Mysticism, philosophy and the unsearchable Trinity

19 Apr

 

In a previous post, The Incarnation or Substitutionary Atonement, which is the grand miracle? CS Lewis and John MacArthur say the former; George MacDonald, definitely not the latter, I began with this quotation from Hugh Binning on the Trinity: “All mysteries have their rise here, and all of them return hither. This is furthest removed from the understandings of men,—what God himself is, for himself is infinitely above any manifestation of himself. God is greater than God manifested in the flesh, though in that respect he be too great for us to conceive.” (Lecture X11 “Of The Unity Of The Godhead And The Trinity Of Persons”).

The Trinity is the bedrock of all the teachings of the Bible. What I’d like to raise here is the human desire of those seeking to understand the Christian God to penetrate into the great mystery of the Trinity. One tries to do so through two means: mysticism or philosophy.

Most calvinists accept ”mystical unions” – what other way is their around ”we’re seated in the heavenlies – but are uncomfortable with mystical (that is, very personal) encounters with God. Owing to the excesses in mysticism, they do have a point. Christians, though, are meant to experience (feel) the presence of Christ/God here and now. That is no big stretch, because when we are born again, we are lifted up to the heavenlies (no not necessarily “up”). Yet we remain caught ”up” in this corruptible body, struggling, sinning, and groaning for the redemption of our bodies. (See Inviting Jesus into your aorta: Personal and Mystical Union at the White Horse Inn).

In summary, here is the “mystical union” in a nutshell (the “Truth Project,” Lesson 8). The Mystical Union between:

A. Husband and wife

B. Christ and His church

The Body of Christ – Making many One (i) Many members – we form one body with unique gifts and roles (ii) The Mystery of Christ – “… for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (III) Jesus’ vision for the church 1. John 17: 20-23 ” …that all of them may be one …so the world may believe that you have sent me …may they be brought to complete unity …”

C. God and the individual – the Unio Mystica 1. Colossians 1:27 “Christ in you” 2. John 15:5 “If a man remains in me and I in him” 3. John 14:16-17 “for he lives with you and will be in you” 4. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 “God’s Spirit lives in you.” (See Of mysticism, cooking and them goose bumps).

So, mysticism does not have to – as someone said (I wish it wwere G.K. Chesterton) begin in a mist and end in a schism. The issue is how much can we know in this life about what the Bible calls the unsearchable doings (Job 5:9), judgements (Romans 11:33, greatness (Psalm 145:3), riches (Ephesians 3:8) of God, and – in our specific topic – about the Trinity.

Here is a great piece from Hugh Binning who deals with this human desire to unlock the Trinity. As you read, consider this question: Is Binning talking about philosophical/rational or mystical endeavours to penetrate the Trinity?

(I notify when I come to the end of Binning).

All mysteries have their rise here, and all of them return hither. This is furthest removed from the understandings of men,—what God himself is, for himself is infinitely above any manifestation of himself. God is greater than God manifested in the flesh, though in that respect he be too great for us to conceive.

There is a natural desire in all men to know, and, if any thing be secret and wonderful the desire is the more inflamed after the knowledge of it. The very difficulty or impossibility of attaining it, instead of restraining the curiosity of man’s spirit, doth rather incense it. Nitimur in vetitum is the fruit, the sad fruit we plucked and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If the Lord reveal any thing plainly in his word to men, that is despised and set at nought, because it is plain, whereas the most plain truths, which are beyond all controversy, are the most necessary, and most profitable, for our eternal salvation. But if there be any secret mystery in the Scriptures, which the Lord hath only pointed out more obscurely to us, reserving the distinct and clear understanding of it to himself, (Deut. xxix. 29.),—that is the apple which our accursed natures will long for, and catch after, though there be never so much choice of excellent saving fruit in the paradise of the Scriptures besides. If the ark be covered to keep men from looking into it, that doth rather provoke the curious spirit of man to pry into it, 1 Sam. vi. 10.

If the Lord show his wonderful glory in the mount, and charge his people not to come near, lest the glorious presence of God kill them, he must put rails about it, to keep them back, or else they will be meddling. Such is the unbridled license of our minds, and the perverse dispositions of our natures, that where God familiarly invites us to come,—what he earnestly presseth us to search and know,—that we despise as trivial and common, and what he compasseth about with a divine darkness of inaccessible light, and hath removed far from the apprehensions of all living, that we will needs search into, and wander into those forbidden compasses, with daring boldness. I conceive this holy and profound mystery is one of those “secret things” which it belongs to God to know, for who knoweth the Father but the Son, or the Son but the Father, or who knoweth the mind of God but the Spirit?

Yet the foolish minds of men will not be satisfied with the believing ignorance of such a mystery, but will needs inquire into those depths, that they may find satisfaction for their reason. But, as it happeneth with men who will boldly stare upon the sun, their eyes are dazzled and darkened with its brightness, or those that enter into a labyrinth, which they can find no way to come out, but the further they go into it, the more perplexed it is, and the more intricate, even so it befalls many unsober and presumptuous spirits, who, not being satisfied with the simple truth of God, clearly asserting that this is, endeavour to examine it according to reason, and to solve all the objections of carnal wit and reason, (which is often “enmity against God,”) not by the silence of the Scriptures, but by answers framed according to the several capacities of men. I say, all this is but daring to behold the infinite glory of God with eyes of flesh, which makes them darkened in mind, and vanishing in their expressions, while they seek to behold this inaccessible light, while they enter into an endless labyrinth of difficulties out of which the thread of reason and disputation can never extricate them or lead them forth. But the Lord hath showed us “a more excellent way,” though it may be despicable to men.

Man did fall from blessedness by his curious and wretched aim at some higher happiness and more wisdom; the Lord hath chosen another way to raise him up again, by faith rather than knowledge, by believing rather than disputing. Therefore the great command of the gospel is this, to receive with a ready and willing mind whatsoever the Lord saith to us, whatsoever it may appear to sense and reason, to dispute no more, to search no more into the secret of divine mysteries, as if by searching we could find them out “unto perfection,” but to believe what is spoken, “till the day break, and the shadows flee away,” and the darkness of ignorance be wholly dispelled by the rising of the Sun of righteousness. We are called then to receive this truth,—That God is one, truly one, and yet there are three in this one, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This, I say, you must believe, because the wisdom of God saith it, though you know not how it is, or how it can be. Though it seem a contradiction in reason, a trinity in unity, yet you must lead your reason captive to the obedience of faith, and silence it with this one answer, The Lord hath said it. If thou go on to dispute, and to inquire, “How can these things be?” thou art escaped from under the power of faith, and art fled into the tents of human wisdom, where thou mayest learn atheism, but no religion, for “the world by wisdom knew not God,” 1 Cor. i. 21.

End of binning.

Initially, I thought Binning was talking about mysticism. Both the mystical way and the rational/philosophical way lead away from biblical truth – and biblical experience of the Trinity.

 

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

17 Apr

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 OneDaringJew:

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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Where there is no vision: No more cutting and pasting a way to prosperity for this hermeneut

15 Apr

Why do so many hermeneuts get it wrong? Take, for instance, the distinction between exegesis (analysis of a text) and its application. Application to what? To life? Often “application” requires mutilating the context of a passage and applying it to the mutilator’s life.

Example: Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” What do many preachers do with this half a proverb – the likes of Adrian Stanley, Rick Warren and Joel Osteen, and the “Word of faith” people? They turn it into a sermon series or book on how to get a new vision for your life. Believers love it to pieces. Why do you think Christianity is growing so fast in many countries; in Nigeria and South Africa, for example. Envision your vision; see yourself well, see yourself with a good job, new car, the mortgage paid off. See yourself hounded and beaten for the faith; or for just being a drip – hmmm. It’s easy to catch these preachers with their hermeneutical pants down; if you really want to really. It’s not difficult to know where to look. Just read the bits before and/or the bits after the tasty morsels that these preachers feed you. Example: we return to the “vision” bit in Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” It has a context. Read the next bit in the verse: “but he that keeps the law, happy is he.” “Perish” in the KJV is not a good translation of the Hebrew פָּרַע para`. A better translation of Proverbs 29:18 is “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.”The Hebrew word for vision is חָזוֹן chazon (wrongly transliterated in the Blueletterbible as chazown (North American English pronunciation). Possible meanings of this word are 1. vision (in ecstatic state), 2. vision (in night), 3. vision, oracle, prophecy (divine communication).

Chazon in this verse means being able to grasp what God’s word emanating from the prophet’s mouth (not the vision God gives you) is saying about God’s law. If you take God’s law to heart by keeping it, you will be blessed. A word out of context has a dictionary (lexical) meaning but no useful (pragmatic) meaning. A word without a context is connected to nothing – in the real world – only to a dictionary.

Pastors, please, no more cutting and pasting your way to sermons and books – and prosperity.

Be blessed. Now plant your seed. Phones are now open.

Related posts:
Out of context: Where there is no vision
The revelamce and vision of the Bible

 

KJV or NASB? Of by and through and one less all to fight Arminians over

14 Apr

In the KJV Ephesians 3:9-10, I read:
9 And to make all (men) men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.

Re verse 10: I’m not so hot on 17th century English. I can’t make head or tail of verse 10. Who is intended to know the wisdom of God, the principalities or the church. All the other English translations on Bible Hub have “through the church.” That makes sense. Here is the New American Standard Bible (NASB):

9 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.

If that is not enough to madden King Jamesophiles, the NASB, in contrast to all other English translations on Bible Hub, follows the Alexandrian Greek text, it seems, by omitting “all” in verse 10.

10. and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things.

Whoopee for Alexandria, ’cause that’s one less “all’ to fight Arminians over.

Have to now “select all” in my word processor and paste it into WordPress. Bye y’aaahhhhl.

Archibald Alexander and how we come to faith: Thank God that he never depends on human understanding to bring us to faith

11 Apr

bography:

Have been listening to several podcasts on the Arminian aberration of the kissing cousins, foreknowledge of God, predestination and how a sinner comes to faith. The latest trio of podcasts by “Designofprovidence,” critiquing the Arminian view of predestination – this time from the “Eastern Othodox” author, Matthew Gallatin.

http://designofprovidence.blogspot.com/2014/03/podcast-matthew-gallatin-and.html
http://designofprovidence.blogspot.com/2014/03/podcast-matthew-gallatin-and_26.html
http://designofprovidence.blogspot.com/2014/04/podcast-matthew-gallatin-and.html

This prompted me to reblog this post.

Originally posted on OneDaringJew:

God can use a crooked pencil to write straight

From the moment that Jesus entered his public ministry, people were divided. No surprises there; the human condition by nature is partition. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians writes:

10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas [Peter]”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

In this article, I speak of Calvinists and Arminians. There is a sense in which the person “follows” Calvin or Arminius but…

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Pirate Christian Radio: Plundering galleys of drivel

10 Apr

 The world laughs at Christian sermons. And I don’t mean every Tom and Dick in the world; I mean the world “system.” There are many sermons that Christians should also laugh at – in the sense of Psalms 2:44 “He that sits in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” These are effluent sermons volubling (lubloo – Russian for “I lurv”) from the mouths of people like Joel Osteen and Rick Warren; sermons on how you can have a beautiful life  and wife, and lose weight like Daniel. And plant your seed (in my garden. easy gro, bro) – because in so doing you are honouring God. If you want to have a good laugh in both senses of the word, and learn what the Bible really is about, share a barrel of  fun and rum with Chris Rosebrough.

Picture 30You deserve a rose, bro.

Faith and repentance: two sides of the same coin

8 Apr

Which comes first, faith or repentance? Here is John Calvin”

“Now, both repentance and forgiveness of sins – that is, newness of life and free reconciliation – are conferred on us by Christ, and both are attained by us through faith. As a consequence, reason and the order of teaching demand that I begin to discuss both at this point. However, our immediate transition will be from faith to repentance. For when this topic is rightly understood it will better appear how man is justified by faith alone, and simple pardon; nevertheless actual holiness of life, so to speak, is not separated from free imputation of righteousness. Now it ought to be a fact beyond controversy that repentance not only constantly follows faith, but is also born of faith. For since pardon and forgiveness are offered through the preaching of the gospel in order that the sinner, freed from the tyranny of Satan, the yoke of sin, and the miserable bondage of vices, may cross over into the Kingdom of God, surely no one can embrace the grace of the gospel without betaking himself from the errors of his past life into the right way, and applying his whole effort to the practice of repentance” (Calvin, Inst. III.iii.1).

Calvin says above “Now it ought to be a fact beyond controversy that repentance not only constantly follows faith, but is also born of faith.” I wonder, though, whether the Bible states that repentance follows faith. On this matter, here is Sinclair Ferguson

“Any confusion is surely resolved by the fact that when Jesus preached “the gospel of God” in Galilee, He urged His hearers, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14–15). Here repentance and faith belong together. They denote two aspects in conversion that are equally essential to it. Thus, either term implies the presence of the other because each reality (repentance or faith) is the sine qua non of the other” (Sinclair Ferguson, “Faith and Repentance”).

That seems more like it: faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin.

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

7 Apr

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!

1 Apr

 

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

26 Mar

 

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

 

 

Christianity Today’s “Tragic death of Fred Phelps.” Stop draining the life out of the blood of Christ

22 Mar

The latest issue of Christianity Today, carries the article “The tragic death of Fred Phelps,” The first sentence, short and crisp – you’re toast, reads “Death is always a tragedy.” What! Then no more singing in church those idiotic songs “You’re my greatest treasure” and “I want to be where you are” – that is, dead.

What is a tragedy. It is an event that ends in despair, no hope, lost for eternity. Don’t Christians today know that, feel that in their tripes? Now here’s an avoidable tragedy: Christianity Today refrain from talking such tripe and draining the life out of the blood of Christ, which so many Christians accuse Fred Phelps of doing.

A question: Does God hate people? I was surprised to hear Al Mohler expressing himself about God’s love in a similar vein to the above writer: God loves everybody. In his You Have Been Warned—The “Duck Dynasty” ControversyMohler says:

“In a statement released before his suspension, Phil Robertson told of his own sinful past and of his experience of salvation in Christ and said:

‘My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.’

Those are fighting words, Phil. They are also the gospel truth.” Fighting words? God loves all humanity?  Hates no one?  Sweet thought but not so? Here is  Matt Slick  on the question: 

Does God hate anyone? The answer is yes.

Psalm 5:5, “The boastful shall not stand before Thine eyes; Thou dost hate all who do iniquity,”
Psalm 11:5, “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates.”
Lev. 20:23, “Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I shall drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them.”
Prov. 6:16-19, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”
Hosea 9:15, “All their evil is at Gilgal; indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels.”

“Are these verses, asks Slick,  hard to read? Do they make you feel uncomfortable? They should. God hates sin. But, He does not punish sin. He punishes the sinner. Sin cannot be tied up and thrown into a fire. It cannot be put in a box or glued to a stick. It is rebellion. It is rebellion in the heart. It is breaking God’s Law. Sin occurs inside the heart and mind of people. Therefore, God must punish the sinner. Why? Because He is both Holy and Just and the person who sins offends God. God’s Holy and Just character will not allow Him to ignore this offense.

Slick concludes:

“The sobering fact is that God is so holy and righteous that He hates the sinner (Psalm 5:5; Lev. 20:23; Prov. 6:16-19; Hos. 9:15). Some say that we should say that God only hates the sin but loves the sinner. But, the above scriptures speak contrary to that. But it is also true that He is love (1 John 4:8). It is better to accept the love of God found in Jesus than to reject it and suffer His wrath.”

What then does John 3:16 mean when it says “God so loved the world?” It certainly does not mean “God loved the soooooo much….” It means “God loved the world (not Mars) in such away that he gave his son so that those believing in him will be given eternal life. And – the next bit – those not believing are condemned already. I wonder if “enough already” was originally coined by a Jewish Arminian.

In one of the writer’s sentences (repeated below) in the Christianity article, the Apostle Paul’s “us” refers to believers, not the “world,” not even to the US.

“They (The Phelps family) followed an angry god who hated sinners, not the God who sent Jesus who “proves His own love for US in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8).

As for the writer’s  “Tell someone today that God loves them,” that’s at best Arminian confusion. As for the reason given “Do it because the world will talk about a man who hated in the name of “God”: So God may not really love the one you’re deceiving? Such a plan is arguably worse than telling Tom, Dick AND Harry that “God has a great plan for your life.” Health and happiness?

James White’s Greek: Trip over your letters and destroy the world

21 Mar

First a little linguistics. The science of linguistics distinguishes between competence and performance. Competence refers to knowledge of a language, and performance to its use. Sometimes a competent language user may – aware or unaware – slip on his performance of sounds, spelling, grammar or vocabulary. The difference between a competent and incompetent language user is that the former, when becoming aware, can correct the mistake. The incompetent person. In contrast, cannot corect the mistake, which means that he doesn’t know the language (adequately). If, therefore, a person makes a mistake in writing or speaking, we should not conclude that the person is incompetent, namely, doesn’t know how the language works. The mistake might be a performance slip, and not an indication of incompetence.

On his “Dividing Line” yesterday, James White was in telephonic conversation with Ijaz Ahmed. One of the issues dealt with was the incident where White had slipped up in quoting from memory an excerpt of biblical Greek. Ijaz Ahmed had previously posted the following graphic and article on his blog

james white greek 1

The day after James White’s debate with Br. Zakir Hussain (details here, audio stream here, or right click ‘save as’ to download here), James released an article conceding to his clear ineptitude, inability to respond to well founded research and lack of basic comprehension skills. By basic I mean not being able to find a word and correctly identify its meaning, even after having used a computer to search for it (even though he’s a self claimed expert on the Greek language). I really must question not only his basic comprehension skills, but his lazy and hypocritical attitude as well. Ask a 3 year old Muslim to recite 7 ayat from Surah Fatihah and they would be able to do so with perfect pronunciation (tajweed), which I can demonstrate as being possible here and here, ask James White to repeat something he’s done several thousand times and he can’t.” 

Ijaz Ahmed’s understanding of how language works is parlous. “Reciting” sounds or letters by itself is not what is meant by knowing a language. And so, reciting them well does not mean the reciter knows the language well. Indeed the reciter might not have the foggiest idea. That little three-year  old Muslim hasn’t, of course, a clue what’s tripping off his tongue. This is true of the majority of Muslim adults as well because although they can recite Arabic, they don’t have a clue about Arabic grammar or what the words mean. Think parrots. The difference between a parrot and human “reciters” is that parrots don’t have minds; well, not human minds. But, says many Muslims, that doesn’t matter, because the sounds (phonemes) and the letters (graphemes) have a power in themselves to bring you closer, if not to Allah, to submission to Allah’s will.

As with Muslims, so with Jews, specifically non-Israeli Jews. ”When I was called to the bima (platform), relates Avram Yehoshua from the US,  to read the haftara portion (the portion of Scripture from the Prophets that the bar Mitzva boy reads), I chanted it melodically and without mistake. The only problem was that I had no idea what the Hebrew words meant or what I was doing, except that today I would ‘become a man.’ 

In passing, I wonder whether the Muslims didn’t get the idea from medieval rabbis that the Arabic letters and sounds in the Quran having divine properties. 

In his his “Handbook of Rabbinical Theology: Language, system, structure”(Brill Academic Publishers, 2002), Jacob Neusner says “The saying of the words [of the Mishnah], whether heard meaningfully by another or not, is the creation of the world?” Jacob Neusner and the grammar of rabbinical theology (5): the creativity of the rabbinical mind.” The explanation of such an unintelligible statement (to those outside traditional Judaism) is found in the Kabbalah, a core text of the Oral Torah. According to the Kabbalah, the very individual sounds (phonemes)/letters (graphemes) of the Torah contain deep meanings independent of the meanings of the words they spawn. Rabbi Glazerson, in his Philistine and Palestinian” (1995) says: The deeper significance of the letters and words is discussed extensively in the literature of Kabbalah. It is a subject as wide as all Creation. Every single letter points to a separate path by which the effluence of the divine creative force reaches the various sefirot (”spheres”) through which the Creator, Blessed be he, created His world,”

And Moshe CordoveroHalachah [Jewish law] obligates the reader to read the weekly portion, twice in the original Hebrew and once in the Aramaic translation, and this includes even seemingly meaningless place names (underlining added) such as Atarot and Divon (Bamidbar 32:3 Numbers” 32:3)…The spiritual concept of each and every letter contains a glorious light, derived from the essence of the sefirot [spheres]…each letter is like a splendid palace, containing and corresponding to its spiritual concept. When one of the letters is pronounced aloud, the corresponding spiritual force is necessarily evoked…these spiritual forces inhere not only in [the vocalized letters] but also in their written forms.” Moshe Cordovero’s Pardes Rimonim [Garden of Pomegranates] , Sha’ar Ha-Ottiot [Gate of Letters], Chapter 1).   (See my Letters of Hebrew fire – the depth and death of meaning). 

White, stumbled over his Greek letters, and that, says Jiad, I mean Ijad, makes him no NT scholar. We can be thankful though that he was speaking Greek, not Hebrew (or Quranic Arabic?), and so the world did not come to an end.

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

19 Mar

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).

Unbelief: The stench of death to death

16 Mar

In his “Belief in Jesus: Its Barriers and Blessings John Piper talks about sad news (perdition) and glad tidings (salvation). He gives three conclusions that turn the sad news into glad news.

Piper’s text is John 12:37-42

37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

“Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”[h]
39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

40 “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.”

41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

Piper has three conclusions:

1. God is sovereign over all belief and unbelief. He knows exactly how to plan both of them in ways that exalt his sovereignty and preserve man’s accountability. And therefore he is never thwarted in his plans by anyone’s unbelief. Nor is he ever prevented from saving his own (John 10:16; 6:37).

2. The root of unbelief points to the glory of Jesus Christ. He is the radiance of God’s glory, but he is meek and lowly. The root of unbelief is to love the glory of man (the centrality of man, the praise of man) and not the glory of God (the centrality and supremacy of God). And that is exactly backwards. When we love the glory of God above the glory of man, we will not reject Jesus, but believe on him.

3. The text of this message and the entire story of the public ministry of Jesus points us to the cross where he will die. He was the glory of Isaiah 6. He was the unattractive suffering servant of Isaiah 53. And therefore (because of both) he was rejected by men and destined for the cross — and for the salvation of the world. This is what God planned in the unbelief of Israel.

What I want to mention most of all is part of Piper’s opening prayer.

“I don’t want to be the instrument of anyone’s hardening tonight, I don’t want to be the aroma (added: “stench” is more appropriate) from death to death. I tremble at the prospect of consigning anyone to destruction, to bringing them to the point of decisive unbelief through exposing them to the brightness of the glory which they hate.”

Staggering.

Piper’s m3 sermons have transcripts.

The Divinity of Christ and Constantine: how to be an historiographical klutz

15 Mar

bography:

I thought I’d repost this on the Ku Klutz Klan.

Originally posted on OneDaringJew:

Speak to any Jew or Muslim who is on nodding terms with Church history, and he will tell you that the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) (see NOTE below) hosted by the Roman Emperor Constantine concocted the Trinity. How many times have I heard this graphic historical nonsense! These people, with undue respects, are historiographical klutzes. They’ve never heard of, indeed – very embarrassing – even maintain that certain frontline Christian apologists of the doctrine of the Trinity, who existed long before Nicea, did not even exist. To wit:

]ustin Martyr (ca.100-165),
Tatian the Assyrian (ca. 120-180),
Theophilus of Antioch(ca. 120-190),
lrenaeus of Lyons (ca.130-200),
Athenagoras of Athens (ca. 133-190),
Aristides of Athens (second century),
Minucius Felix (second or third century).

Sure, it’s not everyone who has the time or inclination to read the Ante-Nicene – no, not anti-Nicene – fathers. Steven Lawson, in his “The Pillars of grace, Volume…

View original 133 more words

The relevance and vision of the Bible

15 Mar

Make the Bible relevant to your life? Do that and you’ll learn more about your precious self but nothing about God. “Under,” in this regard, is an important word. Sit under the Bible, not on it. Preachers, preach, don’t breach, the Bible. And no more milksop topics like “A Vision for your life.”

But what about “Where there is no vision, the people perish?” (Proverbs 29:18). But read on: “but he that keeps the law, happy is he.” The vision Christians should be passionate about is to obey the commandments of God. For other visions consult your doctor.

Unless, the vision is the cause of your conversion, as in Saul of Tarsus and some Muslims.

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

14 Mar

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.

Shared from WordPress

13 Mar

http://stavvers.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/not-doctor-stavvers-or-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-quit-my-phd/

O Jerusalem Jerusalem! Grammar is of the Lord

12 Mar

 

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?

10 Mar

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)

The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God by John Frame, Chapter 4 Read on Audio

5 Mar

Originally posted on The Domain for Truth:

The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God John Frame cover

John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God is an excellent work touching on apologetics, Reformed theology, the Bible and epistemology (philosophical branch of studying how do we know what we know).

Reformed Audio ministry reads aloud various books and literature and makes them available for free and last month they read aloud chapter four from The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.

Enjoy!

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The gift: The reward of suffering

27 Feb

I examine the meaning of gift and reward and their relationship to salvation. The key motifs are based on the italicised portions in John 6.

 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” …60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offence at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

In this passage, it is clear that the reason why a sinner comes to (believes in) Christ is because the Father has (previously; in eternity) given the sinner to the Son. And if you do come, you will be given eternal life. We see the same promise in John 17:6 –  “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.” This promise was decreed from eternity: Titus 1:2, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”

Every whosoever is familiar with John 3:16 – “God so loved the world 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The word “whoever,” or “Whosoever,” evokes for the English speaker the melodramatic notion “whoever chooses to believe.” A better translation, is “God loved the world in such a way that he gave his son, that those believing in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Here is Matthew Henry on John 3:16: “Jesus Christ came to save us by pardoning us, that we might not die by the sentence of the law. Here is gospel, good news indeed. Here is God’s love in giving his Son for the world. God so loved the world; so really, so richly. Behold and wonder, that the great God should love such a worthless world!”

And the “Pulpit Commentary”:

The Divine love is the sublime source of the whole proceeding, and it has been lavished on “the world.” This world cannot be the limited “world” of the Augustinian, Calvinian interpreters – the world of the elect; it is that “whole world” of which St. John speaks in 1 John 2:2. “God will have all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). Calvin himself says, “Christ brought life, because the heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish.” (See Commentaries on John 3:16).

The “world’ in 1 John 2:2, contrary to the Arminian view above, comprises those that were given to the Son before the world began (John 6:37-44 above), not those in the world who are those not given to the Son before the world began; as it says in John 17, Jesus does not pray (intercede) for the “world” (the non-elect) but only for those whom the Father gives him, gave Him from eternity. These consist of the disciples Jesus was praying for in John 17 as well as those who will come to believe in the future. The “all”  in 1 Timothy 2:4 cannot refer to everyone without exception, for at least two reasons:

  1. Many are not saved, which means God would be a massive failure, making nonsense of Isaiah 46:9-10 – “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”

2. The import of the “given” verses in John 6:37-44 and John 17 discussed above.

Yes, Calvin says God loves (with a saving love) the human race, not animals, not any other kind of being. This does not mean every individual, but only those who were given: from the Jewish nation and the “nations” (Goyim – Gentiles); those who formed “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).

Salvation, the whole process – those the Father gives to the Son, regeneration, repentance and faith, sanctification and glorification – is of the Lord. Therefore – as I recently read in an Anglican Purpose Statement, “we cannot save ourselves and salvation is through (my italics) Christ and Christ alone.” Don’t, however, be deceived. Because this statement is from an Anglican view, therefore an Arminian view, it does not mean that salvation is “of the Lord” (Jonah 2;9) alone, that is by Christ ALONE. What Anglicans, in general, mean is that there is no other external (outside oneself) entity by which one can be saved. The typical Arminian belief is that God is only a possible saviour, and therefore the Father is unable to give you to the Son unless he foresees that you will grant him permission to do so. So, Christ is the possible saviour, and has a great plan for your life – unless you have other plans. Can there be such a person as a real saviour, a saviour who doesn’t depend on the hand he is dealt, and if so, who is this amazing being? You, of course. That is the logical outcome of the Arminian position – praying on his knees for God to change people’s hearts but on his feet defending their “God-given” right to change it themselves.

In the John 6 passage above, we saw that sinners are the Father’s gift to the son. The next question is: Was there anything good (righteous) in those specific sinners that influenced the Father to give them to the son? By “good” is not meant loving kindness, but primarily acknowledging and bowing before Christ as Saviour and Lord – out of which flows loving kindness. No one, in the natural, therefore sinful, state wants to confess Jesus as Saviour and Lord.

10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12, Psalm 14:1-3).

Therefore, you can only want to come to Christ, to see his kingdom, if he puts that desire into you. How do you get this desire. It should be simple (to understand) but often is not: “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3). So, before you can believe, you need to see, and before you can see, you need to be born again. Here, in contrast, is the Arminian view: “I see Christ, then with some help from his indispensable grace I open my door to him, and then believe. Next, I ask Him to regenerate me (make me born again). The unregenerate puts the cart before the horse. Who cares, as long as there is a cart and the horse; we’ll find out in heaven what comes first!

I move on to the second part of my title: reward.

In Did the Father turn his face away in sorrow from the Cross?. I examined the following verse in the song “How deep the father’s love for us.”

How great the pain of searing loss,

The Father turns His face away

As wounds which mar the chosen One,

Bring many sons to glory

This verse is saying that the reason why the Father turned his face away was because of the great pain he felt at crucifying his son. Pure conjecture, and sentimental conjecture at that. A mystic, though, could very well be better informed.

Previously, I argued that the Father gave a definite number of sinners (the elect) to the Son as a gift, which, I should add, was predestined from eternity (Ephesians 1). Believers are the Father’s gift to the Son. Or more accurately, The Father, by His wise secret counsel, gave sinners whom he elected to salvation to the Son. Consider this gift in the light of “reward.”

Here is another verse from the song above, “Did the Father turn his face away in sorrow from the Cross?. This verse mentions the Son’s reward:

Why should I gain from His reward?

I cannot give an answer

But this I know with all my heart

His wounds have paid my ransom.

What is Christ’s reward? The first line of the verse tells us that saved sinners feel unworthy to share in Christ’s reward. What can this reward be? An extra thousand cattle on an extra thousand hills – spiritual cattle on spiritual hills, if you like? More glory than He had before He came to earth? No, because Christ cannot have more glory than he had before he came to earth: John 17: 4 “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

Here is an excerpt from Paris Reidhead’s sermon “Ten Shekels and a Shirt” regarded as one of the best sermons of all time, and rightly so. The emphases are his:

“I went out there motivated by humanism. I’d seen pictures of lepers, I’d seen pictures of ulcers, I’d seen pictures of native funerals, and I didn’t want my fellow human beings to suffer in Hell eternally after such a miserable existence on earth. But it was there in Africa that God began to tear THROUGH THE OVERLAY OF THIS HUMANISM! And it was that day in my bedroom with the door locked that I wrestled with God. For here was I, coming to grips with the fact that the people I thought were ignorant and wanted to know how to go to heaven and were saying “Someone come teach us”, actually didn’t want to take time to talk with me or anybody else. They had no interest in the Bible and no interest in Christ, and they loved their sin and wanted to continue in it. And I was to that place at that time where I felt the whole thing was a sham and a mockery, and I had been sold a bill of goods! And I wanted to come home.

 There alone in my bedroom AS I FACED GOD HONESTLY WITH WHAT MY HEART FELT, it seemed to me I heard Him say, “Yes, will not the Judge of all the earth do right? The Heathen are lost. And they’re going to go to Hell, not because they haven’t heard the gospel. They’re going to go to Hell because they are sinners, WHO LOVE THEIR SIN! And because they deserve Hell. BUT, I didn’t send you out there for them. I didn’t send you out there for their sakes.” And I heard as clearly as I’ve ever heard, though it wasn’t with physical voice but it was the echo of truth of the ages finding its’ way into an open heart. I heard God say to my heart that day something like this, “I didn’t send you to Africa for the sake of the heathen, I sent you to Africa for My sake. They deserved Hell! But I LOVE THEM!!! AND I ENDURED THE AGONIES OF HELL FOR THEM!!! I DIDN’T SEND YOU OUT THERE FOR THEM!!! I SENT YOU OUT THERE FOR ME! DO I NOT DESERVE THE REWARD OF MY SUFFERING? DON’T I DESERVE THOSE FOR WHOM I DIED?”

I was there not for the sake of the heathen. I was there for the Savior who endured the agonies of Hell for me. But He deserved the heathen. Because He died for them. My eyes were opened. I was no longer working for Micah and ten shekels and a shirt. But I was serving a living God.”

When I heard this last paragraph, I thought: “Paris, you’re wrong. Doesn’t John 3:16 say, ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whosoever believes in him will have eternal life.’ But here you are saying that God (the Father) so loved His son, that he gave Him these lovers of iniquity to become his adopted brothers and sisters. And the way the Father chose to do this, you would agree, Paris, was to unleash his wrath on His Son (with the Son’s full cooperation), the wrath these lovers of iniquity deserved What love is this! Indeed.

Here is a very moving excerpt (a short YouTube clip) from Paris Reidhead’s “Ten Shekels and shirt” about the reward of Christ’s suffering. The first 20 seconds show an excerpt from “The Passion of the Christ,” which is not the main reason for the excerpt’s poignancy.

What then can the Saviour’s reward be? Well, if he has saved you, then His reward is you, innit? The ones the Father gave to the Son, gifted to the Son, “the ones believing” (translated infelicitously as “whosoever”) in John 3:16, are His reward – the reward of His suffering. If we are born again, and consequently united to Christ through faith, “it should rejoice our hearts: for Christ herein has his rewards for his suffering.” (Jonathan Edwards). Isaiah 53:10 – “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” (See Jonathan Edwards, “For His sufferings, God promised Christ the reward of seeing sinners saved”).

What motivated God to create the world, asks Mark Talbot (“When the stars disappear: Why do Christians suffer” – Christ the Center podcast, minute 50). One way to answer this is to say that God the Father loved the Son so much that He created the world in order that he might gather a people who would in fact become his Son’s bride and praise His Son forever throughout all of the eschaton (consummation). That’s the end of the story.”

And the end of the reward’s suffering. Not only the end of their suffering, but the latter’s intent.

Why should I gain from His reward?” No, rather “Why make me, this unclean thing (Romans 3:13-18), his reward?”

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

24 Feb

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 OneDaringJew:

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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Did the Father turn his face away in sorrow from the Cross?

19 Feb

This is another in the series, “The Songs we shouldn’t sing in church.”

Thomas Aquinas is purported to have said, “Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.” I describe what can happen when love, or anything, takes off, and knowledge takes a holiday.

Mother Teresa said the following in the ”Decree of Erection” for her congregation:

To quench the thirst of Our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of souls by the observance of the three Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience …” (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, the Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta”, edited and with commentary by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M. C. (USA: Doubleday, 2007, p. 20). Where does Mother Teresa get the idea that Jesus is constantly “thirsting for souls?” I think the constant sacrifice of the Mass has much to do with it. In Roman Catholic theology the sacrifice is never over. This constant thirst idea is an aberration, because there is nothing in the Bible says that Jesus is thirsting in heaven. (See ”The constant thirst and constant sacrifice of Jesus Christ: The Charism of Mother Teresa”).

What about God from a Unitarian (non-Trinitarian) view. According to the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, “ Whenever God faced with anyone who appealed and prayed to Him with such a grieving heart, He related to that person with a sorrow welling up in His heart.” (Let Us Become the Ones Who Can Understand God’s Sorrow”).There is nothing about this in the Bible.

What about God the Father (from a Trinitarian point of view). Did the Father turn his face away in sorrow from the crucifixion of His Son? I examine this question here. There is a very moving song called “How deep the father’s love for us.”

How deep the Father’s love for us,

How vast beyond all measure

That He should give His only Son

To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,

The Father turns His face away

As wounds which mar the chosen One,

Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,

My sin upon His shoulders

Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,

Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there

Until it was accomplished

His dying breath has brought me life

I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything

No gifts, no power, no wisdom

But I will boast in Jesus Christ

His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?

I cannot give an answer

But this I know with all my heart

His wounds have paid my ransom

(REPEAT)

There are about two dozen comments on this song to be found here. The following two are representative:

1. What great inspiration!what a deep song on the love of God. again and again,i listen to this piece and i get broken in my spirit. this is one of the best xtian [sic] songs ever written in history to reveal the great love of a sinless Christ for a sinful human race.

2. The song is really amazing! It makes me feel as if we’ve just entered heaven and the song is played as we approach the face of God, getting to meet Jesus face to face. I love it!

The words are moving, but more important, mostly biblically on the button, except for this verse, (and perhaps “Why should I gain from His reward”) about the Father turning his face away in sorrow.

How great the pain of searing loss,

The Father turns His face away

As wounds which mar the chosen One,

Bring many sons to glory.

Before I speak of sorrow, I need to begin with wrath. Ben Trigg (“Did the Father turn His face away”) presents a good case that the Bible never talks of God turning his face away in wrath, or for any reason. “No doubt, says Trigg, the wrath of God is visible at the cross.” However, in spite of “My God my God why have you forsaken me” (Jesus voicing Psalm 22:1, this does not mean that the Father turned his face away, for we read in Psalm 22:24 : “He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.” Jesus’s cry in Psalm 22:1 should not be truncated from the rest of Psalm 22.

The problem I have with this verse of the song is not, as in Trigg, that the Father turns His face from the Son as a sign of his wrath against sinners. This is the problem: there is a strong allusion, I would say assertion, that the reason why the Father turned his face away was because of the great pain he felt at crucifying his son. But who knows that other than the Father?

(In Christian theology, patripassianism is the view that God the Father suffers (from Latin patri- “father” and passio “suffering”). Its adherents believe that God the Father was incarnate and suffered on the cross and that whatever happened to the Son happened to the Father and so the Father co-suffered with the human Jesus on the cross. This view is opposed to the classical theological doctrine of divine apathy. According to classical theology it is possible for Christ to suffer only in virtue of his human nature. The divine nature is incapable of suffering. There is no consensus that the early church considered this a heresy or not – Wikipedia).

What we do know – which we get from the Bible; that’s all we’ve got, and it’s sufficient – is that at the cross, the Father’s full wrath that should have fallen on sinners, He unleashed on His Son. But then, who wants to sing songs, or preach, on the wrath of God in church “worship” (the songs part of church). It makes a person feel bad, and makes God look really bad.

Except for the contentious patripassianism bit,  the song “How deep the Father’s love for us,” is, as someone said, “One of my favourite songs… Fantastic song, it truly speaks to me how truly deep our heavenly Father loves us, even when our voices are among the scoffers.” Here are the words put to music.

“Brainy quotes” from Thomas Aquinas: There’s nothing like a good sleep, a hot bath and a glass of good red wine

18 Feb

Here are a few Thomas Aquinas quotes from Brainy quotes followed by my comments. How can we live in harmony? First we need to know we are all madly in love with the same God.” Does this “we,” refer to everybody without distinction, including atheists, agnostics and materialists? Surely many people of Thomas’s day, as of any day, hate God. If Thomas is not referring to atheists, is he referring to Muslims and Jews? Consider Jesus’s words: John 14 6. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

In verse 7, Jesus says “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.” Thus, after the advent of Jesus, the God that the Muslims and Jews want to know, or think they know, is neither the Son of God (Jesus) or God the Father, and so, not the Christian God. As far as Thomas’s “madly in love” with God, although true Christians love God, many of these are not madly in love with Him. Thomas was genuinely in love with God; though today the phrase “in love” used about God often appears in schmaltzy boyfriend- girlfriend church songs.

Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.”

There was at least one exception where this remedy would not have worked. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus says “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch” (Mark 14:34). And what about someone who had just lost a child to sickness or murder; and the many other situations. Or, to return to the Bible: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Would a good sleep, a nice hot bath, and a glass of claret dissolve that worldly sorrow? Maybe what Thomas really said was: Some sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.” Here is an example from Jewish life. Jewish mothers often have a lot of tsorres (sorrows), which may be nothing more than the kitke burning in the oven. I doubt whether all the bath salts in the world could wipe away that sorrow.

Kitke

Kitke

Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.”

In my teaching courses I was taught that a great motivation to learning something is being interested in it; and if you love it, you’ll want to learn even more. Biblically speaking, love of God and knowledge of God are two sides of the same coin – unless you’re a mindless mystic. It is true, though, that we can get lost in love, where our minds freeze up – which can be good for you.

The things that we love tell us what we are.”

And the things that we hate? Do the things that we hate tell us who we are not? Of course not, and Thomas would, I think, agree. Surely it is things that we both love and hate that tell us who we are – and who we ae not. Be careful though: John says: I love Church. Does that tell us that he loves church? No, he might be lying. Ok, then; John doesn’t only tell us he loves going to church, he also goes a lot. So does this mean that he loves church because he never misses a Sunday? Hint: his wife loves going to church, and he loves her; or wants peace at home.

How is it they live in such harmony the billions of stars – when most men can barely go a minute without declaring war in their minds about someone they know?”

When you knock a star over its head, it doesn’t  see stars, bravely stagger to its feet, rip off its rolex, and punch you in the jaw.

It is requisite for the relaxation of the mind that we make use, from time to time, of playful deeds and jokes.”

You said it Thomas, I feel much better now. I’d feel even better perhaps if I didn’t – like children – take play so seriously. Anyhow, why worry, as Thomas does and many Catholics don’t,  about all this serious biblical and doctrinal stuff. Let us raise our glasses: Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there’s dancing, laughter & good red wine; at least I have always found it so,Benedicamus Domino!
 (Hilaire Belloc)

Apologetics: What’s the use!

16 Feb

In his article on the use of apologetics, “What’s it all for?”, the author holds the view – confusing to many – that “I am definitely an apologist and in the same breath say that there can be no objective proof for the existence of God.” Some hold the view that apologetics is useful, others the view that there is no objective proof of God’s existence, but very few would hold to both views. The author writes:

Apologetics was never really or initially about proving God to someone who did not believe in God to begin with. It simply wasn’t. It has evolved into that kind of thing, and along with it, it has become an cyclical exercise nearing futility. Rather, apologetics is about the process of critical thinking about the way we already make sense of reality and the universe. It is the process of checking ourselves (as theists) to make sure that we are thinking about our understanding of God correctly and accurately. And it works most of the time. It actually does provide a logical framework based on our existing worldview that demonstrates our beliefs about God and religious truth are accurate.”

So, the author maintains, you are not going to convince an atheist that God exists, definitely not that a personal God exists, and certainly not that the being of this personal God is a trinity of persons. Apologetics is of most use in a theist-to-theist discussion. As Greg Koukl puts it, all he is doing in his “Stand to Reason” ministry is putting a stone in someone’s shoe. Make that a burning cinder, and I’ll agree.

However, continues the author, that does not mean “I think apologetic conversations between a theist and an atheist is entirely useless. But the point cannot be to show that the atheist ought to believe the theist is right. That simply will not work. Rather, the point ultimately is to apply a critical analysis of the argument itself. The atheist will point out logical errors in the arguments because they cannot have any kind of confirmation bias to disregard them. However, the theist has to keep in mind that the atheist will also point out perceived errors based on the assumptions the theist does not share. That’s where the theist has to be able to recognize where the atheist are coming from so he/she can discern which objections are valid and which ones are not, because from the atheist’s perspective, they are simply not going to be able to tell the difference.”

What can be very useful for theists in discussion with atheists is to get atheists to think about their thinking, which, in a nutshell, is what philosophy is all about. At the end of the the Backpack Radio episode “Thinking about thinking,” the presenter slips in the most significant remark of the whole episode: Christianity is foolishness to the natural man (1 Corinthians 1 and 2), and that without regeneration (being born again – John 3) – no matter how clear your presentation – no one can come to believe in Christ.

Having said that, logical argumentation, as the writer of “What’s it all for?” said above, can be very useful in showing atheists the inconsistencies they hold. For example, in Backpack Radio’s subsequent episode, James Anderson discusses “worldview.” He relates an anecdote about someone who used his book What’s Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions, in his apologetics class. The book is written in the form of a flow chart. The first question Anderson asks is “Do you believe in absolute truth?” If you say yes, you are directed to a specific section of the book; if you answer no, you are sent to another section. Anderson tells of someone who went through the book with non theology students In answer to the question “Do you believe in absolute truth?” about 90% said no. This answer led to a related track of the book. At the end of their journey, most wanted to change their minds.

Conclusion: thinking about thinking, that is, philosophy, will definitely not save you, but it can certainly get your unbelieving knickers in a knot. And if you’re riding furiously towards Damascus, that knot might be the (unguaranteed) means that God uses to pluck you off your high horse. As Anderson said, world views seldom change, but this change may occur under a crisis (death-beds generally excluded). Ultimately it is a work of the Holy Spirit – who, of course, never fails in what He wants to do. The fact that God never fails in what he wants to do is something the Calvinists on this page, if not most Christians, believe?

God uses different means for different people. One of these may be apologetics. What it ultimately comes down to is that No one can know God without His voluntary condescension (Westminister Confession of faith), in a word his grace, which by itself is sufficient to save – through faith, both divinely generated that turns a sow into a cat:

“Try and teach a sow to wash itself, and see how little success you would gain. It would be a great sanitary improvement if swine would be clean. Teach them to wash and clean themselves as the cat has been doing! Useless task. You may by force wash that sow, but it hastens to the mire, and is soon as foul as ever. The only way in which you can get a sow to wash itself is to transform it into a cat; then it will wash and be clean, but not till then! Suppose that transformation to be accomplished, and then what was difficult or impossible is easy enough; the swine will henceforth be fit for your parlor and your hearth-rug. So it is with an ungodly man; you cannot force him to do what a renewed man does most willingly; you may teach him, and set him a good example, but he cannot learn the art of holiness, for he has no mind to it; his nature leads him another way. When the Lord makes a new man of him, then all things wear a different aspect. So great is this change, that I once heard a convert say, “Either all the world is changed, or else I am.”(Charles Spurgeon, “All of grace”)

So Saul was blown off his horse. Wait until you hear what happened to me

16 Feb

Christ blew Saul of Tarsus off his horse. That’s nothing; He blew me off my high horse.

Conversion of Paul on the way to Damascus by Carravaggio

Conversion of Paul on the way to Damascus by Carravaggio

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

14 Feb

John 1:13, Young’s Literal translation, reads: “who not of blood nor of a will of flesh, nor of a will of man (Greek aner) but — of God were begotten.”

Here is the New American Standard Bible (NASB): “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the NIV translation: “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

Aner has the following meanings in the New Testament:

A. with reference to sex
1. of a male
of a husband
of a betrothed or future husband

B. with reference to age, and to distinguish an adult man from a boy
C. any male

and last but not – by any stretch of the imagination – least

D. used generically of a group of both men and women

I asked a pastor the meanings in the NASB translation of:

Me – What does “not of blood” mean?
Pastor – It means not of human descent.

Me – What does “not of the will of the flesh” mean?
Pastor – It means “not of a man’s decision.”

Me – What does “not of the will of man” mean?
Pastor – Not of a husband’s decision; the same as the previous “not of the will of a man’s decision.”

In sum, for this pastor, and Arminians in general, “human decision” and the “will of man” cannot refer to the mind/spirit of believers but to their fleshly fleshy fathers. In other words, “human decision” and the “will of man” must, for Arminians, refer to the sexual desire of the believer’s Poppa. Which leaves the sacrosanct will of the believer intact and free to choose to be born again. If this is true, then when we read the last part of the verse “but born of God,” what this must mean for the Arminian is “but born of God (and of the believer – understood). If “and the believer” is not understood, that would make him or her a robot. Capiche?

But what about Romans 9:16? “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (NIV).

That’s easy” “desire,” “effort”; the husband’s willy, naturally. And if you don’t believe me, here’s the context of Romans 9:16 to prove my point:

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).

More songs in church – Won’t you reign me in again

11 Feb

Here are the titles of songs sung at the same service:

Lord reign in me.
I lift my hands.
Blessed Assurance.

So far, very nice titles. Here is a verse from each:

Lord reign in me – Last verse: “Lord reign in me, Reign in your power, Over all my dreams, In my darkest hour, you are the Lord of all I am, So won’t you reign in me again.

Comment: If “you are the Lord of all I am,” why do you – in the next breath – warble, “So, won’t you reign in me again?” Say no more.

There was less than a minute interval between the above verse and the first verse of the next song.
I lift my hands – First verse: “I lift my hands to the coming king, To the great I am to You I sing, For you’re the One who reigns within my heart.”

Comment: So which is it? “For you’re the one who reigns within my heart” or the plea in the last verse of the previous song you sang a moment before: “So won’t you reign in me again.” Shouldn’t you be singing, “So won’t you feign in me again.”

The next song was Blessed Assurance. Last verse – “Perfect submission, all is at rest, I in my saviour am happy and blessed, Watching and waiting, looking above, Filled with his goodness, lost in his love.”

Put it all together, it spells smother: Blessed assurance reigning in me, reign me in again.

But who cares! They’re nice songs. Anyhow it’s too late to do anything about it one minute before proceedings begin.

Draining the colour from the blood of Christ

9 Feb

Nathan Betts in God’s final word writes:

“The cross of Christ shows us the enormity of evil that needed to be dealt with but it also shows us a God that cares. The theologian, N.T. Wright beautifully calls the cross, “God’s no to evil”. [ N. T. Wright, Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (Harperone, 2008), 87]. In the cross of Christ we see that God is not distant from suffering or evil but one who got involved in the problem. The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ tells us that the real evil we see around us is not the end.”

The cross, says Wright, God’s no to evil. Is that what Wright gets from God ordaining/predestinating/decreeing the cross? “As you yourselves know — this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” – Acts 2:23.

The verse says that God (the Father) ordained the crucifixion of Jesus. God didn’t – oh what a distorted, but all too human, notion – fit his divine plan of redemption into what he foresaw evil man would do, namely, crucify His Son. To think like this is to drain the two primary colours of redemption from the blood of Christ – his wrath and love.

There is no evil in God, there is no sin in God, but he ordained this evil, this sin. Why did God foreknow the cross? For the same reason he foreknows anything: it was part of his definite plan, his eternal decree. Yet lawless men are held accountable for this evil. That is what the verse is saying, love it, hate it. Most professing Christians blanch at the thought – naturally.

Our worship often smells nothing of God

8 Feb

There are so many songs sung in church that shouldn’t be. Lines such as “I’ll lay it all down again” (what’s this “it,” YOUR life!) and “I wanna be with you-hoo-hoo” are plain silly. (See Songs we should not sing in church).

Hugh Binning lived and died in the first half of the 17th century (1637 – 53). What he said about worship applies to all times and climes – whether it be of the formal or informal (no form?) kind”

“For the most part, our worship savours and smells nothing of God, neither his power, nor his mercy and grace, nor his holiness and justice, nor his majesty and glory; a secure, faint, formal way, void of reverence, of humility, of fervency, and of faith. I beseech you let us consider, as before the Lord, how much pains and time we lose, and please none but ourselves, and profit none at all. Stir up yourselves as in his sight for it is the keeping of our souls continually as in his sight which will stamp our service with his likeness. The fixed and constant meditation on God and his glorious properties, this will beget the resemblance between our worship and the God whom we worship and it will imprint his image upon it, and then it should please him, and then it should profit thee, and then it should edify others.”

(The works of Hugh Binning).

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

6 Feb

 

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.’

There is a point in Grace as much above the ordinary Christian, as the ordinary Christian is above the worldling

5 Feb

The New Testament says in many places that to be a Christian is to be “in Christ” and “Christ is in you.” Christians are born of God (born again), which entails that Christ lives – through the Holy Spirit – in them.

 Jeremy Walker, in his “Life in Christ: Becoming and Being a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, says:

 “I hope that you have come to know Him, that you have been blessed with possessing the unsearchable riches of Christ. If you do not yet possess them, they are proclaimed to be received and enjoyed by you. Believe that, and believe in Christ in order to receive them. They are not revealed to be regretted or resented but to be seen and known and obtained by sinners. They are declared in order to be grasped, so that sinners like us may live, like Paul, in a perpetual state of humble wonder.”

Here is the Apostle Paul addressing the Ephesian believers:

Ephesians 3 - “16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Christians are those whom God has regenerated (has birthed again – spiritually) by his grace after which he gives the gift of faith and repentance. As a necessary consequence, God, who is both transcendent and immanent, comes to live in the believer. The word in verse 17 “dwell” means to have a rich experience of God – the Spirit of Christ – living in you. Paul, addressing the Colossian believers, says: Colossians 3:16 – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms [and] hymns [and] spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God.”

It is possible to be a Christian and yet not have this rich experience of God dwelling in you. We see this in the famously often misunderstood passage of Revelation 3:20, even misunderstood by the great Puritan, John Flavel (1627 – 91), whose explanation “is Christ’s wooing voice, full of heavenly rhetoric to win and gain the hearts of sinners to himself.”

Here is Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” The Messiah is not addressing unbelievers but the “churches,” therefore believers. John Stott also gets it wrong. He speaks of God standing at the door waiting for sinners to let him in:

Yes Jesus Christ says he is standing at the door of our lives, waiting.” (Stott is talking to the unsaved, those who are dead in sin, the unsaved – Ephesians 2). “He, continues Stott, is the landlord; he bought it with his life-blood. He could command us to open to Him; instead, he merely invites us to do so. He will not force and entry into anybody’s life. He says (verse 18) ‘I counsel you.’ he could issue orders; he is content to give advice. Such are his condescension and humility, and the freedom he has given us” (John Stott, “Basic Christianity,” Intervarsity Press, 1958, p. 124). (See God is knocking at the door of “woosoever’s” heart: John Flavel on Revelation 3:20).

“Sup” (with him, the believer) in Revelation 3:20 has the same meaning as “dwell” (Ephesians 3:17) and “dwell richly” (Colossians 3:167). This indwelling in the true believer, with its fits and starts, grows richer and richer. God doesn’t need unbelievers permission to come and dwell in them, because the last thing the dead (in sin) can ask or want Christ to do is open their graves. Here is Edward Payson‘s (1783 – 1827) “hierarchy” (my term) of “professors of religion” (Payson): 

 “Suppose professors of religion to be ranged in different concentric circles around Christ as their common centre. Some value the presence of their Savior so highly that they cannot bear to be at any remove from Him. Even their work they will bring up and do it in the light of His countenance, and while engaged in it will be seen constantly raising their eyes to Him as if fearful of losing one beam of His light. These he describes as the innermost circle. Others, who to be sure, would not be content to live out of His presence, are yet less wholly absorbed by it than these, and may be seen a little further off, engaged here and there in their various callings, their eyes generally upon their work, but often looking up for the light which they love.”

A third class, beyond these but yet within the life-giving rays, includes a doubtful multitude, many of whom are so much engaged in their worldly schemes that they may be seen standing sideways to Christ, looking mostly the other way, and only now and then turning their faces towards the light. And yet further out, among the last scattered rays, so distant that it is often doubtful whether they come at all within their influence, is a mixed assemblage of busy ones, some with their backs wholly turned upon the sun, and most of them so careful and troubled about their many things as to spend but little time for their Savior.”

Charles Spurgeon, in his “The former and the latter rain,” says “there is a point in Grace as much above the ordinary Christian, as the ordinary Christian is above the worldling.” Spurgeon’s point is that it is not enough to rest on the fact that your sins have been forgiven, that you have been saved. There’s much more: there’s knowing God; knowing more and more who God is, and in so doing building up the “inner man.”

Related: Martyn Lloyd Jones’ sermon Experimental [Experiential] Christianity

Watch “The Truth About Nelson Mandela” on YouTube

2 Feb

You fools! On the road to Emmaus

1 Feb

Jesus, on the day of His resurrection met two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The one disciple’s name was Cleopas; the other disciple’s name is not known. We meet two of Jesus’ disciples who embody the basic state of mind of the disciples on the day of the resurrection, of which they were ignorant. They were frightened and in despair. What a great disappointment it was to these disciples that the One they called Lord had become a public laughing stock nailed to a cross. All of them were ashamed of Him, had forsaken Him, had run away to hide. Here is a record of the disciples’ encounter with Jesus on their journey to Emmaus:

Luke 24:13-28.

13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles[c] from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened.

15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?” They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

19 “What things?” Jesus asked. “The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.

22 “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You fools! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

Let us read again the key verse 25: Then Jesus said to them, “You fools! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures.

In the original Greek of the New Testament, there are different words for the English word “fool”, each with a different meaning, As a result, much of the richness of the original Greek is lost in the English translation of the NT.

Here are three examples: two from other parts of the Bible, and the third from our main text in Luke 24– the road to Emmaus text (v.25 above).

First example 1 Cor 4: 9:

For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 10 We are fools for Christ.

Fools” for Christ in this context means that we are not fools in Jesus’ eyes but in the world’s eyes.

Second example: Math 5:22

But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment….but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Here the word “fool” means morally worthless, dishonest , a crook. The Greek word for “fool” in this context is moros. If you call a person a moros in this context, you are pouring scorn on his heart and character, and according to Jesus, if you say this to somebody, you are in danger of hell fire.

Now let us go to the “fools” in our story in Luke 24.

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You fools! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures.

Fool” in the Emmaus story does not mean morally worthless, dishonest , a crook as in our previous example. “Fool” in the Emmaus story means, “unwise”, lacking in understanding. And one should add that this lack of understanding is self-created, that is, one only has oneself to blame for this lack of understanding.

To recap: we have looked at three different ways the word “fool” is used in the Bible”

  1. a fool for Christ, which is good in God’s eyes.

  2. calling someone a fool, which deserves hell fire, and

  3. a fool who lacks understanding, as is the case of our two disciples on the Emmaus road.

Let us see how Jesus deals with these two foolish disciples:

Let us now retrace the steps of Jesus and the disciples and accompany them on the walk to Emmaus. We go back to the beginning of the walk: Luke 24:13-14

13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles[c] from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened.

What were these two disciples talking about?

  1. Everything that had happened to Jesus, namely, His suffering and crucifixion.

  2. They were also talking about what they had heard in the upper room from the women who had been at the tomb of Jesus. These women had reported seeing two angels that told them that Jesus has risen from the dead.

These two disciples – as was the case with all the other disciples who were with them at the time – “did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (Luke 24:11).

15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.

God was content to keep them in ignorance for a little longer.

Jesus then asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” (v.17a).

Was Jesus asking them to reveal their thoughts? Obviously not. He knew exactly what they were thinking. He wanted them to talk.

The disciples then 17b. stood still, their faces downcast. 18One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19a “What things?” Jesus, who is still in disguise, continues to pretend ignorance.

19b “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

They then tell the stranger (Jesus) how they had hoped that Jesus was the one to redeem Israel. But the saddest thing was that he was crucified instead. They also described how some of their women had been told by angels that Jesus was not dead but was alive. But when some of their companions went to verify their story, they didn’t see Jesus.

The Emmaus road

The Emmaus road

The disciples thought it ridiculous that Jesus could have risen from the dead.

The question is: “Why were the disciples so unbelieving that Jesus had risen from the dead?” Didn’t Jesus tell them very clearly before His crucifixion that he would suffer, die and rise again? Let us go to the relevant passage in Luke 9, where Jesus predicts His suffering, death and resurrection:

18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” 19They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life. 20 But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christof God. 21Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

Mark’s Gospel contains more detail than Luke’s account of Jesus’ prediction of His death and resurrection. In Chapter 8:9 of Mark, As the disciples were coming down from the mountain after the transfiguration of Jesus, “Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.”

One would think that these disciples were very familiar with people rising from the dead, for there were several occasions that Jesus had raised people from the dead, the most notable being the resurrection of Lazarus, who had been dead four days. One wonders what the disciples were thinking when these resurrections occurred. Did they also discuss on those occasions what rising form the dead meant, as they had done on this occasion we are referring to here, namely, after the transfiguration, when Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead (Mark 8:9).

And then we read in Mark Chapter 9 that: Jesus “spoke clearly about this [His suffering, death and resurrection. Peter took Jesus to one side and began to scold him. Jesus turned and looked at his disciples. He scolded Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You are not thinking about the things of God. Instead, you are thinking about human things” (Mark 9:32-33).

We see that Jesus “spoke clearly” to His disciples about His suffering, death and resurrection. Peter scolded Jesus for saying that He was going to die. Jesus, in turn, scolded Peter, and called him “Satan”. (Where else in Luke do we read "Get behind me, Satan!"? In the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness (Luke 4:8).

Jesus must have been very disappointed in all of His disciples. When He rose from the dead, they still stubbornly refused to believe Jesus? As for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus had to go back to start from the beginning This time, Jesus does not only have to explain clearly to the two disciples– as He did before His crucifixion – he has to take them by the hand and walk with them through chapter and verse.

And so: Luke 24: 27…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Let’s look at one of the scriptures that Jesus explained to the two disciples.

Isaiah 53. The title of this chapter is “The suffering servant”.

3 He was despised and rejected—

a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.

We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.

He was despised, and we did not care.

4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;

it was our sorrows that weighed him down.

And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,

a punishment for his own sins!

5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,

crushed for our sins.

He was beaten so we could be whole.

He was whipped so we could be healed.

6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.

We have left God’s paths to follow our own.

Yet the Lord laid on him

the sins of us all.

I chose this passage, because it sums up what the scriptures are about – and is also a summary of what Jesus probably said to the two disciples – namely sin, the wrath of God, forgiveness, the suffering and love of God. It contains all the elements of the Gospel. What is missing is the name of the suffering servant – Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 53 is an accurate description of the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus. The staggering thing is that it was written several hundred years before the crucifixion. May we never cease to be astonished and thrilled by prophecy.

An interesting anecdote: The Jewish annual calendar of readings includes the whole of Isaiah except Isaiah 53.The Jews have stopped up their ears and closed their eyes to this devastating prophecy. They will say this is not true, and that the reason why they omitted Isaiah 53 is because the focus in that part of their readings is on consolation not desolation – not on suffering (servants). In Moshe Shulman’s http://judaismsanswer.com/haftorah.htm he argues:”There appears to be support for the view of the Rabbis, from the Dead Sea Scrolls, that Isaiah 53 does not relate to any consolations for the Jewish People. This is from the documents 4Q176, which is referred to as 4QTanhumin[5]. Scholars see this fragment as a collection of verses consoling Israel.”He says:… an examination of these(haftorah) passages we see that they give messages of comfort for the Jewish people in exile. However, no matter what the interpretation of Isaiah 53 one takes, there are no words of comfort for the Jewish people.(The desolation and consolation of Isaiah 53 in the Qumran scrolls).

If you are fortunate enough to get the opportunity to read Isaiah 53 to a Jew without telling him that it is from the OT, he’ll assume you’re talking about Jesus Christ, and that the passage is from the NT. (Most Jews, or anyone else, whether religious or not, know enough about the life and death of Christ to recognize Him in Isaiah 53).

What is our understanding of the resurrection of Christ? Owing to the fact that we have the New Testament scriptures, we should have far less excuse than the two disciples on the Emmaus road. With our NT in hand, we have much more information of the resurrection than these two disciples. For example, besides Christ’s own words, we also have the eyewitness accounts of the many who saw Christ after His resurrection. So, if we were to ignore this evidence, we would be more than thick-headed; we’d be hard-hearted as well. God has much more time for thickheads than for hard hearts.

Here are some of these eyewitness accounts of the resurrection:

Acts 1:3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

Acts 2:32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.

Corinthians 15:3 What I received I passed on to you. And it is the most important of all. Here is what it is. Christ died for our sins, just as Scripture said he would. 4 He was buried. He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as Scripture said he would be. He appeared to Peter. Then he appeared to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than 500 believers at the same time. Most of them are still living. But some have died. 7 He appeared to James. Then he appeared to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, he also appeared to me.

In the light of all these eyewitness accounts, we have far less reason to be like the foolish disciples on the Emmaus road who had forgotten what Jesus had told them before his crucifixion, namely, that He would die and rise again: They just weren’t listening: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” Luke 8:8.

What Jesus means by “He who has ears, let him listen” is “let him listen with “all ears”, with total attention, and let it sink in. In other words, don’t just acknowledge His words but receive it – deep in your soul.

We think of Paul’s scolding of the Corinthians. Even after the many visitations of the resurrected Christ, Paul had to admonish some of the Corinthians for their unbelief in the resurrection.

Cor 15:12 We have preached that Christ has been raised from the dead. So how can some of you say that no one rises from the dead? 13 If no one rises from the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, what we preach doesn’t mean anything. Your faith doesn’t mean anything either.

The evidence goes into the head but not into the heart. The Emmaus disciples were fools of the head, not of the heart. It is the foolishness of the heart that is the greater sin.

The Sword of the Word may draw blood but the Word may still not penetrate the heart. The reason is that many do not have the stomach for truth. Their question is: “How can I fit Christ’s life into my life?” rather than “How can I fit my life into Christ’s life?” They don’t want the whole body of truth. Where can we find the whole body of truth? It is to be found in and through the broken body of Christ.

We have completed the walk along the Emmaus road. Let’s go into the house of the two disciples. Luke 24: 30-31: As they sat down to eat,he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. Only when the Body of Christ is broken, and our hearts with it, can blind eyes be opened – by God.

Why did God decree Arminians?

31 Jan

To keep Calvinists on their toes.

The Christian’s haggis is Judaism’s poison: Christ in Messianic Judaism

30 Jan

Messianic Judaism” claims to be a Judaic religion, not a Christian one. I, with the Jew, consider Messianic Judaism one among many Christian movements/denominations. Messianic Judaism is not a uniform movement, so it would be more accurate to speak of Messianic Judaisms. One could divide Messianic Judaism into two large groups in terms of Unitarianism versus Trinitarianism. Both of these groups are monotheistic. In the former, however, there is one God (one divine nature/being) in one person (the Father – of human beings), while in the latter there is one God (one divine nature/being) in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So, Unitarian Messianic Judaism (they would not use the term “unitarian” but simply call themselves “monotheistic”) sees Jesus as a creature of God, whereas Trinitarian Messianic Judaism sees Jesus as a person with two natures – divine and human, where his divine nature shares all the attributes of the Father, while his human nature is, by definition, a creaturely nature.

I observe that these two macro-Messianic movements generally have contrary beliefs about the salvific relationship between Christ/Mashiach and the Jew. Unitarians believe that faith in Christ is not necessary for salvation, while the Trinitarians hold that no one can be saved without faith in Christ. It is not difficult to understand the reason for these contrary views: if Christ is merely a creature (the Unitarian view), a messenger, it would be idolatry to believe in Christ when one should believe in God, the one true God. If, however, Christ is divine, that is, IS, then it makes total sense to say that if you reject faith in Christ, you will not be saved. The Bible is so clear that unless one is “in Christ,” one cannot come to the Father. The New Testament, especially Paul the Apostle, uses the term “in Christ” or permutations of it dozens of times. But then many Unitarian Messianic Jews don’t like Paul. Christians are born of God (born again), which entails that Christ >dwells – through the Holy Spirit – in them. Ephesians 3:16 – “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” All true Christians have Christ dwelling in them, and they dwelling in Christ. (In Christ and with Christ: I wanna be with you-hoo-hoo. But, not yet).

The above is background to an email conversation that I, OnedaringJew, initiated with a Unitarian Messianic Jew (a non-Jewish one, as most Messianic Jews are), who is a long-standing friend, with whom I hadn’t corresponded for a few years. I add my comments (in italics) after each exchange. 

Me

Am I right in assuming that you still believe that the Son of God was created by the father. If so, how do you understand  John 17:3 “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

The distinction between “only true God” and “Jesus Christ whom you have sent” is obvious. So why would I think that this verse could be used to substantiate the trinitarian position that “Jesus Christ whom you have sent” is not merely an emissary but also someone who shared the only true God’s nature – his divinity? I didn’t think that this verse could be used to defend the doctrine of the trinity. I suspected that my friend would home in on that part of the verse, and miss the other part, which I intended to use to defend the trinity – “… be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). My friend, predictably, replied:

Friend

That verse is not saying that Jesus Christ is God.

1.     The only true God

2.     Jesus Christ

It does not say “you are the only true God and Jesus Christ.” Can God send himself?

Yeshua is the son of God – so are you. Yeshua was born of man – so are you. Does that make you God?

Me

Since when is it eternal life to know “me” (OnedaringJew)?

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and One-very-daring-Jew.

I framed my question “Since when is it eternal life to know me” in response to my friend’s “Yeshua is the son of God – so are you; Yeshua was born of man – so are you.” Recall our verse: John 17:3 “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” My friend is arguing that Jesus is a creature like me. The verse says, though, that eternal life is to know not only the father but also to know Jesus Christ.” So, it would be blasphemy of any creature – moi, for example, to say “it is eternal life to know me.” So, if Jesus is a mere creature, he would also be guilty of blasphemy. 

Friend

Well said – but the verse does not say you are Jesus Christ. The verse says Eternal life = Know God Know Yeshua. It does not say know God who is Jesus Christ Jesus was born of a woman. Was God born of a woman? God IS.

Me

Jesus for you is a creature. The verse says that eternal life is only possible if one knows Jesus. Conclusion: eternal life is not possible unless one knows who you say is a mere creature – Jesus. Yet the verse states that it is not enough to know God through (the intermediary) Jesus, but 1. one has to know Jesus himself. 2. Do you believe that  a Jew who does not know – “know” includes  trusting in the one who said “before Abraham I am” to reconcile him to the Father – will have eternal life?

I received no reply to this last email. Unitarians (some “Messianic Jews” and other kinds of unitarians) are stuck with surely what they must see is a contradiction – of their own making, namely that eternal life only comes through knowing a divine being – the only divine being, yet – here’s the messianic rub – without knowing Jesus, the Son of God, one cannot have eternal life. Therefore, the Son of God must be a divine being/essence/nature. Recall that the person of Son of God – who irrupted into time and took on a human nature – in union with the person of the Father (and the person of the Holy Spirit) refer to the “only God.” If this is incorrect, then it makes no sense to say that eternal life is to know Jesus Christ.

As to my question, Do you believe that  a Jew who does not know – “know” includes  trusting in the one who said “before Abraham I am” to reconcile him to the Father – will have eternal life?; my friend kept mum; probably because most Unitarian Messianic Jews believe that devout Jews do not need to have faith in Jesus Christ to be saved. This is also the (non-)belief of many Zionist Christians who have a “dual-covenant” theology; for example, John Hagee. For Hagee, a Christian’s haggis is a Jew’s poison.


I leave my friend for another friend, the Jewish “YourPhariseeFriend,” where we shall see that the Jewish view of Jesus has much in common with the Unitarian Messianic Jew’s rejection of the divinity of Christ.

“Christians, says YourPhariseeFriend in his “Heart of a Relationship” contend that Jesus was a manifestation of God. They compare Jesus to the fire of the burning bush that Moses saw at Horeb (Exodus 3:4), to the pillar of cloud that led the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21), and to the Angel of the Lord that appears throughout the Jewish Scriptures (Exodus 23:20; Judges 6:12; Isaiah 63:9). This argument is rooted in a misunderstanding of the relationship that the Jewish people share with God. The relationship between God and Israel includes many activities that are ancillary to the essence of the relationship. The essence of the relationship is God’s love for Israel and Israel’s love and reverence for God. As expressions of His love, God guides His people, He speaks to their prophets, and he protects them from their enemies. As expressions of Israel’s heart for God we offer sacrifices, we build a Temple and we follow His Law. All of these activities are only part of the relationship inasmuch as they express the heart of one party to the other. If you remove the heart from these activities, they remain empty husks.”

Here is the historic Christian position on the role of Christ in salvation as described by Scott Oliphint in his “Reasons for Faith: Philosophy in the Service of Theology.”

1. “Every philosophical position must rely on some outside source(s) of authority; a Christian philosophy must rely on God’s revelation of himself in his Word. Second, it is just the exclusivity of Christianity that is supposed to be (in part), not a reason for avoiding its use, but the motivation behind the communication of biblical truth. We tell others who are outside of Christ about him so that, by God’s Holy Spirit, they might repent and believe. If it were the case, as some (e.g., ]ohn Hick) would hold, that Christianity is meant to be all-inclusive, then there would be little need for the communication of biblical truth. Because, however, orthodox Christianity has always held that there is no salvation outside of Christ, We speak of him and teach him and preach him, for it is by that very communication that God is pleased to bring some to himself.”

2. “The fact that God himself takes on covenantal properties, properties that are not essential to him, but that nevertheless serve to characterize him, is the central focus of the good news of Scripture. It defines the good news for us – the news that God has come in the flesh and has, as God in the flesh, accomplished salvation for sinners. This is the preeminent truth of Scripture. It is the covenant, and it defines what we mean by covenant. In creating, God has “come down”; he has taken on that which is foreign to his essential being in order to relate to that which is essentially different from him.”

3. “One of the initial points to be made here is that our understanding of God is to be guided, directed, formed, and fashioned by who Christ is, The reason, therefore, that we are not to be deluded with plausible arguments is that ‘all the treasures of Wisdom and knowledge’ [Colossians 2:3] are found only in Christ.”

oliphint reasons for faith

For Jews and Unitarian Messianic Jews, the divinity of Christ is a mythical mist; for them “ethereal life is to know Jesus Christ whom he (God) has sent.” For Christians, in blessed contrast “eternal life is to know Jesus Christ whom he has sent.”

Look inside.

Way Out…Laurel & Hardy

29 Jan

bography:

What a hoot!

Originally posted on DR. RELUCTANT:

I’ve been working on updating the look of my blog today.  I found this clip posted on Dan Phillips’ blog and thought it would be a great way to introduce Dr Reluctant’s new look. I am a lifelong Laurel and Hardy fan, but I’m sure they had no clue they’d be dancing to the Gap Band! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

View original

In Christ and with Christ: I wanna be with you-hoo-hoo. But, not yet

28 Jan

In “Worship Music in Antioch – Cranking Up the Worship Band,” Pastor Scott Brown discusses with interviewer Kevin Swanson the relationship between music and worship. Brown says:

I’ve experienced a situation a number of times where someone is in the congregation and they’re not singing.  I ask them, ‘how come you’re not singing. They say,’I don’t like that song,’,or ‘I’m not going to sing a chorus,’ or ‘it (the song) has to be out of a certain century.’ My instructing is always the same: you have to prioritize your own actions. You have to ask yourself “is the song doctrinally accurate?” or “is the song true.” If the song is not true you shouldn’t be singing it.” 

Here is a song I heard in a church Sunday last, where the words do not, indeed definitely cannot, match the singer’s aspiration. Here are two verses of the song “How deep is the father’s love for us.”

Verse 1

I just want to be where You are,

dwelling daily in Your presence

I don’t want to worship from afar,

draw me near to where You are

Verse 2

I just want to be where You are,

in Your dwelling place forever

Take me to the place where You are,

I just want to be with You

Hip hop ending

I just want to (wanna) be

I just want to (wanna) be with You

Here is the Youtube link to the song. I quote a few of the 93 comments posted there: 1. Lord take me to your home, I receive the anointing of the holy ghost. in Jesus name amen.  2.  Anointed 3. Thank you very much for this beautiful song very touching (touching  = anointed?).

What does the “worshiper” think these words mean: “Take me to the place where you are, I just want to be with you?” I try to answer that question here.

The Bible says (many times in the letters of Paul) that to be a Christian is to be “in Christ” and “Christ in you.” Christians are born of God (born again), which entails that Christ lives – through the Holy Spirit – in them. So far, we are dealing with the notion to be “in Christ.” Once regenerated (quickened, raised to spiritual life), believers are enabled and therefore can choose the good things of God. If, though, believers don’t only want to be in Christ but also with Christ, that I would call radical radical Christianity. Radical Christianity is be consumed with living in and for Christ.; radical radical Christianity is “I want to be with Christ – and I want it now. Here is the Apostle Paul: Philippians 1:21-23 – “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” 

Jeremy Walker, in his “Life in Christ: Becoming and Being a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ,” explains the difference between being in Christ and with Christ, where “the anticipation of the dying saint” is to be with the Lord:

To lack food is terrible; to lack money is distressing; to lack health is miserable; to lack friends is tragic; but to lack Christ is to lack the greatest and most necessary good-it is the most awful situation imaginable. If we had Christ, all else could be borne, but to live and die without Christ makes any number of other blessings little better than dust and ashes in our mouths. Second, someone might be with Christ. If to be without Christ is the height of woe, then to be with Christ is the pinnacle of bliss, for this is the very joy and blessing of glory. To be “present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 528) is the heaven of heaven. There is no greater joy, no happier prospect, no sweeter moment than to have the eye actually rest upon the Lord Christ, the glorified Savior of sinners. This is the anticipation of the dying saint, the prospect for the resurrection that makes every other hint of the glory to come shine with golden light. However, if we are to be with Christ when we die or taken to be with Him when He returns, we need to bear in mind that no one will ever be with Christ unless they are first in Christ.”

In Christ is the very opposite of being “in Adam” (Rom. 5:12-21), which we are by nature. It is very different from being “in the World,” which we are by sinful inclination. It is not the same as being “in church”-there are many people who imagine that being in a church building from time to time, in regular attendance at church services, or even a member of some church, even one where the truth is preached, will somehow of itself guarantee their salvation. You can be in church and without Christ.”

In sum, when one is “without” Christ, Christ is not indwelling that person. “Without Christ” in our context, is not the opposite of “with Christ.” “Without Christ” means “not in Christ,” which is a spiritual state in this life. “With Christ,” on the other hand, means to join Christ where he is in his glorified state – on the right hand of the Father in heaven, and, as the song is written, this means now – during the church service. 

So, do you still want to be with Christ (now)? Of course you don’t. So, stop being adolescent and singing those silly boyfriend-girlfriend songs. Don’t you really mean, ““Lord grant me to be with you but not yet?” And perhaps also “Lord grant me chastity and continence but not yet?” (St Augustine’s adolescent prayer). Wazzat. 

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

24 Jan

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!

 

My sinful nature: Can I really get shot of my old man without bumping him off?

22 Jan

At a church service, this was a part of the preacher’s opening prayer: “Remind us of our sinful nature.”

 No doubt, those “in Christ” still struggle with the “old man,” and I suppose we could call that the old “nature.” But we should be careful. Scripture teaches that Christians have a new nature, because they are a new creation. There, alas, still remains the struggle against the “old man,” also described as the “flesh.” The term “old man” in the Bible refers to those who have the Holy Spirit through rebirth (the regenerate); so the term does not describe those who are “unregenerate,” or “without the (Holy) Spirit.” So, ”old” not as in ”my old man’s a dustman, he wears a dustman’s cap,” but as in the the struggle with sin. “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Christians, in contrast, do accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, yet they still have the old man tussling inside.

In Romans 7:4-20, the emphasis is on the fact that although the Christian is a new creation, the battle against his old self, his old nature, his “flesh” is not over.

Romans 7

4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh,[a] the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

The Law and Sin

7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”[b] 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, the passage ends, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

In summary, v. 21 “I want to do good” – the new nature desiring to do “good” (be like Christ) but v. 23 the old nature, “the flesh,” warring with the new nature.

The focus in the next chapter of Romans (Chapter 8) moves to the victory of the new creation in Christ over the old creation in Adam. Christians continue to sin but their new desire, which is instilled in them through regeneration (born again) – is to please Christ, not themselves.

Romans 8 

1. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c] And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

Here is Jeremy Walker on the new nature in his recent and excellent “Life in Christ: becoming a disciple of the Lord”: 

The Nature Identified

If anyone is in Christ,” writes the apostle, ‘he is a new creation.’ This is the language of a radical change. It speaks of something not simply different but genuinely new. It is not enough to speak of a tadpole becoming a frog or a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, for the language of transformation and metamorphosis falls short of the reality. Even the Ethiopian changing the rich color of his skin or the leopard changing his distinctive spots is insufficient. This is not alteration but creation, newness at the deepest level. It speaks of a thorough change. It deals not with appearance but with nature. If the Ethiopian could change his skin color, he would remain an Ethiopian. If the leopard could alter his spots, he would still be a leopard. But the new creation begins at and radiates from the core of a person’s being and changes everything he is. It starts with the inner man enthroning Christ in the heart, the seat of the government of our humanity, and begins its course there, creating anew from that point outward, nothing being overlooked or bypassed, all being more or less affected and increasingly renovated over time. This, then, is a divinely than heavenly power. Mere mortal strength could never begin or sustain such a work-human might and ingenuity can no more create a person anew than it can truly create anything to begin with. And, indeed, there is a sense in which this act of salvation transcends even the act of original creation. In creation, God worked from nothing. In salvation, He worked against sin.”

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, we read “Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new.” Here is John Gill in his commentary on the above verse:

“A new creature – converted persons; and designs not an outward reformation of life and manners, but an inward principle of grace, which is a creature, a creation work, and so not man’s, but God’s; and in which man is purely passive, as he was in his first creation; and this is a new creature, or a new man, in opposition to, and distinction from the old man, the corruption of nature; and because it is something anew implanted in the soul, which never was there before; it is not a working upon, and an improvement of the old principles of nature, but an implantation of new principles of grace and holiness; here is a new heart, and a new spirit, and in them new light and life, new affections and desires, new delights and joys; here are new eyes to see with, new ears to hear with, new feet to walk, and new hands to work and act with.”

When Christians sin, they don’t merely feel remorse (feel bad), but also the desire to repent. In contrast, “sin” and ”repentance” do not exist in an unbeliever’s lexicon. In Judaism and Christianity and some other religions, repentance always leads to reconciliation with God; while remorse often results in giving up on life. Remorse is the result of a guilty conscience that “kills” the soul, which sometimes leads to the premature death of the body as well. Remorse is the lot of the unbeliever, a worldly sorrow that leads to eternal separation from God. Here is the Apostle Paul:

For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death (2 Corinthians 7:10).”

And 1 John 1

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. 

In sum, the Christian IS a new nature in Christ, filled with joy – bitter sweet, carrying his and her cross through life seeking to be in the hour of their death WITH Christ. The Christian is already IN Christ. Part of that cross is that dusty old man.

Faith, works and assurance in Judaism and Christianity

21 Jan

A Christian is a sinner who, through God’s grace, has been regenerated from spiritual death and given the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:1-10). What I would like to talk about here is how this ”born again” experience relates to Paul’s ”justification by faith,” and James’ ”justification by works.” I shall use and explain the following three terms in the discussion: ”salvation,” ”righteous(ness)” and ”justification.” These three overlap, but they are not synonymous. Salvation subsumes the other two.

Paul refers to the ”justification by faith,” while James speaks of the ”justification by works.” ”Righteousness” (being made right) refers to both kinds of ‘justification. Here is an example of righteousness with the meaning of justification by faith; ”For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The meaning here is that through faith we have been made right(eous) with God, that is, we have been justified through faith. Here is an example of righteousness with the meaning of justification by works: ”For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). In Hebrew, ”justified” means made right(eous); צָדַקTsadak; in Greek δικαιόω dikaioō. Here is a verse in Proverbs (17:15) that contains tsadak twice where the one instance refers to ”justifies” and the other to ”righteous.” מַצְדִּיק רָשָׁע וּמַרְשִׁיעַ צַדִּיק תֹּועֲבַת יְהוָה גַּם־שְׁנֵיהֶֽם׃ matsadik rasha oomarshia tsadik to’avat Adonai (YHVH) gam sh’naihem Pro 17:15 He who justifies TSADAK the wicked and he who condemns the righteous TSADAK are both alike an abomination to the LORD.

Let us now go to the heart of the matter. Consider the following passages: Romans 3:28 ”For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. James 2:24 ”…a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Let’s bring Abraham into the picture: Romans (Paul) 4:2 ”For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” James – 2:21 ”Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?” How can the Abraham of faith also be the Abraham of works? I suggest that James gives a clear explanation: ”So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:17-24).

James seems to be contradicting Paul and promoting the Jewish idea that faith means faithfulness (emuna), and emuna for the Jew means nothing more, nothing less than (faithfully) fulfilling the 613 plus commandments (mitzvot). James and Paul, however, are not contradicting each another?James emphasises that good works are the evidence/fruit of faith, and so if there is no evidence of faith, this means that one wasn’t justified (made right with God) in the first place. The Lord Jesus makes the same point as James: ”…for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). So, not one but two apostolic hammers are needed to hammer home the Gospel into immature Christian minds. Paul’s letters emphasise what it means to be saved. Here is Paul (or more precisely, the Holy Spirit) in his workshop, hammering away (through Paul): 1Cr 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. Gal 2:16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. Gal 2:17 But if, in our endeavour to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! Gal 3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” Gal 3:24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. ”Enough already, protests my works-orientated friend, what about the ”working out your salvation” bit? “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” …Phil 2:12 Although Paul is sometimes hard to understand (as the apostle Peter points out), he doesn’t talk in riddles (there’s little of the Talmud in his letters).

Paul’s letters teem with the conjunction ”for,” for it is an important linking word in logical argumentation. Good (and irritating) Bible teaches warn you to take special note of what the ”for” is there for. How many times have I heard the first half! of that verse to justify (sic) the argument that one cannot be justified (they mean ”saved”) by faith ”alone,” where the meaning is that salvation consists of faith plus works? They mean by that if you have faith, you need works as well to be justified/saved. Let me answer by examining the ”for” in the Philippians verse above. Why should Christians work out their salvation, and also work it out in fear in trembling? The ”for” in ”for it is God who…” answers both questions. Your body, dear Christian, is the temple of the Holy Spirit; God is in you. This indwelling is more astounding than God appearing in front of you. But, we don’t ”see” it. Recall Isaiah 6: ”In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” ”And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1-5). So, work out your salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you.

The reason why true Christians should tremble with fear (awe) is because the Holy Spirit of God indwells them. ”For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19).

Here is the blessed assurance of the believer: Romans 8:30 ”And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” So those who have been justified by faith will do good works. Good works is the evidence that the sinner has been justified, that is, made right with God. Good works are generated by the faith that brought about the initial regeneration of the dead soul from dead thoughts and dead works. If you have been justified, you will be glorified, from glory to glory, and you will receive eternal life, indeed you have received it – at the new birth. And finally a question: ”How can you have the assurance of Romans 8:30 (above) if you believe that God needs you to save yourself, for If you choose to be saved then you can choose to be unsaved again, as many times as your decide. Today, you may be dead in sin, tomorrow you’re alive in Christ. The next day (year/decade) you’re dead again, and so on. 

“If in the last analysis, says Edwin J. Palmer, our salvation depends upon our free will to accept Christ, and if God provides the substitutionary atonement of Christ but not our faith, then we are in a miserable situation. Think of it – whether we say Christians or not depends on us! What a frightful thought! Salvation depends on us, who are by nature rotten and do not love God? On us, who as Christians still have the old man in us. On us who doubt waver and sin?” (Edwin J. Palmer, “The five points of calvinism,” p. 38. Baker books, 1972).  God forbid! And so He does..

Related post: Assurance in Roman Catholicism, Judaism, Islam and Biblical Christianity

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

10 Jan

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?).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jewish psychologists and the God within

9 Jan

 Rabbi Joshua Liebman says in his “Peace of mind” that religion is “at its best” merely “the announcer of the supreme ideals by which men must live and through which our finite species finds it’s ultimate significance.” If people were honest, says Liebman, “they would admit that the implementation of these ideals should be left to psychology.

Psychology can say much, obviously, about the psyche, but nothing about the God of the Bible. For Liebman, part rabbi, part psychologist, the ultimate aim of religion is peace of mind, which results from the discovery of ”ultimate significance.” To whom must a Jew run to find this ultimate meaning? No, not to the rabbi, says Liebman, but to the psychologist, preferably a Freudian psychologist. Oh the irony! Freud, the Jewish atheist is going to tell us how to find ultimate meaning.

The heart of religion is, says Liebman, “something outside ourselves.” I understand by that the existence of a transcendent being greater than ourselves. Alas, Liebman brings us back us back to earth that it is the job of psychology to make this something (someone?) outside ourselves incarnate. If that is so, religion then has little to do with the Bible, and everything to with the “Varieties of religious experience” (William James). Whereas the Scripture (Hebrew and New testament) says ”look up” Liebman says, “look within, because without’s within.”

If Liebman had been a Messianic Jew, he, firstly, wouldn’t have shackled religion to psychology, and second, he would have said that this making something outside ourselves incarnate is not the psychologist’s job but God’s; and this something made incarnate would be Someone, not something. (Some Messianic Jews, sadly, do not believe that God had a divine Son; so they don’t believe in THE incarnation)

Where Joshua Liebman speaks of ”ultimate significance”’ Viktor Frankl speaks synonymously of “ultimate meaning.” In “God in Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy,” I concluded that Frankl did not believe in God as a distinct divine being. I wrote there:

In 2000, an update to Frankl’s “Man’s search for meaning” appeared called “Man’s search for ultimate meaning.” What is the difference between “meaning” and “ultimate meaning”? Here are two excerpts from Frankl’s “Ultimate meaning.”

“… God, is not one thing among others but being itself or Being (capitalized by Martin Heidegger). (P. 147)

So Did Frankl, ultimately, come to believe in a transcendent Being called God? No.

“… whenever you are talking to yourself in utmost sincerity and ultimate solitude — he to whom you are addressing yourself may justifiably be called God” (p. 151).

To add to what I said in “God in Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy”:

God, for Frankl is, ultimately, me – and you. And, to take it where you may not want it to go: you are me and I am you – absorbed into the Universal Soul, where – to use Rabbi Akiva Katz’s terminology – undifferentiated oneness in the higher world comes into this world through specific differentiated channels like you and me. See “Jewish mysticism and Absorption into the Universal Soul.”

Here is the Lubavitcher Rabbi Tuvia Bolton’s response to “God in Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy” followed by my reply:

Rabbi Bolton:

It seems to me that Frankl was not talking in terms of absolutes but rather what ‘works’. His god is very similar to the one realized by addicts in the seconds of the 12 steps of AA; god as we understand him. A Meaningful god works to fill man’s need for meaning.

But Frankl seems to have discovered a need much greater and more basic than that of the addicts…. and correspondingly a much ‘greater’ more ‘infinite’ god to satisfy it; man NEEDS ABSOLUTE meaning that only an absolute, totally meaningful god (or G_d) can produce. As evidenced by the several times he mentions the Ten Commandments as the absolute value.

But again; Frankl only seemed to be interested in what works to supply man’s needs; not the Jewish (Chassidic) idea of supplying G-d’s needs (Nachat Ruach l’mala)

My (shortened) reply:

Rabbi, as you no doubt know, Abraham Twerski, a Chassidic rabbi (like youself) adapted the originally Christian 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous method and made it Jewish. Judaism preaches that man is essentially good, where people are regarded as “much better than we think we are” (Twerski), and “knowing that they are able to enjoy a more productive life” (Twerski). So, the solution to inner turmoil for Twerski, for Frankl, for Joshua Liebman, and indeed most Jewish psychologists was to learn how to get rid of one’s negative self-image.

You say Frankl’s “god” goes beyond what works to an “absolute” meaning. I think his god is merely one that absolutely WORKS. As I said in my last two paragraphs of the article:

In 2000, an update to Frankl’s “Man’s search for meaning” appeared, called “Man’s search for ultimate meaning.” What is the difference between “meaning” and “ultimate meaning”? Here are two quotations from Frankl’s “Ultimate meaning.”

“… God, is not one thing among others but being itself or Being (capitalized by Martin Heidegger).” (P. 147). So Did Frankl, ultimately, come to believe in a transcendent Being called God? Let Frankl answer: “… whenever you are talking to yourself in utmost sincerity and ultimate solitude — he to whom you are addressing yourself may justifiably be called God” (p. 151). END OF MY REPLY.

Frankl’s “God is self” (my term) has much in common with Gerald Jampolsky’s (Yogic) “transformation of consciousness” that leads to inner peace. Deep below the dark regions of discord and strife lies the treasure without price longing to find you, the real you. Transform your consciousness and you will find your true self. This “transformation of consciousness” is the “foundation for inner peace” (which is also the name of the publisher of “A course on miracles” on which Jampolsky’s book is based). The “transformation of consciousness” is, of course, also the foundation of Eastern thought systems such as Buddhism and Yoga, which has become a key ingredient in Western psychotherapy. “Hatha Yoga brings about the Unity of the mind, body and spirit. Through this practice, the body is toned, strengthened and healed so that a transformation in consciousness can occur.”

Liebman says go within to find your true self, the real you; but not before you go outside – to Freud. For Jampolsky, in contrast, look within, and that’s good enough to find inner peace.

Rabbi Bolton said above: “Frankl only seemed to be interested in what works to supply man’s needs; not the Jewish (Chassidic) idea of supplying G-d’s needs.” That is true not only of Frankl but all Jewish psychology. A Chassidic psychologist may talk about you (if you’re a Jew) being a piece of God, but what it may turn out to mean is that God is a piece of you – of your needs.

Frankl’s view of God as someone who supplies one’s needs is taken to it’s extreme form in Reconstructionist Judaism, and much of Reform Judaism, where “God” is another name for community, for love, for a matrix of love wherein a positive self-image is nurtured – and where the image of God is possibly also dénaturé (distorted).

South African Matric results of 2013: Who says I need more than my pineal gland to pass?

7 Jan

Originally posted on Grammargraph:

In Timeslive, we read:

The government must act urgently to independently verify the credibility of the National Senior Certificate examination results and of all future matric results, DA leader Helen Zille said on Tuesday.

DA’s Zille calls for independent audit of matric results.

“I believe that the Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga, should institute a full-scale independent audit of the 2013 results,” Zille said in a statement. Provincial education departments are solely responsible for appointing markers and marking matric exams, the opposition party said.

Not marked by a central body, Exam papers are not marked by a central national body, the DA said.

“This means the quality of marking cannot be guaranteed and is not adequately or comparatively standardised around the country. “Matric markers are not tested for their competency, their subject knowledge or for their ability to interpret answers which are phrased differently from the exam memorandum,” Zille…

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Joel Beeke on a Jet Plane with a Reform Jew

7 Jan

In his “Travelling to South Africa: Two very different world views,” Joel Beeke relates a conversation he had with a fellow plane passenger:

I had a long talk with a very intelligent 75-year-old Jewish woman on the 15.5 hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg. We talked for a while about her job and her family and about interesting things to see in Israel. She has made over fifty trips to Israel, and seemed quite pleased that I was taking notes of a number of her suggestions.

Before long we got to religion. She is a Reformed Jew, is big on women’s rights, and doesn’t believe in the after-life. Her “church” has 1400 members and is led by three Jewish rabbis. They are not looking for a messiah to come, but view the caring community of Jews as “the messianic fulfilment.” Her rabbis preach almost exclusively about horizontal issues, such as women’s rights, how to help the poor, etc., and seldom touch on our vertical relationship with God. They use the Torah as a background reference tool, but don’t really preach from it.

I got close enough to her that I dared to ask her about Jesus Christ. She said that has never read the New Testament, thinks that Jesus was just another rabbi, and sees no need to be born again. I then explained how we as Christians view the gospel, and why we think it is so important that Jesus is also God. I talked to her about our sin, and about our need for the active and passive obedience of Christ as our substitute and savior. She listened carefully, was not offended in the least, but didn’t buy into it. I asked her, “So then you feel that when you die, life is over, and that this life is the be-all and the end-all?”

That’s right,” she said.

Pardon me for saying this,” I responded, getting bolder now, “but from the perspective of being a Christian, that seems like such a narrow and small purpose for life. For us as Christians, we believe that this life is like a one-page preface to a massive book—it is only just the beginning. We strive to live all of life in the light of eternity, and anticipate being with Christ forever. ”

Well,” she said, “I’m not saying for sure that there is no eternity, and no pie-in-the-sky for after this life, but I’m not betting on it. If I can just pass on my moral values to my two children, and they pass it on to their grandchildren, that, to me, is about the best I can hope for in this life.” That was about as far as I could get with this friend. I silently thanked God for His Son and for the biblical and Christian worldview, for its much larger vision of what life is all about.”

A few thoughts

With regard to Jews using “the Torah as a background reference tool, but don’t really preach from it” (Beeke’s companion above) what do Jews think of the the Hebrew Bible? (“Torah” has two meanings: 1. the Five books of Moses, and 2. the whole Hebrew Bible – the Tanach). There are roughly six Jewish movements: Ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and two other groups (which can’t be called “movements” unless in the sense of moving far away from traditional Judaism); these two groups, agnostics and atheists, comprise the bulk of Jews.

– All “ultra-orthodox” (that is, ortho-orthodox) believe, like all  “Reformed Christians” (who follow the tradition of the Reformation), in divine inspiration, that is, the scripture is breathed out by God (a better term would be divine “expiration).

– Not all “Orthodox” Jews believe in the divine inspiration of the scriptures.

Conservative Jews consist of a wide coalition with differing views on how the scriptures were revealed. In contrast to the absolute Ultra-orthodox view and the view of most Orthodox, conservatives do not believe that the words of scripture themselves are breathed out by God. Thus the Conservative Jew would judge as unwarranted the extreme care that the Torah scribes took over each letter of the Torah when copying from one scroll to another.

- Reform Judaism. It  originated during the French revolution, and was strongly influenced by the “Enlightenment”(which I described in an earlier post), which was a secular explosion of “free” thought that clipped the wings of the Roman Catholic Church. I have selected excerpts from what Reform Judaism says about itself. The full text can be found here.

“The faith and values which drive the journey provide a compelling vision of where we want to get to and offer such direction and signposting as we can make out.”

Comment: the faith and values of the Tanakh compel Jews to take the direction that it commands, which invariably is at odds with “where we want to get to.” It’s not difficult to “make out” the sign posting. The issue is does the Reform Jew want to follow the sign posting of the Tanakh? The Tanakh says – ad nauseam (for those who hate being told what to believe and do – that the majority of the children of Israel hate being confronted by the Holy one if Israel. Get the “Holy One of Israel” out of my face.

When the Jewish people emerged from the ghettos of Europe, some were – or became – so frightened of what they found that they have rebuilt the ghetto ‘walls’.”

Some recognise the new reality but are determined not to be changed by it. Reform Jews don’t underestimate the challenge of modernity but can also see that it offers new ways of understanding and thinking which help us grow and add to the meaning and purpose of the journey.”

Reform Judaism is living Judaism. It is a religious philosophy rooted in nearly four millennia of Jewish tradition, whilst actively engaged with modern life and thought. This means both an uncompromising assertion of eternal truths and values and an open, positive attitude to new insights and changing circumstances. It is a living, evolving faith that Jews of today and tomorrow can live by.”

Comment: Philosophy is man made. Reform Jews – the majority of Jews, in fact – think the Jewish Bible is also man made.

One of the founders of the Wissenschaft des Judenthums (Science of Judaism) movement of Reform Judaism, Rabbi Abraham Geiger (1810-1874), argued that practices in Jewish history continued to change. He suggested that these changes not only made it easier to live as a Jew but these changes were also faithful to the spirit of Judaism. He advocated that unless Judaism continued to change, it would not appeal to the majority of Jews. Orthodox Jews consider Geiger to be a heretic of heretics. (For a fuller treatment of Reform Judaism see my The Eternal, History and Reform Judaism.

In Reform Judaism, there is not one single meaning to a biblical text. In his “New Words Inscribed on Old Tablets,” the Reform Rabbi Jonathan E. Blake, writes:

The beauty of Torah stems from the variety of interpretations that can be surmised from its words. God’s wonder and majesty are exemplified within each individual’s commentary, and it would thus be offensive to suggest that only one interpretation of God’s word is valid. The Talmud exemplifies this basic theme, which depicts our basic right to interpret Torah, communicated; namely, that Jewish law is not contained within the heavens, but in the hands of the people ( Bava M’tzia 59b).”

However, in whose hands does interpretation reside? Similar to the organization of secular society, tradition states that the majority creates and interprets the laws by which the whole must live. Yet with regard to Torah, tradition suggests that God spoke not only to the entire community, but also to each individual standing at the base of the mountain. We were each given the Torah at Sinai, and we are thus each entitled to own and interpret for ourselves each of God’s words. But in interpreting Torah for ourselves we must also consider the interpretations of the past.”

What does the Orthodox Jew think of the Reform Jew’s “we are thus each entitled to own and interpret for ourselves each of God’s words?” Here is the Orthodox Jew, Mordecai Housman:

Essentially, they believe that you get to decide what to believe. The Torah, they claim, is man-made entirely, and has been continually changed and adapted, despite all evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, despite the fact that the Torah and history show that Judaism has never tolerated dissenters to the Torah’s opinion, they have the chutzpah (gall) to claim that Judaism has always been pluralistic, that the Torah supposedly has never demanded “uniformity of belief or practice.” This, of course, is obviously baloney. Take one cursory look at almost any chapter of the entire Tanach (Jewish Bible), and you’ll find recriminations against people who have even slightly deviated from the Torah’s teachings, even if they adhered to everything else.”


Many people who have a religion don’t believe the supernatural doctrines on which it is based. Joel Beeke’s Jewish traveller calls herself a Reform Jew, and like most Jews believes the “Messiah” is morality. From the conversation, it is clear that the reason why she calls herself a Reform Jew is that she attends a Reform Synagogue. Like most Jews, she doesn’t acknowledge any vertical relationship between God and herself, but only a horizontal connection to other people. What is important to her is loving kindness, where the “caring community of Jews is the messianic fulfilment.” (Beeke above). Caring and sharing is, of course, an important part of religion. In Christianity, however, good works on their own without faith in God, is a skewed religion. Here is a passage from the letter of Paul to the Colossian Christians explainng the relationship between faith and works (moral behaviour):

Colossians 1

9 Because of this, we also, from the day in which we heard, do not cease praying for you, and asking that ye may be filled with the full knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,

10 to your walking worthily of the Lord to all pleasing, in every good work being fruitful, and increasing to the knowledge of God,

11 in all might being made mighty according to the power of His glory, to all endurance and long-suffering with joy.

12 Giving thanks to the Father who did make us meet for the participation of the inheritance of the saints in the light,

13 who did rescue us out of the authority of the darkness, and did translate [us] into the reign of the Son of His love,

14 in whom we have the redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of the sins.

C.S. Lewis, the God who takes risks and Open Theism

4 Jan

C.S. Lewis wrote that God takes risks, therefore he is what is known as an “open theist.” Here is Lewis:

“The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free. Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. … If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will – that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings, then we may take it it is worth paying.”(C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity).

(See “The plan of salvation: Is it worth the risk, my Son? What, risk! Ask Jacques Derrida, CS Lewis and Thomas Oord.”).

Lewis says above: “Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk.” What does Lewis mean by “what” in “he knew what would happen? In this passage it seems that Lewis is not referring to God’s micro ignorance of every future event but rather of his macro uncertainty of whether humans will use their free will for evil. If God was certain that humans were going to do evil, we could not describe God as taking risks.

As for God taking a risk (by creating humans), such a statement implies that when Adam and Eve sinned, God went something like this: “Ouch, what I dreaded could happen did. Oh well, it was still worth the risk.”

This “God of the risks” does not exist in any Christian movement except the modern movement – before Lewis – of “Open Theism.” It’s basic idea is that if God foreknows what a person is going to do, it’s no different from God decreeing what a person is going to do, because if a person wants to change his mind, he cannot change what God foreknew. In open theism, genuine human freedom implies that God cannot know future human thoughts or acts because divine foreknowledge implies foreordination, that is, predestination. (See “The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence” by John Sanders ).

Does anyone know how God would react in a risky universe? When it comes to humans doing bad, what Andy Stanley does know is that God is embarrassed and much more; he has knee-jerk reactions. That is why, says Stanley, the Carmen Christi (Philippians 2:6-11) is in Bible.

Philippians 2:6-11
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Say you’re in a church where the pastor/minister teaches vital doctrines, namely, that he stands on revelation alone, and preaches the biblical doctrine of sin and condemnation and hell, and also that the only way of salvation is in the Son by His blood, His death and glorious resurrection, and the power of the Holy Ghost upon it all, and then in one of his sermons reads Philippians 2:6-10 and says – not once but twice – that what is described in that passsage is God’s “knee-jerk reaction.” That is what drives God in Philippians 2:5-12, says Andy Stanley, in the second video of the Louie Giglio’s four-part video series “How great is our God.”

(See “The violation of Philippians 2:6-10: Knee-Jerk theism).

My question is this: If God could not be sure whether humans would choose to be bad, then doesn’t it follow that God cannot tell what the content of this bad – or any human good – will be. This is pure open theism: God knows the past, knows the presence, but not the future. Man’s pristine freedom remains intact. Goodbye you Calvinist robots and hello CS and Andy.

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

3 Jan

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.

Jewish and Roman Catholic Protestants

19 Dec

The Jew protests that the Christian has set up a mediator, Jesus Christ, between God and man, while the Reformers of the 16th century, the first “protestants,” accused the Roman Catholic Church of setting up “a mediatorial caste between God and man — to obtain by works, by penance, and by money the salvation which is the free gift of God — such is Popery” (HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY by J. H. Merle D’Aubigné).

Jews and Roman Catholics will protest again: “We are not wrong,” which they are. There is indeed a mediator between God and man ; only one: Jesus Christ, the God-man.

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

12 Dec

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.