus and Thielicke’s human being are not the Jesus and human being described in the Bible. The Bible says the opposite: Jesus did not see “through the surface layer of grime and dirt to the real man underneath,” because the real man underneath was not only superficially grimy, he was filthy. The “real man” of the Bible is totally depraved in his very nature. Everything in the Bible glorifies God and abases man. God saves men and women not because deep down they are good, but in spite of the fact that deep down they are evil. He chooses to save them – for one reason only: because He wants to. The natural man despises such a God. Many professing Christians do so as well. But that is the God of the Bible. (See Why don’t you call me good? Because you’re not.
When Christian teachers says “God doesn’t condemn you, the reason being that he doesn’t make junk,” they exhibit a poor understanding of the nature of man after the Fall. Indeed they seem to ignore it. “The Bible and theology, says Poythress, call on us to retain the conviction that Adam was a historical individual whose fall into sin resulted in guilt and sin.” Adam and Eve were created perfect physically and spiritually – yet, hard to fathom, with a yetser hara “evil inclination” (See How can a Perfect God create the potential for imperfection? After they sinned – the first sin – degeneration and death, spiritual and physical, entered. Since then “natural man” refuses to be guided by the Spirit of God but follows after false gods, for example, his belly and lower down.
One may argue that the preacher (this is not the case of Thielecke, who is addressing all without exception) is only addressing Christians. Let us assume this is so and now read from the Epistle to the Romans 7 and 8 (my italics), where Paul writes “there is no condemnation.”
7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
In conclusion, the reason that God does not condemn Christians is not because he didn’t make junk but because he redeemed them from their bondage to self. As Poythress says, “the Bible focuses on man’s religious status and relationship to God. This focus is appropriate because it is vital to our understanding of God himself, human sin, and Christ’s redemption.”
Enough already with junk theology.
In “TimesofIsrael” (26 Sept 2013), Eliezer Melamed writes on the festival of Sukkot (Booths) and how Christians are Fulfilling the Prophecy of Isaiah. The Isaiah text referred to is “Strangers shall stand and pasture your flocks; aliens shall be your ploughmen and vine-trimmers.” (Isaiah 61:5). The strangers Melamed has in mind are Christians. Here is Melamed’s story of Tommy, the Christian (my italics):
“Recently, a troublemaker distributed libellous materials accusing Tommy Waller, an American Christian, of being a missionary. This despite the fact that Tommy has been actively recruiting Christian volunteers for Israel for ten years, and not a single Jew claims that Tommy or any of the thousands of people he has brought here have tried to undermine their faith. Therefore, I feel it is incumbent upon me to speak on his behalf. Out of an abiding faith in the uniqueness of the Jewish people and in the Divine mission to settle the Land, Tommy has rallied support for Israel from American Congressmen and Senators. The head of the Shomron Regional Council, Mr. Gershon Mesika, told me that Tommy’s activities have been very influential. Each year, through the summer, he organizes groups of Christians who love Israel to volunteer here. As he is a big believer in family values, many of the volunteers come with their entire families, including the young and the elderly. In recent years, at the request of the Regional Council, the Har Bracha settlement has hosted the volunteers on a hilltop near our community. From this base, the volunteers set out to work in vineyards and orchards throughout the Shomron.”
“Because of our difficult history with Christians, and due to concerns about possible missionizing, I felt it necessary to meet with Tommy. I wanted to have an upfront discussion with him about precisely what his positions were. At the same time, I wanted to convey a Jewish position without kowtowing or obsequiousness. In the course of our conversation, I asked him: “If a Jew were to come before you and ask you whether it is better to be a Jew or a Christian what would you tell him?” He responded: “I would tell him to be a Jew!” Tommy added that he had not always thought this way. Originally, like other Christians, he was interested in everyone becoming Christian, but eventually he realized that this earlier position was the result of ignorance. Now, following his exposure to the Jewish renaissance in the Land of Israel, he wishes for all Jews to observe the Torah and mitzvoth. I asked Tommy what led him to dedicate his life to bringing Christian volunteers to Israel. He told me that he read Isaiah 61:5: “Strangers shall stand and pasture your flocks; aliens shall be your ploughmen and vine-trimmers.” This greatly moved him, and he said to himself: “Maybe I can be the one who is privileged to fulfil this holy verse!” Ever since then, he has encouraged people to visit Israel and to help Jews work the land.”
Tommy, a professing Christian tells Jews it is against Christ’s will to tell them, those whom Christ initially (in time, not intention) preached to, that the Christ/Mashiach – is “the way, the the truth and the life” (John 14:6); that it is wrong to tell Jews “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5). And indeed, don’t ever tell them “This is why I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not trust that I am(ego eimi), you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).” A Jew, therefore, who does not believe that Jesus is the Messiah will die in his sins; no matter how many acts of lovingkindness he or she does.
To recap, Eliezer’s article is about how Christians are Fulfilling the Prophecy of Isaiah as in “Strangers shall stand and pasture your flocks; aliens shall be your ploughmen and vine-trimmers.” (Isaiah 61:5).
What about the fulfilment of the following Isaiah prophecy in Chapter 53?
“Behold, my Servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. As many were astonished at him — his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men – so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they shall see, and that which they have not heard they shall understand. Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the Arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.
The Jew claims that he is the suffering servant. This means that the above words in italics proceed out of the mouth of the “nations” (Gentiles, goyim). A travesty divesting the Holy One of Israel of the greatest manifesation of his holiness and love towards his creation. If the suffering servant is the Jew, he must be raising himself by hiw own bootstraps. Insufferable servant. (See Isaiah 53 and the identity Chrisis of the suffering servant, Isaiah 53: The Suffering and Insufferable Servant and The raising of the servant in Isaiah; by Israel’s bootstraps).
If Tommy is consistent, he would have to agree; which makes him, in the eyes of a Jew, a righteous gentile with a place in the world to come, but also an apostate Christian: He went out from us, but he did not really belong to us. For if he had belonged to us, he would have remained with us; but his going showed that he had not belonged to us. (1 John 2:19; I changed “they” to “he”).
Eliezer Melamed’s next heading is “Israel and the Nations of the World.”
“Since Sukkot reveals, writes Melamed, the sanctity of all spheres of life, the holiday is relevant to non-Jews (who are traditionally referred to as the seventy nations of the world). Accordingly, our Sages state that the seventy bulls which we offered in the Temple over the course of Sukkot were offered on behalf of the seventy nations. (See Peninei Halakha, Laws of Sukkot 1:13.)”
Seventy bulls; the seventy nations of the world? All the sacrifices of Israel, however, were offered to make atonement for Israel alone. “But Aaron and his sons made offerings upon the altar of burnt offering and upon the altar of incense for all the work of the most holy place, and to make atonement for Israel, according to all that Moses the servant of God had commanded.” (1 Chronicles 6:49). This goes for the seventy bulls as well: “Then Hezekiah said, ‘You have now consecrated yourselves to the LORD; come near, bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the house of the LORD.’ And the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings; and all who were of a willing heart brought burnt offerings. The number of the burnt offerings which the assembly brought was seventy bulls, a hundred rams, and two hundred lambs; all these were for a burnt offering to the LORD” (2 Chronicles 29:31-32).
If you’re a traditional Jew (Chabad, for example), you will say that the teaching of the sages/rabbis that the seventy bulls were offered for the nations comes from the “Oral” Torah, given to Moses at the same time as the Written Torah. The argument is that the Oral Torah fills in the details of the Written Torah. It is hard to see how the Oral explanation (of the sages/rabbis) given above fills in what is lacking in the very clear written Torah that the sacrifices were intended for the atonement of Israel’s sins alone.
“Our relationship with non-Jews, continues Eliezer Melamed, is complex. Throughout our long history, they often viciously abused us; nevertheless, our basic attitude towards them is positive.”
Positive? The pious Jew’s attitude – I’m not talking about humanist, liberal, reform, reconstructionist or agnostic/atheist Jews – to the Christian is, and never was positive; unless by “positive” is meant mutual economic and other day-to-day interests. In his “The Distinction between Jews and Gentiles in Torah,” Rabbi David Bar Chaim cites many rabbinical sources that states that “brother” and “neighbour” refer to the fellow Jews only, as in Leviticus 19:17-18, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. 18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.”
Killing a Gentile and loving your neighbour
“We learn from the Mechilta that a Jew who killed a Gentile with intent is not put to death by the Beit Din, as he would be had he killed a Jew. The halacha is the same concerning a ger toshav, as is explicitly stated in the Mechilta of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on the above mentioned verse: “‘Upon his neighbor’ — with the exception of others, ‘his neighbor’ — with the exception of the ger toshav.” (Ger toshav – resident alien ; see more here).
Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis says:
“A case in point is the verse of three Hebrew words: V’ahavtah l’rechah kamocha, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” How simple—how clear. How are we to love the “Neighbor?” And who is my “Neighbor?” Not only are the interpretations different in each different tradition, but they vary within the same tradition. The “love” imperative takes on different meanings. There are rabbis who, on semantic grounds, argue that “thy Neighbor” refers to b’nai amecha, “the children of your people.” Others go further in restricting the meaning of “Neighbor” by maintaining that “Neighbor” refers only to “good” Jews, to “observant” Jews, achichah b’torah uv’mitzvot,” your brother in law and observance.” Those who argue for a restrictive and exclusivist interpretation of “Neighbor” are thinkers of great prominence such as Maimonides and Rashbam (Rabbi Samuel Ben Mayer of the 11th Century). In the Likutei Amarim, Rabbi Schnayer Zalman, the founder of Chabad, interpreted the passage most of us understand as universalistic in a highly restrictive manner. When the Prophet Micah says, “Have we not one Father, has not one God created us all?” he refers only to real brothers, that is, to Israelites alone, for the source of their souls is in their one God.” (See “Love your neighbour” as long as he’s Jewish).
Eliezer Melamed then discusses the “Attitude Towards Philo-Semitic Christians.”
“Since the foundation of the State of Israel, the numbers of philo-Semitic evangelicals have increased. They see with their own eyes how the Jewish people is returning to its land after its awful, two-thousand-year-long exile, and is creating a prosperous country. They see new settlements and vineyards flowering in the very areas described by the Bible, and they are excited by our miraculous return to Zion. They are overwhelmed by the fulfilment of the ancient prophecies of the prophets of Israel.”
“Semitic” is too broad a term to describes Jews; Arabs are also Semitic. Perhaps “philo-Judaic” would be more appropriate. The question is, “Where are the Jews in redemptive history?” Here is a Messianic Jew, who is also a missionary to the Jews in Israel, Israel Iluz of the “Trumpets of Salvation to Israel” ministry,” Jaffa, Israel (My addition in italics):
“For those of you who have been in Israel, you can sense, you can touch this reality. The British said, “Let’s give them this land. It’s rubbish, there’s nothing there. We couldn’t manage to do anything in this land. Give it to the Jews.” Today you go to Israel and it’s green. We export flowers. We export Jaffa oranges [Israeli Jews need to be reminded that before the foundation ofthe State of Israel in1948, the indigenous Arabs had a thriving, world famous Orange enterprise in Jaffa previous to the state of Israel]. Israel is green. The cities are built. The technology is one of the best in the world. All the computers you are using has Israeli technology. Almost every aspect of technology that you touch, that you use, Israelis are there. Today, Israel is a fulfilment now.” (See Where are the Jews in redemptive history? Exactly where they have been predestined to be).
Jacob Prasch, a prominent mentor to Christian Zionists, in his Daniel Project, mentions the flowers and gardens blooming in the Negev desert as a fulfilment of prophet passages. Caution is required because before one can state 1948 is 1. the final return and 2. the return in blessing not judgment, certain events such as rivers in the desert must occur together with other prophesied events.
Here is Jeremiah 23:3-4
3 I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 And I will set up shepherds over them, who shall feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be lacking, says the LORD.How well do the details in Jeremiah 23:3-4 resonate with the 1948 Christian Zionist position? namely “I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds.” That could indeed be 1948. But consider the following points.
They shall be fruitful and multiply. According to Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger and Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Amar, the ”data presented to the Chief Rabbinate, [show] some 50,000 abortions are performed in Israel every year, 20,000 of which are legal. “Adding to the gravity of this transgression is the fact that it impedes the coming of redemption.”
I will set up shepherds over them, who shall feed them. I ask Christian Zionists, ”do you believe that Jews are exempt from the Gospel imperative to receive Yeshua/Jesus as Messiah and Lord?” Most Messianic Jews don’t accept this ”separate covenant” double-minded theory.
They shall not lack anything. The dire housing crisis in the State of Israel disproves this point.
There is something else that Jeremiah says in our passage that further, and more strongly, undermines the Christian Zionist’s case. It is the segment that comes immediately before ”they shall not lack anything,” namely, ”they shall fear no more.” It would surely be hard to deny that Israel, as far as external threats to its very existence are concerned, is one of the most, perhaps the most, insecure country in the world. It is, therefore, not foolish to infer that more Israelis live in fear than don’t. Jeremiah 23:4 is more specific; ”they” (that is the people as a whole) shall fear no more.” (See Israel: Are we heading for exile or restoration?
We read in Jeremiah (46:27): “Do not fear, O Jacob my servant; do not be dismayed, O Israel. I will surely save you out of a distant place, your descendants from the land of their exile. Jacob will again have peace and security, and no one will make him afraid.”
Zionist Christians – many of whom are “charismatic” Christians – believe that the present State of Israel consists of Jews who have been saved out of a distant place. However, it is clear that the modern “Jacob” (Israel) has no peace and security. The Bible is clear that only after they have been saved from a distant place will they no longer be afraid. The State of Israel is not only very unsafe, it is the unsafest place on earth, except, perhaps, for Syria at the moment. (See Christian Zionism – The Trouble with Jacob).
Earlier we saw why Tommy, whom I find it hard to describe as a Christian, doesn’t want to witness to Jews. Here is Israel Iluz (mentioned earlier), a Jewish missionary to the Jews in Israel, who, oddly, agrees with Tommy, but for different reasons:
“Be wise. Don’t share with them Jesus Christ. Share with them the Gospel from the Old Testament. you come from where they stand, from where they’re at, from what they know. What is their familiarity? What is already known to them to some degree. And for those whom God called and predestined, they will open their hearts.”
“Be wise. Don’t share with them Jesus Christ.” Is that correct? Imagine if the Apostles had, anachronistically, heeded Iluz’s advice. Also, the New Testament tells us the opposite, that is, we must share Jesus Christ. Of course, it is true – and I’m happy that Israel Iluz said it – that ultimately only God can open hearts. But it is also God who chooses the means, which is usually a human being, of how to share Christ with others. In passing, it is unusual, but delightful, to hear the glorious truth “those whom God predestined” coming out of a Jewish mouth. (See Where are the Jews in redemptive history? Exactly where they have been predestined to be).
To continue with Eliezer Melamed’s article: “Jews, he says, must deal with the question of how to relate to friendly Christians. For close to two thousand years, Christians have persecuted the Jewish people – murdering, debasing, expelling, or forcibly converting them. How is it that suddenly Christians love us? Furthermore, how do we handle the Rambam’s declaration that Christianity is idolatry?”
Melamed’s solution is” “It would seem that everything depends on their attitude towards the Jewish people and the Torah. The most serious problem we have with Christianity is its denial of God’s choice of the Jewish people and of the eternal relevance of the Torah… Additionally, they did as much as they possibly could to convert Jews to Christianity.”
So, according to Melamed, if Christians cease to deny God’s choice of the Jewish people and the eternal relevance of Torah Jews, the latter will stop declaring (as Rambam/Moses Maimonides did) – but surely not among themselves – that the Christian belief in the God-Man is idolatry. With regard to God’s choice of Israel, the Torah is clear: the heart of the Torah are about God’s relationship to his chosen people, Israel. When it comes to the New Testament, Christians differ on the continuing role of the Jews as a nation. Romans 9 – 11 is clear that God has not forgotten his people, and that ultimately a remnant of the Jewish nation will be saved, that is “all” Israel of the promise, all those, as Israel Iluz understands so well, who have been predestined to eternal life, which applies to Gentiles as well:
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1).
With regard to the eternal relevance of the Torah, not all parts of the Torah – even the most pious Jew cannot deny this – are eternally relevant; for example, the vast number of directives on animal sacrifices fell away after the destruction of the temple in 70 CE. Within Christianity and Messianic Judaism, there, except for the ten commandments, differences in the relevance of the other laws. What is clear to all believers in Jesus/Yeshua, in contrast to Judaism, is that the law cannot justify a person before God:
“ You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3).
The Jews, writes the remarkable and short-lived Hugh Binning (1627 – 1653 Free ebook here), had some respective opinion of the word of God; they knew that in it was eternal life; they thought it a doctrine of life and happiness, but they would not believe Christ’s words. They erred, not understanding the scriptures, and so set the writings of Moses’ law at variance with the preaching of Christ’s gospel. What a pitiful mistake was this! They thought they had eternal life in the scriptures, and yet they did not receive nor acknowledge him whom to know was eternal life. Therefore our Lord Jesus sends them back again to the scriptures:-“Go and search them; you think, and you think well, that in them ye may find the way to eternal life; but while you seek it in them you mistake it; these scriptures testify of me, the end of the law, but you cannot behold the end of that ministry, because of the blindness of your hearts (Romans x. 3; 2 Corinthians Iii. 13, 14.). Therefore search again, unfold the ceremonies; I am wrapt in them, and life eternal with me. Dig up the law till you find the bottom of God’s purpose in it, till you find the end of the ministration, and you shall find me, ‘the way, the truth, and life;’ and so you shall have that eternal life which now you do but think you have, and are beguiled.”
What does the Bible says what a Christian’s greatest possession should be? A Christian leader, out of the blue, asked his congregation: “What is your greatest possession?” Here were some answers: my tech stuff, my replacement knee, my children. A Christian may, without thinking, give any of these answers. No one mentioned “faith” or “Christ” as an option. Perhaps they were too coy. Or too cowardly? Or accommodating what they think the leader is thinking?
A Christian’s greatest possession does not mean dominion or jurisdiction but what you have and care most about. Your greatest possession is what you treasure most. Here is the Lord Jesus Christ:
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6). Colossians 3 describes the Christian in this way: 1. Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
It should be obvious that a follower of Jesus should treasure most the “things above.” The reality is that many followers of Jesus – genuine followers, that is, those who have been raised with Christ – often forget to set their hearts on things above; so much so that when they are asked, “What is your greatest possession?” they assume that earthly things are meant.
When it comes to human beings, Western societies consider it improper to possess, say, one’s wife, children, employees. In the spiritual domain one can be possessed by demonic powers or godly powers. The Christian power is the Spirit in Christ. The phrase “in Christ” appears dozens of times in the New Testament, for example: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1) and “Now thanks be unto God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14).
Christians are in Christ, and, if they are growing spiritually, they seek more light and closer communion, more intimate fellowship, with Christ. They are Christ’s possession, which had already been decreed from eternity, and which becomes manifest in the moment of their regeneration – the moment they believe in (trust) Christ as their saviour. But not only is it true that the Christian is in Christ; it is also true that Christ is in the Christian, He dwells in the Christian. The New Testament pivots on this prayer:
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3).
Christ “sits” in believers – and if they go awry, he may also sit on them – and they “sit” in Christ. “Possession” derives from two Latin words: posse “be able” and sidere “sit.” So, to be situated in Christ, means He possesses us; and if Christ is situated (dwells) in us, we possess him. With this difference: He has bought us. The price? His blood – our inheritance, our hope, our strength, our portion, our possession The Lord is our portion and we are his.
The Lord’s portion: “The Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance” (Deuteronomy 32:9). The Gospel extends this inheritance to nations (goyim).
The child of God’s portion: “The Lord is my portion, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him” (Lamentations 3:24). “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever (Psalm 73:26).
The Child of God’s acquired possession (Ephesians 1:14):
3 Blessed [is] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who did bless us in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 according as He did choose us in him before the foundation of the world, for our being holy and unblemished before Him, in love, 5 having foreordained us to the adoption of sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, in which He did make us accepted in the beloved, 7 in whom we have the redemption through his blood, the remission of the trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, 8 in which He did abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the secret of His will, according to His good pleasure, that He purposed in Himself, 10 in regard to the dispensation of the fulness of the times, to bring into one the whole in the Christ, both the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth — in him;
11 in whom also we did obtain an inheritance, being foreordained according to the purpose of Him who the all things is working according to the counsel of His will, 12 for our being to the praise of His glory, [even] those who did first hope in the Christ, 13 in whom ye also, having heard the word of the truth — the good news of your salvation — in whom also having believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of the promise, 14 which is an earnest of our inheritance, to the redemption of the acquired possession, to the praise of His glory.
To return to the Christian leader’s question to his congregation: “What is your greatest possession?” A person who did not answer “my faith” may be a genuine but backsliding Christian. It is difficult to be sure whether a person has really been regenerated (raised with Christ through faith) or not, that is, whether the person is a genuine Christian. And a person who does blurt out “my faith?” Why, he or she may be an inveterate liar. Similarly, with regard to those who love talking Bible, one cannot be sure whether they are true (lovers of Christ). One thing for sure, those who hate talking Bible are definitely true (haters of Christ).
Christians have been called out of darkness into light. There are many passages in the New Testament on the light granted to believers. Here are a few:
2 Corinthians 4:6 – For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:8 – For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.
Hebrews 12:18 – For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest.
1 Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
One of the most remarkable Christian writers of the 17th century was Hugh Binning (1627–1653). Binning describes the sun “as the very spring and fountain of life to all sublunary things.” “How much is that true, he continues of the the light, of the substantial, of whom this sun is but a shadow!…there may be something of the infallibility and incomprehensibility of the divine majesty here represented. For though nothing be clearer than the light, yet there is nothing in its own nature darker than light, that which is so manifest to the eyes, how obscure is it to the understanding. Many debates and inquiries have been about it, but yet it is not known what that is by which we know all things. Certainly such is the divine light. It is inconceivable and inexpressible, therefore is he said to dwell in light inaccessible and full of glory, 1 Tim. vi. 16.”
Before I quote 1 Timothy vi:16 and its context, here is 1 John 1:5-6: “This is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” We are required to walk in the light, yet in one sense this light is an unapproachable light, as we read in 1 Timothy 4:16:
“13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. ”
How is it possible to have fellowship (another way of saying “walk in the light”) with the unapproachable? In 1 John 1:5-6, we read: “This is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.”
Binning explains that there are two kinds of darkness, one in the unbeliever and one in the believer. [My clarifications are in square brackets].
“There is a twofold darkness that hinders us [believers and unbelievers] to see God, a darkness of ignorance in us [unbelievers], and a darkness of inaccessible light in him [believers]. [Binning now describes unbelievers] The one is a veil upon our hearts, which blinds and darkens the souls of men, that they do not see that which is manifest of God even in his works. O that cloud of unbelief that is spread over our souls, which hinders the glorious rays of that divine light to shine into them. This darkness Satan contributes much to, who is the prince of darkness, 2 Cor. iv. 4.”
[ 2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God].
“This, continues Binning, makes the most part of souls [of unbelievers] like dungeons within, when the glorious light of the gospel surrounds them without. This earthliness and carnality of our hearts makes them like the earth, receive only the light in the upper and outward superfice, and not suffer it to be transmitted into our hearts to change them. But when it pleaseth him, who at the first, by a word of power, commanded light to shine out of darkness, he can scatter that cloud of ignorance, and draw away the veil of unbelief, and can by his power and art, so transform the soul, as to remove its earthly quality, and make it transparent and pure, and then the light will shine into the heart, and get free access into the soul.”
Psalm 36 speaks of this light: “7. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. 9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” The question is: what is this light we see? Binning explains:
But though this darkness were wholly removed, there is another darkness, that ariseth not from the want of light, but from the excessive superabundance of light, caligo lucis nimiae, that is, a divine darkness, a darkness of glory, such an infinite excess and superplus of light and glory above all created capacities, that it dazzles and confounds all mortal or created understandings. We see some shadows of this, if we look up to the clear sun. We are able to see nothing for too much light.”
You might have noticed earlier, that Hugh Binning lived 26 years. His writings are some of the finest ever produced. So many there were, in previous centuries, of Christian missionaries, pastors, theologians and faithful believers who were cut off from this life at an early age. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (Romans 11:33).
The kindle edition of Binning’s works are free and can be found here. Here is Binning again . What a sublime combination of philosophy, poetry and the great Light. It is from a sermon by Hugh Binning on 1 John 1:5 “God is light.”
Taste and see that the Light is good:
“The light is, as it were, a visible appearance of the invisible God. He hath covered his invisible nature with this glorious garment, to make himself in a manner visible to man. It is true, that light is but, as it were, a shadow of that inaccessible light, umbra Dei. It is the dark shadow of God, who is himself infinitely more beautiful and glorious. But yet, as to us, it hath greater glory and majesty in it, than any creature besides. It is the chief of the works of God, without which the world would be without form and void. It is the very beauty of the creation, that which gives lustre and amiableness to all that is in it, without which the pleasantest this beautiful structure, and adorned palace of the world, a loathsome dungeon. Besides the admirable beauty of it, it hath a wonderful swift conveyance throughout the whole world, the upper and lower, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. It is carried from the one end of heaven to the other in a moment, and who can say by what way the light is parted? Job xxxviii. 24. Moreover, it carries alongst with it a beautiful influence, and a refreshing heat and warmness, which is the very life and subsistence of all the creatures below.”
“And so, as there is nothing so beautiful, so nothing so universally and highly profitable. And to all this, add that singular property of it, that it is not capable of infection, it is of such absolute purity, that it can communicate itself to the dunghill, as well as to the garden, without receiving any mixture from it. In all the impurities it meets withal, it remains unmixed and untainted, and preserves its own nature entire. Now you may perceive, that there is nothing visible that is fitter to resemble the invisible God, than this glorious, beautiful, pure, and universally communicable creature, light . Then add unto this, to make up the resemblance fuller, the bounty and benignity of his influence upon the world, the flowings forth of his infinite goodness, that enrich the whole earth. Look, as the sun is the greatest and most universal benefactor,-his influence and heat is the very renovation of the world. It makes all new, and green, and flourishing; it puts a youth upon the world, and so is the very spring and fountain of life to all sublunary things.”‘
Kaddish (Kadish) refers to the prayers for the dead. But this meaning is only a derivative meaning of kadish. The first meaning of kadish is “holy” (kadosh). “Kadosh” is the second most important word in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible); the first is YHVH (Yahweh, Yehovah). What is the most significant attribute of God? Everlasting? All powerful? All merciful? All compassionate? All loving? All knowing? All present? No, none of these. It’s God’s Holiness. All of God’s other attributes flow from his Holiness. The Bible is the sacred history of God’s overarching will for man: “Be ye holy for I am Holy.” And that is what the Bible – the sacred history of God’s dealings with man – is all about : “I am the LORD your God; be holy, because I am holy.”
“Holy” (Kadosh) only appears once in all the 50 Chapters of Genesis: “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” What is the heart of human holiness? Rest – in the Rest of God. It is fitting that the intention behind the “Kadish” prayers for the dead – and all prayers for the dead – is “rest in peace”. These prayers for the dead, however, have no support in the Old Testament or in Jewish tradition (the Talmud and Mishnah). Roman Catholics may argue otherwise and appeal to the apocrypha and their tradition. ( “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” Maccabees 2).
Kaddish is one of the most poignant prayers in the Jewish liturgy. For this reason it provides deep insight into the roots of Judaism.
The origin of the Kaddish prayer is not certain. One theory is that it came into use after the Crusades. The medieval rabbis, in contrast, claim that the Kaddish originated in the time of Rabbi Akiva (circa 50–c.135 AD). Others claim that the Kaddish originated after the destruction of the first Temple and was said after a lecture or discussion of Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, called the” five books of Moses).
In a world shot through with paradox and mystery, the Kaddish is the great prayer of consolation “nechamah”, of hope “tikvah” (the Israeli national anthem is HaTikvah – The Hope) and of peace “shalom”. Above all, it is a prayer of submission to God’s judgments and will, which are always good and pure. Kaddish is regarded as a spiritual rescue from the dead. “The dead are in need of spiritual rescue; and the agent of spiritual rescue is the son; and the instrument of spiritual rescue is prayer, notably the Kaddish” (Leon Wieseltier, Kaddish (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), pp. 126-27). The “son” is the son of the deceased. Prefiguration of the the Garden of Gethsemane?
The Kaddish as a mourner’s prayer is about death. The strange thing about this prayer is that death is not even mentioned in the prayer. We shy away from death. Yet life – in its deeps – is mainly about death, the obsession with death. For most Jews, even Orthodox ones, the ultimate tragedy is death. Why? Because they don’t believe in the after life. The reason why they don’t believe in the after life is because they say that the Jewish Bible’s “salvation” is not about “eternal life” beyond the grave but about peace and happiness in this life. This view is not universal among practising Jews, but it is prevalent. You will notice that the Kadish prayer says nothing about the after life, but is about extolling God and praying for blessings in this life.
Here is the Kadish prayer with short comments in italics:
Mourner: Magnified and sanctified be His great name. (Yisgadal v’yiskadash shmai raba).
(The greatness and holiness of God is the introduction to prayer. This is the theme of the whole Kaddish).
Mourner: In this world which He has created in accordance with His will, may He establish his kingdom during your lifetime, and during the life of all the House of Israel, Speedily, and let us say, Amen.
(“Your” lifetime. Who is this referring to? Not the deceased – his life is over. It refers to the [living] mourner).
Mourner: Let His great name be blessed for ever and to all eternity!
Cong: (Repeats above verse.)
Mourner: Blessed, praised, glorified and exalted, extolled, honored, magnified and lauded, be the name of the Holy one, blessed be He.
Cong: Blessed be He.
Mourner: He is greater than all blessings, hymns, praises and consolations, da’amiron b’olmo; v’imru, Amen. Which can be uttered in this world; and let us say Amen.
Mourner: May abundant peace from heaven descend upon us. And may life be renewed for us and for all Israel; and let us say, Amen.
(What about abundant peace and renewal for the deceased?)
Cong : Amen.
Mourner: He who makes peace in the heavens, may He make peace. For us and for all Israel ; and let us say, Amen.
There is nothing about the deceased in this prayer. Nothing about giving him/her rest. In what sense is the prayer for the deceased? The prayer is actually a prayer not only to God but for God, and for the deceased and for the living. Some rabbis say that the death of a single person creates a gap not only in the hearts of the living but in the heart of God.
The rabbis say that the Kaddish echo’s Job: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15), and that those few words of trusting God for your eternal redemption summarises the whole Tanakh (Old Testament). But if one goes by the words of the Kaddish, it seems that it would be more accurate to say: “Though He slay him (my father, the deceased), yet will I trust Him (my God).”
One doesn’t, however, only go by the words of a prayer, but by its intention. The intention of Kaddish is a call to God in the midst of sorrow of the death of a loved one. But it is also prayer of adoration, of thanksgiving for His mercy and for his promise to redeem Israel. The Kaddish, it is believed, guarantees the survival of the Jewish people and Judaism.
Thus, the Kaddish is much more than a prayer for the dead. It is recited at the end of all major prayers as well as at the conclusion of a service. The “chachomim” (sages) teach that the devout recital of the Kaddish tempers God’s wrath. That is not all. The chachomim say that the whole universe is preserved by the power of Kaddish. It also redeems the departed soul. As I mentioned, the paradox is that although the Kaddish is about death, that awful word is never mentioned.
The Kaddish is never a private prayer. Others also experience pain, loss, death. Holiness is community, where God cares for every individual life. When Kaddish is said in community, it causes all those present to proclaim the greatness of God and the Kiddush Ha’Shem, the sanctification of the Name. The mourner says, “Magnified and sanctified be His great name;” the congregation responds, “Let His great name be blessed for all eternity.” The mourner continues, “Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted; extolled, honored, magnified and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He;” the congregation replies, “Blessed be He.”
Someone said: “When we speak the name of someone who has died, it’s like bringing a part of their soul back to life.” Rabbi Rosalind Glazer comments:
“While Judaism provides an elaborate structure of memorial practices, ours is not at all a culture of death. At its core, Jewish tradition is life affirming. The recitation of Kaddish may permit survivors a moment to remember their beloved deceased, but the prayer speaks of radical awe in this miraculous and eternal moment. “
“Furthermore, the underlying power of Kaddish is not merely in the instant of remembrance, but in the building and preservation of community. That a minyan is required to recite it is not a mere halakhic legalism. Minyan allows us to sustain and perpetuate community. It is as essential to the mourner as it is to the thirteen year old who becomes a bat or bar mitzvah. Minyan holds the collective social force of critical mass. In essence, minyan is synonymous with community. This is why so many Hassidic tales extol the virtue of being the tenth person and honor those who fulfill the mitzvah of ‘making minyan.’”
The ideal is that the son of a deceased parent should lead the Kaddish prayer, because this honours both the parents – the living and the dead. There is also the belief among some Jews that when the son recites the Kaddish, this either confirms the parent’s life of good deeds, or achieves repentance for the parent’s sins, and redeems him or her from God’s retribution. Also, the merit of the mourner’s prayers accrues to the deceased. The main emphasis is on the goodness of the parent. This is similar to the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory, where the prayers and penances of the living can reduce the time the deceased spends in purgatory – the fires of purification (pur - Greek for “fire”). I was a devout Catholic for 20 years. Catholicism was very important part of my intellectual and spiritual formation and subsequent life. I say more about this later on.
The “in” in “believe in” has two meanings. It may mean “believe that” or “trust.” For example, I may believe in God in the sense that I believe that he exists or in the sense that I believe that he has an effect on my life, ranging from a force to a personal God who has revealed himself as my creator and Lord over my life. As Lord, I trust him, I believe that he is who he has revealed himself to be.
So a Christian believes in Jesus and believes him enough to trust him.? Similarly, a believing Jew believes in God as well as believes God, which are contained in the Hebrew word emunah. There is no need to prove his emunah. “In the beginning” (Genesis 1:1) should be enough, and if not, then the man doesn’t have, according to Martin Buber, a genuine biblical bone in his body. “Biblical man, says Martin Buber, is never in doubt to the existence of God. In professing his faith, his emunah, he merely expresses his trust that the living God is near to him as he was to Abraham and that he entrusts himself to Him” (“Two types of faith” 1962).
Scripture comes alive because God gives it life, and thus it is God who opens the eyes that we may understand. This opening of the eyes is faith. One spends the rest of one’s life adjusting the eyes to the light, keeping in mind that in His light we see the light (Psalm 36:9). What a contrast to Dylan Thomas’ “Rage against the dying of the light” do we find in “Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts.. who hath given understanding to the heart? (Job 38:36). Emunah comprises both Assensus (belief in the sense of mental assent) and Fiducia (trust, personal commitment).
The Reformers of the 16th Century divided true saving faith into three parts: notitia, assensus and fiducia. Notitia comprises knowledge, such as belief in one God, in the humanity (1 John 4:3) and deity of Christ (John 8:24), his crucifixion for sinners (1 Cor. 15:3), and his bodily resurrection from the dead, and some understanding of God’s grace in salvation.
Assensus is belief. This belief hasn’t yet penetrated the heart; it is still on the mental level – a mental assent. “I believe it, that settles it.” Of course, when you say “I believe it, that settles it,” your mental assent is more of a mental descent. To understand why it is a mental descent, you need to ascend to the third level of faith: fiducia.
Fiducia is full trust and commitment, it’s the heart knowledge of Jesus’ prayer to His Father in John 17:
24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Notitia (content) is related to our understanding. Without the regenerative life of fiducia (believe in, trust), one is no better off than the devils, who have enough notitia (and assensus) to open a shop. Credo ut intelligam “I believe (in Christ through regeneration) that I may understand” and fides quaerens intellectum “faith (in Christ through regeneration) seeking understanding?” (Anselm of Canterbury).
Martin Buber, the Jewish professor of philosophy, contrasts “belief in” with “trust (in).” Buber says, “Following his leader; Moses comes to the shore, he steps on the sands that are barely covered by shallow water; and the hosts follow him as he follows the God. At this point occurs whatever occurs, and it is apprehended as a miracle. It is irrelevant whether “much” or “little,” unusual things or usual, tremendous or trifling events happened; what is vital is only that what happened was experienced, while it happened, as the act of God. The people saw in whatever it was they saw “the great hand” and they “believed in YHVH” or, more correctly translated, “they gave their trust to YHVH.” (Martin Buber, Moses, (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books. 1988).
Not only the “reformers” (the Protestant Reformation) but all Christian movements understand the distinctions between notitia (content), assensus (accepting the truth of this content, that is, believing that it is true) and fiducia (belief in Christ, or trust in Christ). Jews, and, surprisingly, sometimes “Messianic Jews,” accuse Christians of focusing on “faith” (by which they mean “(mental) assent to” while ignoring trust (Hebrew emunah). Martin Buber’s confusion may help us to understand the unjust criticisms levelled at Christians.
In Romans 3, “faith” is mentioned many times; for example:
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
The Christian view of “faith” is summed up in Ephesians 2:8-10 [my square brackets and italics]:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith [in Christ]. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them [be faithful “emuna” in them).
“Belief in” in Christianity is always believing in your heart, and putting your complete trust in Christ.