Love and Wrath of the Lamb: A God who would rather die than kill his enemies?

Revelation 6:15-17
The kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; 16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: 17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

In James White’s Dividing line. 18 November, 2014, 64th minute, he discusses the debate “Old debate new day’ (The video of the debate can be found here).

(I have added words in square brackets to link selected chunks of discourse together. My comments appear in italics)

White – Zahnd doesn’t believe in the plain reading of Paul.

Zahnd – If we are going to understand Jesus, scripture plays a secondary role. Jesus plays the primary role.

White – This is epistemologically schizophrenic. You cannot know Jesus apart from what has been revealed by him… the idea that you can know Jesus and ignore everything the Lord says about Jesus [himself]. [If this is true] You got to credit your own personal Jesus. like designer jeans for religion.

Zahnd – Scripture has a high and authoritative role, but it is to bear witness to Christ who is the true word of God… Let’s be honest: pervasive interpretative pluralism is a reality, and it’s a reality not only because we are limited in our capacity to interpret scripture [but also] because the argument is internal to the text.”

Not sure what Zahnd means by “the argument is internal to the text.” Does he mean that there is no way of penetrating the text to get at the meaning? If so, that would be a bizarre comment. Indeed, if there is no univocal (single) meaning of any text, there would be no justification in calling anything bizarre or bazaar or basar (Hebrew “meat’).

White – Why are there so many interpretations in the Bible? Because [Zahnd says] the Bible is unclear; it’s a bunch of babble.

Zahnd – If I bring Moses and Aaron and Hosea and the writer of psalm 40 to the room and ask does God want sacrifice, they’re going to have a big hairy debate.

[One topic I'm sure, being given such a great opportunity, they would debate is whether Moses' toeses are roses].

White = No they’re not [going to have a debate] if you’re going to read them in any meaningful fashion.

For Zahn, “meaning” is a fashion parade, catwalk semantics.

Zahnd – Calvin wrote that the reprobate, that is, damned from before birth, are raised up [to be cast into hell]…that through them God’s glory may be revealed.

White – In Exodus [there are] key historical events where God glorifies himself. His glory is demonstrated in the despoiling of the Egyptian gods…Don’t you think the description of the Egyptian army in the Red sea.. the world’s power versus God’s power, you don’t see God glorified in that?

Zahn – God’s beauty, according to Calvin, is displayed in that before birth..I’ll say something that will get me in…you will see that I’m quite bold…[See the rest of Zahn's statement after White's interruption below]

White [interrupts] No, we will see that you’re quite twisted in your detestation of Reformed theology.

Zahnd [continues] – God said, I’m going to create one being and I’m going to damn this being to conscious eternal torment before their birth; they’re not going to have any choice but to be damned.

White – Remember they don’t have any choice – [I'm] speaking from the perspective of eternity – ignoring the daily, hourly, momentary, wilful choices of the individuals to love self and not love God…the synergist flattens it all out…there’s not enough in it [the Bible] according to the synergist] to reveal a three dimensional reality of this matter.

Synergism (Arminianism) – Grace and salvation are God’s gift to man; faith is man’s gift to God. This is how many synergists – for example, William Lane Craig – parse Ephesians 2:8 - For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this [grace and salvation; monergists (Calvinists) say faith as well)] is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (See The Calvinist robot and the Arminian zombie: grammars of coming to faith).

Zahn – I will create them with the capacity to experience and live eternally under my wrath, I would say to that God, you’re wrong, you’re immoral. You say, “how can you talk back to God like that, he will throw you in his hell.” And I will comfort myself in the ceaseless ages of torment with this one solace that I told the truth.”

Judaism speaks of the good inclination and the evil inclination (yetser “inclination” hara “the evil”). God created both. God created the inclination/capacity to evil. Satan was created with this capacity, Adam was created with this capacity, and so were all mankind. Yet God does not have any evil in himself. Zahnd rejects this. And must, if consistent reject Isaiah 45:7: “Forming light, and preparing darkness, Making peace, and preparing evil [Hebrew ra, I am Jehovah, doing all these things” (Young’s literal translation). Zahnd maintains, elsewhere, that the Old Testament is not what is saying, but what the Hebrews thought he was saying. In contrast, the New Testament, for Zahnd, is what Jesus is saying – because, according to Zahnd, Jesus is all about love, not wrath. (See Can a perfect God create the potential for imperfection?).

White – You just think you’re so hot with that one don’t you? You’ve decided that you’re going to put yourself in the position of the objector in Romans 9 and say you’re really cool in your leather jacket and your emergent shoes because “I told the truth’” that you now think you can know separately from God….We realize the picture you painted of this point was not exactly accurate.

Who is the objector in Romans 9? The one who says it is not fair that God has mercy on some, and unleashes his wrath on others, and, worse, simply because he wills it so. I underline the parts in Romans 9 that Zahnd, and all Arminians/synergists hate:

Romans 9

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 [will] 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? [It's not fair]. 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?

22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

Verses 22-23 contradicts what Zahnd says next.

Zahnd – He’s (God is) not all glorious under Calvin’s system, he’s terrifying. but if he is to be all glorious he must save all if it’s completely under his control.

White – Why? We’re not told. What if his glory is revealed in the manifestation of all of his attributes? A lot of non-clean thinking on Brian Zahnd’s part.

Like all Arminians, Zahnd believes that God tries to save all but fails miserably, because relatively few from each generation are saved. He fails, according to Arminians, because in salvation he has sovereignly handed over his sovereignty to man by giving him the free will to choose him. White points out that God does not have sovereignty, he is sovereignty; it is, like all of his attributes, part of his nature. I am reminded of Isaiah 46:9 Remember former things of old, For I [am] Mighty, and there is none else, God — and there is none like Me.

10 Declaring from the beginning the latter end, And from of old that which hath not been done, Saying, `My counsel doth stand, And all My delight I do.’ 11 Calling from the east a ravenous bird, From a far land the man of My counsel, Yea, I have spoken, yea, I bring it in, I have formed [it], yea, I do it.” (Young’s literal translation).

a ravenous bird” – destruction; by Nebuchadnezzar who is called “an eagle,” both by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 49:22) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 17:3).

For the Arminian/synergist. God’s counsel does indeed stand, and he delights in all he does. One of his delights is to sacrifice his sovereignty, to be terribly disappointed – heaven is flooded with his frantic tears – not to save all, but that is the price he has to pay for limiting his freedom so that he can grant man the greatest gift of all time and eternity – freedom to decide his eternal destiny. This view is, of course,contrary, as discussed above, to Romans 9.

Zahnd – So instead of saying the reprobate are raised up… [for eternal damnation] that God’s glory may be revealed, I’d rather say being “under the disfigurement of an ugly crucifixion and death, Christ upon the cross is paradoxically the greatest revelation of who God is, because when we look at what God revealed in Christ we discover a God who would rather die than kill his enemies.

Rather die than kill his enemies! No, no, no; not on your nelly.

Isaiah 6

8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’

10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.” 11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
 without inhabitant,
and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, 12 and the Lord removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. 13 And though a tenth remain in it,
 it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.

Jeremiah 44:26-30

Therefore hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who dwell in the land of Egypt: Behold, I have sworn by my great name, says the Lord, that my name shall no more be invoked by the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, ‘As the Lord God lives.’

Behold, I am watching over them for disaster and not for good. All the men of Judah who are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, until there is an end of them.

And those who escape the sword shall return from the land of Egypt to the land of Judah, few in number; and all the remnant of Judah, who came to the land of Egypt to live, shall know whose word will stand, mine or theirs.

This shall be the sign to you, declares the Lord, that I will punish you in this place, in order that you may know that my words will surely stand against you for harm:

Thus says the Lord, Behold, I will give Pharaoh Hophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies and into the hand of those who seek his life, as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who was his enemy and sought his life.”

White – Fundamental problem with Zahnd’s presentation. Biblical downgrade.

With regard to Zahnd’s “biblical downgrade” (White above), I now turn to Chris Rosebrough’s Lutheran teaching on Law and Gospel. Towards the end of the interview:

Interviewer – There is obviously no doubt that people will continue to object [to the Lutheran view of Law and Gospel]. They will say there are other ways to read the bible…What’s your response?

The Lutheran view of Law and Gospel, in a nutshell, is that it is grace that saves, not works, but works is the natural fruit of faith, and only in that sense, can we speak of works being “necessary” – like breathing is to life. This is the Calvinist view as well.

Rosebrough – My question would immediately be, “Why are you trying somehow to make space for a way of reading scripture that scripture does not give us to read it? The idea here is that if I am reading scripture the way scripture tells me to read scripture…yeah there are tons of different interpretations, and that’s the postmodernism we live in. There’s a Marxist way, a feminist way, etc. of reading scripture. We are approaching scripture with our own lenses, yet scripture is itself giving us the interpretive keys and lens to rightly understand God’s word. Why are you trying to add to this…[by saying] we’ve got these other interpretive lenses as well. No, no, no, no. Be satisfied with what we have received. And that’s the wonderful thing about this; the law-gospel distinctive is something we actually received from God in his word. All these other interpretative schemes, many of them are mixed with philosophy and man-mixed opinions…Why would I want to change or add to it? I’m just a creature…Why should I have so much hubris to think that I have a better way of understanding God’s word than God’s word tells me to understand it?

Interviewer – If someone says “Look, I’m going to study and preach holy scripture, but I’m going to try and find a different way to law and gospel, or maybe invent a new one, or I’m going to try and come out completely with a tabula rasa [clean slate, open mind]. I’m not going to allow any of the preconceptions influence how I read the bible. What are they going to find? What will the Bible be to them?

Rosebrough – At that point you are going to start erroring in wrongly understanding how to use the law, and at that point the Bible will turn into Aesop’s fables, stories with moral imperatives… Like David, you slay your own Goliaths… The Bible becomes a handbook for right living. At that point you end up losing the Gospel….When you make that switch, think of the railroads… down the line there are tracks that have been switched, the destination changes. And so you might be travelling along a particular stretch of track and not notice anything significantly different, but keep travelling down that track, you’re going to find yourself on a different set of tracks altogether, at end up at a completely different destination.

And that’s exactly what Zahn, and his ilk, I suggest, are doing.

The unbelieving spouse and the arbitrary god

Scripturethoughts published the following except from Charles Spurgeon on the Unbelieving spouse”:

We have heard of a wife, a godly woman, who for 20 years had been persecuted by a brutal husband—a husband so excessively bad that her faith at last failed her, and she ceased to be able to believe that he would ever be converted. But all this while she was more kind to him than ever. One night, at midnight, in a drunken state, he told his friends he had such a wife as no other man had; and if they would go home with him, he would get her up, to try her temper, and she would get a supper for them all! They came and the supper was very soon ready, consisting of such things as she had prepared as well and as rapidly as the occasion would allow; and she waited at the table with as much cheerfulness as if the feast had been held at the proper time! She did not utter a word of complaint. At last, one of the company, more sober than the rest, asked how it was she could always be so kind to such a husband. Seeing that her conduct had made some little impression, she ventured to say to him, “I have done all I can to bring my husband to God, and I fear he will never be saved. Since, therefore, his portion must be in Hell forever, I will make him as happy as I can while he is here, for he has nothing to expect hereafter.”

I read the above to an Arminian. Here is a definition of an Arminian: 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. An Arminian believes that faith is a person’s gift to God, not God’s gift to man.

Here is a record of my dialogue with the Arminian. I add my comments in italics:

Arminian – That’s ironic.

Me – What do you mean?

Arminian – Your god (“your” here indicates, of course, “god”not “God”) only allows for two ways for a person to be saved: a believer’s merit or God’s arbitrary choice.

Me- Why is that?

Arminian – Because you say that God just chooses someone to be saved without giving any reason for doing so.

Me- If God does not give a reason to you or me, or anyone, why should this mean that God’s choice is arbitrary? God has a reason for all he does, but we only can know the reasons he wants to reveal to us. It says in the Bible, “the secret….” (Arminian interrupts: Here is the verse I wanted to quote: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Arminian (interrupts) – Your God only allows for two choices: an arbitrary God or the merit of the believer. (In salvation, the Arminian rejects both arbitrariness in God and the merit of the believer. But so does the Calvinist reject both. My Arminian is trying to show that the Calvinist only rejects the merit of the believer in salvation.

Me – Why did God choose Israel? (The Bible says that God singled out Israel out for his peculiar – no not “weird” but “particular” – love not because of any merit in them but because he wanted to do so. More we do not know, and don’t need to know, if we bow to his glory. The same with any choices God makes or actions he does).

Arminian – I’m not talking about that?

Me – How does God choose anything?

Arminian – I’m not talking about anything else but salvation. All you have to do is say yes or no to God’s invitation to save you.

Me – Is there any merit in someone who says yes.

Arminian – No, he just says yes.

Me – Is there any demerit in the person who says no, and consequently is sent to hell?

Arminian – None.

As the conversation was generating more heat than light, I pulled the switch, suppressing the sinful desire to pull out the swish. I don’t see why this Arminian used Spurgeon’s “Unbelieving wife” to rip into the “arbitrariness” of Calvinism. The Calvinist god says “I’m a fisher of men. Eeny-meeny-miny-mo, catch a fishy by the toe.”

Here is the biblical view of God:

Al Martin (in his “What is Calvinism) says: “the question is not the sincerity of my resolve, not what I have done but “has God done something in me? Not have I accepted Christ but has Christ accepted me; not “have I found the lord?” but has he found me?

Free-will brings with it so many absurdities that it cannot be received.
First, It makes man the cause of his own salvation.
Second, It puts grace into man’s power, not man’s will under the power of grace.
Third, It robs God of the honour of making one to differ from another, and ascribes it to man” (Christopher Ness).

With regard to the third, to those who believe their wills are neutral and therefore can, if they so desire, choose God or reject God (that is what is meant here by “free will”), they must logically admit that what ultimately saved them was not something in God but something in them, and thus they deserved to be saved. I’ve only met one “free-willer” (free-wheeler?) who conceded that he deserved to be saved.

So can Christ bring sinners to himself against their will? Man, in the natural, does what he wants, which is to reject Christ, so unless Christ breaks the chains of his self-will he will not and cannot accept Christ and will therefore remain fiddling – his naturals. (See If you improve your naturals, is God bound to give spirituals: Fiddling with free will).

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:

John 1

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.

Romans 9

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.

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 “quicken” 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. (See Inviting your dead enemy to surrender: The chicken and the egg of regeneration and faith.

Salvation – your faith, the Holy Spirit living in you, eternal life didn’t come from you, from any part of you, but from heaven, all from heaven. He came for sinners. Not for anything good he (fore)saw in them. Certainly not because of their good will. Before God saved a person, however, that will follow every corrupt bidding. If you are a Christian, you once were a slave to sin, to your heart, to your will, to your self-esteem, and all the time you thought your will was truly free. Free to do what? To follow your heart? Of course you were free to do that. God doesn’t make robots. You were determined to follow your heart. Determined by God? Of course not. By yourself. If a person is determined, that is, determines himself, to be stubborn, to reject Christ, either of two things will happen: God will leave you in the cesspool of spiritual death – his judgement, or raise you to eternal life – his mercy. His mercy is free; that’s why it’s called grace – saving grace. Not possible saving grace (“prevenient” grace) but certain, efficient, sufficient grace, which is the only kind of grace there is. (See The miserable Christian).

Spurgeon described above the “Unbelieving spouse.” What if a Calvinist is yoked – which can only be, unequally – to an Armininian. Owing the the fact that they differ so radically on the sovereignty of God, which impacts greatly not only on the world to come but on this world as well, their relationship must suffer greatly as a result.

The miserable Christian

If you say you’re a Christian, but are continually feeling miserable about your sins, stop it. Why in heaven – that’s where it was decreed; before time – do you think God saved you? Salvation – your faith, the Holy Spirit living in you, eternal life – had nothing to do with you; it didn’t come from you, from any part of you, but from heaven, all from heaven. He came for sinners, for you. Not for anything good he (fore)saw in you. Certainly not because of your good will. You do indeed have a will, naturally. Before God saved you, however, that will wallowed in the swill of your heart, following its every corrupt bidding.

You were a slave to sin, to your heart, to your will, to your self-esteem, and all the time thinking that you were truly free. Free to do what? To follow your heart? Of course you were. God doesn’t make robots. You were determined to follow your heart. Determined by God? Of course not. By yourself. If a person is determined, that is, determines himself, to be stubborn, to reject Christ, either of two things will happen: God will leave you in the cesspool of spiritual death – his judgment, or raise you to eternal life – his mercy. His mercy is free; that’s why it’s called grace – saving grace. Not possible saving grace (“prevenient” grace) but certain, efficient, sufficient grace, which is the only kind of grace there is,

When you’re feeling down, look up – actually, in – for it is Christ who lives in you, through the Spirit. You know that song “Forget about yourself, and concentrate on him.” Well, do it, for he is the author, the sustainer and the finisher of your faith. If you’re looking forward to being WITH – you’re already in – Christ, you’ll have to first leave your body – die. Would I be wrong to think that you’re not exactly champing at the bit on that score. Reminds me of another church song. “I wanna be with you.”

Agnus Dei, miserere nobis “Lamb of God have mercy on us.”

Related: I wanna be with you. But, erm, not yet.

Where Arminians and Arminius are at odds – Calvin

I found this quotation from Arminius in Spurgeon’s lectures on “Commenting and commentatories.”

“Prophecy” in Arminius means “inspired expounding of the word of God.”

Spurgeon writes:

“If you needed any confirmatory evidence as to the value of his writings, I might summon a cloud of witnesses, but it will suffice to quote one or two. Here is the opinion of one who is looked upon as his great enemy, namely, Arminius: “Next to the perusal of the Scriptures, which I earnestly inculcate, I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin’s commentaries, which I extol in loftier terms than Helmich himself [“Werner Helmich, a Dutch Protestant divine, A.D. 1551-1608]; for I affirm that he excels beyond comparison in the interpretation of Scripture, and that his commentaries ought to be more highly valued than all that is handed down to us by the Library of the Fathers; so that I acknowledge him to have possessed above most other or rather above all other men, what may be called an eminent gift of prophecy.”

I have not read any Arminian, for example, Dave Hunt or Roger Olson, who does not abhor Calvin.

Amazing grace that helped me help God save me: Appealing to the Arminian’s noggin

No matter how good one’s theological reasoning, without the sovereign unilateral intervention of the Holy Spirit, rationality is useless.

God, in his Sovereign decrees, predetermines not only the end but the means. The end I am talking about here is, of course, salvation. God uses an embarrassment of means, all of which must involve your noggin – facts, information, which the reformers (16th century) callled notitia. Some need oodles of noggin before they believe; for example, CS Lewis, while others like Augustine of Hippo believe in order to understand. God accommodates.

Allow me to appeal to a bit of the Arminians’  noggin to try to persuade  them (they choose salvation) rather than God chooses to save them). If you insist that God only helps you to believe through “prevenient” grace, which is granted to all without exception, why then do you sing, often in full throat, “Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me?” Shouldn’t you rather be  singing – there’s no way to avoid many more words:

Amazing (“prevenient”) grace that helped me help you save me?

The nature of regeneration: Does Nicodemus allow God to regenerate him?

Begin with self; end with self

Peter S. Williams is an apologist and philosopher, and, therefore should be a stickler for grammar. Here, alas, is a part of one of his (short) sermons where he disallows the text to say what it says. He inserts the word “allow” into the text of his sermon on “John 3:1-17” (Jesus with Nicodemus). Here is an excerpt, John 3:3-9, from his text.

(My italics verse 8)

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God! 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew. 8 The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. 9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

Williams – “So you see what happened. Jesus was saying that in order to see the kingdom of God, Nicodemus had to be born anew or from above by allowing God’s grace to forgive him, to raise his human nature, his flesh up into the spiritual life of God in a transformative relationship. Williams inserts into the text “by allowing God grace.”

Those who allow God to regenerate them (born from above) are called Arminians, after Jacob Arminius. They believe that God requires their permission to save them. According to Arminians, the fact that no one born of the Spirit has the foggiest idea where the Spirit comes from has no bearing on the “fact” that the the Holy Spirit is impotent to save without permission from the one He wants to save. Towards the end of the sermon, Williams quotes John 1:12-13: “12 But to many as did receive (received) him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Consider the underlined did receive (received) him in verse 12:

In English “did + receive” can be used either as an alternate form of “received” or to emphasise “receive.” In his sermon, Williams stresses “those who DID receive him.” To a Calvinist “did receive” in this passage simply means “received.” To an Arminian, it means those who “DID decide/decided” to receive him.

Arminian

“Holy Spirit, I know nothing about where you come from; all that matters is that you came, and I know you will act like a gentleman and first knock with your prevenient grace on the lid of my coffin and ask my permission to raise me from the dead.”

When one comes to verse 13,, it’s hard to see how the Arminian can avoid tying his will in a knot: Verse 13 – “who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” But avoid he certainly does. Here is my conversation with an Arminian pastor.

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, “human decision” and the “will of man” cannot refer to the will of the seeker but to the sexual desire – to the willy – of the seeker’s Poppa. This leaves the precious will of the seeker 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. The Arminian will say, “No, only God is involved because it clearly says “born from above,” not born from above and below. What I do believe, he could very well think, is that although I don’t know where the Spirit comes from, I do know when it arrives at my door. He knocks, I open my door and invite him to do waht he is longing to do – pull me out of my coffin.” That is what the Arminian understands by:

Ephesians Chapter 2

1 And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— 9 not because of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Even if an Arminian says, “I only did .000000000000000000001% and God did 99.000000000000000000099%, the fact of that matter is that it is that teeny flick of a solitary eyelash that redeems you from the pit and makes you a child of God. It would have to be the same teensy eyelash response that sends you to damnation. Such eternal consequences determined by a human, a human eyelash!

I end with an excerpt from Stephen Charnock’s (1628 – 1680) “A discourse of the nature of regeneration”?(The best books were written 200 or more years ago):

“It is difficult to describe exactly the nature of regeneration.
1. Because of the disputes about the nature of it; whether it be quality, or a spiritual substance;
whether, if a quality, it be a habit or a power, or whether it be the Holy Ghost personally. Many
controversies the wits of men have obscured it with. The Scripture discovers it to us under the terms of the new creature, a new heart, a law put into us, the image of God, a divine nature; these, though Scripture terms, are difficult to explain.
2. It is difficult, because it is visible, not in itself, but in its edicts. We know seed does propagate itself, and produce its like, but the generative part in the seed lies covered with husks and skin, so that it is hard to tell in what atom or point the generative particle does lie. We know we have a soul, yet it is hard to tell what the soul is, and in what part it does principally reside. We know there are angels, yet what mortal can give a description of that glorious nature? It is much like the wind, as our Saviour describes it: John iii. 8, ‘The wind blows where it lists, and thou hears the sound thereof, but can not tell whence it comes, nor whither it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.’ The wind, we feel it, we see the effects of it, yet cannot tell how it arises, where it does repose itself, and how it is allayed; and all the notions of philosophy about it will not satisfy a curious inquirer. So likewise it is in this business of regeneration; the effects of it are known, there are certain characters whereby to discern it; but to give a description of the nature of it is not so easy.”

2 Corinthians 5:17-21
If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new. 18 But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
20 We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God. 21 Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

The question is: Is God really knocking at whosoever’s heart, begging to come in, but failing – sovereignly so – most of the time?

One thing is certain: if regeneration begins with self, it will end with self.

Related posts: Being born again and a husband’s one-track mind)
God’s will and God’s swill in salvation: Thoughts on the Arminian-Calvinist controversy

Tertullian and Augustine: Predestination – Are Christians made or born? Both.

 

Dear reader

Tertullian was a theologian in Carthage in the second century A.D. He said “Christians are made not born.” He also seemed to believe that the reason why God knows what is going to happen is because he (fore)ordained it. If this is so, it would mean that God foreknows those who are going to be saved because he fore-ordained, or predestined, it. Yet Tertullian seems to lean more to the synergist view of  regeneration (born again) where man cooperates with God in regeneration. In light of this, what he seems to have meant by “Christians are made not born” is that God wants everybody to be born “again” and provides the incentive (“prevenient grace”), but only your free will can make it happen.

Say, Augustine of Hippo, Tertullian’s successsor, had said “Christians are made not born.” This is what he would have meant: it is God alone who makes you a Christian, makes you born “again.” John 3:8 The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the voice thereof, but know not whence it comes, and whither it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. And  for added treasure: John 1:12-13 As many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 

The scriptures are  grammatically crystal clear:  God both proposes and disposes; in one word, predestines a person for salvation. This person may be you,  which is why I’m writing to you.

The Jewish heart: Why a Rabbi should not find it too hard to be a Calvinist

Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God.

 The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14).

In his Consumer Alert! Yourphariseefriend (Rabbi Yisroel Blumenthal) sounds the alarm against Christians, who consider religion like a financial transaction, a concept, he correctly says, the Jewish Bible does not teach. He makes a very important point that Christians should heed. My only criticism is that he lumps together the New Testament understanding of salvation with the majority Christian understanding of salvation (the transactional view of salvation). I shall argue that the true Christian view on salvation has much in common with the Jewish view, both of which have been at odds with major Christian movements since the resurrection.

Yourphariseefriend begins:

You may be wondering: What is a “consumer alert” doing on a blog that focuses on religion? Perhaps you never thought about it this way, but religion involves a transaction. There is an exchange taking place. The Christian missionary is encouraging you to give the
devotion of your heart to Jesus and he is promising you eternal life in return for what you have given.”

There is a price to pay; if not, there’ll be hell to pay. Yourphariseefriend continues: “The price you pay [the Christian says] is the devotion of your heart, the return you are promised is escape from the fires of hell and eternal bliss – after death.”

Yourphariseefriend’s aim in his “brief study” is (he writes) “to focus on those passages in the Jewish Bible that speak of the particular transaction that we are addressing in this article – giving the devotion of
your heart in exchange for a future return… One of the primary lessons of the Jewish Scripture is that the devotion of your heart is not yours to give away. It belongs to the God who created your heart in the first place.
Deuteronomy 32:6, Isaiah 45:18, Jeremiah 10:16, Jonah 1:9, Psalm 86:9, 95:6,
100:3, Job 12:10, 35:10, Daniel 5:23 – are but some of the Scriptural
references to this teaching.”

It will be useful to look at these biblical references the rabbi has alluded to. But before we do so, we need specifics on the nature of this If-I-give-my-heart-to-you transaction so prevalent among Christians.

Some Christians say that you need to make Jesus, the Son of God, Lord of your life, which in effect means making God the Lord of your life. Whether you believe in a triune (three person – Christian) God or unitarian (one person – Jewish) God, the Rabbi’ point is that it is impossible to make God the Lord of your life owing to the fact that He is already Lord of your life. In this light, we read the scriptures the rabbi has referenced. I italicise the words that I believe are of import to the Rabbi: 

Deuteronomy 32:6 – Do you thus repay the Lord,
you foolish and senseless people?
Is not he your father, who created you,
who made you and established you?

Isaiah 45:18 – For thus says the Lord,
who created the heavens (he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it
(he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!):
 “I am the Lord, and there is no other.

 Jeremiah 10:16 – Not like these is he who is the portion of Jacob, for he is the one who formed all things,
and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance; the Lord of hosts is his name.

Jonah 1:9 – And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

Psalm 86:9 – All the nations you have made shall come
 and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.

Psalm 95:6 – Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
 let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

Job 12:10 – In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of all mankind.

Job 35:10 – But none says, ‘Where is God my Maker,
 who gives songs in the night..

Daniel 5:23 – but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

 

What puzzles me is the rabbi’s assertion that “the Christian missionary” (that is, all Christian misionaries) uses the above scriptures “as an endorsement for the transaction that he is encouraging,” which, the Rabbi says, he is “not authorized to enter into.” I explain: Those Christian missionaries who believe that all scripture is God-breathed (theopneustos 2 Timothy 3:16), certainly agree with the above scriptures, which amplify God’s creative act “In the beginning God…” (Genesis 1:1), the mother of all presuppositions. So, from the point of view of God as creator, sustainer and destroyer, everything we are and have, including our hearts, belong to God. The Rabbi is right: enough already with giving “your” heart to Jesus.

At this point, there is distinction that the Rabbi, indeed all Jews, miss, namely, not all Christians believe in this transactional view, namely “give the
devotion of your heart to Jesus and he is promising you eternal life in return for what you have given.” Granted this is the majority Christian view, for example, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Methodist, Charismatic, and the masses of seeker driven movements. This leaves a remnant of Christians; a “stump of stump” (Isaiah 6) who, with the Rabbi, cry foul.

Why does this Christian remnant decry this transactional view? Let me answer with a rabbinical question: “How on earth can you invite Jesus into your heart? Where in the Bible does it say such a thing? In the Bible we do indeed see God pouring his love into unregenerated hearts, but when God regenerates a sinner, this involves no invitation from the sinner to God, but is a unilateral sovereign divine merciful call. It’s called amazing grace.If you ask God to change your heart, God has changed it already, because you would never want to ask such a question unless you had the desire to do so. Where did your desire originate? Not in you but in God, who  replaced your heart of stone with a heart of flesh: “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19 (Also in Ezekiel 36:26). There is only one instance in the scriptures where we read about the opening of hearts. And it’s not of human but of divine initiative:

11 … sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14).

 

 

What a Christian should be singing is not “change my heart, O God.” but “strengthen my heart,” in other words strengthen the “inner man,” strengthen my inner being to be more like You.

Christians of the sort the Rabbi is talking about love to sing:

You are the Potter,

I am the clay;

Mold me and make me,

This is what I pray

You bet you’re the clay. The question is do you understand and accept what clay does? It lies. It’s a passive lump. I am pretty sure that if you sing this song devoutly, you believe that the Potter looked down the corridors of time and saw that when He would ask you if he could turn you into one of his pots, you would do so. Wrong, because clay, by its very nature, cannot ask the Potter to mould it. Once, however, the Potter has chosen you for one his pots, lo, a miracle: you, clay ass that you once were, get a voice, and now you can ask God to continue to mould you, embellish you, make you more beautiful. (See Change my heart, O God: Impossible: and frankly silly).

The kind of Christians the Rabbi is discussing are called in Christian theology, “synergists” (Greek “work with”), because they say God needs their cooperation to make him their Saviour and Lord. They are also called “Arminians” (after Jacob Arminius). The stump (Yiddish for stubborn) remnant of Christians are called monergists (Greek “work alone,” that is, God’s work alone). They are also called Calvinists. (See Calvinism and Arminianism for a fuller explanation).

Now you know why I am – and suggest it the best thing to be – a Jewish Calvinist. Thank you dear Rabbi Blumenthal for, if not coming to my side, taking my side on a core issue. It makes my heart feel good. If ever in your wildest you consider converting, you now know; “stump” is the way to go.

 

 

The deadish ISH and darkish darkness of the unregenerate: The libertarian view

How spiritually dead is natural man? Not so dead, say the majority of Christians. They say that they are free to “give their heart” to Jesus – and any time they choose – whom they trust, as Doris Day sings about giving her heart to her suitor, who will handle it with care. So, they say, when the Bible says we were “dead in sin,” it doesn’t mean stone dead but merely deadish; a deadish ISH (“man”in Hebrew).

This is how they read Ephesians 2:1-5:

1 And you did he make alive, when ye were deadISH through your trespasses and sins, 2 wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience; 3 among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest:–
4 but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 even when we were deadISH through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved).

And what will these libertarians say about the darkness of the natural soul, of the human will?

Isaiah 9:2 “They that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” And: “Ephesians 5:8
“You were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”

This: “You were once darkISH, but now have more light in the Lord: walk as children of more light.”

They do not understand or refuse to understand the starkness of the darkness: the natural man is unable to want and doesn’t want a saviour, especially a bloody one. It is foolishness to him.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25
For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are 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 will I bring to nought.
20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe. 22 Seeing that Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumbling block, and unto Gentiles foolishness; 24 but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Here is Jonathan Edwards who sheds a brilliant light on the dark darkness of the unregenerate soul. How could such radical corruption give its heart or life to Christ?

“This lower world before the fall enjoyed noonday light, the light of the knowledge of
God, the light of his glory, and the light of his favour. But when man fell, all this light
was at once extinguished, and the world reduced back again to total darkness, a worse
darkness than that which was in the beginning of the world, that we read of in Gen.
1:2, “And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the
deep.” This was a darkness a thousand times less redeemable than that. Neither men
nor angels could find out any way whereby this darkness might be scattered. This
darkness appeared in its blackness then, when Adam and his wife saw that they were
naked, and sewed fig leaves, and when they heard the voice of the Lord God walking
in the garden, and hid themselves among the trees of the garden, and when God first
called them to an account, and said to Adam, “What is this that thou hast done? – Hast
thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee, that thou should not eat?” Then
we may suppose that their hearts were filled with shame and terror. But these words of
God, Gen. 3:15, were the first dawning of the light of the gospel after this darkness ( Jonathan Edwards, “History of redemption.”

There are many professing Christians who say, “What have I to do with Adam?” Which sharpens Edwards’ point; and thickens their darkness.

Related: Dead, dead, see I am dead: How to soup up a sermon on regeneration

John 6 and the Eucharist: The deception of perception

 

Transubstantiation (the change from one substance to another) is the Roman Catholic observation that if it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, indeed, tastes like a duck, this does not mean it is a duck, that is, is “substantially” a duck but simply that it is “accidentally” a duck. Roman Catholic theology (Thomas Aquinas) uses the Aristotelian concepts of “substance” (essence – independent of the senses) and “accidents” (how things appear physically – to the senses) to explain transubstantiation. So, to get back to our duck, say you transmute duck substance into human substance, the latter won’t taste, smell, feel human, but will still taste, smell, feel duck.

The distinction between “sensation” and “perception” is useful: the former relates to one or more of the fives senses, the latter to how the mind-brain processes this sensation to create understanding. For example, I’m typing this on my Ipad. My wife says to me “Switch on the dishwasher.” She says it again. And again. And again. Then “SWITCH ON THE DISHWASHER!” I jump and run to the dishwasher, open it and start unpacking the gooey innards. When it comes to housework, I’m terribly switched off. The mellifluous tones wafting from my wife’s buccal cavity lambast my ears (I hear her) but I don’t listen (don’t pay attention, thus don’t perceive).

Here are three biblical examples of misperception, all based on the same biblical excerpt from John 6, the “Bread of Life” passage. The misperception is the wrong reasons given why the disciples decided to no longer walk with Jesus (verse 66).

Example 1

When I was a Roman Catholic, this is what I perceived when I read this portion of John 6:

51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?

BLIND SPOT

66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

On this reading, it is clear that the reason why the disciples chose to abandon Jesus was because he was commanding them to be cannibals. Verses 63 to 65 are missing, not in the actual text itself, but in the perception of the text. I shall progressively restore these verses in the next two examples.

Example 2

Let’s leave Roman Catholics and move on to Protestants. The majority of them perceive a little more, namely, verse 63: 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless.

BLIND SPOT

66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

What would the Protestant say is the reason why those who believed in Jesus (a false belief) abandoned him? Actually there are two Protestant answers – originating from two kinds of Protestants (I explain shortly); answers totally unrelated to each other. The first kind of Protestant will give the same answer as the Roman Catholic, namely, the cannibal reason. This kind of Protestant will add that Roman Catholics are blind, because they can’t see (perceive) that if Jesus was referring to his literal flesh, call it the “substance” of his flesh or skin and sinews or whatever you like, he would not have said “the flesh is useless.” In the third example, I introduce the second kind of Protestant; my kind.

Example 3

Example 2 describes the majority of Protestants. Alas, like Roman Catholics, their minds (perception) do not sync with their eyes (sensation). What did they (and the Roman Catholic in Example 1) not perceive? They did not perceive verses 64 and 65.

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”

66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

The reason why Example 1 and 2 ignored verses 64 and 65 is because they are Roman Catholic and Protestant Arminians. 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.

Verses 64 and 65 (in bold above) mean that if people don’t believe in (come to) Jesus is because he has not granted them this belief. The “gift” of faith, is not the prospective beleiver’s gift to God but God’s gift to the prospective believer. This gift of faith of God does not mean that you can accept on your own bat whether you want to receive this gift, but that God frees you from the bondage of your radically corrupt will, which by nature, hates God (of the Bible). As a result. you accept this gift of faith with joy. In a nutshell, a person plays no part in his reconciliation with God; it’s all of God. All Roman Catholics and the majority of Protestants don’t believe this. As a result, they will define “no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father” in such a way that it does not mean “permitted by the Father.” What I don’t know. The majority of Protestants are Arminians. These include Anglicans, Methodists and most Baptists.

Here is an example of grammatical cohesion, without which coherence suffers:

Peter, Paul and the latkes

Peter – I’m not going to eat with those Gentiles.

Paul – You hypocrite.

Peter – For that, you can’t have any of my latkes

Paul –  I’m ephing oph to Ephesus.

Latkes

Latkes

Question: Why did Paul leave? Answer: Was it because Peter refused to eat with the Gentiles or was it because of the latkes? I can’t be sure. There is, though, a language rule (of cohesion – words that link ideas together, for example, “this,” “because” and pronouns like “it.”) that says that first consideration should be given to what Peter said to Paul immediately antecedent to Paul’s “I’m ephing off to Ephesus,” namely, no latkes for Paul.

When we apply this rule of cohesion to our biblical text, it is reasonable to conclude that the followers of Jesus abandoned him at the least because of the last thing he said to them before they left: 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” 66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

It could be, though, that they abandoned Jesus because of any one or all of the things Jesus said, namely: 1. the hard saying “unless you eat my flesh…,” 2. “the flesh counts for nothing,” (duh, first he tells us to eat his flesh, then immediately afterwards says, “the flesh counts for nothing.” So which is it?). But perhaps they’re too dense to ask such a question) and 3. the last thing Jesus said: “No one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” “Come to,” of course, cannot mean anything but “believe in.”

To return to the grammatical notion of cohesion, which is the grammatical glue that makes coherence possible. A better example of this is Ephesians 2:8-9, owing to the fact that it is arguably the biggest bone of contention in the Calvinism-Arminian dispute. Also, Ephesians 2:8-9 is closely related to “no one can come to me unless granted by my father” (John 6:65 above). Here is Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

William Lane Craig, like all Arminians, says that “this” in “and THIS is not your own doing, it is a gift of God…” cannot refer to faith because “this” is neuter while “faith” is feminine. Craig doesn’t know that “grace” is also feminine. I discuss this issue in depth elsewhere (See my The Calvinist Robot and the Arminian Zombie: Grammars of coming to faith and other articles on Calvinism and Arminianism. Recent posts appear first). My focus here is on cohesion. Sometimes a writer/speaker mentions several items but can only retain in short term memory (Freud’s “preconscious”) the last thing he wrote/spoke. So, when he says “this” he is, in his mind, pointing back to at least the last thing (the immediate antecedent) he wrote/spoke, which in our verse is “faith”: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.

All English translations of this verse illustrate the grammatical rule that the demonstrative pronoun this (some translations have “that”) in Ephesians 2:8 automatically refers to, at the least, its immediate antecedent, which in Ephesians 2:8 is the noun “faith.” So, “that not of yourselves must refer to “faith.”

Which deception is more serious, the “substance-accidents” of the Lord’s supper or the belief that faith is the believer’s gift to God rather than God’s gift to the believer, which He plants in the soul he regenerates? I’m thinking.

The Calvinist Robot and the Arminian Zombie: Grammars of coming to faith.

bography:

Yesterday on James White’s Dividing Line, I witnessed once again William Lane Craig’s poor understanding of Ephesians 2, “7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,”

Craig, like all Arminians (synergists) says that “this” in “and THIS is not your own doing, it is a gift of God…” cannot refer to faith because “this” is neuter while “faith” is feminine. But so is grace feminine. So then is grace not a gift of God? In this piece I examine why synergists (God offers faith and it’s up to our crass, radically corrupt, depraved swills to decide whether we want to be part of God’s select group) – make a mockery not only of faith but of grace, where the latter can only work if we allow it to. That’s not even getting it back to front. It’s the backslide of the Gospel.

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

Preamble

Grammar police

Grammar police (Photo credit: the_munificent_sasquatch)

The term “grammar” has its origin in the Greek word for “letter,” gramma. “Grammar” used to be restricted to language, but no more. There’s now a grammar of all sorts of odds and togs, for example, a “grammar of fashion”: The larger the ‘vocabulary’ of someone’s closet, the more creative and expressive the wearer can be. If you were to attend Stanford University, you could dig into the “grammar of cuisine,” and slaver over such fare as “The structure of British meals.”And, if you are one of those who thinks deeper, there’s the grammar of the genetic code. (“Code” in linguistics is a another name for “grammar”). The reason why we can use the term “grammar” in so many diverse contexts is because the “grammar” of a system is simply the structure of interrelationships that undergirds that system, showing how…

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“Jerusalem Jerusalem” – John Piper’s tender (?) word to Pharisees in the parable of the prodigal son

The question I examine here is “What has the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15) got to do with Jerusalem Jerusalem?” The parable is not about church discipline and reconciliation, as in Stephen Davey’s “In Pursuit of Prodigals: A Primer on Church discipline and Reconciliation.”Jesus addresses the parable to the pharisees. The two sons in the parable are both Jews. The elder son represents a pharisee, the younger, a publican, a sinner. For Charles Spurgeon, the parable’s central focus is the younger brother – his sin, his misery, his penitence, his restoration (reconciliation, salvation). Here is Spurgeon:

Though it be true that all sinners are a great way off from God, whether they know it or not, yet in this particular instance, the position of the poor prodigal is intended to signify the character of one, who has been aroused by conviction, who has been led to abhor his former life, and who sincerely desires to return to God. I shall not, then, this morning, specially address the blasphemer, and the profane. [the elder son in the parable]. To him, there may be some incidental warning heard, but I shall not specially address such a character. It is another person for whom this text is intended: the man who has been a blasphemer, if you please, who may have been a drunkard, and a swearer, and what not, but who has now renounced these things, and is steadfastly seeking after Christ, that he may obtain eternal life. That is the man who is here said to be, though coming to the Lord, “a great way off.”Once again, there is another person who is not intended by this description, namely, the very great man, the Pharisee who thinks himself extremely righteous, and has never learned to confess his sin. You, sir, in your apprehension, are not a great way off. You are so really in the sight of God; you are as far from him as light from darkness, as the east is from the west; but you are not spoken of here. You are like the prodigal son, only that instead of spending your life righteously, you have run away from your Father, and hidden in the earth the gold which he gave you, and are able to feed upon the husks which swine do eat, whilst by a miserable economy of good works you are hoping to save enough of your fortune to support yourself here and in eternity. Your hope of self-salvation is a fallacy, and you are not addressed in the words of the text. It is the man who knows himself lost, but desires to be saved, who is here declared to be met by God, and received with affectionate embraces.”

What about the elder son? The parable is not only about the younger son but the elder son as well; after all, the elder son represents the pharisees whom Jesus is addressing. As Robert Leroe points out in his “The prodigal sons.”

Here was the best of homes. The father has both compassion and wealth. He loves his sons and is concerned for their happiness. Both sons are far from home–one geographically, both spiritually. To both He earnestly, tenderly calls: ‘Come home, come home, you who are weary come home.’”

John Piper’s “A Tender word to the pharisees” focuses on the elder son:

This Sunday I preached at Watermark Church in Dallas under the title “A Tender Word for Pharisees.” There are not many tender words for Pharisees in the mouth of Jesus. Mainly his words to Pharisees are tough, even terrifying (see Matthew 23). The most moving words of tenderness for Pharisees are in Luke 15:25–31, the words of the father to the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son… The father says, “All that is mine is yours” — Verse 31: “My child, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (Luke 15:31).

There is a massive inheritance coming. And the father only hints at the condition: “Child . . . all that I have is yours.” Jesus leaves unsaid the possibility that the elder son will remain forever on the porch with the slaves, rather than sit at the table of mercy as a grateful child, a son. He leaves unmentioned what he said in Matthew 15:11–12, ‘Many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness.’ Not here. Not in this parable. Here it is all tenderness toward the Pharisees. The message of the parable ends with tenderness to both brothers: Come in from the foreign country of misery, and come in from the porch of hard-earned merit. Both are deadly. But inside is the banquet of grace, and forgiveness, and fellowship with an all-satisfying Father.”

And now to Jerusalem – where I shall argue we have no business. In the last few minutes (36:42 ff) of his sermon (on youtube here). Piper says:

Four chapters later, in Luke chapter 19, verse 41, Luke says , “When Jesus drew near to the city, Jerusalem, he wept over it saying (Piper is reading – not sure whether the actual verse), ‘would you [then he looks up], even you have known the day of peace, and now it is hid from your eyes.’ In other place [I think he means 'in other words." Piper is looking at his audience with arms outstretched] I would have gathered you like a hen gathers her chicks; he’s looking on Jerusalem filled with pharisees and people saying crucify him, crucify him because he’s wrecking our legal system of merit.”

if Piper had not taken is eye off the page, what would he have read in Luke 19:42ff after breaking off after “would you?”

41b And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Nothing here of tender pleading at all. Also nothing about hens and chicks, mentioned by Piper. For these, we need to back track to Luke 13:34 (in italics), which I quote in context:

31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that ea prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Piper said earlier “There are not many tender words for Pharisees in the mouth of Jesus. Mainly his words to Pharisees are tough, even terrifying (see Matthew 23).” True. Indeed, in Matthew 23 there are a half dozen “woe to you scribes and Pharisees,” followed by our returned from AWOL hen and chicks. (The hen and chicks also appear in Luke 13, quoted above).

Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Note “you are not willing” in the above passage. James White mentions instances where Arminians quote the above verse to buttress their case that Jesus, the failing Messiah (failing because, they say, he sovereignly set himself up to fail out of respect for human free will) is longing for sinners to come to him but they don’t come because they are not willing, which, they say, proves that it’s up to you whether you come to Christ or not Here is how some Arminians quote the verse: 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered YOU as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.”

I have, like James White, heard on several occasions the mutilation of “your children.” Woe is and to me, I never took note of the names of these Arminian recalcitrants. I never thought, though, to hear a Calvinist, in this instance, John Piper, misquote it. But slips happen. If only Piper had not lifted his eyes off the text – to increase the poignancy of the moment, perhaps? – he would’ve seen that he could not have used the text in front of him to exemplify Jesus’s tenderness towards the Pharisees. Maybe his eyes, Piper being a good reader, were streaking far ahead of his voice, and when he saw what the passage actually said and saw himself heading in the wrong direction – I’m not saying he panicked – he sensibly continued at lib. But look where such ostensible sensible liberties led him. Recall the passage Piper began to read “Would you…” and then abandoned – Luke 19:42 ff:

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

In the above passage, Jesus is not longing to gather the Pharisees/leaders like a hen gathers her chicks; he is longing to gather their children but they are not willing to allow their children to come, and consequently are condemned by Jesus.

In conclusion, in the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus does have a tender word for the Pharisees, but exactly the opposite attitude in the “O Jerusalem Jerusalem” passages. In the parable of the prodigal son, the father saw the son far off. In Piper’s sermon as well, there was something far off.

So should this booboo make me, or you. write Piper off. Don’t be a klutz! He’s one of my favourite preachers and a very good theologian.

The sufficiency of the atonement: So what!

 

The Arminian says that Christ’s death is sufficient to save all sinners, that is, everybody in the world; and that his death also becomes efficient (comes into effect) in salvation when sinners decide they want to be born again.

Most Calvinists also say that Christ’s death is both sufficient for everybody and efficient for those who are born again. The difference between the two views is the Calvinist says that the ultimate decision of one’s rebirth lies with God (with “election” to salvation) not with man’s decision, as recorded in John 1:12-13

“As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” The Arminian says that the “will of man” here means the will of the husband (the prospective believer’s father). (See Of being born again and a husband’s one track mind).

For a Calvinist, if one is elected to the rebirth, of what theoretical import or practical use is the sufficiency of Christ’s death to save the non-elect, in other words, so what? Here is Carl Trueman on John Owen:

He (Owen) certainly allows that there is nothing in the death of Christ, considered in isolation, to prevent its being sufficient for all; the question is whether such sufficiency has any real meaning in the actual economy of salvation. This is clear in his reflections on the Lombardian notion of universal sufficiency/particular efficacy:”

That the blood of Christ, says Owen, was sufficient to have been made a price for all” . . . is most true, as was before declared: for its being a price for all or some doth not arise from its own sufficiency, worth, or dignity, but from the intention of God and Christ using it to that purpose, as was declared; and, therefore, it is denied that the blood of Christ was a sufficient price and ransom for all and every one, not because it was not sufficient, but because it was not a ransom.(Note 48).

In Note 48 is the nub of the argument (in my italics):

Owen, Death of Death, in Works, 10:296. Cf. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger, 3 vols. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1993), 2:458–59: “It is not asked with respect to the value and sufficiency of the death of Christ—whether it was in itself sufficient for the salvation of all men. For it is confessed by all that since its value is infinite, it would have been entirely sufficient for the redemption of each and every one, if God had seen fit to extend it to the whole world. . . . But the question properly concerns the purpose of the Father in delivering up his own Son and the intention of Christ in dying.”).

This point, says Trueman, is extremely important: for Owen, abstract discussions of universal sufficiency are just that: abstract and irrelevant. It is not a question of whether the death of the Son of God could be sufficient for all; it is a question of what that death was intended to accomplish. That intention was determined by God in the establishment of the covenant of redemption.”

I add, there is a way in which the atonement is indeed sufficient. It is when Jesus says “come” those who have been given by the Father:

John 6

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.”

So far, Arminians and Calvinists agree. But soon after comes verse 44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

So, those who are raised on the last day (saved) are those who come. Why do they come? Because the Father draws them (compels them) to come. No, not scratching and screaming, but smitten and overcome with joy, “for the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

Luke 19:5. “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zaccheus, make haste and come down; for this day I must abide at your house.”

When Zaccheus thought of no such thing, nay, thought that Christ Jesus did not know him; behold, Christ does what we never hear he did before or after, I mean, invite himself to the house of Zaccheus, saying, “Zaccheus, make haste and come down; for this day I must abide at your house.” Not pray let me abide, but I must abide this day at your house. He also calls him by name, as though he was well acquainted with him: and indeed well he might; for his name was written in the book of life, he was one of those whom the Father had given him from all eternity: therefore he must abide at his house that day. “For whom he did predestinate, them he also called.” George Whitefield’s Sermon 35 The Conversion of Zaccheus).

I end with further quote on the efficiency/efficaciousness of God’s grace from Whitefield’s sermon, which a;so gives the lie to the popular idea that Calvinists don’t take preaching seriously. The greatest preacher of all time, after Paul of Tarsus, is George Whitefield, who like Paul had a full-orbed view  of the Gospel’s efficiency, which is the free offer of the Gospel flowing from the sovereign purposes of God – to save those elected to salvation:

“Make haste then, O sinners, make haste, and by faith to Christ. Then, this day, even this hour, nay, this moment, if you believe, Jesus Christ shall come and make his eternal abode in your hearts. Which of you is made willing to receive the King of glory? Which of you obeys his call, as Zaccheus did? Alas! why do you stand still? How know you, whether Jesus Christ may ever call you again? Come then, poor, guilty sinners; come away, poor, lost, undone publicans: make haste, I say, and come away to Jesus Christ. The Lord condescends to invite himself to come under the filthy roofs of the houses of your souls. Do not be afraid of entertaining him; he will fill you with all peace and joy in believing. Do not be ashamed to run before the multitude, and to have all manner of evil spoke against you falsely for his sake: one sightof Christ will make amends for all. Zaccheus was laughed at; and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution. But what of that? Zaccheus is now crowned in glory; as you also shall shortly be, if you believe on, and are reproached for Christ’s sake. Do not, therefore, put me off with frivolous excuses: there’s no excuse can be given for your not coming to Christ. You are lost, undone, without him; and if he is not glorified in your salvation, he will be glorified in your destruction; if he does not come and make his abode in your hearts, you must take up an eternal abode with the devil and his angels. O that the Lord would be pleased to pass by some of you at this time! O that he may call you by his Spirit, and make you a willing people in this day of his power! For I know my calling will not do, unless he, by his efficacious grace, compel you to come in. (Italics added) O that you once felt what it is to receive Jesus Christ into your hearts! You would soon, like Zaccheus, give him everything. You do not love Christ, because you do not know him; you do not come to him, because you do not feel your want of him: you are whole, and not broken hearted; you are not sick, at least not sensible of your sickness; and, therefore, no wonder you do not apply to Jesus Christ, that great, that almighty physician. You do not feel yourselves lost, and therefore do not seek to be found in Christ. O that God would wound you with the sword of his Spirit, and cause his arrows of conviction to stick deep in your hearts! O that he would dart a ray of divine light into your souls! For if you do not feel yourselves lost without Christ, you are of all men most miserable: your souls are dead; you are not only an image of hell, but in some degree hell itself: you carry hell about with you, and you know it not. O that I could see some of you sensible of this, and hear you cry out, “Lord, break this hard heart; Lord, deliver me from the body of thisdeath; draw me, Lord, make me willing to come after you; I am lost; Lord, save me, or I perish!” Was this your case, how soon would the Lord stretch forth his almighty hand, and say, Be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid? What a wonderful calm would then possess your troubled souls! Your fellowship would then be with the Father and the Son: your life would be hid with Christ in God.”

Luke 19:9-10, “And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house; forasmuch as he also is the Son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and save that which was lost.”

 

Related post: James White on the atonement: Take your dirty little fingers off God’s glory

 

What’s the fore in foreknowledge for? God will make a plan

 

This article puts flesh onto my skeletal God’s foreknowledge: Does God plan the end and only foreknow the means?

Why did God create the world? ( Also the title of a sermon by John Piper). This question implies that God always plans what he does. The Bible say that the reason why God created the world and everything that exists, was for his glory. Here are one of many “glory” passages in the Bible: Isaiah 40:4–5, “Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; . . . And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

In human eyes, somebody who rejoices in his own glory cannot be that great a person, especially if that person happens to be a God of love, that is, a God who loves his creation. In this one rare instance, the natural light of man might be spot on. When it come to light, though, the Bible contains depths that human reasoning alone cannot never fathom. Here is John Piper:

The question is not just, “Why did God create the world?” but why this world? — why these thousands of years of human history with a glorious beginning, and a horrible fall into sin, and a history of Israel, and the coming of the Son of God into the world, a substitutionary death, a triumphant resurrection, the founding of the church and the history of global missions to where we are today? Why this world? This history? And the short answer to that question is, for the glory of God’s grace displayed supremely in the death of Jesus. Or to say it more fully: This world — this history as it is unfolding — was created and is guided and sustained by God so that the grace of God, supremely displayed in the death and resurrection of Jesus for sinners would be glorified throughout all eternity in the Christ-exalting joys of the redeemed. Or let’s just keep it short: this world exists for the glory of God’s grace revealed in the saving work of Jesus… there is an unbreakable connection between the glory of God, the glory of grace, the glory of Christ, the glory of the cross. God predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:5–6). In other words, the glory of God’s grace — what Paul calls “the riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7) — is the highpoint and endpoint in the revelation of God’s glory. And the aim of predestination is that we live to the praise of the glory of this grace forever.”

Predestination” means opposite things in Arminianism and Calvinism (see definitions of these terms here) . For the Arminian, this is God’s purpose in salvation. God looks looks into the future and sees who is going to choose him. Based on this foreknowledge, he predestines those who choose him to salvation.

In this discussion, I examine the biblical term “foreknowledge.” 

In the Appendix of the book “The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented” by David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas, the authors give the two contrary views of the meaning of “foreknowledge” in the Bible. Their key text is Romans 8:29, the “Golden Chain” of redemption: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Romans 8:29-30.

“Broadly speaking, writes Steele and Thomas, there have been two general views as to the meaning and use of the word “foreknew” in Romans 8:29. One class of commentators (the Arminians) maintain that Paul is saying that God predestined to salvation those whom He foreknew would respond to His offer of grace (i.e., those whom He saw would of their own free will repent of their sins and believe the gospel). Godet, in commenting on Romans 8:29, asks the question: “In what respect did God thus foreknow them?” and answers that they were “foreknown as sure to fulfill the conditions of salvation, viz. faith; so: foreknown as His by faith.” The word “foreknew” is thus understood by Arminians to mean that God knew beforehand which sinners would believe, etc., and on the basis of this knowledge He predestined them unto salvation.” The other class of commentators (the Calvinists) reject the above view on two grounds. First, because the Arminians’ interpretation is not in keeping with the meaning of Paul’s language and second, because it is out of harmony with the system of doctrine taught in the rest of the Scriptures. Calvinists contend that the passage teaches that God set His heart upon (i.e., foreknew) certain individuals; these He predestined or marked out to be saved. Notice that the text does not say that God knew SOMETHING ABOUT (authors’ emphasis) particular individuals (that they would do this or that), but it states that God knew the individuals THEMSELVES (authors’ emphasis) – those whom He knew He predestined to be made like Christ. The word “foreknew” as used here is thus understood to be equivalent to ‘foreloved’ – those who were the objects of God’s love, He marked out for salvation.”

“The questions, continue Steele and Thomas, raised by the two opposing interpretations are these: Did God look down through time and see that certain individuals would believe and thus predestine them unto salvation on the basis of this foreseen faith? Or did God set His heart on certain individuals and because of His love for them predestine that they should be called and given faith in Christ by the Holy Spirit and thus be saved? In other words, is the individual’s faith the cause or the result of God’s predestination?”

I posted the following question on Wintery Knight’s blog regarding the debate between Michael Brown, an Arminian, and James White, a Calvinist: “Hi Wintery, Your position seems to be that there is something inherent in people that (inwardly) determines their acceptance of Christ. Is that correct?” Wintery does not believe that a person is so dead (in sin) that he is unable to choose to believe in Jesus Christ, and, therefore, does not believe that one must be born again before one can see the Kingdom of God and subsequently choose to believe, to have faith in Christ. Wintery is an “Arminian,” after Jacob Arminius. The bulk of professing Christians are Arminians. Those who are not Arminians are called “Calvinists.” The “Calvinist view” is that regeneration precedes faith, a view that is at least as old as St Augustine, who said “Command what You desire, and grant what You command.” Another way, perhaps clearer way, of saying Augustine’s prayer isGrant what You command, and command what You desire.” (See Grant what You command, and command what you desire: Pelagius, the Jew and Augustine). Calvinists say, as do Arminians, that their view is the biblical view.

As others have found with Wintery Knight’s “comment awaiting moderation,” my gentle and respectful (and calvinesque) comment ended up in his fiery moat. A little while ago, another Arminian blogger, who calls himself “A Servant,” did the same with one of my comments. His post dealt with “The foreknowledge part of 1 Peter 1:2a,” which reads “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (KJV)

A Servant, representing the Arminian view, says that God foreknows what we are going to do. Calvinists agree. Upon that knowledge, continues the Arminian, God will base his decision to elect or reject a person. Calvinists say no to that view because they maintain the reason why God foreknows is not because he sees what people are going to do but rather because what they do is according to his purpose. As Joseph says to his brothers: As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).

A Servant does appear to be interested in the connection between foreknowledge and God’s purposes because in the section “Foreknowledge in Scripture” he quotes Acts 2:23 as another example of God’s foreknowledge. “On the day of Pentecost, after the resurrection of Jesus, Peter stood and preached to the people about Jesus in Acts chapter 2. In verse 23 it says “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Other instances: 1 Sam 23:11, Is 46:9-10, Dan 2:28-29. This is not an exhaustive list, just some examples of God’s foreknowledge.”  A Servant does not seem to be interested in “the determinate counsel” part of the verse; his underlining of “foreknowledge of God” tells us where his emphasis, his interest, his heart, lies, and consequently he does a passover of the first part of Acts 2:23. One can “ignore” consciously (actively) or unconsciously (passively). The unconscious kind is called “ignorance.” Desiring to think the best of A Servant, it seems that A Servant is unconscious of the significance of “by the determinate counsel…of God” because if he were aware of it, he would not have given the lion’s as well as the vulture’s share of his discussion to “foreknowledge.” One can “ignore” consciously (actively) or unconsciously (passively). The unconscious kind is called “ignorance.” Desiring to think the best of A Servant, it seems that A Servant is unconscious of the significance of “by the determinate counsel…of God” because if he were aware of context, he would not have given the lion’s as well as the vulture’s share of his discussion to “foreknowledge.”

It is upon the anvil of foreknowledge, say Arminians, that God hammers out his intentions, his purposes, his “counsel” (Acts 2:23). Out of this major premise flows the conclusion, which Arminians are logically compelled to arrive at, that God predestines the elect (those who are saved) based on what he foresees they will choose to believe about Christ. Later on A Servant will say, as all Arminians must logically do, that the elected are divinely selected based on something in them that caused them to accept Christ as saviour. Here are A Servant‘s “Closing Remarks” of the first part of his discussion on “foreknowledge.

“Imagine the ability to take a decision between two paths and look into the future to see which choice would be best.  As humans our minds might recall bad financial or career choices we would like to do over. In a way God has given us the ability to see the future; God has set before us a choice of where our soul will spend an eternity.  He has described for us both futures and given us the information necessary to make an informed decision.  Which future have you chosen?”

The upshot: Choose Jesus, and he’ll choose you. A Servant has turned scripture (the parts underlined) on its head. “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed (tithēmi – set, put, placed) you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide…” (John 15:15 -16a ).

In his main “foreknowledge” verse (1 Peter 1:2a), A Servant had made short shrift (perhaps unintentionally) of “his determinate counsel.” Being the determined headstrong moody Jewish Calvinist I am, I had to engage him (her?). Here is our exchange. (I am “Bography,” which is my WordPress OneDaringJew user name:

bography

What do you understand by “his determinate counsel” in Acts 2:23?

A Servant

I have a couple of minutes before work so first of all welcome to our site. I do not believe I have seen you here before.

Regarding your question, if I understood it correctly: Peter was referring to the those who wished Jesus to be removed, or killed. It point I was using was the next part where it is stated that God knew this choice would be made.

If I have not understood the question correctly send a note back and I’ll respond after work.

Thanks for the visit and comment.

bography

Here is a clearer translation of Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Let me also be more explicit in my question: “If God had a definite plan/purpose (determinate plan), isn’t this plan distinct (not separated from, of course) from his foreknowledge of his plan? What do you believe God planned in this verse?

A Servant

Thank you for the clarification. I was on the wrong track.

I am a firm believer in a sovereign God who plans and executes His plans. With foreknowledge God can use my free will choices to execute His plan. That’s pretty amazing.

In human terms this is impossible but with God all things are possible.

As a result the plan was distinct but not separated from foreknowledge.

To answer the last question: Did God intend/plan for Jesus to be delivered? Yes. Did He use the foreknowledge choices of the council to carry out His plan? Yes.

bography

Let me try to understand. Re your “Did God intend/plan for Jesus to be delivered? Yes. Did He use the foreknowledge choices of the council to carry out His plan? Yes.”

Do you mean God had planned something – redemption perhaps – for sinners but hadn’t yet made up his mind how he was going to carry out that plan until he foresaw that crucifying Jesus was the way sinners would choose to bring about his (God’s) plan?

A Servant

But hadn’t yet made up his mind” no, not at all. The plan of redemption was in place before the foundations of the world. (Later in 1 Peter)

I did generalize, and it was very open ended, I was just trying to say I do believe in God’s sovereignty.

I am going to have to stop using my phone to answer with. I can hardly see it for one thing and I’m apparently doing a poor job articulating my responses. Sorry for the confusion.

bography

What if God foresaw that no one would want to be redeemed? Wouldn’t that mean that He would have to give up on the plan to redeem? In a nutshell, God’s plans would be conditioned by man’s plans, not so?

A Servant

I realize you prefaced this with “what if” but clearly there are those who have sought redemption. I don’t follow the logic of supposing.

It would seem you are wanting to present another viewpoint. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. Rather than do these one-off comments would you be willing to post your thoughts concerning foreknowledge on your site so I can understand the scope of the debate? I guess I am just slow to catch on sometimes.

[The following is not part of the original exchange: With regard to A Servant‘s “I realize you prefaced this with “what if” but clearly there are those who have sought redemption. I don’t follow the logic of supposing.” The point is that for Arminians God has to first look down the tunnels of time to see IF any would exercise their free will to believe. In other words, Arminians say that Christ is only a possible savior, and thus can only save people if they grant Christ their consent to save them. This is what I implied by my next reply].

bography

Is God free to plan to save sinners without first foreseeing whether any sinners would exercise their freedom to accept Jesus as saviour? I’m trying hard to be clear.

A Servant

If I may, do you agree or disagree that we have free will to choose or reject Jesus? This will help me. If you are of a different opinion I can certainly respect that. I am doing a verse by verse study of 1 Peter, this subject is in verse 2 so that is why I am covering the subject. In 10 hours part 2 will be posted. Once you have time to read it let’s try starting over.

bography

I. prefer at this stage to leave my opinion out of consideration because it is not relevant to my question. If my question is clear to you, how would you answer?

A Servant

Okay, that is certainly your prerogative. However, I’m not into shadow boxing so it looks like we are done here.

I then posted on A servant’s site:

You shouldn’t be boxing the questioner but the question. Imagine you had given a talk to an audience after a which someone in the audience asked you a question. Would you only answer on condition that the person first told you more about their background?”

This comment, unlike my other comments was given the “`Your comment is awaiting moderation.” As soon as I saw that, I felt a burning in my bones – having been given the same treatment from the Arminian Wintery Knight,” – that “we would be done here” (“Servant’s” last comment above); your comment is awaiting conflagration. I wasn’t aware I was using foul language. I might be guilty though of fouling up the works.

a Servant later posted the second part of his discussion of 2 Peter 1:2a.

The Elect

Let’s turn, he says, our attention to the word “Elect.”  By way of definition it means what you think, to pick or to choose.  We are familiar with elections; we will cast ballots to elect a president among other offices.  Spiritually speaking, we also choose whom we shall serve.  Does God know the actual number of those who will accept the gift of God and go to heaven?  According to the foreknowledge of God the answer is yes. This does not mean that God forced one to be saved or prevented another; it simply means God looked forward in time and was able to see every person’s decisions and know who will accept Him. Peter calls them the chosen; but how did he know they were the elect?, by the foreknowledge of God.  If you will remember Jesus said he knew all along that Judas was the betrayer.  Jesus knew Judas would sell him out before he actually went to the Jewish leaders and bargained for 30 pieces of silver.  In John 13:21 Jesus said at the last supper “one of you shall betray me”.  How else could Jesus know this other than foreknowledge?”

Arminians see “foreknowledge” as foreknowing what (a person is going to do), not as foreknowing who, as in Romans 11:1-4:

I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew… “I (God is speaking) have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

I return to Romans 8:29-30: 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 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.

Foreknew” does not mean foreknowing that you – corrupt creature that you are/were – will choose Christ, but foreknowing you in the same way as in “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5). If you’re not an open theist, you believe that God knows everybody. In Jeremiah 1 and Romans 8 above, “(fore)knew” means “(fore)loved”), “singled out,” the “elect.” “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33b).

Furthermore, if those God “foreknows” means God looking down the corridors of time, then the “pre” in “predestines,” which follows “foreknows,” makes no sense, for if God chooses you because he sees what you are going to do he would simply “destine” you, not “predestine” you – “foredestine” you.

Also, believers will never lose their salvation because they will be glorified (granted eternal life). They will be glorified not because they will to be glorified but because God wills it. According to Arminianism, it is the sinner’s will that predetermines/predestinates, him or her to salvation. It follows that if you can will yourself to be saved, you should be able to will yourself to become unsaved – as many times as you will, until God pops you off, while hoping that your game of “I love Him, I love Him not” ends on the right option.

Consider “called” in the Golden Chain: “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). This means that every one who is called will be justified, that is saved. Yet the unbreakable scriptures also say: “For many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Don’t we then end up with a broken chain, for how can both of these be true: when God calls sinners they are infallibly justified (saved) and when he calls them, he might not choose them (save them). How can this be? The “call” in Matthew 22:14 is the general call, while the “call” in Romans 8:30 is the “effectual” call. A truism often ignored in the Bible, and in all discourse, is that words must always be considered in their context. They are are often not because we often displace the linguistic context by what want it to mean. “Foreknew” is an illustrious example. We examined “foreknew” in Romans 8:29. In Romans 11:2 there is another “foreknew.”

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. 7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” (Romans 11:1-8).

If you’re an Arminian (that is, man chooses Christ, Christ doesn’t choose man), you will probably never say openly – or even dare to think – that you deserve to go to Heaven, but instead you will push grace to the fore- “it’s all about grace” you might say. The thing is this: for Wintery Knight, his eternal destiny depends on himself because the Arminian position is that God offers saving grace to all but only some are willing (good enough) to choose eternal life. It follows that there must be something in Wintery that is better than the person who does not choose Christ. Now, hardly any Arminian will deny that if you reject Christ, you deserve the terrible consequences. But ask him whether he is willing to apply the same logic to himself who has chosen Christ.

Arminians argue that if you are elected , you were selected. God selected you because you – in contrast to the damned – decided to choose to have faith and be born again; your decision qualified you for salvation. Well done, good and faithful servant. I foreknew you had it in you

Why does God refuse to open blind eyes and deaf ears, as He says in John 12:40 (and isaiah 6:9) about the Jews: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.”

The answer: “God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9:18). But (verse 19) “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” Your question is awaiting conflagration, because (verse 20) “… 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?’ 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?”

Related: The Meaning of “FOREKNEW” in Romans 8:29

                R. C. Sproul. “The Golden Chain” (Romans 8:26-30) 

                Arminians who confuse and refuse: free will in coming to Christ

 

 

Salvation and God’s will in Thomas Aquinas: Does God appoint his own disappointment?

Kenneth Copeland on stage:    Aahhl say Aaaaaahhhhl.
All in the world:    Aaaaaaaahhhl.

The Roman Catholic Church considers Thomas Aquinas as its supreme theologian. Here is Pope Leo XIII: “This point is vital, that Bishops expend every effort to see that young men destined to be the hope of the Church should be imbued with the holy and heavenly doctrine of the Angelic Doctor. In those places where young men have devoted themselves to the patronage and doctrine of St. Thomas, true wisdom will flourish, drawn as it is from solid principles and explained by reason in an orderly fashion … Theology proceeding correctly and well according to the plan and method of Aquinas is in accordance with our command. Every day We become more clearly aware how powerfully Sacred Doctrine taught by its master and patron, Thomas, affords the greatest possible utility for both clergy and laity.”

The RCC is Arminian. 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.Arminians believe that God wills everybody to be saved. Their key verse is “God will have all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). The “Pulpit Commentary” says: 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). (see The gift: The reward of suffering).

Owing, alas, to a person’s refusal to open the door of his heart to Christ, God fails in his purposes. But this is fine for God because, to preserve man’s free will to choose Christ – man’s dignity – God appoints his own disappointment.
Here is Thomas Aquinas as described by David Hogg:

“Aquinas identifies three important considerations.61 First, what God wills, he cannot fail to accomplish. As with so many other medieval theologians, Aquinas’s first move is to defend God’s character. God is not weak; he does not fail. Second, no one is saved apart from God’s will. Putting this together with the first point, Aquinas’s argument is that all who are saved are saved because God wills that they all be saved. This leads into his third consideration, that the “all” in this passage is referring to all kinds or types of people. God wills that all kinds of people, people from every category of humanity, be saved. This line of thinking leads Aquinas to affirm that God’s will is not generic or indiscriminate, but takes qualifications and circumstances into account. This means that when God wills that all be saved, his willing accords with his foreknowledge and predestination as much as it accords with his knowledge that all have sinned and as such are children of wrath. An unqualified divine will that leads to an unqualified “all” in 1 Timothy 2:4 does not take sufficient account of God’s nature, let alone the rest of revelation.”

(David Hogg, “Sufficient for some, efficient for all: Definite atonement in the medieval church” in David Gibson & Jonathan Gibson. “From Heaven He Came and Sought Her.” Crossway, 2013).

In Aquinas, on the one hand, God never fails, and on the other, his desire is to save only those who fulfil the qualifications and circumstances to be saved, which “means that when God wills that all be saved, his willing accords with his foreknowledge and predestination as much as it accords with his knowledge that all have sinned and as such are children of wrath.” The relationship between foreknowledge and predestination in Aquinas is not clear. If he means that God knows from eternity who will not be saved, and thus he would not include these under “all,”  then both the Arminian and Calvinist should be aware of this “assault” on human understanding. 

 The Arminian understanding of 2 Peter 3:9 is that God desires all without exception to be saved but if some don’t want to be saved, God will respect their freedom to reject Him. Thus there is no conflict between God desiring all to be saved and God predestination of those who are saved. Pre in “predestination” has, for the Armininian, the same meaning as fore in “foreknowledge.” if this is so, God (pre)destines people to salvation based on his (fore)knowledge. I remain confused by what Aquinas means “when God wills that all be saved, his willing accords with his foreknowledge and predestination… (Hogg above).
Consider how “predestination” is used in the Bible:

“For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27–28). According to the Arminian William Lane Craig, the crucifixion as a good example of an evil that God does not ordain, but instead is brought about by the actions of man’s free will. God basically picks up the pieces and makes something good come out of the crucifixion.

So, “predestine” for the Arminian means God seeing what’s going to happen and acting accordingly. But that’s not “pre-destination but post-destination. See The plan of salvation: Is it worth the risk, my Son? What, risk! Ask Jacques Derrida, CS Lewis and Thomas Oord).

And: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were appointed/ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). To the Arminian this means that if you receive Christ, by letting him into your chamber, he will appoint you to eternal live. You’re elected because you have been selected because of your “qualifications” (Aquinas?). (See the technicolour traversty of this verse by David J. Stewart).

God’s foreknowledge: Does God plan the end and only foreknow the means?

In the Appendix of the book “The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented” by David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas, the authors describe two opposing interpretations of “foreknowledge: “Did God look down through time and see that certain individuals would believe and thus predestine them unto salvation on the basis of this foreseen faith? Or did God set His heart on certain individuals and because of His love for them predestine that they should be called and given faith in Christ by the Holy Spirit and thus be saved? In other words, is the individual’s faith the cause or the result of God’s predestination?”

In his 1 Peter – Foreknowledge of God Part II (1 Peter 1:2a), A Servant continues his discussion of “foreknowledge” where he focuses on the “elect.” Here is 1 Peter 1:2a:  “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…”

Let’s turn, says A Servant, our attention to the word ‘Elect.’  By way of definition it means what you think, to pick or to choose.  We are familiar with elections; we will cast ballots to elect a president among other offices.  Spiritually speaking, we also choose whom we shall serve.  Does God know the actual number of those who will accept the gift of God and go to heaven?  According to the foreknowledge of God the answer is yes. This does not mean that God forced one to be saved or prevented another; it simply means God looked forward in time and was able to see every person’s decisions and know who will accept Him. Peter calls them the chosen; but how did he know they were the elect?, by the foreknowledge of God.  If you will remember Jesus said he knew all along that Judas was the betrayer.  Jesus knew Judas would sell him out before he actually went to the Jewish leaders and bargained for 30 pieces of silver.  In John 13:21 Jesus said at the last supper “one of you shall betray me”.  How else could Jesus know this other than foreknowledge?”

Most Christians believe that God knows everything before it happens. In Open theism, when someone sins, God has, what Adrian Stanley calls, a “knee-jerk” reaction – The Violation of Philippians 2:6-10 – Knee-jerk theism).

In Christianity and many religions, one of God’s attributes is omniscience, which subsumes every even occurring in time. So, obviously God foreknew Judas’s betrayal in exactly the same way he foreknew that A Servant would ask the question: “How else could Jesus know this (Judas’s betrayal) other than foreknowledge.” All we have so far are verities, glorious truisms. But there’s more; and it is that more in which the Arminian loses his moorings. I’m glad A Servant brought up Judas’s betrayal, because no event in the Bible illustrates more this more than:

The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. (Acts 4:26-28).

Here is part of another Arminian’s interpretation of the above verse: “The above are words from a prayer by Peter and John, and these verses are sometimes used as an attempt to support the idea that God predestines all things, including predestination of individuals to do ”evil” (and that this in effect doesn’t make it ”evil” since God is always good). The sacrifice of Christ is a holy and acceptable offering to God and he didn’t force anyone to kill Jesus. This unique event cannot be used as a blanket statement throughout the entire scriptures to show that God causes people to do whatever they are busy doing including SINNING. What was ”determined before” to be done? It was the death of Jesus (the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world)! However, it does not say that God predestined anyone to make this goal come true.”

If, though, God (the Trinity) does not – cannot – decree that a particular person kill Jesus, doesn’t it follow that God can only plan the death of Jesus if he foresees someone deciding to kill Jesus. In this scenario, God’s freedom to make moral decisions is dependent on man’s moral freedom. The Arminian maintains that’s exactly how God wanted it to be.

Setting – Heaven before the Fall; before anything.

Father – Son, I’d like to send you down to earth to become a man to die for sinners.

Son – I do what you tell me.

Father – You’ll have to be killed.

Son – Would you be doing an Isaac on me; this time for real?

Father – Yes. So we’ll have to find an Abraham, a rotten version this time, to do the foul deed.

Son – Although there is no one down there who does good, it doesn’t follow that anyone will want to kill me.

Father – I have a plan; let’s pre-peek: you take these corridors of time and I’ll take those. Should take no time at all.

Son – Judas; of all people! Betraying me.

Father – Not our doing. Crucially, we can go ahead.

Son – Is Judas going to kill me?

Father – Go take another peek. We don’t have a moment to lose.

Son – There’s a whole bunch of them; the whole world.

Father – Everybody in the world?

Son – Not not everybody in the world; Jews and Gentiles.

Father – Good. And very good now that we can get things ready for your birthday.

We return to “The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel DETERMINED BEFORE (original caps) to be done.” (Acts 4:26-28):

Does “whatsoever” in “to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel DETERMINED BEFORE to be done” only refer to the end (the death of Jesus) but not the means (the agents of this death; how he was put to death)? Of course not. Here is another “whatsoever”: “Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

God determines (predetermines, same concept) all things, even evil – which resides in demons and in man – for his own purposes, which are always good. Arminians are far too sentimental.

O Jerusalem Jerusalem! Grammar is of the Lord

 

In the introduction to “Four views off divine providence,” Denis W. Jowers, the editor, provides several examples of ambiguous scriptures about God’s sovereignty. Some of these examples concern God’s total control versus his disappointment that he doesn’t achieve what he wants.

“Though God declares, ‘My counsel will stand and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isa. 46:10), he expresses disappointment at his people’s failure to hearken to his pleas: “What more was there to do for my vineyard,that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? (Isaiah 5:4).”

Another example, which is my focus:

“Tensions similar to those that complicate the Old Testament account, moreover, resurface in the New Testament’s teaching on divine providence. Once more, God expresses seeming disappointment at human beings’ unwillingnessto cooperate with his salvific initiative. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” Jesus cries out, “the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you wouldnot!” (My underlining).

Jowers seems to be arguing – the use of the term “unwillingness” is telling – like the famous Arminian, Norman Geisler, who says in his Chosen but free that “it is God’s ultimate and sovereign will that we have free will even to resist His will that everyone be saved.” And so, although God is disappointed that so many among the leaders and children of Jerusalem are not willing to come to him, he cannot disobey his own sovereign will to refrain from lording it over human beings to whom he has given the most precious gift of all, namely to choose to follow him or not.

Jowers is a Presbyterian, but that doesn’t tell you that modern Presbyterians are non-Arminians or that they cannot get confused. Jowers’ understanding of the passage is prevalent among evangelical Arminians. I briefly consider the argument of one such group. In James White on Matthew 23:37, they say:

James White recently discussed Matthew 23:37 on Radio Free Geneva in response to Dr. Norman Geisler’s book Chosen but Free. Here’s the passage.”

Matthew 23:37-39 states: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’”

James White uses the difference between ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘your children’ to argue that Jerusalem represents the Jewish leadership while Jerusalem’s children are the Jewish people. Dr. Geisler responds by pointing out that even if this were true, it doesn’t matter. Either way someone opposes Christ’s desire. I like Dr. Geisler’s point; per Calvinism, no one can oppose God’s desire in the sense of His decree for what He wants to happen. James White quickly points out that Calvinism distinguishes God’s desires from His commands and then James White claims Matthew 23:37 is about God’s commands and the outward ministry of the Gospel rather than God’s desire for the outcome. But if that’s the case it seems to strengthen Dr. Geisler’s point that the discussion of ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘your children’ is a side issue. Why does it matter who is opposing Christ, so long as they are not really opposing His desire.”

All the verse is saying is that God desires the people of Jerusalem (necessariy all, says the Arminian) to come to him, but the leaders; no, they’re not frustrating God’s desire. “Woe is me, I’m, like Isaiah, undone ’cause the leaders are not willing; what’s ole demi-urge moi going to do now? The risks, as says C.S. Lewis, I take! If I had my way I’d revert to plan A: Calvinism!” What the leaders are simply doing is opposing God with their damned free wills, which is what all, without exception, do unless God infuses new life into their dead Gogolian souls.

The rest of the writer’s discussion consists of a flood of scriptures, OT and NT, where he points out, correctly, Jerusalem refers not only to leaders but to the whole of Jerusalem. What, though, has that to do with the context of Matthew 23:37 above. In this passage, two groups are contrasted: the leaders and the people. Granted many, indeed most Jerusalemites throughout the Bible, as we read in Isaiah 6, only a stump of a stump will remain, were under God’s judgment. But that’s got nothing to do with Matthew 23:37, which is crystal clear; yet not to Arminians. Which goes to prove that no one knows where grammatical savvy begins and divine revelation ends, where natural light begins and supernatural light ends.

In their Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality (Oxford 2011), David Baggett and Jerry Walls, use philosophy to attack Calvinism. They say (p. 68):

(For my purposes, I  substitute “philosophy,”  “rational” ands related terms for “grammar”)

 “…trust in the reliability of scripture in the first place assumes trust in the experiences of those biblical writers whose written words God genuinely inspired. Without the requisite trust in those experiences, we are left without rational [grammatical] conviction in the authority of the Bible. Or take the choice of the Bible as authoritative rather than, say, the Koran; this selection, to be rational [grammatical], requires that we have good reasons for believing the Bible to be God’s real revelation. Appeal to those considerations involves trust in reason [grammar], which involves trust in our ability to think philosophically [grammatically]. The Bible is to be taken as authoritative in the realm of theological truth. But before we can rationally [grammatically] believe such a thing, as human beings privy to general revelation and endowed with the ability to think [grammatically], we must weigh arguments and draw conclusions, that is, do philosophy [grammar]. Proper trust in the Bible altogether involves the process of thinking rationally [grammatically]. “

 Triablogue, in his amusing and exacting Arminian Funhouse, comments:

 “There’s a dialectical relationship between general and special revelation, where you can’t properly understand or evaluate either one without reference to the other. To take a crude analogy, if you tear a page of text down the middle, you can make some sense of what each half says, but you have to put the two pieces back together, side by side, to make complete sense of the text. For the sentences break off in mid-sentence. Or, to take a different illustration, it’s like the relationship between an exotic tool and the operating manual. You can tell the tool was designed to do something. But however much you study the tool, you can’t figure out, just by examining the tool, what it was meant to do.”

Which goes to prove that grammar, like salvation, is of the Lord; that is, for all who are called and chosen.

Does God blind Arminians?

The general view of Christianity is that every individual is born an enemy of God, For this reason:

Romans 1

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

The Bible also tells us that all are born (spiritually) dead in sin, and that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. This faith evinces the desire to obey God’s commands, evidenced by good works, or, as a Jew would say, loving kindness:

Ephesians 2 

1. 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[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 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. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

The Bible also describes the natural man as blind and deaf to the things of God. Here’s a thing: God chooses either 1. to open blind eyes and deaf ears, which always leads to salvation or 2. to increase blindness and deafness in those who claim to see (the natural state of man), which may lead to damnation:

Jesus heals the blind man (John 9)

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God, ” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” 25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” 26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” 28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

Spiritual Blindness

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” 38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” 40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” 41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

After seeing the glory of God, the first preaching commission God gives to Isaiah is:

Isaiah 6

9 He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ 10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull
and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
 understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

Mark 4

10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.”

Acts 28

23 When they (the Jews) had appointed a day for him (Paul), they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. 25 And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: 26 “‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.”

27 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ (Acts 28:26-27, ESV).

The Bible says it is impossible for the spiritually blind and deaf to enter the kingdom of heaven. What, though, about the partially blind, for example, those who believe that Jesus can fail in his purpose to save. I’m talking about Arminians, namely, those who believe that Jesus is only a possible saviour, who can only save those the father gave him before the world began on condition 1. they permit Jesus to break their chains and 2. and they can, after being set free from slavery, decide whether they want to remain free or reclaim their chains.

What does the scripture say?

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.” No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:37-40, 44, ESV).

Why do Arminians see “All that the Father gives me will come to me…And I will raise him up on the last day” as “All that the father gives me are those who will decided come to me…and I will raise them up on the last day?”

They’re either confused or refuse to believe that salvation is all of the Lord; they are confused or refuse to believe that they are not drowning in a cesspool, but lying bloated at the bottom. What they all do is refuse believe that they have no power to raise themselves to life. Surely they say, a deadish person can raise a finger or an eyebrow in consent to Jesus’ call.

Many Arminians are nonplussed by grace: they just can’t get it that the causal progression is Given – Come – Eternal life. If however, they see it clearly but refuse to accept that all those who are given will definitely come and will never lose their salvation because it is entirely up to God and not even a thimbleful to them, then the problem is far more serious.

Why do they refuse to believe the scriptures? It could be they are inconsistent. Or they are consistent: they deny that they are blind and stubbornly refuse to believe in a God that offers to save without their cooperation, without respectingthe dignity of their “free” will. They refuse to believe in a God that saves some, and passes others by. “It’s not fair!” They refuse to believe “’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.”

Here’s the rub, in both groups, namely, those who refuse (and clearly see – as the Jews in the story of the blind man in John 9) and those who refuse out of confusion, God holds them responsible.

An inconsistent Arminian is partially blind. It seems that there is no reason why an inconsistent believer cannot be saved. And consistent Arminians; are they too blind to be saved. Hopefully not too blind that God will withhold his mercy. Arminians believe that God would not want to blind anyone to the point that they they cannot “see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed” Isaiah 6:10b. This is contrary to Isaiah 6:9-10 – 9 He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ 10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull
and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
 understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

In Arminian thinking, Jesus is knocking at the door of everybody’s heart pleading to be let in so  that it can change it. Alas, poor Jesus fails to save those the father would have given him if only they had opened that confounded door.

To answer the question: Does God blind Arminians? Yes. For the simple reason that, as R. C. Sproul sprouts it, there is not one rogue molecule in the universe.”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? 22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea:I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,

I end with Eric Tuininga

There are certain vocal Arminians that my heart becomes heavy with concern with. For example, a prominent Arminian, when recently speaking against the Reformed view of God’s meticulous sovereignty over all things said, “The God of Calvinism scares me; I’m not sure how to distinguish him from the devil.” When I hear such rash comments coming from a person who claims to be a Christian I cringe because in reality they are essentially calling God, the devil. The heart is hardening to a point I consider to be playing with fire. Other Arminians may not be so crass but speak of the reformed view of God’s sovereignty and salvation by grace ALONE so mockingly that I again find myself concerned for their souls because, in fact, they are speaking this way about God and His word, not just another viewpoint. If the Reformed view is a true representation of God then they actually end up mocking God, a place I do not wish upon anyone.”

So, to sum up, a fully consistent Arminian is not saved – but to be fully consistent you would have to be an open theist or something like it. But some Arminians are inconsistent, truly trusting in Christ alone, grace alone, but not thinking through what that means when it comes to faith, perseverance, etc. They are very weak in their understanding, and need to be taught the truth. IF they resist that teaching, and cling to their own contribution to salvation, it may be evidence that they are not saved. If they receive the teaching, and say, yes, this is true – it is grace alone, and grow in this, then they are saved and perhaps were before, but not enjoying their salvation, because bogged down in inconsistently bad theology. Consider that if someone is truly regenerated by the Holy Spirit but has sit for years under the false teaching of his denomination, he will become resistant to hearing the truth, especially the first time because his tradition has largely replaced it. If confronted with Scripture long enough it is probable they will be stripped of all poor understanding and self-effort, BUT many of these persons will likely NEVER have the opportunity to be confronted on this in their environment, that is, until Jesus returns. There are many Christians in China in remote places who could not possibly come into contact with a theologically reformed church but the Holy Spirit may have quickened them while reading the Scriptures. I will not count out the fact that such a person may be saved. 

Every time you sin and every time you think wrong thoughts about God you are acting or thinking inconsistently. This does not mean you are unsaved. God often leaves us in weakness so we will trust more in what Christ has done for us. Having perfect theology certainly does not save us, Christ does, even if we understand this less than perfectly as I indeed do.”

So for some Arminians, becoming Reformed truly marks their conversion to Christ. Others I think are “reformed” without knowing it. They might call themselves Arminians, but they aren’t. That’s why I resist making blanket statements that “all Arminians are not saved.” (See Arminians who confuse and refuse: free will in coming to Christ)

You have won my heart, now I can trade my ashes in for beauty: How one does not come to faith in Christ

bography:

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 OneDaring Jew:

The song “Draw me close to you” makes congregations warble and swoon. It moves for two reasons: first, it gets to the emotions, and second, it moves away – very far away from the Gospel, indeed, in the opposite direction to the Gospel (Good News). One of the lines says, “I’ll lay it all down again to hear You say that I’m Your friend.” Lay what down, I ask? What did you lay down the first time? The only thing you can ever lay down – if you are a true believer – is your sinful nature. And you didn’t even lay that down. Christ took your sinful nature on him and exchanged it for His righteousness. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). (See “Draw me close to you. But…

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Of being born again and a husband’s one track mind

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). andthropjets idea “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:

Romans 9
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).

Why in the world do Calvinists always have that grin on their face?

 

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

photme new

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):

Isaiah 46

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.’

Inviting your dead enemy to surrender: The chicken and the egg of regeneration and faith

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!

 

Should I preach hell to my granny? No, says McCraney

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 elsewhereWhat 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).

McCraney 

“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.”

White’s response

 

“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.  

McCraney

“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.”

 White’s response 

“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.” 

McCraney 

“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.” 

White’s response 

“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.

 McCraney

 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.” 

White’s response 

“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?).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who limits God: Can the Arminian, Roger Olson, and the Calvinist, Michael Horton, hole up together?

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.

Strickened and quickened. (My) Love wins: Arminianism in a nutshell

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.

Ephesians 2:1-9

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?

”Strickened, please.”

“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.

Calvinism is STUPID, stupid

“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)
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)

(See Calvinist Corner for the detail).

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.

Is salvation possible for all: Greg Koukl wants to have his Calvinism but not eat it

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.

(My italics)

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:

John 1

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.

Romans 9

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.                                                                                                                

God wants to save me. That’s good news. Does he have your permission?

In Arminianism God desires to save, has the power to save but can’t satisfy that desire and exercise that power without the unbeliever’s permission. The logical implication of this synergistic (cooperative) view is that “it is impossible for God to save anyone in and of Himself.” (Roger Olson; See Aomin.org).

Also, in Arminianism, we have the following tenet which flows naturally from the first, owing to the fact that if you can decide to be saved, you can decide to be unsaved (several times):

“As men may change themselves from believers to unbelievers, so God’s determination concerning them changes.” (Remonstrances, the Arminian Manifesto).

This second Arminian doctrine makes no biblical sense, for the Bible clearly states in many places that God’s determination can never change. In other words, God’s determination is God’s “predetermination/predestination.”

James 1:17 With the Father of lights is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

Psalm 102: 27 But you are the same, and your years have no end.

2 Timothy 2:13 If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

1 Samuel 15:29 And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”

Isaiah 14:27 For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?

Job 23:13 But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does.

Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

 

“Can God save me if I don’t want him to?” You don’t understand the Bible. If you don’t want God to save you – nobody in their natural state wants that – it’s because Jesus has not prayed ( interceded) for you (John 17 “I don’t pray for the world but those you have given me”).

God is knocking at the door of “woosoever’s” heart: John Flavel on Revelation 3:20

John Flavel (1627 – 1691) published a collection of sermons entitled “Christ Knocking at the Door of Sinners’ Hearts” based on Revelation 3:20. here is the verse in context:

Revelation 3:19-22
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 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. 21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

Flavel says, as is clear from his title, that Revelation 3:20 “is Christ’s wooing voice, full of heavenly rhetoric to win and gain the hearts of sinners to himself.”

It is important to note that “sinner” refers to unbelievers. Believer’s also sin, of course, but once they are born again, they are no longer given the biblical appellation “sinner.” I’m reminded of Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the hands of an angry God.”

John Stott also 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 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,” Intervaristy Press, 1958, p. 124).

Alexander Mclaren resonates with Stott:

“He holds back the vengeance that is ready to fall and will one day fall ‘on all disobedience.’ Not till all other means have been patiently tried will He let that terrible ending crash down. It hangs over the heads of many of us who are all unaware that we walk beneath the shadow of a rock that at any moment may be set in motion and bury us beneath its weight. It is ‘in readiness,’ but it is still at rest. Let us be wise in time and yield to the merciful weapons with which Jesus would make His way into our hearts. Or if the metaphor of our text presents Him in too warlike a guise, let us listen to His own gentle pleading, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.’” (Mclaren, “A militant message”).

Those two arm-in-arm commentaries are obviously Arminian in spirit. Here is the Calvinist interpretation from Charles Spurgeon, which I consider to be the correct one. Spurgeon is addressing the depressed Christian:

“Let me speak to the depressed, and remind them that the prayer is instructive, for it shows that all that is wanted for a forsaken, forgotten spirit is that God should visit it again. “Remember me, O Lord. Anybody else’s remembering can do me no good, but if thou only give one thought toward thy servant, it is all done. Lord, I have been visited by the pastor, and he tried to cheer me. I have had a visit in the preaching of the gospel in the morning and the evening of thy day. I went to thy table, and I did not get encouragement there. But, Lord, do thou visit me!” A visit from Christ is the cure for all spiritual diseases. I have frequently reminded you of that in the address to the Church at Laodicea. The Church at Laodicea was neither cold nor hot, and Christ said that he would spue it out of his mouth; but do you know how he speaks of it as if he would cure it? “ Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and sup with him, and he with me.” That is not an address to sinners. It is sometimes used so, but it is rent out of its connection. It is evidently an address to a church of God, or a child of God, who has lost the presence and the light of God’s countenance. All you want is a visit from Christ. All you want is that once again your communion should be restored; and I do bless the Lord that he can do that of a sudden, in a moment! He can make thy soul, “or ever it is aware, like the chariots of Ammi-nadib.” You may have come here to-night about as dead in soul as you could be, but the flashes of eternal life can reach you, and kindle a soul within, within the ribs of your old dead nature once again. You may have felt as if it was all over, and the last spark of grace had gone out; but when the Lord visits his people, he makes the wilderness and the solitary place to rejoice, and the desert to blossom as the rose. I do pray it may be such a happy hour to you that the prayer may be fulfilled, “Visit me with thy salvation.” I have great sympathy with those that are cast down. God, the comfort of those that are cast down, comfort you! May he bring you out who are bound with chains; and you solitary ones, may he set you in families! And I do not know a wiser method for you to pursue than incessantly to cry unto him; and let this be the prayer, “Remember me — me — with the favor which thou bearest to thy people: O visit me with thy salvation” (Spurgeon’s sermon “Psalm 106:4 Fine Pleading”).

Here is Revelation 3:20 again:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me”

In the context of this Revelation 3:20 passage, “anyone” does not refer to anyone in the world, but to any one of the believers on the other side of the door of the “church.” In other words, a believer needs to grow closer to Christ, needs to grow up in Christ, needs to be in closer communion (“sup”) with Him. The “anyone” on the other side of the door is not a blanket whosoever, blind and naked; he is the whoever who has heard “my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).

The whole controversy revolves round the question: “How does one come to faith in Christ?” How does one come to believe? Back up to John 5:21: “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will (John 5:21-23). With regard to unbelievers in Christ, there’s nothing in the Bible about “any searchings of heart, any exercises of conscience, any sense of need, any felt desire after Christ. It is simply Christ, in Divine sufficiency, speaking to spiritually dead souls, empowering them (by sovereign “quickening”) to hear.” A.W. Pink.

To return to John Flavel: he is not an Arminian at all but Calvinist to the core because he believes that regeneration precedes faith. Yet this is hard to reconcile with his description of Christ waiting to be admitted: “I stand at the door and knock” that “the word is fitly translated, “I stand,” yet so as that it notes a continual action. I have stood, and do still stand with unwearied patience; I once stood personally and bodily among you in the days of my flesh, and I still stand spiritually and representatively in my ambassadors at the door, that is, the mind and conscience, the faculties and powers which are introductory to the whole soul. The word “door” is here properly put to signify those introductory faculties of the soul, which are of like use to it, as the door is to the house. This is the Redeemer’s posture, his action is knocking, that is, his powerful and gracious attempts to open the heart to give him admission. The word “knock” signifies a strong and powerful knock; he stands patiently, and knocks powerfully by the word outwardly, by the convictions, motions, impulses, and strivings of his Spirit inwardly.”

In his next paragraph, what he says about Lydia seems to contradict the depiction of Christ standing patiently and knocking powerfully – waiting for what else than for the person inside to open the door, surely?

“The design and end of the suit; it is for “opening” to him, that is, consenting, receiving, and heartily accepting him by faith. The Lord opened the heart of Lydia, Acts 16 : 14; that is, persuaded her soul to believe; implying that the heart by nature is strongly barred and locked up against Christ, and that nothing but a power from him can open it.”

And many other instances in his sermons on Revelation 3:20 where it is Christ who unlocks the door:

“The spiritual presence of Christ is necessary for the preparation and opening of the people’s heart to receive and embrace the gospel to salvation. Not a heart will open to receive Christ till the Spirit of Christ unlock it.”

“The opening of any man’s heart to receive Christ, is a clear, scriptural evidence of the Lord’s love to and setting apart that man for himself from eternity.”

“The opening of your hearts to receive the Lord Jesus Christ is not a work done by any power of your own, but the arm of the Lord is revealed therein.”

“An opening heart to Christ is a work wholly and altogether supernatural; a special work of the Spirit of God, never found upon any but an elect soul.”

Flavel is therefore monergistic (almost?) to the core. If so, does it make sense to say that Jesus woos whosoever is dead (in sin)? I suggest no.  Jesus is not standing at the door of a sinner’s heart asking to come in; he is standing in the front of the round stone of a sepulchre calling forth a rotten corpse to life. Christ raises sinners from the dead, his grace (mercy) breaks the bondage of the human will. That is why it is called amazing grace. In Revelation 3:19 we read “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” Thus, those whom Jesus loves – his elect whom his father gave him before the creation of the world and therefore to whom he shall (certainly) give eternal life – cannot be “whosoever” (everyone without exception). If this is true, why would Jesus ask those he loves (Revelation 3:19) to repent? That’s easy: not only unbelievers but also believers sin and so need to repent.

The difficulty of reconciling wooing and (God unilaterally) unlocking hearts may have something to do with the doctrine of the “free offer of the Gospel,” that is, the offer of the Gospel to whosoever.

Related post:

Is God knocking at the door of whosoever’s heart?

If you improve your naturals, is God bound to give you spirituals? Fiddling with free will

Definitions: A “free-willer” is someone who believes he can use his natural ability to come to faith in Christ. We call such a person an Arminian – after Jacobus Arminius. Most professing Christians are Arminians. “Things of the spirit” refers to the Christian message as a fulfilment of the “Old” Testament.

I try to answer the question, “Can Christ bring sinners to himself against their will.”

One can be forced to practice a religion but, owing to the fact that no one can read your heart, no one can force you to believe a religion. Therefore you are free to believe what you want. 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.”
Human beings believe what they want to believe. Here’s a thing: 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. It’s a delusion to think if you improve your “naturals, God is bound to give you spirituals.” Only God can do that – 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.”

“It requires, writes Christopher Ness, as much power to raise, quicken, and make alive, a sinner dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2) as to raise Christ from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20).”

Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened (raised), who were dead in trespasses and sins. Ephesians 1:19-20 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 10 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.

To raise up Christ, continues Ness, and to work faith in us, requires the exceeding greatness of His power, verse 19. Here are three gradations—power,—greatness of power, and— exceeding greatness of power; and, as if that were too little, the apostle adds according to the working of his mighty power. The original words, imply, not only a working, but an effectual force in working; such strength as is in the arms of valiant men, who can do great exploits. Nay, more, ’tis beyond all this, it implies a power that can do all things; an omnipotent power. Surely had there been an internal principle in us, towards this great work; or any free-will, in us, to good; Paul would not have used those gradations, nor such emphatical, significant expressions. This work of regeneration, would not then have required the effectual forcible power of the valiant arm of God; even such a power as raised up Christ from the dead, whereby he was declared to be the Son of God, Romans 1:4.”

Romans 1:3-4
3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

Does God the Father’s will and God the Son’s will override the will of those who come to believe. Of course, they do, otherwise, for one, how can a human being, who, by nature, rejects “spiritual things” change his nature to accept “spiritual things,” and, for two, is God’s dependant on what sinners will? The Arminian says, yes. Yet, we read in 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.

No, people are not robots, just dead to the things of God. The Arminian would say not really spiritually dead as in dead dead, but only deadish. Arminians say that God won’t override a person’s will. They are either confused or perverse: they reject the fundamental doctrine enunciated in 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.”

Some call this fundamental doctrine, on which all us hang, “total depravity,” which doesn’t mean more than the fact that all of the human faculties, mind, will and emotions, are flawed and floored. A better term is “radical (root) corruption.” Most professing Christians would not be averse to being called a “ragamuffin” with whom God is longing to have a loving relationship. Brennan Manning says, “God is a kooky God who can scarcely bear to be without us” (The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 165). Ragamuffins are a bit like “sabras” (literally prickly pears, figuratively, a person born in Israel); prickly on the outside but sweet on the inside. Actually ragamuffins – and Israelis, for sure – are not all sweet on the inside, so a better description of Arminian Christinianity is as descibed in 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).

It is that “real man underneath,” according to Arminians like Yancey and Thielicke, who is able, and often wants nothing more than, to let his uncorrupted will shine through the grime and dirt of sin. This, of course, is obtuseness or obduracy, taken, I would have said, to its extreme if it weren’t for the fact that this idea of the beautiful “real man underneath” lies at the very root of the ignorance or ignoring of the basic truth that “corrupt nature neither can, nor will, contribute any thing to destroy its own corruptions” (Christopher Ness, “Antidote to Arminianism” 1700).

And:

“Free-will brings with it so many absurdities that it cannot be received.
First, It makes man the cause of his own salvation.
Second, It puts grace into man’s power, not man’s will under the power of grace.
Third, It robs God of the honour of making one to differ from another, and ascribes it to man” (Christopher Ness).

With regard to the third, to those who believe their wills are neutral and therefore can, if they so desire, choose God or reject God (that is what is meant here by “free will”), they must logically admit that what ultimately saved them was not something in God but something in them, and thus they deserved to be saved. I’ve only met one “free-willer” who conceded that he deserved to be saved.

So can Christ bring sinners to himself against their will? Man, in the natural, does what he wants, which is to reject Christ, so unless Christ breaks the chains of his self-will he will not and cannot accept Christ and will therefore remain fiddling – his naturals.

God cannot change you: A NewISH creation

And Adam said, This [is] now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman (ISHA אִשָּׁה), because she was taken out of Man (ISH אִישׁ) – Genesis 2:23.

Adam, of course, wasn’t Jew Ish – a Jewish creation; neither was he newish, but new. The New Testament says that those sinners who have been born again by grace through faith in Christ also become a new creation. The issue I want to discuss here is that many Christians (Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Methodists, most Messianic Jews, most Anglicans, indeed, the majority of Christians), if they were consistent would have to add the suffix “ish” to “new” in the following scripture: 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). These Christians follow Jacob Arminius, and are called Arminians. Arminius taught that “the grace sufficient for salvation is conferred on the Elect, and on the Non-elect; that, if they will, they may believe or not believe, may be saved or not be saved.” As an Arminian called Underdog put it “I do not think that we should expect that GOD will change us. Change is a load of the individual who wants to be changed and not of GOD.” In other words, a Christian decides to open his heart to Christ, then Christ comes in. And he ends up being “in Christ” and consequently a new creation.

Arminius (1560 - 1609)

Arminius (1560 – 1609)

If by “we” Underdog means a believer, this would not make biblical sense, because the reason why we believe is because God changed us. Arminians could not say this because they believe that God invites people to change (their “hearts”) and only after they have changed, they become born again (regenerated). So, after you decide to have faith, God will make you a new creation (regenerate you). What were the people in bondage to their sinful nature – that is, wanting nothing to do with Christ – thinking in the hiatus between deciding to believe and their subsequent being raised from the dead? A newish creation?

If conversion be a new creation, then fallen man hath not a free-will to good. A convert is called a new creature, or a new creation, in Gal. vi. 15; and 2 Cor. v. 17. Creation is a production of something out of nothing; but if there be a free-will to do good, in man, before conversion, then is there something of its own nature spiritually good in unconverted man, towards the work of conversion; so can it not be called a new creature… the whole frame is out of frame in the unconverted state; and man is a confused chaos, a vast emptiness, when this creating power comes upon him… New qualities and operations are created in us; the will to will well, and the power to do well, are ascribed to this creating almighty power, in the effectual conversion of souls to God. It is God which worketh in you, both to will, and to do, of his own good pleasure, Phil. ii. 13 (Christopher Ness, “An Antidote to Arminianism,” 1700).

Underdog is a rare Arminian; he is consistent: he doesn’t pray that God changes people’s hearts.

OneDaringIsh

Free swill: Baa Ram Ewe: Apologies to Babe

One of my respondents said: “…no need of a shepherd if there is no free will…the sheep have a tendency to go astray of their own will.”(All I want is a shack somewhere, where I can find God)

Yep, these sheep go astray of their own will in the sense they follow their wandering (errant) hearts, which compel them to do so. Hence they are in bondage to their own desires (wills) – to reject Christ. Now, Jesus came into the world to break the chains of his sheep to set them free from their self-will: Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free. When people say that free will is the most precious gift from God, if they mean free to love God, they’re talking through their shnozz. Unless we are regenerated – become a new creation (Galatians 6:15) – the human will is nothing but humanist swill that even swine eschew. Baa Ram Ewe.

“Yes, but, but, once Jesus has unchained me, being a gentleman, he won’t force me, if I want my chains back.” Duh.

“Reason, Scripture, God himself, ALL must give place to any absurdities, if they stand in the Arminian’s way; bringing in their IDOL with shouts, and preparing his THRONE by claiming the cause of their predestination to be in themselves” (Christopher Ness, “Antidote to Arminianism,” 1700).

Related post: God’s will and God’s swill in salvation: Thoughts on the Arminian- Calvinist controversy

All I want is a shack somewhere – where I can find God: wouldn’t it be lovely

This is a follow-on of You have an engraved me on your hands: Arminian and Calvinist reasonings

Tim Challies, in his review of Roger Olson’s “Finding God in The Shack,” says:

“Olson is Arminian in his theology (and is even author of a book titled Arminian Theology) and his understanding of free will will not sit well with those of a more Calvinistic persuasion. His understanding of free will impacts a good deal of related theology, especially as it relates to suffering and God’s sovereignty. For example, it dictates how he understands suffering in this world and leads him at times dangerously close to open theism. “God has the power to stop evil and suffering, but that would require taking back the gift of free will. For now, at least, God is honoring our demand for independence, and is using his power of suffering love and mercy to bring us back to himself. If he unilaterally stopped all evil, people would not be free.” And again, “In every tragic situation of innocent suffering God does all that he can do to prevent and alleviate it. Is God powerless? No. … Rather, God limits himself for the sake of human freedom. And God abides by rules about how often and when he can intervene.”

In Philippians 1:29, we read, “For to you it is given/granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”

In “For to you is granted,” the original Greek for “granted” is echariste (from charizomai “grace,” so “unconditionally given/granted”).Here is how the Arminian reads “For to you it is given (granted) in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him..” :

“For to you it is given for Christ’s sake the possibility to believe in him on condition that you exercise his gift to you of the ability and desire to believe in him.”

Now to the second part of the verse (in italics): “(For to you it is given/granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him) but to suffer for him. If Arminians are correct, then, following their theology, they would have to read the second part of the verse like this: “For to you it is given for Christ’s sake the possibility to also suffer for his sake on condition that you exercise Christ’s gift to you of the ability and desire to suffer for him.” All true Christians are willing to suffer, but – unless they are like many Roman Catholics – they do not go looking for suffering. Christ tells the believer that no one can be his disciple unless he is willing to “carry his cross.” The point of Philippians 1:29 is that both faith and its inevitable corollary suffering are ordained/foreordained by God. Faith and suffering are not your gifts to God (forbid!), but God’s gift to you. Granted, suffering often seems more like poison than a gift - unless you’re German.

Arminianism is insufferable.

All I want is a shack somewhere,

Far away from the cold night air.

With one enormous chair,

Aow, wouldn’t it be loverly?

Lots of choc’lates for me to eat,

Lots of coal makin’ lots of ‘eat.

Warm face, warm ‘ands, warm feet,

Aow, wouldn’t it be loverly?

Ephesians 2:1-9

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.

Arminians paste in an intervening step. After quickened (raised up), they can say yes or no.

“Do you want to remain quickened or return to being strickened?

” Strickened.”

“Ok, but I’ll never give up on you; I’ll be prodding your rotting corpse (read “soul-spirit”) until eternity comes in case you decide to be raised from death to life once and for all. Everyone say aaaaahhhhhl.

“Glory; what love is this! So, You see, you horrible Calvinist, I can stop being a zombie if I want. Love wins!”

Related Post Is Sovereign election fair?

You have engraved me on your hands: Arminian and Calvinist reasonings

hands nail-scarred-hands-300x278

To whom do these hands belong? If you live in the West you will probably say – you don’t have to be a Christian – Jesus Christ, which would be right. What could these open hands represent? Two expected possibilities: 1. the suffering of Jesus and 2. Jesus is inviting us to come to him. What the picture does represent is “My name is graven on his hands,” – a song.

What I’d like to write about is the Arminian and Calvinist interpretation of the lyrics of this song. But first a brief description of the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism.

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. Both the Arminian and Calvinist accept Christ – freely; the difference is that for the Calvinist, Christ has to first free you from the bondage of your will, which, in its natural state, does not seek God (of the Bible). “There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:11). For the Arminian, in contrast, you are free to choose or reject God.

On James White’s recent “Dividing line” programs, he has been critiquing Michael Brown’s Arminianism on Brown’s “Line of Fire” program. In the latest of White’s “Dividing line,” one of the callers (on the “Line of fire”) told Brown that he prays like a Calvinist because he asks God to open someone’s heart. Brown responds that you don’t have to be a Calvinist to pray that prayer; all Christians should pray that prayer, says Brown. According to the Arminian God is knocking continually, if not continuously, at an unbeliever’s heart. One thing God will not do, according to the Arminian, is violate your free will by forcing entry into your heart. (Coming to Faith in Christ: “All I need to do is say ‘Yes’” – You Wish!).

Here now is the song (in italics). I describe the Arminian and the Calvinist views below the sections of the song.

Before the throne of God above 
I have a strong and perfect plea.
 A great high Priest whose Name is Love
 Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

Arminian: God wanted to save me. I opened my heart to the possibility, and he then engraved me on his hands – saved me.

Calvinist: God wanted to save me, which he had decided from eternity. He opened my heart, which he had decreed from eternity – that is why he foreknew me – and at the crucifixion engraved me on his “nail-scarred hands” (the title of the picture above).

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within, Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.

The Arminian and Calvinist agree.

Because the sinless Savior died, My sinful soul is counted free. For God the just is satisfied
 To look on Him and pardon me.

Arminian –After the saviour kindled the desire in people’s hearts to believe through his “prevenient grace” (which he grants to “whosoever”), they decided to make him their saviour and so the possible saviour became an actual saviour.

Calvinist – After (logically, not chronologically) the saviour raised me from the dead (spiritual death) by his grace, I repented and believed. Jesus is not a possible saviour, but saviour, pure and simple – which does not mean simplistic.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb, 
My perfect spotless righteousness,
 The great unchangeable I AM,
 King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
(underlining added)

My life is hid with Christ on high,
 With Christ my Savior and my God!

Arminian – Christ purchased “whosoever” by his blood, that is, he redeemed everybody. An illustration. You’re a slave in chains. Jesus comes by and redeems you. But being a gentleman, he asks you whether you would like your chains removed. If you say yes, he saves you; if you say no, you’re free to keep your chains. So, although the possible saviour has paid the price for your freedom (redeemed you – through his blood), if you still want to reject him,, no sweat, for God has predestined you to feel free to throw the blood he spilt for you back in his face. In this case, two prices are paid: your redemption paid through Christ’s blood; hellfire for rejecting your redemption.

Go figure.

See follow-on post 

All I want is a shack somewhere – where I can find God: wouldn’t it be lovely

 

There’s no such being as an Arminian Armenian

There are no Arminian Armenians, only Calminian ones.

Armenian Christian on his knees praying for a loved one:

Խնդրում ենք փոխել իր սիրտը Khndrum yenk’ p’vokhel ir sirty Please change his heart. CALVINIST.

Armenian Christian on his feet admonishing a loved one: փոխել ձեր սիրտը Change your heart. ARMINIAN.

Very calfused.

Born again, hell and other questions from a disbeliever

Here are a few questions from a disbeliever with my replies:

1.  So, the fact that John and Marion–John, Catholic and Marion, Anglican–do not see hell as my destination–that fact implies that God has not regenerated them?

Reply –  “Any man who thinks he deserves heaven is not a Christian. But for any man who knows he deserves Hell, there’s hope” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones) [This is the first thing I wrote in Hell in a nutshell]

2.  Is that why you have said that they, too, will land up in hell?

Reply -  Any person who thinks a disbeliever deserves heaven is not a Christian.

3.  How do Calvinists differ from Anglicans?

Reply – I quote a good answer.

Difference between Calvinism and Anglicanism

[Words in square brackets are mine]

  • Anglicanism is a Protestant Church that:

- Affirms the Apostolic Succession and the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, in contrast to Calvinist emphasis on the Presbytery and rejection of the Apostolic Succession.

- Accepts the Arminian view of predestination, as opposed to the Calvinist view of predestination. [The Arminian says that God predestines those whom he sees from eternity will become believers. The Calvinist says that salvation is 100% God's doing; the believer's joyful role is to receive it]

- Accepts the Monarch as head of the Church, as oppose to Calvinist rejection of the whole hierarchy, and, if they live in England and are not republicans or anti-Royalist, accepting the monarch not as a spiritual power, but simply as a temporal one.

- Anglicanism is divided into the High Church and the Low Church, the High Church being more ritualistic and more…Catholic, whereas the low church has these elements to a lesser degree, Calvinism reject all these Catholic Elements altogether.

- The above should not be taken as God’s truth about the two Churches, as the Anglican Church did include Calvinist and Arminians who frequently debated each other as to the evolution and formation of the Church…the Church of Scotland, for example, is explicitly Calvinist Presbyterian, while the Church of England become more and more ARMINIAN in its theology, though, it seems to me, mostly heterogeneous in its theology.

[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. There were many Calvinists in the early Anglican church, but very few today].

4.  Do you call yourself a born-again Calvinist or a Calvinist?

Reply- “Calvinist” is a label, nothing more. It is useful because Calvin is the most famous representative of the five solas (Latin for “alone”). The five solas are Sola Scriptura – Scripture, Alone
Solus Christus – Christ Alone,
Sola Gratia – Grace Alone,
Sola Fide – Faith Alone,
Soli Deo Gloria – The Glory of God Alone. With regard to the “Glory of God alone,” I argued in my most recent article (The weight of God’s glory. Wait!) that God will never share HIS glory; but this does not mean He won’t give us a little of our own. Humanistic modesty and Christian humility don’t mix. Christian humility is to acknowledge that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

No one calls themselves a born again Calvinist. It would be like calling oneself a born again Paulist (Paul the Apostle). “Born again Christian”  (or Calvinist!) is a tautology, because both terms mean that God has regenerated you.Every Christian is by definition born again. it is, of course, more informative to say that you are Christian than to say I am born again, which only Christians – not all by a long shot – will understand. Many “Charismatic” Christians regard “born again” as a second experience, which is unbiblical.

5.  If you call yourself a born-again Calvinist–how do you know that God has regenerated you?

- “Born again Christian”  (or Calvinist!) is a tautology, as I replied in 4.

I know that God has regenerated me because of the primordial reason that the Bible tells me so.

Related articles

 

Unconditional election and unconditional eclection

In Arminian theology, unconditional election means that “whosoever” opens (by which they mean, any one who wills to open) the door of their hearts to Jesus, will be elected to eternal life – on condition, of course, that they don’t show Jesus the door in the interim. Abuse it, and lose it. “That’s the risk we must take, my Son.” The plan of salvation: Is it worth the risk, my Son? What, risk! Ask Jacques Derrida, CS Lewis and Thomas Oord.

In Reformed theology, unconditional election means that those whom God has chosen from eternity did not depend on anything – least of all on allowing Jesus into their hearts. God has mercy on whosoever (the ones) he wants to have mercy (Romans 9).

If you were a Greek speaking Christian in Jesus time, or are one today, you would not speak of election but “eclection.” So, am I saying that if you’re Greek, you think that God doesn’t follow any one method of election, which would mean that he saves those who, upon “knock, knock,” rush to open the door as well as those whom Jesus first has to raise from the dead before they can get out of their beds to do the same?

No, I don’t mean that God is eclectic . All I mean is that in the Greek New Testament, the word for “election is EKLEkTOS from ek “from” and lego “to gather,” “ to pick out.” Tee hee.

Blessed Assurance: “When I lego my elect, I never letgo. 

(Inspired by Vines Epository dictionary, Thomas Nelson, p. 351)

God’s delusion

In God, the infinitely good, creates evil, I examined biblically texts that indicated that because everything in creation only occurs by God’s decree, this must include “evil.” One kind of evil God sends is delusion. In this article I discuss the delusion God sends to the Richard Dawkinses of this world.

There are two kinds of atheism: practical and theoretical. In the former, one lives as if there were no God. The latter is of the intellectual kind. About 50 years before Richard Dawkins’ “The God delusion” (2006), Louis Berkoff wrote the following in his most excellent “Systematic Theology”:

“There are three kinds of theoretical atheism: 1. Dogmatic atheism, which denies flatly that there is a divine being; 2. Sceptical atheism which doubts the ability of the human mind to determine whether or not there is a God; and 3. Critical atheism which maintains that there is no valid proof for the existence of God. Dawkins seems to belong to atheism of the third kind. These three kinds of atheism often go hand-in-hand, but even the most modest of them pronounces all belief in God a delusion. Dawkins’ prime beef is with biblical Christianity. The reasons he gives for hating the God of the Bible are, of course, different to the reasons the Bible gives for his hatred. One reason is contained in the verse, which appears in both the “Old” (Tanach) and the New Testament: ” And the LORD said, “…I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion (Exodus 33:19; Romans 9:15).”

The above verse epitomises all of God’s actions toward mankind. Two of these actions are that God hardens the hearts of whom he wills, as he did with Pharaoh (Exodus 4:21; Romans 9:18), and God blinds eyes and deadens ears (Isaiah 6). Immediately after God reveals himself in a literal earth-shaking way to Isaiah, He gives Isaiah the commission to prophesy to the Israelites:

Isaiah6

1 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. 2 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. 3 And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 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!”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Isaiah’s Commission from the Lord

8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
12 and the Lord removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
13 And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.

God sends deafness, blindness, a delusion. How, you may ask, can a God who is Truth itself send a lie, indeed, lie? I attempt to answer that question.

When God sends deception, it is often irrevocable. It follows that redemption would be impossible; because God ensures that it is thus. We see this damnation, for example, in God’s dealings with King Ahab (1 Kings 22), who had forsaken the Holy One of Israel for Baal. God not only chose to allow him to follow his corrupt heart – which is man’s estate (la condition humaine) – but also decreed that Ahab wander further from Him, as we saw God doing with the majority of the Israelites in Isaiah 6 above. Also, In Ezekiel 14:9 God promised, “But if the prophet is prevailed upon to speak a word, it is I, the LORD, who have prevailed upon that prophet, and I will stretch out My hand against him and destroy him from among My people Israel.”

In 2 Thessalonians 2, God sends a delusion on those “who are perishing.” The context is probably the end of the “age” during the Tribulation and the coming of the “lawless one.“ The key verse is verse 11 (in italics):

2 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness] is revealed, the son of destruction,] 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Verse 11. God sends a strong (energeia) delusion (plane – wandering, error). “Error” is derived from the Latin errare “to wander.” I am thinking of the wandering Jew, especially Jacques Derrida.

Compare the “delusion” of an Arminian (Albert Barnes, a New School Presbyterian) with a Calvinist.

Albert Barnes

“God shall send them strong delusion – Greek: “energy of deceit;” a Hebraism, meaning strong deceit, The agency of God is here distinctly recognised, in accordance with the uniform statements of the Scriptures, respecting evil; compare Exodus 7:13; Exodus 9:12; Exodus 10:1, Exodus 10:20, Exodus 10:27; Exodus 11:10; Exodus 14:8; Isaiah 45:7. On the nature of this agency, see the notes on John 12:40. It is not necessary here to suppose that there was any positive influence on the part of God in causing this delusion to come upon them, but all the force of the language will be met, as well as the reasoning of the apostle, by supposing that God withdrew all restraint, and suffered men simply to show that they did not love the truth. God often places people in circumstances to develop their own nature, and it cannot be shown to be wrong that He should do so. If people have no love of the truth, and no desire to be saved, it is not improper that they should be allowed to manifest this. How it happened that they had no “love of the truth,” is a different question, to which the remarks of the apostle do not appertain.”

Here is Exodus 7:13 and 9:12, which Barnes referenced but did not quote.

Exodus 7:13

Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

Exodus 7:14

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go.

“The above verses harmonise with Barnes’ “It is not necessary here to suppose that there was any positive influence on the part of God in causing this delusion to come upon them, but all the force of the language will be met, as well as the reasoning of the apostle, by supposing that God withdrew all restraint, and suffered men simply to show that they did not love the truth.”

The Arminian knockout punch: Although the human will is flawed, it is never floored, that is it has the power to remain on its feet no matter what. Hence man does play a positive, if subservient role, in his own salvation. Although God, according to Barnes, is not the cause of delusion. the “force of the language (the Greek text of verse 11) will be met,” in that God merely “withdrew all restraint” and let men follow their love of their delusions. Man hardens his heart while God leaves him to his own devices. What, though, about Exodus 4:21 and 7:3, which Barnes, like a good Arminian, skips over in his list of “hardens.”

Exodus 4:21
And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.

Exodus 7:3

But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt.

So, before Pharaoh hardens his own heart in Exodus 7:13 “Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened…,” God has already ordained (Ex 4:21, 7:3) that Pharaoh harden his heart, which, contrary to Barnes, does indeed make it necessary here to suppose that there was a “positive influence on the part of God in causing this delusion to come upon [him].”

Does this mean that Pharaohs heart, in its natural state, was pure and that God decided to poison it? Unless you reject the doctrine that we are all born in sin, God didn’t harden a pure heart. Both Arminians and Calvinists know from other biblical texts that everyone is naturally hardened against the truth (which is Christ) because they are born in sin (they have a sin nature; the doctrine of Original Sin). In passing, most orthodox Jews, all Muslims and all agnostics/atheists reject Original sin.

Barnes says “It is not necessary here to suppose that there was any positive influence on the part of God in causing this delusion.” On the contrary, the Greek grammar in 2 Colossians 2:11 is clear; God caused (energeia “power in action”) the delusion. He reinforced the delusion that was already there. To say that He merely removes his restraining hand makes God passive. He was, in Christ, passive once – at the cross and events leading up to it (the Passion means “passive“). Sometimes God merely removes his hand and other times he brings it down hard. As we are not able to distinguish between these two actions, it may be better to say that whatever occurs is ordained by God; yes, evil as well. “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity (Hebrew ra “evil”), I am the Lord, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7 ESV). Here is a modern example: the re-election of the US president Obama:

“Although I’ve been worried, says Tom Chantry, about this election for months, only in the aftermath did I realize that I never really thought our country would re-elect a President who has been such an abject failure by any and every measure. It just didn’t seem possible that we would do so, and so at some level I didn’t expect it at all. As the results rolled in, I found myself reeling, unable to take in the enormity of what has happened to our nation. I scarcely slept, unable to stop running through the implications of the disaster. I was, to put it mildly, knocked down and stunned.”

Has God removed his restraining hand and leaving the North Americans to their own delusions, or has God reinforced the American delusion? Can we ever know? In contrast to the Arminian, Albert Barnes’ interpretation of 2 Colossians 2:11, here is the view of the Roman Catholic Church’s nemesis, John the Bald (Jean Calvin).

“11 The working of delusion. He means that errors will not merely have a place, but the wicked will be blinded, so that they will rush forward to ruin without consideration. For
as God enlightens us inwardly by his Spirit, that his doctrine may be efficacious in us, and opens our eyes and hearts, that it may make its way thither, so by a righteous judgment he delivers over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28) those whom he has appointed to destruction, that with closed eyes and a senseless mind, they may, as if bewitched, deliver themselves over to Satan and his ministers to be deceived.”

In Calvin we have the positive intervention of God (“the wicked will be blinded”) as well as God removing his restraining hand (“he delivers over to a reprobate mind”). Whereas I homed in on the recent US election, Calvin homes in on the Roman Catholic Church:

“And assuredly we have a specimen of this [God delivering over to delusion] in the Papacy. No words can express how monstrous a sink of errors there is there, how gross
and shameful an absurdity of superstitions there is, and what delusions at variance with common sense. None that have even a moderate taste of sound doctrine, can think of
such monstrous things without the greatest horror. How, then, could the whole world be lost in astonishment at them, were it not that men have been struck with blindness
by the Lord, and converted, as it were, into stumps? That all may be condemned. That is, that they may receive the punishment due to their impiety. Thus, those that perish have no just ground to expostulate with God.”

John Gill echoes Calvin:

“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion,…. Or “efficacy of error”, which God may be said to send; and the Alexandrian copy reads, “does send”; because it is not a bare permission but a voluntary one; or it is his will that error should be that truth may be tried, and be illustrated by its contrary, and shine the more through the force of opposition to it; and that those which are on the side of it might be made manifest, as well as that the rejecters of the Gospel might be punished; for the efficacy of error is not to be considered as a sin, of which God cannot be the author, but as a punishment for sin, and to which men are given up, and fall under the power of, because they receive not the love of the truth, which is the reason here given: and this comes to pass partly through God’s denying his grace, or withholding that light and knowledge, by which error may be discovered and detected; and by taking from men the knowledge and conscience of things they had, see Romans 1:28. So that they call evil good, and good evil, and do not appear to have the common sense and reason of mankind, at least do not act according to it; and by giving them up to judicial blindness and hardness of heart, and to the god of this world, to blind their minds; and without this it is not to be accounted for, that the followers of antichrist should give into such senseless notions as those of transubstantiation, works of supererogation, &c., or into such stupid practices as worshipping of images, praying to saints departed, and paying such a respect to the pretended relics of saints, &c., as they do; but a spirit of slumber is given them, and eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, because of their rejection of the Gospel.”

J. Hampton Keathley three steps provides a pithy summary of the discussion:

“Note the three steps in falling for Satan’s lies and his end-time lie:

1. Those who are perishing will fail to love the truth; they will be negative toward truth in their pursuit of the darkness or unrighteousness (2 Thessalonians: 10, 12).

2. As the first step of judgment, God sends a deluding influence that they might believe the lie (vs. 11). The man of lawlessness is Satan’s ultimate lie (see John 8:44 and Rev. 13:1 ff).

3. This leads to God’s judgments, those experienced in the Tribulation and at the Great White Throne. The reason is failure to believe the truth, but this is really a judgment for failing to love truth.

Here is a moral law of the universe as established by a holy and righteous God: God gives the wicked over to the wickedness they have chosen as declared in Romans 1:18-28; Ephesians 4:17-19; and Proverbs 5:22.”

In conclusion, God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy (Romans 9), which is what election – divine election – is about. Many political elections, in contrast, are God’s appointed judgments on those who hate Christ, the Way, the Truth and the life.

The Calvinist Robot and the Arminian Zombie: Grammars of coming to faith.

Preamble

Grammar police

Grammar police (Photo credit: the_munificent_sasquatch)

The term “grammar” has its origin in the Greek word for “letter,” gramma. “Grammar” used to be restricted to language, but no more. There’s now a grammar of all sorts of odds and togs, for example, a “grammar of fashion”: The larger the ‘vocabulary’ of someone’s closet, the more creative and expressive the wearer can be. If you were to attend Stanford University, you could dig into the “grammar of cuisine,” and slaver over such fare as “The structure of British meals.”And, if you are one of those who thinks deeper, there’s the grammar of the genetic code. (“Code” in linguistics is a another name for “grammar”). The reason why we can use the term “grammar” in so many diverse contexts is because the “grammar” of a system is simply the structure of interrelationships that undergirds that system, showing how things fit together into a coherent whole. (See Jacob Neusner and the Grammar of Rabbinical Theology (Part 2): What is grammar?)

In this article, I examine the grammatical relationships within Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and THAT not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”

 Definitions

 When monergism/calvinism is contrasted with synergism/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 by turning his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In this regard, the favourite word in arminianism is “whosoever,” (John 3:16), which in the original Greek simply means “the one who” and not “the one who wills.” 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.  “Doesn’t Jesus command me (John 3), “You must be born again?” Yep. “Well, I did what he said I must do, I borned again.” Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as calvinism maintains. 

Introduction

 Michael Horton reports that 85% of evangelicals in America haven’t a clue what justification is about. And moi? Let me try: justification is basically rightstanding with God. “Justification” is a forensic term, which has nothing to do with microscopes and solving crimes, but with absolving crimes, in biblical language, forgiving sin. But much more than forgiveness: reconciliation with God and given the righteousness of Christ. Two core biblical texts about justification are:

 (2 Corinthians, 5:21)

 “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of (in rightstanding with) God” .

 Romans 3:19 – 28

[19] Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. [20] For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

[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 “righteousness” in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “we might become the righteousness of (in rightstanding with) God” and in Romans 3:22 “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” should not be equated with what is commonly called “sanctification” (becoming holy), The quip “I know I am justified; now I must focus on the job of sanctificationis, at best, simplistic. There are two kinds of “sanctification”; the first occurs when we become Christians (born again and receive the gift of faith):

 “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2).

The second kind of sanctification is illustrated in Ephesians 2:10:

[8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.(Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV).

 In short, “sanctification is used, in its widest sense, as descriptive of the whole process, originating in regeneration, by which depraved men are restored to a conformity to God’s moral image” (William Cunningham. “Justification” in Historical theology Vol 2 : a review of the principal doctrinal discussions in the Christian church since the apostolic age, 1863).

 In Roman Catholicism, “justification” embraces the whole process of salvation: regeneration, faith, works – purgatory (if you’re not a “saint”) – glorification. Protestant Christians, by and large, are in agreement that justification is by grace alone through faith alone. Protestants are divided into monergists and synergists. In monergism, God alone is involved in a sinner’s justification – the calvinist view). In synergism, God and the sinner cooperate in the sinner’s justification – the arminian view. So, monergists are calvinists, and synergists are arminians (after Jacob Arminius 1560 – 1609). A calvinist view of justification is that God sovereignly regenerates sinners freeing their will from the bondage of their sin nature, planting in them the desire to be reconciled with God, and thus enabling them to stretch out their hands to receive the gift of faith. They have become right with God (reconciled) – justified. An arminian says that God offers degenerate sinners the gift of faith, and no sinner has lost his or her ability to choose God, and so sinners are free to accept or reject the gift of faith. If they desire to accept it, they become regenerated and thereby justified. It follows logically that such a sinner must have something better in himself or herself than the sinner who rejects the gift of faith. Most arminians would deny that they have anything good in themselves.

 Grammar in the Bible

 In Ephesians 2 we read:

 [1] And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—[3] among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—[6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 I repeat verse 8, our key text: [8]“ “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves (your own doing); it is the gift of God.”

 The demonstrative pronoun that refers to both grace and faith. The letters of Paul (as with the whole New Testament) were written in Greek. So, it would be necessary in any decent exegesis to go to the original language. And so, a crafty devil or advocate would not be satisfied with a translation, for if they were, they’d be(come) calvinists. I say this because most Christians don’t know Greek and don’t care to know it, yet they believe the translated text in their language is correct. They are right to believe the translations because – unless you are a King James Onlyest – most translations (there are one or two icky exceptions in English)– in any language – do a good job.

 Calvinists are accused of turning people into robots because they maintain that everyone who comes to eternal life is predestinated to it, that is, appointed to it (Acts 13:48). They’re also accused, in their exegesis, of logical and grammatical gyrations. The calvinist argues that grace alone brings a person to faith. Here is a typical arminian commentary of “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8):

 (My italics)

 “God, in creation, could have made man as some automated robot who could never fail but to please Him. Praise God, in His wisdom He chose us fallen sinners, who through faith can be cleansed of sin and be found worthy in His sight. We are still sinners but sinners saved by grace. Grace alone saves. Salvation is the gift, but it must come by us putting our faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.” (Do Unbelievers Really Just Not Understand the Gospel?)

 This person has indicated no rejection of the English version of Ephesians 2:8. The grammar of the verse indicates that the demonstrative pronoun “that” points back to the entire previous sentence, unless otherwise qualified (restricted). So in verse 2:8, if the writer wants to restrict the pointer “that” to grace (which saves) but not to faith (which saves), he would have written “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that GRACE (which saves you) is not of your doing; it is the gift of God.” The implication of this sentence would then be that faith is of your own doing (“putting our faith” – the writer above).

Before I move on to the Greek of this verse, Sometimes a writer/speaker mentions several items but can only retain in short term memory (Freud’s “preconscious”) the last thing he wrote/spoke. So, when he says “that” he is, in his mind, pointing back to at least the last thing (the immediate antecedent) he wrote, which in our verse is “faith”: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”

All English translations of this verse illustrate the grammatical rule that the demonstrative pronoun that in Ephesians 2:8 automatically refers to, at the least, its immediate antecedent, which in Ephesians 2:8 is the noun “faith.” So, “that not of yourselves must refer to “faith.”

The Greek Arminian

The arminian is like the atheist: the atheist says there is no God, so no matter how staggering the complexity of the universe, we’re here ain’t we, so the only explanation is that we must have randomly evolved from the slime . The arminian says, the Holy Spirit is a gentleman; he doesn’t want robots, he wants someone to come to Jesus freely using the greatest human attribute we have: our freedom to love. This (to use a demonstrative pronoun pointing back – to the whole sentence, of course) is at best confused.

No, no, says the arminian, let’s go to the Greek.” Ok then, you appealed to the Greek, so to the Greek you shall go.

 τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ τῆς πίστεως καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον

 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and THAT not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”

 tē gar FOR chariti BY GRACE este YOU sesōsmenoi HAVE BEEN SAVED dia THROUGH pisteōs FAITH kai AND touto THAT ouk NOT ex OF umōn YOURSELVES theou to dōron (it is a) GIFT OF GOD.

 Both “grace” and “faith” are of the feminine gender, but touto “that” is neuter (Demonstrative Pronoun, NEUTER singular nominative or accusative case of οὗτος). Here is an arminian exegesis of Ephesians 2:8:

 “At a certain graduation ceremony, recounts Gordon Clarke, I heard a seminary president misinterpret this verse. His misinterpretation did not succeed in ridding the verse of the idea that faith is the gift of God, though that was presumably his intention. He based his argument on the fact that the word faith in Greek is feminine, and the word that in the phrase, “and that not of yourselves,” is neuter. Therefore, he concluded, the word (touto) cannot have faith as its antecedent. The antecedent, according to this seminary president, must be the whole preceding phrase: “For by grace are you saved through faith.” Now, even if this were correct, faith is still a part of the preceding phrase and is therefore a part of the gift. Taking the whole phrase as antecedent makes poor sense. To explain that grace is a gift is tautologous. Of course, if we are saved by grace, it must be a gift. No one could miss that point. But Paul adds, “saved by grace, though faith,” and to make sure he also adds, and that, that is, faith, is not of yourselves. But what of the president’s remark that faith is feminine and that is neuter? Well, of course, these are the genders of the two words; but the president did not know much Greek grammar. In the case of concrete nouns, for example, the mother, the ship, the way, the house, the relative pronoun that follows is ordinarily feminine; but what the president did not know is that abstract nouns like faith, hope, and charity use the neuter of the relative pronoun. As a matter of fact, even a feminine thing, a concrete noun, may take a neuter relative (see Goodwin’s Greek Grammar). The moral of this little story confirms the original Presbyterian policy of insisting upon an educated ministry. Here was a seminary president distorting the divine message because of ignorance of Greek – or, more profoundly, as I have reason to believe from some of his publications, because of a dislike of divine sovereignty.” (Is Faith the Gift of God in Ephesians 2:8? By Jack Kettler).

Say, however, that an arminian concedes that touto does refer to both 1. “faith” and 2. faith is not of ourselves – 100% a gift from God, he will nevertheless maintain that this does not mean that God rams this gift down a person’s throat; we still must exercise, he says, the other precious gift, the one he was born with, his free will to love God, which God not only respects but insists is His ordained decree of how salvation should be done. This means that God is merely offering the gift of faith; we still have to let God, the arminian reasons, do what He desires us to do; dare I say “dying for us to do?” Knock, knock, knock, please let me in! Contrast this knocking on the door of hearts with: “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? ( Isaiah 46:9-10:9).

 Hebrew translations of Ephesians 2:8

 In this last part, I examine a few Hebrew translations of Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of your own doing; it is the gift of God” (New American Standard Bible). Here is the Sar Shalom translation

 כִּי־בַחֶסֶד נוֹשַׁעְתֶּם עַל־יְדֵי הָאֱמוּנָה וְלׂא מִיֶּדְכֶם הָיְתָה זּׂאת כִּי־מַתַּת אֱלׂהִים הִיא׃

 Kee (kiy)-vachesed nosha’tem al-y’dey ha-emuna v’lo meeyed’chem haiytah zot kee-matat elohiym hee (hiy).

 Literal translation: For by grace you have been saved through the hand of faith, and not by your hand was that [and that was not by your hand/your doing], because a gift of God it (is).

 The Salkinson-Ginsburg translation is a 19th Century Hebrew translation of the Greek Bible. 1876

 כִּי־בַחֶסֶד נוֹשַׁעְתֶּם עֵקֶב אֱמוּנַתְכֶם וְלֹא מִיֶּדְכֶם הָיְתָה זֹּאת לָכֶם כִּי־מַתַּת אֱלֹהִים הִיא׃

For by grace (חֶסֶד chesed MASCULINE) you (plural) have been saved due to ( עֵקֶב ikev) your faith (אֱמוּנָה emunah FEMININE) and not by your hand, this/that (זֹּאת zot FEMININE

SINGULAR) was not to (from) you because a gift of God was it ( הִיא hee/hiy FEMININE SINGULAR)

 I like the idiom (not) “through (by) the (your) hand” (of faith) in both these translations. Grace (chesed) is masculine, and faith (emunah) is feminine. (the sexual connotations I leave to the esoteric imagination).

In Hebrew, there are masculine and feminine nouns but no neuter nouns as exist in Greek (and German). The Greek neuter touto “that” translates as זֹּאת zot feminine singular), and “it” (in “because a gift of God was it) translates as הִיא hee/hiy feminine singular). It seems that the Hebrew translation is pointing back to “faith” alone (אֱמוּנָה emunah feminine singular). If the

Hebrew translation wanted to make it clear that it was referring to both grace (masculine) and faith (feminine), it could have done so by translating touto “that” by ha’eleh “those” (are not of yourselves). Perhaps the translators thought that everbody knows that grace is obviously free.

No Christian would disagree that all grace is from God whether the grace be 1 Arminian grace -. “prevenient” grace (“coming before” [faith]), which is enough to make you aware that God is knocking at your door in his attempt to save you – or 2. Calvinist grace – sufficient to save. How can anyone believe that it is not sufficient to save! Easy, if you’re a human.

In passing. The word grace comes from Latin gratis (free). Now if only there were no neuter nouns in Greek, Arminius would still be a calvinist. But, naturally, (natural) man has something else up his liberal sleeve – his “free” will (to love God).

Here is Elias Hutter’s Hebrew translation from his polyglot Bible (1599-1600); a very rare and wonderful book.

hutter eph 2 8 hebrew

For by-grace are-ye-saved through-faith (feminine singular); and-that (femininine singular) not-at-all of-yourselves: because gift-of God it (feminine singular). Very similar to the English and the other two translations in the picture (Spanish and French). In the French translation, foi “faith” and grace ”grace” are both feminine, while cela ”that” has no gender, which fulfills the same role as the Greek touto”that,” pointing back to both grace and faith.

Conclusion (Concussion)

Two of the Hebrew translations above of Ephesians 2:8 used the expression (not by your) hand, meaning (not of yourselves). This is where confusion, on the part of the arminian, may lurk. He may protest that surely the sinner is not a robot; surely he has to receive/accept the gift – with outstreched hands. And he is absolutely right. Recall the differences between calvinism and arminianism discussed at the beginning: A calvinist view of justification is that God sovereignly regenerates sinners freeing their will from the bondage of their sin nature, planting in them the desire, and thus enabling them to stretch out their hand to receive the gift of faith. They have become right with God (reconciled). An arminian says that God offers the degenerate sinner the gift of faith; sinners are free to accept or reject the gift. If they accept it, they become regenerated and thereby justified. So, an arminian thinks that he can desire to love God, that he can accept the gift of faith while in his degenerate state. He will say he is not that degenerate; there is still enough life left to stretch out a hand.

So, both the arminian and the calvinist stretch out their hands to God receive the gift of faith; the difference between them is that for the calvinist, a person is dead in sin and thus must first be made alive to stretch out his hand. For the arminian, a person is not dead but merely deadish and so still has enough life in him to exercise his freedom to choose God. It looks like a toss up between a calvinist robot and an arminian zombie. All I can say is, eish! I was deadISH (Hebrew ish איש man”), and now I’m alive.

“The Reformers did not ascribe to faith, in the matter of justification, any meritorious or inherent efficacy in producing the result, but regarded it simply as the instrument or hand by which a man apprehended” (William Cunningham).

[8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10).

By grace through the instrument of faith. By, through, God. We are justified by faith alone but faith that is not alone. What’s that? Verse 10 tells us that salvation does not consist only of regeneration and faith but also of works that God prepared for his children that they should walk in them. It is not works that reconcile us to God; it is justification that does that. Justification occurs at at regeneration, which is the moment we receive the gift of faith, which is also the moment that we are saved. So we are saved/have been saved (justification and sanctified), we are being saved (good works – further sanctification) and we will be saved, that is, glorifed with Christ.

Related articles

“Election is for everyone,” which may depend on free will but never on human choice (?).

In his article, “Election Is for Everyone” in Christianity Today! Roger Olson writes:

“When I was a kid my brother and I would sometimes spend part of Saturday handing out gospel tracts in our neighborhood. We were pastor’s sons and probably felt some obligation to do it (as it was something promoted in Sunday school and youth group), but I can honestly say we also felt it was our contribution to the kingdom of God. One of our favorite tracts pictured a voting ballot. The great preacher Herschel Hobbs, known among Southern Baptists as “Mr. Baptist,” preached a famous sermon based on that tract on The Baptist Hour in October 1967. His sermon was “God’s Election Day,” and its main point was: “The devil and God held an election to determine whether or not you would be saved or lost. The devil voted against you and God voted for you. So the vote was a tie. It is up to you to cast the deciding vote.”

The rest of Olson’s article argues why this is not the biblical view of election. Then in his concluding section he writes:

“Evangelicals can and do disagree about whether individuals’ inclusion in God’s elect people involves any level of free will, but all agree that the existence of the people of God is not dependent on human choice.”

Let me try to unpick. Some (actually, the majority of) evangelicals believe that God’s election involves a level of free while others (Reformed/Calvinists) believe that God’s election does not involve any level of free will. In Olson “free will” and “human choice” seems to be synonymous. So, in Olson what we have is this:

“Evangelicals can and do disagree about whether individuals’ inclusion in God’s elect people involves any level of free will/human choice, but all agree that the existence of the people of God is not dependent on human choice/free will.”

So we have:

Election (“inclusion in God’s elect”) MAY “INVOLVE” a “level of free will” (human choice).
2. Election (“the existence of the people of God”) “is not dependent on human choice” (free will), which surely means that election DOES NOT INVOLVE (any level of) human choice/free will.

Olson believes he can have his will AND eat it. It seems his argument got swallowed up in confusion.

When push comes to shove (keep you hands off me, I’m no robot), there are only two views of reconciliation with God (justification).

1. God has voted for you, the devil against you, and you have the final vote. Your salvation ULTIMATELY depends on you.

2. God has voted for you PERIOD. Your reconciliation with God (your justification) depends on God every step of the way.

In passing, Calvinists do believe that they freely come to/accept Christ. But not before God – as Olson correctly says – enables sinners to do so. But when this happens you have already been regenerated/born again whose logical outcome is reconciliation/justification.

In Calvinism, grace is not only – as in Arminianism – necessary (to enable me to choose Christ) but sufficient. The main reason for the Reformation was that grace is sufficient.

A Calvinist drools over the ORDO SALUTIS: Justification, and Salvation by works

If you are an evangelical Christian and someone asks you, “Do you believe in faith alone?, you will probably retort – 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 alone, for works are involved, but not as part of your justification but as part of your salvation.

[W]hen, says Craig Keener, 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).

The prevalent Protestant view is that works are the fruits and signs of justification obtained. It matters much what kind of good works you do once you believe. (See Faith and Jerks: The Bible out of context is a con; that’s why James White is not going to hell).

So far so good: most evangelicals believe in (justification by) faith alone (sola fide), but not a faith that is alone, that is, good works are the compulsory fruit of faith.

I was surfing on the couch very tired after a battle with a rabbi during my nightly soul sleep when my wife said, “Don’t you want to go upstairs for a snooze?” I was just about to do so when I came across Michael Patton’s “Do Calvinists really believe in salvation by faith alone.” At first blush, it seems that this question is basically the same as “Do Calvinists believe in faith alone?” in the sense that works for a Calvinist is not part of justification by faith alone, but only the fruit of justification (by faith alone). But Patton like any good Calvinist theologian, or predestined prestidigitator (presto, voilà!), has a trick up his sleeve. Patton doesn’t disappoint. Patton’s point is that justification is only part of salvation where the latter comprises regeneration, faith, works, and glorification. So if a Calvinist believes in regeneration as well as faith, he does so as part of his salvation, not as part of his justification. So. no, Calvinists do not believe in salvation by fait alone.

The dispute between Calvinists and Arminians arises in the logical progression of regeneration and faith. 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. A key text in his regard is:

It is by grace you have been saved through faith. 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” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

This” must refer to at least the immediate antecedent, “faith.” For the Arminian, there’s no way out of it, grammatically at least. Furthermore, if faith, is not your own doing, it must be God’s doing, and that is exactly what “gift” means. The Arminian will retort that because the Holy Spirit is a gentleman (Noel Coward?) he will not force this gift on to you. Does that mean that we must also give God permission to work in us? No, “for we are his workmanship” makes nonsense of that. The Arminian will then say to the Calvinist, and this is the point of Patton’s question, “you don’t believe in faith alone ’cause you believe in faith, ok not plus works, but in faith plus regeneration. The Arminian is confusing the ingredient of justification (which is by faith alone) with the cake of salvation, which consists of other ingredients such as works and glorification.

Read Patton – what a find! His graphics of the contrast between the Reformed Calvinistic, Arminian and Roman Catholic ordo salutis will make you drool.

Time for your nap, darling.”

Augustine seeks and finds: One man’s gift (Geschenk) is another man’s poison (Gift)

If Augustine were an Arminian.

Augustine: I want to find God; I’m restless until I find him.

God:I have seen Augustine’s great longing for me. I’ll go and knock on his door. Augustine, Augustine, open the door and let me in; there’s no door knob on the outside.

Augustine (opens the door): My Lord thank you for showing yourself to me; my whole hope is only in Your exceeding great mercy.

God: Yes, I saw your longing. You asked for me, so I came. What is it that you long for exactly?

Augustine: I want to accept your gift of faith.

God: Good. Here.

Augustine: My Lord and my God! I was restless until I came to rest in thee.

God: That is what I’ve been trying to get into every heart, with little success. My grace often gets a foothold in the door, but its never sufficient. Who is sufficient to these things?

Augustine: Being a gentleman, Lord, that’s the way to go. Where there is compulsion there is no love, only robots. That’s what I tried to show in my book against Pelagius. Or, was it the other way round: he was trying to show me that my “grant what you command” is not only robotic but idiotic?

God: All that matters is LOVE wins – free love, that is. But remain humble, you didn’t deserve eternal life.

Augustine: Of course; salvation is pure gift, and thus no one, who accepts it, deserves eternal life. But, as your Word says, those who reject it deserve to be punished eternally. Just thought of something: what happens if I fall away, can I get born again again?

God: Don’t you worry, I won’t let that happen.

Augustine: Er, but what if I choose to reject you?

God: Don’t be anxious, I won’t leave you to your own devices. I’ll make you unwilling.

Augustine: I get it: one man’s gift (Geschenk) is another man’s poison (Gift).

Freedom to choose salvation: Stop living according to the flesh; tap into your inner power and come to Christ

The title encapsulates the Arminian “free will” position of coming to faith. Here is a typical Roman Catholic view from a respondent:

“Great thinkers, like St Augustine, have the general idea of a general responsibility therefore they understand that there is no contradiction of terms in being born with the original sin and still being free to choose.”

We go to Augustine’s Confessions:

Chapter 29. All Hope is in the Mercy of God.

“And my whole hope is only in Your exceeding great mercy. Give what You command, and command what You will. Thou imposest continency upon us, nevertheless, when I perceived, says one, that I could not otherwise obtain her, except God gave her me; . . . that was a point of wisdom also to know whose gift she was. Wisdom 8:21 For by continency are we bound up and brought into one, whence we were scattered abroad into many. For he loves You too little who loves anything with You, which he loves not for You, O love, who ever burnest, and art never quenched! O charity, my God, kindle me! You command continency; give what You command, and command what You will.

Augustine was struggling with the idea that a person couldn’t fulfill any of the law, be it the ceremonial Mosaic law or – it logically follows – the higher laws of the ten commandments. Uppermost in his mind was the thought: If You don’t raise me from the dead, I’m undone. Romans 8:1-8 is about the same problem of the inability of the “flesh” to please God:

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, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. 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.

Now, I ask you, has a mind-heart, which is governed by the flesh and thus dead to the things of God, the power to decide on the most determinative event of human life: to trust Christ? The above verses from Romans say absolutely not. The only possible way to be saved from ourselves is to be saved by Christ – where salvation is entirely of the Lord. In other words, saved not by the (inner) determination of our own hearts – the natural man is free to believe what he wants, but what he wants, says the above passage, leads to spiritual death – but by the determination of a power outside us and in Christ. And when does this outside determination occur. Why, it has already occurred; before time began. It was pre-determined before the world began.

John 17

6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 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. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

2 Timothy 1

[8] Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, [9] who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, [10] and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

John 6

[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.”

Calvinists who know their oats: Salvation is indeed by works

“Reasoning from the Scriptures” tells us “any ministry which fails to equip the saints to be able to discern the difference between truth and error, light and darkness, and good and evil, is not a genuinely biblical ministry but more like a positive only, stand against nothing, sugar-coated lie.”

That is why Calvinists, and all Protestants, should zealously guard the truth that one is saved by works. Justification is by faith alone (sola fide), but not a faith that is alone, that is, good works are the compulsory  - and, says the Calvinist, the natural  - fruit of faith. Salvation comprises both faith and works.

See  A Calvinist drools over the ORDO SALUTIS: Justification, and Salvation.

Calvinism: Word, logic and heart – and faith, of course

This is an elaboration of  Intelligence counts. Humanist and Christian practice.

Introduction

In the previous post, I  mentioned that  Aristotle and Goethe covered three aspects of personality, namely, intellect (logic [how we think] and knowledge [what we think]), the will and behaviour. When we add the emotions/feelings to the pot, we have the basic ingredients of the Psychology of Personality (or Personality Psychology). Christian theology adds another ingredient, faith, which is the reason for the existence of the intellect, the will, the emotions and behaviour (works). 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), 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. In his article, I examine in more detail the relationship between logic (how we think), knowledge (what we think), the will, and the heart.

The essence of Christianity and the limits of the mind

Abraham Joshua Heschel in his “God in search of man,” says that the God of the Prophets is the source of reason. Reason, however, according to Heschel, is not able to find God, let alone experience Him. The Prophets taught that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was also the source of everything, including experience of Him, and that the only right way to experience Him is through the Hebrew scriptures. Christianity is an extension of this belief: everything, both good and evil, are under God’s absolute control. The biblical position is this: the biblical position is this: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). So, all our own efforts to find the way the truth and the life are worthless. In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps (Proverbs 16:9).

The essence of Christianity is found in the summary of the the letter to the Romans found in the doxology (praise) at the end of Romans 11, where God reaffirms that he is the cause and end of all things, and all exists for his glory.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” 36 For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

These verses are also the springboard of Calvinism. Opponents of Calvinism (Arminians – Roman Catholics and most Protestants) love quoting “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). As an Arminian told me: “I’d suggest we continue to Humbly study the Word, and do what is commanded of us. That is to spread and teach the gospel; to continue to seek the Kingdom of God first; to ask Forgiveness and to repent of our sins… but all the time to remember that God sees and weighs up the heart – so whatever we do or say, may it be with an examined heart, or we could fall into a trap ourselves.” Good advice. My question is: How is one going to teach the Gospel to enemies of the Gospel, which all human beings are in their natural state? The writer asks: “Why try to analyze it all? God is not subject to any laws or rules.”

Obviously there is much sifting, demarcating, differentiating, categorising, analysing going on. Walking with Jesus will have to also involve thinking about Jesus and how to explain to non-believers how to think about Jesus and Jesus as the Son of God. “Analyse” means use your reason to give reasons for the faith that you have received, and defend the body of teachings (doctrines) that pertain to this faith. The Bible is clear: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” ( 1 Peter 3:15). There are many examples of Jesus and Paul reasoning (analysing, and synthesising) with their listeners. One important topic in this regard was the authenticity of the historical events in the scriptures. Paul was a master “apologist” (defender) of the Gospel. “Apologetics” is a very important part of learning and teaching the faith. (See Analysis of the Modern Evangelical Mind and the Lost Art of Boxing).

Philosophy, therefore, cannot bring the alienated from God to Christ, neither can mysticism do it, because, Christians, “you, who were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled, in the body of His flesh, through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight” (Colossians 1:21-22).

“Calvinism, says James Packer, is not a rigid system of logic imposed on the simple testimony of scripture. There are many who regard Calvinism as a logical and philosophical speculation which adulterates the simple testimony of scripture.”

Indeed, Calvinists do have a sweet tooth for logic, How else are they going to chew through what the scripture says, and paint a clear picture of what’s on the menu (no à la carte, forgive). With the one hand, Calvinists get slapped for being too logical, and with other, for being wanting in the upstairs department.

Let me, as a Calvinist, try to apply my Jewish mind to the process of salvation and the related paradox of divine sovereignty and responsibility. Calvinists insist that God never fails, and so if a person is saved, it is because God decreed it to be so. The person being saved plays no part in his regeneration (he’s dead, for starters), yet those whom God does not regenerate are held responsible for rejecting God. The Calvinist says that God has not called them to reconcile the paradox of divine sovereignty and human responsibility; he has called them to reconcile themselves to Him and be an instrument in reconciling others to Him. Scripture drives a Calvinist to accept this supra-rational (beyond reason) doctrine. He is not embarrassed to call it a mystery (on a par with the incarnation and the trinity).

To affirm, says Charles Spurgeon, of any human production that it contained many great and instructive truths which it would be impossible to systematize without weakening each separate truth, and frustrating the design of the whole, would be a serious reflection upon the author’s wisdom and skill! How much more to affirm this of the Word of God! Systematic theology is to the Bible what science is to nature. To suppose that all the other works of God are orderly and systematic, and the greater the work the more perfect the system; and that the greatest of all His works, in which all His perfections are transcendently displayed, should have no plan or system, is altogether absurd. If faith in the Scriptures is to be positive, if consistent with itself, if operative, if abiding, it must have a fixed and well-defined creed. No one can say that the Bible is his creed, unless he can express it in his own words.” (Quoted by Iain Murray in his “The Forgotten Spurgeon”).

Calvinism is “the consistent endeavor to acknowledge the Creator as the Lord, working all things after the counsel of his will.” (James Packer’s introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ). The Lord never fails, is never disappointed, is never frustrated. Not one drop of Christ’s blood is wasted because all three persons of the Godhead want it that way… Calvinism is a unified philosophy of history which sees the whole diversity of processes and events that take place in God’s world as no more, and no less, than the outworking of his great preordained plan for his creatures and his church. The five points assert no more than God is sovereign in saving the individual, but Calvinism, as such, is concerned with the much broader assertion that he is sovereign everywhere.”

Calvinism is an outworking of divine preordination; Arminianism is an inworming of human “post-ordination.”. “Post-ordination” is the Arminian idea that “Preordination” (predestination) means that only after (post) God sees whether a person is going to open the door of his heart to Christ, does God pre-destine the person to eternal life. This is the only case I know in the English language (and in logic) where pre means post. Pre in “predestination” means “that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen!” (James Packer).

Many understand Calvinism to believe:

 1. Only that which God wills happens.

2. God doesn’t love all people.

3. Jesus didn’t die for all people.

And they are right. Let’s spend a little time on each:

1. Only that which God wills happens.

There are God’s decrees and God’s precepts. The first is concerned with what must and will happen with certainty. The second is concerned with what God morally requires of human beings, which has nothing to do with whether man will actually do what God  commands. God’s decree, in contrast, determines what actually happens. Neither God’s preceptive will nor his decretive will can every be frustrated.

In the Old Testament God prescribes to the Jews his commandments. Most disobey. God permits them to follow their reprobate hearts. He decrees  to have mercy on a remnant, and thus grants to them the desire for repentance leading to reconciliation with Him. Even repentance is a gift of God.

Acts 5:30-31 “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. 31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

Acts 11:18 “When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”

 2. God doesn’t love all people.

If God loves all unbelievers, there’s no need of a mediator.  Love means absence of enmity, thus there is no need for reconciliation, and so need for a mediator, Jesus. The Gospel message is the following progression: wrath of God, enmity, mediator, reconciliation and peace. Telling an unbeliever God loves them is a false Gospel. This is one of the reason for false conversions. The popular Arminian slogan, “God loves you [you vile worm] and has a wonderful plan for your life,” is not in scripture and (consequently) was never taught in the historical church. You might say that God loves all without exception but ceases to love them and sends them to hell if they thwart his desire to save them. There’s nothing like that in the Bible.  All mankind without Christ are under condemnation.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes [the ones believing - the Greek)]  in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16-18). The “world,” not Mars or any other planer/star. If “world” meant every single individual then it would mean that he condemns (to hell) those who do not believe (“ but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God”). Romans fleshes out John 3:17-18:

[8:1] There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. [2] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. [3] For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, [4] in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. [5] For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. [6] For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. [7] For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. [8] Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

[9] You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. [10] But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. [11] If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:1-11).

The Father (and the Son) only loves those he has given to the Son before the world began, and only those he loves will be saved. One proof that Jesus does not love everybody is that He prays for His “own,” not for the “world.”

[6] “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. [7] Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. [8] For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. [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 17:6-9).

The meaning of “world” in John 3:16 becomes clear in the light of John 17. “World” in John 3:16 means all kinds of people: rich, poor; Jew, Gentile. So, people without distinction (from every tribe and nation, every walk of life); not people without exception.

3. Jesus didn’t die for all people.

If he did die for all people then they would all be  reconciled to God. Why does God refuse to open blind eyes and deaf ears, as He says so clearly In John 12:40 (and isaiah 6:9) about the Jews: “He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
    nor understand with their hearts,
    nor turn—and I would heal them.” The answer lies in another difficult-for-synergists verse: “God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9:18).

“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?’ 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?”

Both Isaiah and Paul saw God. Do they recoil and scream “but God, you’re not being fair. What are you doing!” What does Isaiah say to God on his throne (in Isaiah 6)? Simply, “How long?” Oh what an answer! What love is this? You need to understand His “terrible majesty.” “Out of the north cometh golden splendour, about God is terrible majesty” (Job 37:22). (Both the KJV and the Hebrew Mechon Mamre translations render the Hebrew נוֹרָא הוֹד

(Norah Hod) as “terrible (NORAH) majesty (HOD).” Terrible (terrifying) in modern English and Norah in modern Hebrew have lost their orignal meaning. (“Calvinism is terrible”). I return to Isaiah:

[11] Then I (Isaiah) said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, [12] and the LORD removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. [13] And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump. (Isaiah 6:11-13).  If I were God, that is not how I would have planned salvation. Thank God I’m not God – and thank Him more that you’re not either.

The main question in Calvinism, as it should be in Christianity, is not logical consistency but “Have you seen God?” Have you seen him lifted up on his throne? Has it made you fall down low? I’m no saying at all that you must stop thinking and start feeling, for how can you “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5 ). Also, logic (noggins) are useful for 1. “be[ing] all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall” (2 Peter 1:10); 2. for “being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV) and for being able to distinguish between human tradition and the scriptures.

4. There is nothing that a person can do to be saved.

Al Martin (in his “What is Calvinism) says: “the question is not the sincerity of my resolve, not what I have done but “has God done something in me? Not have I accepted Christ but has Christ accepted me; not “have I found the lord?” but has he found me?

The natural condition of man is to love what he wants, not what God wants. That’s the pith of Original Sin. What he wants is NOT to be saved by God. So, in this sinful state, the last thing on his mind/heart is “I wish I could be saved but as there is nothing I can do about it, my hands are tied.” If he does show the desire to be saved, then it is God who had mercy on him. God regenerates him, that is, brings him back from spiritual death. He sees that he has offended a holy  God. He believes. He repents (repentance is necessary consequence of regeneration). he has become a child of God. In a word, he accepts Christ. He has been freed from his bondage.

Now, you might say it’s all so intellectual. True, If all it did was to grease your brain – and your palm if theology is your profession (means of livelihood). No one is a Calvinist – or truly biblical, or truly religious, or truly evangelical until the Bible, until theology, are “burnt into your soul” (Al Martin in part 2 of “What is Calvinism?”).

Here is Benjamin Warfield on John Calvin:

“As he contemplated the majesty of this sovereign Father, his whole being bowed in reverence before Him, and his whole heart burned with zeal for His glory. As he remembered that this great God has become in His own Son the redeemer of sinners, he passionately gave himself to the proclamation of the glory of His grace. Into His hands he committed himself without reserve . . . All that was good in him, all the good he hoped might be formed in him, he ascribed to the almighty working of the divine Spirit. The glory of God alone and the control of the Spirit became the twin principles of his whole thought and life.”

Arminians, generally, despise Calvin. That, of course, was not the reason for his  excruciating headaches for much of his adult life. Here is Warfield in his “Calvinism today“:

“Calvinism will not play fast and loose with the free grace of God. It is set upon giving to God, and to God alone, the glory and all the glory of salvation. There are others than Calvinists, no doubt, who would fain make the same great confession. But they make it with reserves, or they painfully justify the making of it by some tenuous theory which confuses nature and grace. They leave logical pitfalls on this side or that, and the difference between logical pitfalls and other pitfalls is that the wayfarer may fall into the others, but the plain man, just because his is a simple mind, must fall into those. Calvinism will leave no logical pitfalls and will make no reserves. It will have nothing to do with theories whose function it is to explain away facts. It confesses, with a heart full of adoring gratitude, that to God, and to God alone, belongs salvation and the whole of salvation; that He it is, and He alone, who works salvation in its whole reach. Any falling away in the slightest measure from this great confession is to fall away from Calvinism. Any intrusion of any human merit, or act, or disposition, or power, as ground or cause or occasion, into the process of divine salvation,—whether in the way of power to resist or of ability to improve grace, of the opening of the soul to the reception of grace, or of the employment of grace already received—is a breach with Calvinism.”

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 – Hebrew “emuna” – in them).

Put the above together with Romans 11:36 and you’re well on your way to talking, if not walking, scripture. (Talkies and walkies: John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Regress).

The Roman catholic is caught between the scylla of tradition and the Charybdis of scripture. In a similar vein, the “orthodox” Jew is caught between the Oral and the Written Torah. One `Jew will say the Written Torah is primary, another that the Oral Torah is primary. (The Written and Oral Torah: Which is Primary?). From the human standpoint, there’s the Word and there’s the heart, and the brain in between. One thing the Apostle did, and shewed us how, was “Use your loaf.” Not to forget that  light, supernatural as well as natural, comes from the Lord – except the fluffy kind.

word tradition brain new

 If you’re dying or dying to know the identities of the two people on the left, they are the Borgia Pope, Alexander VI and the Kabbalist, Isaac Luria (Arizal).

Will everyone who calls on the name of the Lord be saved? Of course not

In Romans 10:13 we read “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” First let me quote another part of the Bible that says the same thing. Acts 2:21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved As stand alone sentences, this means: cause – call; effect – saved.

But then what to make of:

Matt 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

In the saving kind of call, we are calling on what we recognize to be a saviour. To do this implies some knowledge of Christ’s atoning work for sinners. The caller acknowledges that he is one of these. In this context, anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Here is Lewis Johnson:

“When Paul says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” He’s talking about calling upon him in virtue of the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s rather interesting to me that in the Old Testament it is said, I think of Abraham as I remember, that he called upon the name of the Lord three times, and every time that it is said that Abraham called upon the name of the Lord, it is in the vicinity or right by the side of an altar of sacrifice. For when we call on the Lord, we call on him who has offered an atoning sacrifice. And we plead that atoning sacrifice for our salvation. That’s what Paul means when he says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Christ has paid the debt for sinners, and I may call upon God for salvation by virtue of what Jesus Christ has done. ” (Salvation and Confession, p. 16 ).

The calling in Matt 7:21 is about sounds emanating from a desperate or fearful voice box , not from a repentant heart.

So, as with so many words in the Bible such as “all,” “whosoever” and “world” let context, not pretext be your guide. If you don’t you’ll end up in the margin – outisde the text. Which, if you’re a relativist, is ok, because there is no main text.

Romans 10:13 says nothing about how one comes to believe (Calvinism – God’s grace is both necessary and sufficient to save [monergism]; Arminianism – God’s grace is necessary but not sufficient to save [synergism]).

If you’re an Arminian it would be nice if you knew something about the distinction between a voluntary act (doing what your heart desires) and a free will act (where one can neutralise one’s heart and choose between loving Christ and hating him), keeping in mind that the human heart is desperately/incurably sick/wicked/deceitful/crooked, who (besides God) can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9).

Flee will! Now you’re ready to call – if you know what I mean.

Providence and Ibn Ezra’s not so original take on Moses the Egyptian: Can God decide my destiny without me?

In its description of Ibn Ezra’s writing style, “MyJewishLearning” says something quite odd about God. I capitalise the relevant remark:

”Ibn Ezra usually writes in a cryptic style, leaving much room for conjecture as to his meaning, probably because he was aware of the daring nature of some of his ideas which might lead the ignorant to unbelief. He is not averse to suggesting ORIGINAL INTERPRETATIONS of biblical events, as when he suggests that DIVINE PROVIDENCE HAD SO ORDERED IT THAT MOSES WAS RAISED IN Pharaoh’s PALACE. Had Moses been brought up among his fellow Israelites, they would have been too familiar with him from his youth to have respect for him as their leader. Moreover, the future leader had to have a regal upbringing and an aristocratic background to endow him with the nobility of character suitable for a leader.”

I’m surprised that the writer – that is if he/she believes that the Torah is God-breathed – considers Ibn Ezra’s interpretation that God ordains events to be a daring interpretation; for how else did Moses end up in Pharaoh’s court, and end up leading the Hebrews across the Reed/Red Sea, and all the other things he did, For that matter, how else did the writer of the above piece get to write it, and while I’m about it, how else did I end up writing this piece, or anything if it were not for God’s sovereignty?

“What!” you might protest, “do you think we’re robots? Don’t you realise that our free will is exactly what makes us human. Are you telling me that Miriam, Moses’ mother, and Pharaoh’s daughter, and all the other biblical characters, were merely pawns pushed around the chessboard?”

I answer: no, they (and everone else) are not pawns, yet all are are directed by the sovereign hand of the Almighty. How can this be? Joseph Ibn Isaac explains (Genesis 50:19-20).

Genesis 50:16-20

16. So they sent a message unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, 17 So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the transgression of thy brethren, and their sin, for that they did unto thee evil. And now, we pray thee, forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him. 18 And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we are thy servants. 19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20 And as for you, ye meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Proverbs 16 explains further:

 1 To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue…4 The LORD works out everything to its proper end— even the wicked for a day of disaster.

Theologians speak of the “primary will/cause” of God and the “secondary will/cause” of man, which work in perfect synchrony. It is, of course difficult to understand the relationship between God’s will (His sovereignty) and man’s will (his responsibility). We read in Isaiah 55:

   8 “ For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
9 “ For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “ For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

God’s will/thoughts/ways are not only higher than (a difference in degree) but also unlike (a difference in kind) our wills/thoughts/ways. No matter what man wills, the will (word) of God will not return to Him void, ”for I will accomplish what I please;” which is totally independent of what man pleases.

To return to Joseph (Genesis 50:20): his brothers planned evil, but God planned it (the evil) for good. Now it won’t do to say that God looked down the corridors of time, saw what Joseph’s brothers were going to get up to, and so(God) acted accordingly. If this were so, it wouldn’t even mean that “God proposes, man disposes,” but that God doesn’t even propose. What you get instead is, “Man proposes, and God does knee-jerks” (see No. 4 below).

There is:

1. The God who knows everything because he sovereignly controls everything, which is­ (surely!) the God of the Bible. Then there are the:

2.  “Open theists,” who believe that God cannot know something that has not happened.

3. “Middle knowledge” theists (Molinists) who say that God has a special vision (scientia visionis) and so knows all the possibilities of what man (a free being) would choose, if the necessary conditions were fulfilled. God then supplies these conditions. (A variation of Aristotle’s ”excluded middle,” where God knows both what He’s doing and what He”s not doing).

  1. There’s also another kind of theist called the “knee-jerk theist” (See The Violation of Philippians 2:6-10 – Knee-jerk theism).

Psalm 118

22 The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
23 the LORD has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.

The builders reject the cornerstone; the Lord has done this; but the builders are still held accountable. There you have it. Marvellous in ”our” eyes; isn’t it?

I could have used many New Testament passages to support the Hebrew Bible passages discussed above (Jesus quotes the Psalm 118 passage above – Matthew 21:42), but I think that I’ve made my point within the boundaries of my Jewish learning, and within the brief of MyJewishLearning.

Of course I don’t follow Calvin, I follow Calvinism; the nickname for biblical Christianity.

“What is the heresy of Rome, but the addition of something to the perfect merits of Jesus Christ — the bringing in of the works of the flesh, to assist in our justification? And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer? Every heresy, if brought to the touchstone, will discover itself here. I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else… nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.” – Charles Spurgeon, from the sermon “A Defense of Calvinism.”