Jesus, outstretched arms on the cross: “Hug me; back”

Our understanding of how we come to faith straddles our whole understanding of the sovereignty, holiness and love of God, and consequently impacts greatly on our Christian life; understanding of doctrines such as God’s will and purposes, prayer, witnessing, and assurance. (See https://onedaringjew.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/the-arminian-and-calvinist-understanding-of-salvation-is-totally-of-the-lord/).

If the reader has read any of my posts on Arminianism (God pleads with people to allow Him to save them), they will know that Arminianism’s emphasis on human free will (in contrast to God’s free will) is my greatest bugbear. It is, of course, not enough to express disgust; one needs to give reasons for that nasty taste in the mouth. Here are a few excerpts from a typical Arminian sermon, given on Christmas day 2015 by a dear friend, followed by (Calvinistic) responses.

1. “Christ did not come to spread wrath but love.”

Response:

Here is the favourite verse of Arminians (and New Agers), which I love too:

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to judge (condemn) the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

“Whoever” in verse 16 evokes in the English-speaking noggin “all those who decide to believe.” The Greek says “the believing ones” and nothing about human decision. But to the more pertinent next verse: God did not send his son to condemn the world but that the world “might be saved.” The Arminian understands “not judge” to mean “Jesus came to love not to express his wrath on sinners”; and “might” as “God comes as a possible saviour. If you decided to give Him your heart, He will save you.” “Might” grammatically is a subjunctive and so hasn’t a mite to do with “maybe, maybe not, depending on moi.” Arminians never continue on to the next “wrathful” verse: 18 “Whoever believes in him is not judged (condemned), but whoever does not believe is judged (condemned) already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Arminian preachers, after focusing on God’s love (verse 16), never, in my experience continue on to verse 18.

How would the Arminian reconcile verse 17 where the Son “did not come to judge the world” with verse 18 “whoever does not believe is judged already?” One answer: it is not the Son but the Father who judges those who do not believe. This is incorrect: it is the Son who is THE judge, not the Father. Indeed the distinctive feature of the Son is that he, not the Father is judge.

John 5

19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

Furthermore, at judgment day it is the Son who separates the goats and the sheep, the one for condemnation, the other for salvation.

In a nutshell: Jesus came into the world as saviour, not as judge. When he returns at the end of this world (as we know it), he will come as judge.

  1. “Jesus is king whether we know or believe it. Omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent.”
  2. Prayer at end of sermon: “I want you to be lord of my heart”

Response to 2 and 3:

Jesus is also LORD whether we know it or not. Then please stop praying on behalf of the congregation: “I want you to be Lord of my life.” Are you talking to believers? Must they, after being brought from death to life (born again, trusting in Jesus as saviour) now take the next (humongous) step and grant the saviour to be Lord of their lives! Christ is already Lord of all – unbelievers and believers.

  1. “It’s about giving yourself to Jesus.”
  2. “Jesus stretches his arms out on the cross giving us all a hug. Jesus is loving you today. Why don’t you hug Jesus (back).”

Response to 4 and 5:

With regard to 5 Although it is true that outstretched arms can indicate “give me a hug,” to apply such an idea to Christ in his death agony on the cross is too gooey for words. With regard to 4, nobody gives themselves to Jesus in their natural state (“the flesh”), because in your natural, that is, radically corrupt, state you cannot and will not want to please God:

Romans 8

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

At the end of the sermon, my friend gives a rundown of the political and financial woes of our country (South Africa) and tells the congregation not to anxious; trust Jesus. A good thing, not so?

My friend, of course, still remains very dear to me. And why not!

Visions: why does God give them only to some?

 

Dozens of Muslims say that a vision of Jesus led them to Christian conversion. Most Calvinist Christians say that all these visions are delusions. With regard to conversion, a Calvinist believes that in conversion, one has to be raised from spiritual death (regenerated/born again) before one can or wants to believe in Christ as saviour. I hold the Calvinist view of conversion, which means the whole process of conversion is a sovereign act of God’s grace/mercy. An Arminian Christian friend to whom I tried to explain the sovereign grace of God in salvation sent me a link to a video of a Muslim, Afshin Javid, who came to Christ through a vision. After seeing the video, I believe Javid had a genuine experience of “I am the way, the truth and the life…I am Jesus Christ, the living God…” (Minute 9:30).

I asked my Arminian friend why does God give this vision to some but not to other Muslims? No answer. I said because God says, “I will have mercy on who I want to have mercy and compassion on whom I want to have compassion” (Exodus 33:19, Romans 9:15).She rebuked me, saying “It must be something else.” I left it there because I wanted to avoid yet another unpleasant confrontation. This difference in the nature of God’s sovereignty between Calvinists and Arminians shimmers through the whole of their opposing theologies, and consequently through every aspect of the way they pray, understand and communicate their faith.

I said to my friend that there are only two possibilities of why God gives only some Muslims a genuine vision of Jesus Christ: either God has mercy on them or He sees something good in them and consequently rewards them with a vision. My friend said that there might be a third reason. Most Arminians will say both of the following are true: there is nothing in them that can influence God to save them, AND – which seems to be this third thing my friend means – God has mercy on those who show a desire to be born again; which my friend says does not mean that they deserve to be saved. Odd. Regarding the desire to be saved, the Bible says that no one in their natural state can have the desire to be saved:

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). And – “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” (Romans 8).

What pleases God most? To regenerate you (birth you again). The Arminian (Jacob Arminius), in contrast, says that the natural man can please God. Other Arminians, like my friend, would say that the natural ISH (“man” – Hebrew) “cannotish” please Him. (See The Arminian view of free will: Those who are in the flesh cannotish please God).

The Arminian view of free will: Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannotish please God.

Definitions:

Free agency – Man is free to do what he wants, that is, to follow his heart.

Free will – Man’s will is neutral and can decide to choose Christ or reject him.

According to the Arminians, man has free will. They have a concept called “prevenient grace,” by which they mean – although they would never put it this way – God has decided to woo sinners with this “prevenient grace” Thus He has decided to make it possible for man to decide to open his heart to Jesus, who is continusously pleading for sinners to open the door to let Him in so that he can save them. So, God for them is only a possible saviour; and it’s up to them whether he becomes an actual saviour. In other words, if you’re saved, the possible was made actual by something, good of course, in you, just as if you’re condemned for not having faith in Jesus, it was something, bad of course, in you.

Man is a free agent, that is, it is not something outside of him that determines the decisions he makes about following Jesus, but something inside him – his lub-a-dub. Scripture says that although man is free to choose what he wants, what he does not want, and cannot want is to follow Jesus.

Romans 8

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.

How then can you be saved? The Spirit breathes life into you, or to use another biblical description, God removes your heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh:

Ezekiel 26:36 – A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.

“Flesh” in Romans 8 means the natural human state of radical corruption. In Ezekiel 26:36 it means “a new spirit.”

“So are you telling me that God is going to give me a heart that loves him, trusts him, without me asking for it.” I reply, if it is you who decides the transplant, then your heart, to start with, couldn’t have been stony, but merely stony-ish; it couldn’t have been dead (Ephesians 2:1) but merely deadish. And that is what Arminians say: (spiritually) dead doesn’t mean really dead. And I suppose “cannot” in Romans 8:8 does not mean cannot, but “cannotish.” – “Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannotish please God.”

“I am determined to get well”: Yep, you are – to get well or not to.

“Happy enough is the man who is chosen of God; he may not ask a question as to when or where. Yet we could wish it were otherwise in our case, and that zeal and fervour were not restrained and hampered by being yoked to painful infirmities of the flesh. We could do more, and we think we may add, without self-confidence, we would do more, if we were not laid prostrate at the very moment when our work requires our presence. However, unto the Lord be the arrangement of our health or disease, our life or our death ; but while we live, we will leave no stone unturned for the increase of His glorious Kingdom “in the earth. Every interval of relief shall be laid out in His service. The time is short, it must therefore be spent all the more economically; the work is great, the Lord must be trusted the more simply.”

Excerpt from the Introduction by Thomas Spurgeon, son of Charles Spurgeon, of C. H. (Charles Haddon). “Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon compiled from his diary, letters and records by his wife and his private secretary.” Passmore and Alabaster, 1900. Free ebook https://archive.org/details/autobiographyofc04inspur.

One of my Christian relatives was in an accident and will be restricted in movement for a while. She feels, naturally, frustrated, and is determined to get well quickly. She is determined, but, as she is an Arminian (and thus has a thin understanding of the decrees of God), what she means by “determined” is not what the Bible means.

Christians of all stripes who know their Bible have a tendency to forget or no longer trust:

Romans 8:28
And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose.

Or don’t understand or appreciate the reason for their existence:

Romans 8:38-39
38 I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Arminianism: The submortuarian, relapsarian view of predestination/election

Definition: lapsus – (the) Fall (of man)

Here is an amusing, but pithy, answer to an Arminian objection to the Calvinist view of God’s decree.

“Objection 5. The predestinarians cannot agree about stating their decree; some stating it before the fall, as the supra-lapsarians ; and others after the fall, as the sub-lapsarians.

Answer 1. The Arminians, by the law of retaliation, may be called submortuarians, for their holding no full election till men die; and post-destinarians, for placing the eternal decree behind the race of man’s life. Surely when believers die, they are the subjects of glorification, not of election. Christ should have said (upon this hypothesis) to the penitent thief, this day thou shalt be Fully Elected, not, thou shalt 6e with me in paradise. And may they not also be stiled relapsarians, for saying that the elect may totally and finally fall away; and that he who is a child of God to day, may be a child of the devil to morrow?”

Excerpt From: Ness, Christopher. “An antidote against Arminianism: or A treatise to enervate and confute all the five points thereof.”

Why is Christianity so complicated! All you need is love. Hmmm.

Predestination: Many Christians know what it means but can’t swallow it

Those who believe scripture is God-breathed (theo + pneustos – breathed out by God; divine “expiration”) also believe that there are no deeper meanings lurking below the surface text. So, if one differs in the interpretation of a text, the interpreter is at fault. I was visiting a Christian friend who loves God and talking Bible. She said we can discuss anything but not “predestination.” I started to sputter “But, but…” I said it’s mentioned several times in the Bible. She would have none of it. She said God foreknows whether people are going to believe and as a result predestines them. Perceiving her reluctance to engage further on the topic, I left it there.

What do Arminians make of the four occasions where the distasteful term appears? Romans 8:29-30 For him he did foreknow, he also did PREDESTINATE to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did PREDESTINATE, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Romans 1 1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having PREDESTINATED us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.. 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being PREDESTINATED according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. Arminians (you choose to be saved) says that “pre” (before) means that God can see before it happens who will believe and on that basis “destinates” (selects) believers for salvation.

My intention here is not to discuss why Arminians get it wrong (which I discuss elsewhere https://onedaringjew.wordpress.com/?s=Foreknowledge), but to state that such a dim view of “predestination” is cockeyed. I suggest they do indeed understand “predestination” but can’t swallow it.

When did Eve sin in the Garden? When she swallowed the fruit? No, when she refused to swallow the command not to. Related: Did God really say. Divine clarity and the doctrine of inspiration.”David Klassen, Shepherd’s Conference, 2015 </a

I’m thinking: perhaps it’s not just a moral will problem but an intellectual one as well, because when Adam took his bite of the fruit, he also took a bite out of his loaf. So both his will and mind fell. So not only is there – sins the Fall – no neutral will, there is also no neutral neurons.

John Calvin and the execution of Servetus

John Calvin – we Jews know what we’re talking about – is the greatest theologian since Augustine. Much drivel has been written about Calvinism. Most people, including most Christians, have an abysmal knowledge or understanding of the profound biblical principle that God so loved the world, not Mars, that he elects to save only those on whom he has mercy.

Then there’s Servetus. Calvin, you murderer, you. Why did you chop off his head, or was it burn? If you want to understand the Servetus episode (who does?) you could benefit – if you put on, as Calvin would say about understanding scripture, the right specs – from these excerpts from the “Memoirs of the life and writings of John Calvin; compiled from the narrative of Theodore Beza, and other authentic documents. Accompanied with biographical sketches of the Reformation” by Mackenzie, John, of Huntingdon, 1809.

https://ia600508.us.archive.org/21/items/memoirsoflifewri00mackiala/memoirsoflifewri00mackiala.pdf

The history of Servetus, so often referred to, and so little understood, merits the minute attention of all who are sufficiently impartial to weigh the opposing interests and circumstances which mark this tragical transaction. The blemishes, real or pretended, of the reformer, having been maliciously employed to discredit the reformation itself, heit becomes of no small importance to elucidate this point of history, and to clear Calvin from the injurious imputations which have been falsely thrown upon him.
It has been confidently pretended, and boldly asserted, that Calvin had, through life, nourished an implacable hatred against Servetus, and that the Genevese theologian had employed all his efforts to satiate it in the blood of the unhappy Spaniard; that he denounced him to the magistrates of Vienna, and occasioned him to be arrested on the day after his arrival at Geneva. Things advanced with an air of confidence are readily believed, and it is scarcely suspected that they may be false. Bolzec, however, the mortal enemy of Calvin, who wrote the life of that illustrious man merely to blast his memory, and who was cotemporary with the facts which he relates; and Maimbourg, equally known by his partialities and his falsehoods, have never dared to advance those things which modern historians have not been ashamed to risk.

The principal accusations exhibited against Servetus were, First, his having asserted in his Ptolémée, that the Bible celebrated improperly the fertility of the land of Canaan, whilst it was unfruitful and barren. Secondly, his having called one God in three persons a Cerberus, a three-headed monster. LANE CRAIG. Thirdly, his having taught that God was all, and that all was God. Servetus did not deny the truth of the principal accusations, but
whilst in prison called the Trinity a Cerberus, a three-headed monster; he also grossly insulted Calvin, and was so fearful that death would be the punishment of heresy at Geneva, as well as at other places, that he presented a petition on the 22d of August, in which he defended the cause of ignorance, and urged the necessity of toleration: the procureur-general replied to him in about eight days, and no doubt did it very ill. Servetus was condemned upon extracts from his books, De Trinitatis Erroribus, and In Ptolemeum Commentarius; from the edition of the Bible which he had published in 1552; from his book Restitutio Christianismi; and from a letter which he had written to Abel Paupin, a minster of Geneva.*

* A copy of the sentence pronounced against Servetus will not be uninteresting to the reader. “We Syndics, judges of all criminal causes in this city, having witnessed the process made and instituted against you, on the part of our lieutenant in the aforesaid causes, instituted against you, Michel de Villeneuve, in the kingdom of Arragon, in Spain, in which your voluntary confessions in our hands, made and often reiterated, and the books before us produced, plainly shew that you, Servetus, have published false and heretical doctrines; and also despising all remonstrances and corrections, have, with a perverse inclination, sown and divulged them in a book published against God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; in sum against all the true foundations of the Christian Religion, and have thereby tried to introduce trouble and schism into the Church of God, by which many souls may have been ruined and lost, things horrible, frightful, scandalous, and infectious, and have not been ashamed to set yourself in array against the Divine Majesty and the Holy Trinity; but rather have obstinately employed yourself in infecting the world with your heresies and stinking heretical poison; a case and crime of heresy grievous and detestable, and deserving of corporal punishment. For these and other just reasons moving us, and being desirous to purge the Church of God from such infection, and to cut off from it so rotten a member, having had good participation of counsel with our citizens, and having invoked the name of God that we may make a right judgment, sitting upon the tribunal of our predecessors, having God and the Holy Scriptures before our eyes, saying in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, by that definitive sentence, which we here give by this writing, you, Michael Servetus, are condemned to be bound and led to Champel, and there fastened to a stake and burned alive with your book written with your hand, and printed, until your body shall be reduced to ashes, and your days thus finished as an example to others who might commit the same things; and we command you our lieutenant to put this our sentence into execution. Read by the seigneur syndic D’Arlord.”

It must be confessed, that the intolerant spirit of the age dictated the sentence of Servetus at Geneva; but, it is not equally evident that Calvin was the author of that atrocity, and that he laboured with ardour to accomplish it.

On the 27th of October, Servetus was condemned to be executed. It Hzhappened same day.

The civil and ecclesiastical jurisprudence of the tribunals with respect to heresy, was undoubtedly grossly inconsistent with the spirit of Christianity, and the principles of equity. But if we could transport ourselves into that age, and contemplate the circumstances in which Calvin was placed, divesting our minds of prejudice, we should no doubt perceive that the sentence was that of the civil judges, and that they strictly followed the ordinary course of the law; that Calvin followed the judgment of all the ecclesiastics of his time, and complied with the sanguinary laws of every country in Europe against heretics.
It cannot, however, be denied, that in this instance Calvin acted contrary to the benignant spirit of the gospel. It is better to drop a tear over the inconsistency of human nature, and to bewail those infirmities which cannot be justified. He declares that he acted conscientiously, and publicly justified the act. Cranmer acted the same part towards the poor Anabaptists in the reign of Edward VI. This doctrine they had learnt at Rome, and it is certain, that, with a very few exceptions, it was at this time the opinion of all parties.* The apostles John and James would have called down fire from heaven; Calvin and Cranmer kindled it on earth. This, however, is the only fault alledged against Calvin; but, “Let him that is without sin cast the first stone.”
“It ought, however,” says a sensible writer, “to be acknowledged, that, persecution for religious principles was not at that time peculiar to any party of Christians, but common to all, whenever they were invested with civil power. It was a detestable error; but it was the error of the age. They looked upon heresy in the same light as we look upon those crimes
which are inimical to the peace of civil society; and, accordingly, proceed to punish heretics by the sword of the civil magistrate. If Socinians did not persecute their adversaries so much as Trinitarians, it was because they were not equally invested with the power of doing so.

It was the opinion that erroneous religious principles are punishable by the civil magistrate, that did the mischief, whether at Geneva, in Transylvania, or in Britain; and to this, rather than to Trinitarianism or to Unitarianism, it ought to be imputed.*

Free will in salvation: a hot limp sermon

Joel Beeke in his lecture on Calvin’s preaching said:

“Powerful preaching, says Calvin has a two-fold effect. You never leave a church building the way come. Either the sermon will melt you down or touch you, move you, impact you, save you, or it will condemn you, harden you, make you colder or more distant, the savor of life to life or death to death. If it doesn’t issue in salvation it makes the ungodly more ungodly.”
http://www.rts.edu/Site/RTSNearYou/Jackson/Audio/09%20Fall%20Beeke%201.mp3.

What if the sermon is a weak one, a limp one, a frustrating one. Here is a preacher’s explanation of “not the will of man” in John 1:13.

John 1:11-13
He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But 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.

One word has been changed, which, does not change the sense. It’s not difficult to guess the word. The “will of the flesh” means your father’s willy, and the “will of man” also means your Father’s willy.

It left this Calvinist both limp and hot – under the collar

All is grace: Now that I’m born again, I can and want to believe and repent. What a logical logos I serve!

What is the relationship between repentance and faith. Charles Stanley writes:

“When Peter preached the truth about Jesus Christ in Acts chapter two, he left thousands of listeners wondering what they should do next. 

The apostle’s response in verse 38 is simple. He says, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” As a result, 3,000 people were added to their numbers that day.

Is this the message of most churches today? Does it seem strange that Peter said “repent” instead of “believe”? Actually, Scripture often uses these concepts together. Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. Both are essential for salvation and each is dependent upon the other.

But, in terms of salvation, you can’t separate faith and repentance. To be saved, you must place faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. That decision requires a change of mind, or repentance, about your way of life. Both happen at the same time.

Yet, many people mistakenly believe they must repent before they can make a faith decision for Jesus. Repentance doesn’t mean we must completely change our ways and “clean ourselves up” so we can then receive Christ as Lord. There should actually be no delay or separation between repentance and faith.

If you’re holding off on a decision for Christ until you think you’re “ready” or “worthy,” then you’re waiting in vain. Jesus is ready to receive you right now. Only as a child of God will you find the power – His power – to truly become the person He created you to be.” Excerpted from “A Right View of Repentance.”  

Stanley has shown that repentance and faith occur simultaneously – chronologically together. What, though, is the logical sequence of repentance and faith? I examine that question.

 I heard this in a recent Arminian sermon:

There are three stages in the life of someone who really wants to experience coming to Jesus. Repent, next step believe the gospel. That’s what Jesus says repent and believe the Gospel.”

Jesus is not talking about which comes first (logically or chronologically) but that those are the two things you need to do. The order of the words (syntax) which Jesus uses is “repent and (plus) believe” it does not follow that he means “repent, then believe.” Jesus can’t mean that for this reason:

The preacher’s “the first step” can only mean that he thinks “repent” logically must come before “believe.” But how can you repent unless you first believe? Believe what? That you are sinner who is under the wrath of God and need to repent. The biblical (logical) sequence is believe → repent. Believe and repent occur at the same time. When Jesus said repent and believe instead of the logical sequence believe and repent, he did not mean believe then repent, because as I explained above that wold be cockeyed. Think of mommy saying to Jimmy in the bathroom, “wash your face and brush your teeth.” When Jimmy comes out of the bathroom, Mommy is not going to ask “Did you do what I said in the order in which I said it.” Unless she’s Nanny McPhee.

If we add grace and regeneration (born again) to the logical order of how we become a Christian, the Calvinist’s logical order is (effectual) grace –> regeneration (born again) –> belief –> repentance. They all occur simultaneously. The Arminian order is (prevenient) grace –> repent –> believe –> born again. Some Arminians may disagree with the preacher and agree with the Calvinist that believe comes logically before repent. When it comes to regeneration, however, the reason why the Arminian places regeneration (being raised from spiritual death) at the end of the process is because it is he who decides (with his “free will”) whether he wants to accept God’s offer to be born again. But surely, a person who goes through the first three stages (accepts God’s grace → believes → repents) cannot be spiritually dead, because unless God first regenerates him (raises him from spiritual death, from hatred of or indifference to God), he won’t be able or want to believe and repent. “Oh you Calvinists with your logic!” Yes. What a logical logos we serve. “In the beginning was the logos.” (John 1:1). And in the end.

John 1

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon writes:

“Surely the cross is that wonder-working rod which can bring water out of a rock. If you
understand the full meaning of the divine sacrifice of Jesus, you must repent of ever
having been opposed to One who is so full of love. It is written, “They shall look upon him
whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son,
and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” Repentance
will not make you see Christ; but to see Christ will give you repentance. You may not make
a Christ out of your repentance, but you must look for repentance to Christ. The Holy
Ghost, by turning us to Christ, turns us from sin. Look away, then, from the effect to the
cause, from your own repenting to the Lord Jesus, who is exalted on high to give
repentance.”

(All is grace, Spurgeon Archive)

Why do most Christians call grace (that saves) amazing? They can’t see that it is they who are

 

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.

The good news of the Bible, writes Steve Lawson, is that God saves sinners, God the Father chose His elect, gave them to the Son, commissioned the Son to redeem them, and sends the Spirit to regenerate them, God the Son laid down His life for the sheep, securing their salvation, God the Spirit gives repentance, faith, and eternal life to these chosen ones. Salvation is a great Work of the triune God’s amazing grace.” (The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon (Long Line of Godly Men Profiles).

Calvinism and Arminianism both agree with all the points in the above paragraph, so what is the difference?

Arminians maintain that the “elect” are sinners that God selected on the basis of God foreseeing from eternity that they would decide to choose to permit God to raise them from (spiritual) death. They love singing the song “Amazing grace (that saved a wretch like me).”

Would it make sense to tell the Arminian that the ultimate reason why people are not saved is because there is something bad in them (in their wills) that causes them to reject the Gospel, and so deserve damnation? Of course it would make sense; it’s clear as day. What about people who are saved? What is the final clincher in God’s decision to save them. For the Arminian – there is no escaping it – the clincher is their decision, something in them, something good in them.

Most Arminians will vehemently deny that the reason why God saved them was because there was something good in them (a good will). In sum, those who say no to Christ deserve to go to hell, and those who say yes to Christ deserve to go to heaven. Rare is the Arminian who says he deserves to go to heaven. He knows deep down in his confused or stubborn soul that there would be nothing amazing about grace if the reason why he was ultimately saved (the final step in his salvation/justification/ reconciliation with God/regeneration) was something he did, not what grace did. I know of one Arminian who. I suggest, tried to wriggle out of the logical conclusion by stating that although he deserved to be saved/justified/made right(eous), this righteousness does not come from himself but from the imputed righteousness of Christ. He was probably thinking of 2 Corinthians 5:21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The question, however, still remains: why did this person deserve that God impute Christ’s righteousness to him?

If only Arminians could understand or accept 1. the different contexts of “all” and “world” in the New Testament, 2. there is no contradiction between human responsibility and God’s decrees, and 3. God chooses the means as well as the ends of salvation.

Here is and example of each of the three:

  1. All” and “world.”

All

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

“Any” and “all” refer to any, all of “us” (believers). If God wills someone not to perish, he won’t perish. Yet many do perish.

“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” (Isaiah 46:9-10).

Romans 9

13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15 For he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16 So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy.

(See The Apostle Peter takes a leaf off Mr Bean: My bodee is my toooooool).

World

Here is the NIV translation of John 3:16  “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.”

Who(so)ever” (NIV) has the deceptive connotation of “whoever decides to believe in him.” The Greek says (Young’s Literal Translation – YLT) “every one who is believing in him may not perish.”

Contrast verse 16 (NIV) with verse 18 (NIV) “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” more correctly “he who is believing in him is not judged, but he who is not believing has been judged already, because he hathnot believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (YLT).

How to reconcile “God so loved the world” (verse 16) with “he who is not believing is judged already?” (YLT) This is where Arminianism splits and splutters. In Reformed theology (“Calvinist” if you like), it’s quite simple. “World” in verse 16 does not mean everyone in the world. There are several texts in the Bible that explain why it can’t mean everyone in the world. Verse 18 is one of them. I ask the Arminian: “Does Jesus love the unbelieving ones whom he is going to judge – send to hell, and whom he “knows from the beginning” (John 6:64) – from eternity?” Of course not; he hates them, as he hated all mankind before he chose to have mercy on some and save some as in Romans 9 above.

(See God loves you, he loves you, he loves you. “Since when?).

  1. There is no contradiction between human responsibility and God’s decrees.

Acts 2:23

“This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”

God foreknows because he decreed it. If he didn’t decree it then he was up in heaven saying – from eternity: “Look what those meany Romans AND Jews are going to do to my Son. Oh, well, I am not, as Clive Staples Lewis says, a God of risks for nothing”

Calvinists have no problem with this verse because they love divinely inspired scripture to bits. Of course, it is difficult to wrap this verse round your head. Don’t you know that you and I are and always will remain blockheads when it comes to understanding all the counsel of God. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29) – and all (without exception) the words of scripture.

  1. God chooses the means as well as the ends.

One of the silliest – we’re all blockheads, some more than others – utterances popular with many Arminian preachers is that if salvation is 100% of the Lord – God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy – then there is no point to evangelising. God choose the ends as well as the means.

The ends

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…44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.

The means

Romans 10

13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Logical Arminians say that you can lose your salvation: if you choose to follow Christ, then it follows, as in the blogosphere, that they can choose to unfollow Christ. You might as well be Mohammed whose followers, every time mention his name, has to say “Peace be upon him,” that is, “I pray that he is no in hell.” Or a Jew, who is never sure whether he has done enough to merit salvation. A bad death.

This evening, when I thought about it seriously, the tears came to my eyes. I imagined myself on that sick bed [of someone he knew] and I wondered how it would go with me if I were to be judged in this very moment. I should deserve to go to hell, but I hope I shall not be sent there. In any case I am sure I ought to be sent to purgatory. Yet the mere thought of purgatory makes me shudder. What then will become of me? Oh poor me, how wretched I am!” (See here).

When R. Yochanan ben Zakkai fell ill, his disciples came in to pay a call on him. When he saw them, he began to cry. His disciples said to him, “Light of Israel! Pillar at the right hand! Mighty hammer! On what account are you crying?” He said to them, “If I were going to be brought before a mortal king, who is here today and tomorrow gone to the grave, who, should he be angry with me, will not be angry forever; and if he should imprison me, will not imprison me forever, and if he should put me to death, whose sentence of death is not for eternity, and whom I can appease with the right words or bribe with money, even so, I should weep. “But now that I am being brought before the King of kings of kings [ben Zakkai says “kings” three times], the Holy One, blessed be He, who endures forever and ever, who, should he be angry with me, will be angry forever, and if he should imprison me, will imprison me forever, and if he should put me to death, whose sentence of death is for eternity, and whom I cannot appease with the right words or bribe with money, “1and not only so, but before me are two paths, one to the Garden of Eden and the other to Gehenna, and I do not know by which path I shall be brought, and should I not weep?” (See Ben Zakkai: Judaism, humilty and the good death).

To repeat Steve Lawson at the beginning of this article, this is what the Bible teaches:

God the Father chose His elect, gave them to the Son, commissioned the Son to redeem them, and sends the Spirit to regenerate them, God the Son laid down His life for the sheep, securing their salvation, God the Spirit gives repentance, faith, and eternal life to these chosen ones. Salvation is a great Work of the triune God’s amazing grace.”

The logical progression is: election (predestined to salvation; those the father gives to the Son from eternity, and for who Jesus prays in John 17) – regeneratIon (born again) – faith – repentance – eternal life. Regeneration, faith and repentance occur at the same time.

Amazing grace…that saved a wretch like me.”  Indeed. Christ’s deed – alone

On snobbish felines and the will to believe in Christ

On Snobbish Felines and the Freedom of the Human Will
POSTED BY AARON DENLINGER

Our local veterinary clinic — where our dog, for reasons I’d rather not relate, is not welcome — has a letter board on their grounds which typically displays humorous messages about animals. The message on display earlier this week caught my attention as I was driving to work. It read: “If cats could talk, they wouldn’t.” I must confess, this made me smirk — which is generally as close as I come to laughing. I’m no despiser of cats in principle, but they do strike me as the kind of creatures that, were they suddenly endowed with the ability to speak in human language, wouldn’t condescend to actually say anything to anyone. The sign made me wonder, in fact, if cats might not actually have the ability to speak, and simply don’t because they can’t be bothered communicating their thoughts to human beings, creatures so clearly inferior to them in every conceivable way. Can we really be sure they cannot speak if, regardless, they will not speak?
– See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/01/on-snobbish-felines-and-the-fr.php#.dpuf

Yes, Christ came to save the lost. But which ones?

I was telling a fellow Christian of my visit to an elderly man, a frequent church-goer, whom we both knew, who had collapsed twice in the last month, and was recovering at home. He was doing well and walking about. I spoke to him about such things as this world was not our home, and about judgment. My fellow Christian said to me he’s a simple person and wouldn’t understand. My fellow Christian does not understand who Christ came to seek. Yes, we know it was the “lost” but then everyone is lost, and Christ only came to seek those whom his Father gave him before the world began, and those whom the Father enabled to believe. Not so?

John 6

37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”… 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

Who were the ones given to the Son? They were the fools, the weak, the lowly, the despised, the nothings of this world. Unless you felt like this before you believed, and continue to feel so, it is certain that you’re not one of the lost Christ came to seek and died to save.

1 Corinthians 1

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

“God loves you. He loves you. He loves you.” Since when?

I learn much about both Islam and the Bible from Pastor Joseph’s Aramaic Broadcasting Network and his support staff David Wood and Sam Shamoun. It’s also great fun. There’s one thing, though, that gets my Reformed (Calvinist) goat: when he tells Muslim callers that Jesus loves them, which reminds me of a church on a hill near my home where a big red stone (not stony) heart with the words below it, also in red, “Jesus loves you” festoons the green slope of the lawn visible to passing traffic.

In one of his videos (Pastor Joseph schools a confused muslim, minute 18.15 ff), he says “God loves you, he loves you so much…It (God’s love) is in Islam a little bit. In Christianity it is so much emphasised. God loves you, he loves you so much that he gave his most precious thing; what is the most precious thing he could give? His son…In the Bible it says God is love…”

The problem here is two-fold:

First, the overemphasis on love, which pervades the majority of Christian movements, at the expense of God’s holiness, manifested in his “wrath” against sinners.

Second, God wants to save everybody without exception if only they will let God do what he, through his Son, died to do. This is the Arminian view of salvation, the majority Christian view. (See definition of Arminianism).

I focus on the second problem.

The allusion in Pastor Joseph’s “he gave his most precious thing” is among the most well-known verses in the Bible; John 3:16 (NIV) “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.”

Who(so)ever” (NIV) has the deceptive connotation of “whoever decides to believe in him.” The Greek says (Young’s Literal Translation – YLT) “every one who is believing in him may not perish.”

Contrast verse 16 (NIV) with verse 18 (NIV) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” more correctly he who is believing in him is not judged, but he who is not believing hath been judged already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (YLT).

How to reconcile “God so loved the world” (verse 16) with “he who is not believing is judged already?” (YLT) This is where Arminianism splits and splutters. In Reformed theology (“Calvinist” if you like), it’s quite simple. “World” in verse 16 does not mean everyone in the world. There are several texts in the Bible that explain why it can’t mean everyone in the world. Verse 18 is one of them. I ask the Arminian: “Does Jesus love the unbelieving ones whom he is going to judge – send to hell, and whom he “knows from the beginning” (John 6:64) – from eternity?” Of course not; he hates them, as he hated all mankind before he chose to have mercy on some and save some as in Romans 9:

Romans 9

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?’”[h] 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?”

No “hated Esau” definitely does not mean “loved Esau less.” I hate a lot of noise, that is, I love it less than quiet!

Christ saves those whom the Father draws:

John 6

44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day…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.”

I once asked the pastor of a Methodist Church I attended for two years why he never preached on sin, or mentioned the word. He replied “Those were the harsh old days.” People need buttering up. All you need is love.

Here are a few excerpts from Gerhardus Vos’s “The Scriptural Doctrine of the Love of God”.



1. “There can be little doubt that in this manner the one-sidedness and exclusiveness with which the love of God has been preached to the present generation is largely responsible for that universal weakening of the sense of sin, and the consequent decline of interest in the doctrines of atonement and justification, which even in 
orthodox and evangelical circles we all see and deplore. But this by no means reveals the full extent of the danger to which the tendency we are speaking of 
has exposed us….There is, however, still another  serious defect to be noticed in this modern exploitation of the love of God, touching not the distinction of love from the other attributes, but the internal distinction between the various kinds  and degrees of affection, which in the case of a relationship so infinitely varied as that of God to 
the world are subsumed under the comprehensive term of love. The old theology was exceedingly careful in marking off these kinds and degrees from one another, and in assigning to each the group  of objects upon which it operates.

2 Elective love

To Pharaoh God speaks of Israel as His firstborn, i.e.His dearly beloved son (Ex. 4:22). Immediately before the making of the Sinaitic covenant and the promulgation of the Decalogue,  all Jehovah’s gracious dealings with His people connected with the Exodus are summed up in the  beautiful words: “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagle’s wings, and brought you unto myself. Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:4-6). In the four classical statements, where  the Torah rises to the height of a description of the character of God, His benevolent attributes, such as lovingkindness (Chesed), mercy, grace, longsuffering, faithfulness, are strongly emphasized (Ex. 20:5, 6; 34:6, 7; Num. 14:8; Deut. 7:9, 10)… in thus bringing forward the thought of Jehovah’s  love for Israel, Deuteronomy throws special emphasis upon the elective character of this love. It is not so much the general fact that Jehovah now loves the people, but rather the special consideration that in the past at a definite moment He set His love upon them, to the exclusion of all other nations, upon which the book dwells.

3. Who are the children of God?

The extreme form of the modern theory, according to which all men as such, indiscriminately, are the children of God, certainly cannot claim our Lord’s authority in its favor. But even the less extreme form of this theory, according to which God is absolutely and equally the  Father of all mankind, whilst men may become partially and relatively His children by spiritual transformation after His image, is not in harmony with the facts. Not merely the sonship, also the fatherhood is given an exclusive reference to the disciples. Jesus always speaks of your Father, their Father, never of the Father absolutely, except where the altogether unique trinitarian relation between Himself and God is meant.

4. Love and wrath of God

So far as the actual manifestation of the love of God in human consciousness is concerned, a fundamental difference lies in this, that the enjoyment of the common love of God outside of the kingdom does not exempt man from being subject at the same time to the divine wrath on account of sin. Love and wrath here are not mutually exclusive. Within the circle of redemption, on the other hand, the enjoyment of the paternal love of God  means absolute forgiveness and deliverance from all wrath. Even this, however, is not sufficient clearly to mark the distinction between these two kinds of love, the wider and the narrower. For, previously to the  moment of believing, those who are appointed for salvation, no less than the others, are subject in their consciousness to the experience of the wrath of God. It would seem, therefore, that in his pre-Christian state the one who will later become a child of God is not differentiated from the one who never will, 

inasmuch as both are in an equal sense the objects of the general benevolence of God and of His wrath in their experience. Thus a representation would result as if the line of God’s general love ran singly up to the point of conversion, there to pass over into the line of His special love. The general love of God [without exception] would then be the only factor to be reckoned with outside of the  sphere of the kingdom; and a special love of God could be spoken of only with reference to those who have actually become His children.

5. Meaning of “all”

In the well-known passage of Romans (5:12-21), where a parallel is drawn between the first and second Adam and the spread of sin and  righteousness in the world through the transgression of the one and the obedience of the other, Paul speaks of the operation not merely of the former principle, but also of the latter as extending to all. But if this were to be interpreted in a distributive sense, as applying to every man individually, then plainly not the loving desire of God to save all, but the actual salvation of all would be affirmed, for the apostle  expressly declares that by the righteousness of the one the free gift has come upon all men unto justification of life. We are thus forced to assume that the “all” covers the totality of those who belong to the new human race  which springs from the second Adam. To find in the word “many” alternating with “all” in the context a reminder of the particularism of grace would be surely unwarranted, for this “many” is also used where the consequences of Adam’s sin are spoken of; but it would be equally unwarranted to conclude, as others have done, from the use of “all” that Paul advocated a doctrine of absolute universalism. Another instructive example of the manner in which the apostle’s wide outlook upon the cosmical reach of the grace of God influences his mode of expression is found in Romans 11:32, where, speaking of Jews and  Gentiles in their mutual relation to the gospel, he declares: “God has concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” On the same principle we must also interpret the statement in the first epistle to the Corinthians (15:22) that “as all die in Adam, so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

In the Pastoral Epistles, however, a more pronounced form of universalism seems to find expression. Here we read not only that Christ gave Himself a ransom for all (1 Tim. 2:6), but also that God quickens all things (or keeps alive all things (1 Tim 6:13), that God will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4), that the living God is the Savior of all men especially of those that believe (1 Tim. 4:10), that in Christ the kindness of God our Savior toward men appeared (Titus 3:4). In the case of these passages the context clearly indicates that a reference of God’s saving grace or Christ’s saving work to all classes of men rather than to all men numerically considered, is  meant to be affirmed. When the apostle first exhorts that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, then specializes this as including kings and all that are in authority, and finally assigns as the ground for this duty the fact that God will have all men to be saved, it is not only allowed but demanded by the principles of sound exegesis to interpret the second “all men” in the same sense as the first. This also applies to the passage in Titus 2:11, 12, where in succession the classes of old men, old women, young women, young men, and servants are named and the manner of life appropriate to each described, whereupon the apostle adduces as the most forcible and comprehensive motive for obedience to this exhortation the fact that the grace of God which brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly,  righteously, and godly in this present world.”

I return to the Muslims that Pastor Joseph longs convert by contrasting the scarcity of love in Allah with the overabundance of love in Yahweh. Here’s Vos at the end of his book”

It (the Bible) clearly teaches that the love of God, which it makes the center of His revealed character, belongs in its highest sense to believers only: “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (3:1). If God were nothing but love, to the exclusion of all other modes of being, no difference would be possible between His attitude toward the world and His attitude toward His own…That there is something which on sound biblico-theological grounds may be so designated, our inquiry has shown. But even more clearly than this it has, we believe, brought out two other facts. In the first place, that that form of love which the Bible everywhere emphasizes and magnifies, so as to be truly called one great revelation of love, is not God’s general benevolence, but His special affection for His people. This distribution of emphasis ought to be preserved in every creedal statement which professes  to reflect biblical proportions of truth. And in the second place, we have had occasion to observe that the  Scriptures do not leave room for the opinion that at any point, either in the eternal decree or in its historical unfolding, God’s love for those intended to become His people has been undifferentiated from His love for wider groups of humanity. Every formula which would efface or even tend to obscure this fundamental distinction ought to be at the outset rejected as unbiblical. The divine love for the elect is different not only in degree but specifically from all the other forms of love, because it involves a purpose to save, of which all the other forms fall short.”

Judge to Calvinist murderer: “We don’t hang robots”

Wesleyan (Arminian) criminal before judge – A musing grace

Judge – You deserve death but it is the decision of this court to grant you amnesty. Are you willing to accept the decision?

Criminal – Your Grace, let me muse over it. Say, an hour?

Judge – This court is in recess for one hour.

Calvinist criminal before same judge.

Judge – You deserve death but it is the decision of this court to grant you amnesty.

Calvinist – Amazing, your grace. Thank you, thank you.

Judge – We don’t hang robots.

Background : Wesley and Pelagius: Kissing cousins

Wesley and Pelagius: Kissing cousins?

Here is a post on “Wesley and Pelagius” by Lee Gatiss

For century after century, one man has been the bogeyman of Western theology. He’s the bad guy. The one no. For centuries the malign influence of his worksy free will religion has been resisted. Bede narrates in his history of the English church how persistently both Celtic and Catholic Christians opposed in these fair Isles the poison of Pelagianism, which the great Augustine of Hippo had refuted so clearly, and which was condemned by an early church council at Carthage (418) and excommunicated.

In the East, they are not such fans of Augustine. But in the West, he the man, and so his enemy is our enemy, so to speak. Identification with Pelagius has been “a bad thing” throughout our history.

Which makes it so strange that the great and famous John Wesley was actually a fan of Pelagius. Am I being nasty now? Am I being offensive: “a cynic, a bear, a Toplady” (to use Wesley’s own sour put down)? Not at all.

See more here.

Here is Thomas McCall’s riposte to Gatiss:

Pelagianism’ calmly considered: A Response to Lee Gatiss.”

I have always found Lee Gatiss to be a fine historian, so I was disappointed to see his claims in the recent “Wesley and Pelagius”. He points out that Pelagius has been universally reviled and rejected in orthodox (Western) Christian theology, and then he also points out that John Wesley was openly sympathetic to the heretic. Indeed, he says that he “was actually a fan of Pelagius.” But Gatiss goes much further. For Gatiss concludes that Pelagius “taught – well, what do you know! – the same things as John Wesley himself, regarding free will and perfectionism.” This latter claim – that Wesley and Pelagius taught the “same things” about “free will and perfectionism” – is problematic indeed; it is deeply mistaken and very misleading.

Here is another part of Thomas McCall’s riposte to Gatiss:

Wesley on Original Sin

But while Gatiss’s discussion of Wesley’s sympathy might be misleading, there are bigger problems with Gatiss’s essay. For he is simply mistaken when he says that Wesley and Pelagius “taught the same things.” They didn’t. Consider what Wesley says about the doctrine of original sin. The Methodist Articles of Religion clearly affirm the doctrine, with Article II affirming that Christ’s sacrifice atones for “original guilt” as well as actual sins. But Wesley himself goes further. His treatise on original sin is the longest and densest work in his theological corpus; it is written soon before the more famous work of Jonathan Edwards, it engages in sharp polemics against many of the same debate partners (especially John Taylor), and it employs many similar arguments… For instance, he asks

“Is man by nature filled with all manner of evil? Is he void of all good? Is he wholly fallen? Is his soul totally corrupted? Is… ‘every imagination of the thoughts of his heart evil continually?’ Allow this, and you are so far a Christian. Deny it, and you are but a heathen still (“Original Sin,” p. 456).

Wesley is convinced that any denial of the doctrine of original sin “saps the very foundation of all revealed religion” (“Original Sin,” p. 194). Thus such a denial “contradicts the main design of the Gospel, which is to humble vain man, and to ascribe to God’s free grace, not man’s free will, the whole of his salvation” (“Original Sin,” p. 429). Subsequent Methodist theologians… insist that we are “totally depraved.” I cannot see how anyone might view this evidence – which flows from Wesley’s most sustained theological treatment of any issue through his sermons into the major confessional documents and indeed through the major nineteenth-century Methodist theologians – and conclude that Wesley and Pelagius taught “the same things.”

III. Wesley on “Free Will” and the prevenience of grace

As we have seen, Wesley is absolutely certain that we must “ascribe to God’s free grace, not man’s free will, the whole of his salvation.” His doctrine of human sinfulness is not, he insists, even a “hairs-breadth” different than that of John Calvin. If that amounts to Pelagianism, then one might be excused for thinking that this is pretty good company in which to be Pelagian.

End of McCall.

Here is a counter thrust by Gatiss. http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/12/more-work-for-the-wesleyans.php. Here is an excerpt regarding “original sin.”

“Wesley’s sermon on Philippians 2:12: “allowing that all the souls of men are dead in sin by nature, this excuses none, seeing there is no man that is in a state of mere nature”. I’m struggling to relate this to his supposed belief in original sin. Doesn’t he think all that Old Testament stuff about everyone being born in sin has been cancelled out now that Christ has enlightened every man (see e.g. his sermon on Philippians 3:12)?”

And here is an excerpt from John Whitefield’s letter to Wesley, in response to the latter’s sermon on “free grace.”

Free grace or free-will

Dear Sir, for Jesus Christ’s sake, consider how you dishonour God by denying election. You plainly make salvation depend not on God’s free grace, but on man’s free-will; and if thus, it is more than probable, Jesus Christ would not have had the satisfaction of seeing the fruit of His death in the eternal salvation of one soul. Our preaching would then be vain, and all invitations for people to believe in Him would also be in vain. But, blessed be God, our Lord knew for whom He died. There was an eternal compact between the Father and the Son. A certain number was then given Him, as the purchase and reward of His obedience and death. For these He prayed (Joh 17), and not for the world. For these, and these only, He is now interceding, and with their salvation He will be fully satisfied.

Wesley says that salvation is all of grace, and nothing to do with free will. That’s odd. Here is the famous Ephesians 2:8 – “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”

The Wesleyan/Arminian says (the gift of) Salvation and Grace are both all of the Lord, but when it comes to the gift of faith you, in your totally depraved nature and hatred of God, have to exercise your free will to accept it – otherwise, they say, you’re a robot.

Wesleyan (Arminian) criminal before judge – A musing grace

Judge – You deserve death but it is the decision of this court to grant you amnesty. Are you willing to accept the decision?

Criminal – Your Grace, let me muse over it. Say, an hour?

Judge – This court is in recess for one hour.

Calvinist criminal before same judge.

Judge – You deserve death but it is the decision of this court to grant you amnesty.

Calvinist – Amazing, your grace. Thank you, thank you.

Judge – We don’t hang robots.

The Arminian and Calvinist understanding of “Salvation is (totally) of the Lord.”

“Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly… Salvation is of the LORD.” —Jonah 2:9

jonah_on_dry_ground

The Word of Faith movement (Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer) teaches that if God is going to do anything good in your life – better health, more cash, increase your divine power, save you (from your mistakes) – you have to grant him the opportunity to do so. If you do nothing, guess what God’s gonna do? Or rather, not do? Keep your cold, your bad back, your Ebola; no better house-car-job. Dry bones.

When it comes to salvation, Word of Faith people are Arminians, as are the majority of Christians. Unless Christians are into apologetics or theology, terms like Arminianism and Calvinism make them giddy. 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, which he finds irresistible (Lazarus didn’t complain when he was raised from the dead). in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation.

Our understanding of how we come to faith shimmers through our whole understanding of the sovereignty, holiness and love of God, and consequently impacts greatly on our Christian life. I deal briefly with the following aspects of the Christian life:

God’s will and purposes

Prayer

Witnessing

Assurance

God’s will and purposes

Isaiah 46:9-10

9 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.

 If you believe that, you, an unregenerate person, can/has come to Christ (ultimately) on your own steam (you get to make the final decision), you could find yourself in hot heavenly water, for you are the person that must also say that Christ is begging people to come to him but in most cases fails. But how can God fail when it is clear that “I will do all my pleasure.”

Two more scriptures: “The Lord does whatever pleases him,
 in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths” (Psalm 135:6). “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). Job knows that, but do Arminians know that? If God tries to save but fails, then it must please him fail. Do you really believe that God gets a kick out of failure? That’s what you must think but  will not to.

Prayer

Arminian on his Calvinist knees praying for someone’s conversion: “Lord please change his heart, open his eyes that he may see.”

Witnessing

Arminian on his feet with the same person he prayed for: “God respects your will. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman. He won’t force you to believe. The greatest gift you have is your freedom to chose salvation. You need to change your heart.”

I am reminded of the Arminian song “Change my heart oh God, make it ever true.” What do they mean? If they mean “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh,” then this is impossible for the Christian, because when you became a Christian (born again), God changed your natural heart (of stone) – dead heart, for a spiritual heart (of flesh) – living heart. What the Arminian means is “make my new heart more devoted to you (ever true), increase my faith.” All Christians should pray for this kind of renewal. If, however, Arminians were biblical, they would not water down – “make my heart ever true” – the pivotal biblical description of God – unilaterally – changing hearts, as in Ezekiel 36:26) above, to mean “make my heart ever true.”

Assurance

Arminian: “I’ve decided to follow Jesus, I’ve decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”

Calvinist: Why are you so sure you won’t turn your back on Jesus?

Arminian: Jesus said that he won’t cast me out.

Calvinist: What if, after you decided to follow Jesus, you decided to unfollow him? Didn’t you decide on your own bat to follow Jesus? If so, then surely if you’re free, you can decide not to follow him anymore.

Arminian: I won’t allow that to happen. I will never forsake Christ.

Calvinist: I have a good title for a song you could write: “Greater is the me in me, than the me who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Consider the concept of the “gift” of faith. Ephesians 2:5-9 [My square brackets and capitals]:

Even when we were dead in sins, [he] hath quickened [regenerated] 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.

By “dead” in sins, the Arminian means “deadish,” that is, there remains in every sinner enough ability and desire to receive the gift of faith. But this (grace and) faith – “THAT not of yourselves,” means that you had nothing to do with the planting of faith in you. There is nothing in Ephesian 2:8 about faith being a possible faith. If that were so, then faith would not be God’s gift to you but your gift to God. And that is exactly how Arminians interpret Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” They say – for example, William Lane Craig – that “that [gift] is not of yourselves” in the above verse refers only to grace, not to faith. because “that” is grammatically neuter while “faith” is feminine. Craig’s argument falls flat because grace is also feminine. The Greek grammar rule is this: “In the case of concrete nouns, for example, the mother, the ship, the way, the house, the relative pronoun that follows is ordinarily feminine; but what the president did not know is that abstract nouns like faith, hope, and charity use the neuter of the relative pronoun. As a matter of fact, even a feminine thing, a concrete noun, may take a neuter relative (see Godwin’s Greek Grammar). (Gordon Clark in Is Faith the Gift of God in Ephesians 2:8? By Jack Kettler).

All Calvinists hold that both grace and faith are gifts from God whereas the Arminian says grace (“prevenient” grace) is God’s gift to man, and faith is man’s gift to God. (See The Calvinist robot and the Arminian zombie: Grammars of coming to faith).

Jesus is a saviour, not a possible saviour. “Possible” means possible failure, a miserable failure. “Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able … There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out” (Luke 13:23-24 and 28). “”Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:13).

Jesus died for his sheep; they hear his voice. Those who reject Jesus are not – will never be – of his sheep:

John 10:

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

The causal connection in 10:27 is not “hear his voice and then become his sheep” but “if you are a sheep you will – certainly – hear his voice.” This becomes crystal clear (one would think!) in John 6:35-44, specifically verses 40 and 44.

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” 41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Arminians confuse or refuse the grammar.

Here is something that I read, which could be said by both an Arminian and a Calvinist.

“Well, if you say Arminianism or Calvinism my mind starts to spin. But I do know what I believe. I believe we are dead in our sins apart from Christ. I believe that is only by grace that are saved, not anything that we do although there is a response required on our part however that works exactly, I couldn’t really tell you. Somethings are mystery. It’s totally, completely all God Who chooses us and saves us, yet he allows us to respond with faith.”

Yes, salvation is “totally all of God.” But “what about free will?” is the predictable cry. What do we make of “salvation is TOTALLY/ALL all of God” in the above paragraph? If salvation is all of the Lord, then instead of saying “yet” he allows us to respond, which implies a (“mysterious”) contradiction, we should rather, and indeed can logically and joyfully say “and” he allows us to respond. How is this so? As scripture says, all unbelievers are dead in sin, and so hate (the true) God. Another way of speaking is that our wills are in bondage to sin. We are slaves, in chains.

There are two ways in which Christians explain salvation:

1. The Arminian view (the label comes from Jacob Arminius).

God comes to all the slaves in the world, who love more than anything their slavery to sin – indeed reject the very idea of sin. Now God through his powerful mercy (grace) makes it possible for all to see that they are sinners and in bondage, and need to be saved from their sin. He then offers to set them free. YET (the Arminian is speaking) most refuse. Those that accept he sets free.

The salvation process on this view is: we are deadISH in sin, aliveISH to God. God, through his grace, gives us the possibility to become much more alive than we were, to make us a newISH creature (I would then be Jewish newish). He offers (the “gift” of) faith. Some take the gift. They believe. Next, God regenerates them (they are born again). This is back to front because if you believe, this can only occur if God had previously regenerated you, and granted you the desire to believe and repent. According to the Arminian view, the reason why you were saved is because there is something better – they will deny this vehemently – in you than in the person that is damned. Jesus the possible saviour becomes – because of you opening your dead heart – a real saviour.

2. The Biblical view (Calvinist, after John Calvin)

The salvation process on this view is: we are not deadish but dead, dead, in sin. God, through his grace makes some alive, that is, completely alive, transforming them into new creatures. He raises us (regenerates us – born again) from the dead and plants in our renewed souls the gift of faith, which we receive/accept with joy. We repent of our sin. The reason why you were saved is not because there was something in you that decided to “give God a chance” but because after he regenerated you from death to life, he freed you from the bondage to your sin. As a result, you were overcome with gratitude and joyfully received the new life he gave you.

Upshot: it is impossible to accept God – believe and repent – BEFORE God has raised you from the dead, before he has broken your chains. So then, God first births you anew (regenerates you) AND – consequently – you are drawn irresistibly to him. The dead cannot refuse or hate to be resurrected (Lazarus didn’t complain). Result: they are made free, which they accept with great joy. In a nutshell, “Salvation is of the Lord” where words such as “totally” and “all” (of the Lord) add nothing to the meaning but serve as emphasis, as in “I don’t REALLY want to be rude.”

But, but that is not fair! What’s unfair about a judge deciding to not be merciful to a criminal who deserves punishment? How we come to faith and God’s purposes in salvation is encapsulated in Romans 9.

10… 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,2 but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Here is Jonah Calvin’s prayer in the belly of the whale:

“Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” —Jonah 2:1-10.

Beware of the vanities of Arminianism.

Related – Free willy: Amazing grace and the grammar of Bible interpretation: Inspired by James White and Michael Brown

Thanks for Being Rude…no, really, Thanks.

I posted a question on Wintery Knight’s blog regarding the debate between Michael Brown, an Arminian, and James White, a Calvinist. Wintery is an Arminian, that is, he does NOT- as is the situation with most professing Christians – believe that a person is so dead (in sin) that he is unable to choose to believe in Jesus Christ. Here is my comment to Wintery: “Hi Wintery, Your position seems to be that there is something inherent in people that (inwardly) determines their acceptance of Christ. Is that correct?” As many others have found with Wintery Knight’s “awaiting moderation,” my comment ended up in the fiery moat. I posted another Arminian-unfriendly comment on another blog a few days ago. It is still awaiting moderation. It seems, alas, conflagration as well. Hope I’m wrong. I don’t want to be rude but as a brooding Calvinist, I feel compelled to confront Arminianism whenever I have the chutzpah to do so. I posted this comment in “Thanks for Being Rude…no, really, Thanks,” which i now reblog from the site of “Clothed with Joy.” Thanks for not being rude about me being rude. My comment on #3 (fleshed out a bit): You say “her attitude reminded me of others who were presented with a much more marvelous gift and responded, not with gratitude, but with rudeness, hate, disdain and ignorance. Jesus. On the cross. Making a way for sinful, hopeless humanity to once again be with God. Emmanuel, God With Us. And what has been the response to this most excellent gift over the centuries? Gratitude, yes, thankfully, occasionally, yes; but much more often, the response to this gift is rudeness, hate, disdain and ignorance.” The gist: people are offered the gift of salvation but many refuse. So, for you, which is the majority Christian view – it’s called Arminianism, people are not born dead in sins, as we read in Ephesians 2: Ephesians 2:5-9 [My square brackets]: Even when we were dead in sins, [he] hath quickened [regenerated] 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. It seems that by “dead” in sins, you mean “deadish,” that is, there remains in every unregenerate person enough power to grab the gift of faith. But this cannot be if it is true that faith is a gift, which is what “THAT not of yourselves,” means. There is nothing about a possible gift. If that were so, then faith would not be God’s gift to you but your gift to God. Jesus is a savior, not a possible savior because “possible” means possible failure, a miserable failure,, because as you conveyed and as the Bible says few are those that enter through the narrow gate. Jesus died for his sheep. Those who reject Jesus are not of his flock, as is clear in John 10. His sheep hear his voice. John 10 22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” The causal connection in 10:27 is not “hear his voice and then become his sheep” but “if you are a sheep you will – certainly – hear his voice.” This becomes crystal clear (one would think!) in John 6:35-44, specifically v. 35, 40 and 44. 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” 41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. But Arminians cannot or refuse to follow the grammar.

Clothed with Joy

Untitled

On Saturday I had the opportunity to join with friends and strangers to pack and deliver Thanksgiving food items to five families in a very poor city in NJ. I’ve written about it here, Loving with My Eyes Wide Open. This post is not so much a follow up as it is a reflection on one particular aspect of the day’s deliveries.

Nine of us, three adults and six children, piled into a 12 passenger van with our boxes full of frozen turkey and gravy, cans of green beans and boxes of stuffing and miscellaneous other items, and headed to our first address. It was like the weirdest treasure hunt ever.

It seemed best if everyone stayed in the vehicle and I went alone to knock on doors to make sure someone was at home before opening the van and allowing the children out. Sadly, we struck out at Home #1…

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Did God really say “Prevenient” Grace

In the foreword to David Garner’s (author, editor) “Did God Really Say?: Affirming the Truthfulness and Trustworthiness of Scripture, 2012, Robert C. Cannada, Jr. et al. write:

“The Reformation’s commitment to Sola Scriptura was a call to biblical authority and to a biblically defined hermeneutic that resulted in a biblically clear message. This message is the saving work of Christ: “those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation” (Westminster Confession of Faith). Thus, the infallible Word when interpreted by its own infallible hermeneutic leads to the clear and saving truth captured by another great Reformation motto: Solus Christus. The incarnate Word is discovered in the inspired and written Word. While not all of Scripture is equally clear (“all things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all” – Westminster Confession of Faith) the glorious redemptive grace found in Jesus Christ is clear even to the untrained student of Scripture (“not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them”).”

As the Westminster Confession says the message of sola scriptura (scripture alone) is the saving work of Christ, namely, “those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation.”

Now “grace” is something “necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation.” The problem is that “grace” for the Arminian and the Calvinist is as different as “faith plus works” and “faith alone” in justification. In Arminianism, grace (“prevenient” grace, which is not in the Bible) possibly saves, whereas in Calvinism, grace does nothing else but save. Yet both Arminians and Calvinists believe that grace is glorious and love singing “Amazing grace.”

For an examination of this contradiction see my previous post at https://onedaringjew.wordpress.com/2014/11/28/free-willy-amazing-grace-and-the-the-grrrrr-ammar-of-bible-interpretation-inspired-by-james-white-and-michael-brown/

Free Willy: Amazing grace and the grammar of Bible interpretation. Inspired by James White and Michael Brown

 

In the last 16 minutes of his Dividing Line podcast of 26 November, 2014, James White comments on Michael Brown’s anti-Calvinism. White plays excerpts of Brown and comments.

Brown – Who “would ever dream that we could take credit for our salvation in any way? The thought boggles my mind.”

White – The fundamental issue is if God has sought to save every single person equally. And if he has not, and you are one of the pan-benevolent advocates where you believe that God does not have an electing love, he does not have a redemptive love, that there are  no differentiations in God’s love, that he has no special love for Israel that he hasn’t had for Egypt…If you believe that God has tried to save every person equally, then why is one person saved and another isn’t? That was what Brian [a caller on Michael Brown’s podcast] was trying to say to Michael. If God tried to save my neighbour equal to myself, I’m saved and he’s not, what are the only possible grounds to look to as to why I differ from that person. It’s me. It’s not the grace of God, it’s not the choice of God. It’s me, me, me. I was the one who was either more sensitive, in some ways spiritually better than someone who doesn”t get saved. If there have been equal attempts, you have to start answering questions of election, you have to deal with the reality that God gave advantages to his people, for example, that he did not give to the Babylonians, the Amorites and the Egyptians. So God made a choice to act in that fashion. So what is the basis of that choice and what’s the purpose of that choice does the Bible say? 

Brown – I never thought it [that he had anything to do with his salvation] as non-Calvinist, I never thought it as Calvinist [Brown was once a Calvinist]. Salvation is from the Lord. It’s all his grace. I sang amazing grace, exactly the same. I’m amazed at his goodness and kindness that he could pour out his grace on a wretched human race with all the sin and evil deeds we committed. Jesus died for us and calls us to himself. How extraordinary. How mind boggling!

White – What do you mean by that Michael? From my perspective, if you believe in prevenient grace – you’ve used the term on other occasions – is that the grace we sing about? Is that the grace Newton [John Newton, author of “Amazing grace”) was writing about? No, no. When I sing about the grace of God, I sing about the grace of God that Titus 2 describes, that grace that brings salvation. It’s not a grace that tries to bring salvation; it does. From my perspective, I’ll make it clear, there’re only two consistent views here: Universalist and the Calvinist. The one in the middle doesn’t work. The grace that saves in Titus chapter 2, that “has appeared to all men,” that either means Jews and Gentiles – that’s what it means – or everybody, which does not make a lick of sense because there were lots of people in that day that it had not appeared to. The point is grace saves, and that’s why all of this is to the praise of his glorious grace. How please can someone explain to me…someone has actually written a book on prevenient grace…Where in the Bible is this prevenient grace? It’s purpose is not actually to save but to make saveable. Or tries to save but fails to save, or what? I don’t know. I cannot get consistent definitions out of folks on it. But when I see “to the praise of his glorious grace,” in Ephesians chapter 1, I can’t see how that applies to prevenient grace. Are you really going to go to the point of saying “praise God for that prevenient grace that tried to save them Amorites but saved nobody,” while the wrath of God was [poured out] in the destruction of the Amorites via the Israelite army? What is that?

How do you praise God for a grace that accomplishes nothing? I don’t know, but it is something that has to be discussed. 

Brown – The fact is the reason I ultimately abandoned Calvinism was out of my reverence for a holy God before whom I bow, out of my hatred and rejection of the man-centred Gospel of the 21st century American church…because I was convinced that the testimony of scripture read honestly without preconception from beginning to end was against Calvinism. So what I want to do is just give you an overview of that.

In his next podcast, White says he will return to Brown.

Two dialogues between the Arminian, John, and the Calvinist, Paul. “Grammar” in the dialogue refers to the etymological Greek meaning “any writing,” in our context, the scriptures. So “grammatical” in “grammatical-historical” meaning refers to the linguistic context of a text. And as we all know, the three rules of interpretation are context, context, context.

Dialogue 1 – Subject matter John 1:13

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (NIV).

Young’s Literal translation: “who not of blood nor of a will of flesh, nor of a will of man (Greek aner) but — of God were begotten.” 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. NIV : “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

Characters: John (as in Wesley); Paul (as in Tarsus)

Paul – What does “not of blood” mean?


John – It means not of human descent.

Paul – Glad you’re following the grammar.

John – Grrrrr.

Paul – ammar. What does “not of the will of the flesh” mean?


John – It means “not of a man’s/husband’s decision.”

Paul – Good.

John – Grrrrrrrr.

Paul – What does “not of the will of man” mean?


John – Also, not of a husband’s decision.

Paul – So, both the “will of the husband’s flesh” and the “will/decision of man,” – could I also add “of blood, refers to the husband’s willy? How do you get that from the grammar.

John – Grrrrrrrrrrrr.

In sum, for John, and Arminians in general, “human decision, in other words, the “will of man,” cannot refer to the mind/spirit of believers but to their very fleshy fathers; for (Paul loves this connecting word) “human decision” and the “will of man” must, for Arminians, refer to the sexual desire of the believer’s Pappy. Which leaves the inviolable sacred will of the believer intact and free to choose to be born again. (See “Of being born again and a husband’s one track mind”).

Dialogue 2

Bible text – John 6: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 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. 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).

Paul – Does a person come because he is given (by the Father), or is the person given because the Father peeked down the corridors of time and foresaw that the person had decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back?

John – Because he decided?

Paul – But don’t you get the logical and causal progression: Given – Come (– Eternal life). It’s clear in the …

John – Grrrrrrammar, I know!

End of dialogues

If we are saved by grace alone (and we are) how can anyone be saved if they believe salvation is a cooperation between man and God.” John Hendryx explains:

If they are consistent, since they do not believe grace is effectual, Arminians must ascribe their repenting and believing to their own wisdom, humility, sound judgment and good sense. However, I tend on the side of being generous if Arminians affirm that they justly deserve the wrath of God save for Christ’s mercy alone, which most Arminians do. So we do not exactly hold the view that Arminians are lost. Much bad theology turns out merely to be inconsistent theology and it is possible to be saved in spite of bad theology, but only if you are inconsistent, and you don’t really believe what you think or say you believe. I find, in my many encounters with Arminians, that this is usually the case. Thankfully I think a good number Arminians are inconsistent, and they don’t really believe what they say. For example, they pray for God to bring friends and neighbors to salvation – why? God has no power (or right) to do that, according to Arminianism. But some Arminians (I would argue, the ones that are saved) know in their heart that salvation IS all the work of God and IS all by grace. So they pray for God to save sinners! Their true theology comes out in their prayers, even if they don’t want to admit it. I feel that, over time and with patience, these people would become reformed in theology if they had good teaching and instruction. (John Hendryx). See Arminians who confuse and refuse: free will in coming to Christ).

In the last part of James White’s podcast above, Michael Brown says:

And I’ll be clear, and it’s no disrespect towards those who differ with me. I realise we all come the same way, the way of the cross, I recognise that on that day that all glory and honor with go to the Lord. I recognise that not any of us can take any credit whatsoever for our salvation.”

James White comments on Brown’s statement:

Now this is why hyper-Calvinists need to be very careful about the judgments they pass on people. I’m going to disagree with almost everything Michael is going to say in his presentation, but I believe he means what he means when he says this,  and therefore I find him inconsistent. But if you believe that, I accept that you believe that, and a hyperCalvinist, who is a rationalist, as is the hyperArminian [I wonder what the connection is between rationalism and hyper anything], says he [Brown] cannot say that [the person saved makes the possible saviour into an effectual saviour] and believe what he says afterwards [namely, God gets all the glory for salvation]. On yes he can, continues White. And we are going to find out some day that we all do stuff like that. And that is why we (Brown and White) can join together on homosexuality and the trinity, and things like that, even though we have debated how many times on this [Calvinism].”

White stresses that he is referring to the inconsistent Arminian, who, like all inconsistent people, “do stuff like that.” “Blesséd inconsistency, curséd consistency, Jesus is mine.”

If you believe that, you, an unregenerate person, can/has come to Christ (ultimately) on your own steam (you get to make the final decision), you must also say that Christ is begging people to come to him but in most cases fails. But how can God fail when it is clear that “I will do all my pleasure.”

Isaiah 46:9-10
9 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. Do you really believe that God gets a kick out of failure? Yep, that’s what you must think BUT  will not to.

I have found it very difficult to attend an Arminian church, Bible study – or even pray together, unless it is the Lord’s prayer. The reason is that everything Christian should flow from the sovereignty and absolute freedom of God. Sovereignty is not something God has, it is who he is, and, as we read in Isaiah above, he’s not going to give any of it to anyone. He is sovereign in all things, not least, salvation. Salvation is of the Lord. Grammatically speaking, all salvation.

 “Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 9

10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,

I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
 and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire [will] or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? [It’s not fair]. For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

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

Verses 22-23 contradicts what Zahnd says next.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 6

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

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

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

Jeremiah 44:26-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The unbelieving spouse and the arbitrary god

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

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

I read the above to an Arminian. Here is a definition of an Arminian: When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as Calvinism understands it. An Arminian believes that faith is a person’s gift to God, not God’s gift to man.

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

Arminian – That’s ironic.

Me – What do you mean?

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

Me- Why is that?

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

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

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

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

Arminian – I’m not talking about that?

Me – How does God choose anything?

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

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

Arminian – No, he just says yes.

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

Arminian – None.

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

Here is the biblical view of God:

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

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

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

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

The traditional term is “limited” atonement, that is, atonement/salvation/redemption/justification is limited to those on whom God exercises his mercy. In Calvinist understanding, everybody is under condemnation and deserves damnation. God’s mercy is dependent on nothing but God’s freedom to save some sinners and pass others by. It is true Arminianism generally also believes in a particular sort of redemption but only in the sense that not everybody is saved for the reason that they – being deadish, not really dead, in sin – did not exercise their free wills to give God the gift of faith in exchange for His gift of grace. The freedom to choose Christ before he has brought you to life (before you were born again) contradicts the following scriptures:

John 1

11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Romans 9

11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Here is a part of Charles Spurgeon’s ironic “Arminian’s prayer.”

There are many that wilI go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as l am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not—that is the difference between me and them.”

Now, no Arminian believes that it is good to boast of being better than the person who rejects Christ, and so would not really pray in this fashion. In fact he’ll protest that all is grace, that they are no better than anyone else; which, of course, is true.

I heard this prayer recently: “We pray that you will remove his heart of stone and give him a heart of flesh. We pray that he will surrender his life to you.” So, if you surrender your life, God will remove your stony heart that makes it impossible for you to surrender, that is, to come to Christ (to believe, have faith, trust). Which is it then; does God first have to regenerate you to enable you to surrender (have faith), or do you first surrender then get regenerated (born again)? The difficulty with the latter is, if you surrender your life to Christ, this can only be done if you’ve already been regenerated (enabled to do so by God’s grace), which renders regeneration obsolete. “Regenerate” means “quicken” means raised from the dead. Imagine in wartime asking your dead enemy to surrender.

A few days ago I was discussing this issue with an Anglican priest friend in my home over tea. He remarked: “Chicken and egg.” In other words, who knows what came first, regeneration or faith, and does it really matter?  Of course it does. (See Inviting your dead enemy to surrender: The chicken and the egg of regeneration and faith.

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

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

The miserable Christian

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

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

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

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

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

Where Arminians and Arminius are at odds – Calvin

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

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

Spurgeon writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Begin with self; end with self

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

(My italics verse 8)

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

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

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

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

Arminian

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

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

Me – What does “not of blood” mean?

Pastor – It means not of human descent.

Me – What does “not of the will of the flesh” mean?

Pastor – It means “not of a man’s decision.”

Me – What does “not of the will of man” mean?

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

In sum, for this pastor, “human decision” and the “will of man” cannot refer to the will of the seeker but to the sexual desire – to the willy – of the seeker’s Poppa. This leaves the precious will of the seeker intact and free to choose to be born again. If this is true, then when we read the last part of the verse “but born of God,” what this must mean for the Arminian is “but born of God and of the believer. The Arminian will say, “No, only God is involved because it clearly says “born from above,” not born from above and below. What I do believe, he could very well think, is that although I don’t know where the Spirit comes from, I do know when it arrives at my door. He knocks, I open my door and invite him to do waht he is longing to do – pull me out of my coffin.” That is what the Arminian understands by:

Ephesians Chapter 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dear reader

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

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

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

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

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

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

In his Consumer Alert! Yourphariseefriend (Rabbi Yisroel Blumenthal) sounds the alarm against Christians, who consider religion like a financial transaction, a concept, which he correctly says the Jewish Bible does not teach. He makes a very important point that Christians should heed. My only criticism is that he lumps together the New Testament understanding of salvation with the majority Christian understanding of salvation (the transactional view of salvation). I shall argue that the true Christian view on salvation has much in common with the Jewish view, both of which have been at odds with major Christian movements since the resurrection. Yourphariseefriend begins: You may be wondering: What is a “consumer alert” doing on a blog that focuses on religion? Perhaps you never thought about it this way, but religion involves a transaction. There is an exchange taking place. The Christian missionary is encouraging you to give the
devotion of your heart to Jesus and he is promising you eternal life in return for what you have given.” There is a price to pay; if not, there’ll be hell to pay.

Yourphariseefriend continues: “The price you pay [the Christian says] is the devotion of your heart, the return you are promised is escape from the fires of hell and eternal bliss – after death.” Yourphariseefriend’s aim in his “brief study” is (he writes) “to focus on those passages in the Jewish Bible that speak of the particular transaction that we are addressing in this article – giving the devotion of
your heart in exchange for a future return… One of the primary lessons of the Jewish Scripture is that the devotion of your heart is not yours to give away. It belongs to the God who created your heart in the first place.
Deuteronomy 32:6, Isaiah 45:18, Jeremiah 10:16, Jonah 1:9, Psalm 86:9, 95:6,
100:3, Job 12:10, 35:10, Daniel 5:23 – are but some of the Scriptural
 references to this teaching.” It will be useful to look at these biblical references the rabbi has cited. But before we do so, we need specifics on the nature of this If-I-give-my-heart-to-you transaction so prevalent among Christians.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Granted this is the majority Christian view, for example, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Methodist, Charismatic, and the masses of seeker-driven movements. This leaves a remnant of Christians; a “stump of stump” (Isaiah 6) who, with the Rabbi, cry foul. Why does this Christian remnant decry this transactional view? Let me answer with a rabbinical question: “How on earth can you invite Jesus into your heart? Where in the Bible does it say such a thing? In the Bible we do indeed see God pouring his love into unregenerated hearts, but when God regenerates a sinner, this involves no invitation from the sinner to God, but is a unilateral sovereign divine merciful call. It’s called amazing grace.If you ask God to change your heart, God has changed it already, because you would never want to ask such a question unless you had the desire to do so.

Where did your desire originate? Not in you but in God, who  replaced your heart of stone with a heart of flesh: “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19 (Also in Ezekiel 36:26).

There is only one instance in the scriptures where we read about the opening of hearts. And it’s not a human but a divine initiative;Acts 16:11-14:

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

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

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

You are the Potter,

I am the clay;

Mold me and make me,

This is what I pray

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 1:18-25
For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the discernment of the discerning will I bring to nought.
20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe. 22 Seeing that Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumbling block, and unto Gentiles foolishness; 24 but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

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

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

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

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

John 6 and the Eucharist: The deception of perception

 

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

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

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

Example 1

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

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

BLIND SPOT

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

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

Example 2

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

BLIND SPOT

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

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

Example 3

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

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

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

The reason why Example 1 and 2 ignored verses 64 and 65 is because they are Roman Catholic and Protestant Arminians. When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. Faith for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as Calvinism understands it.

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

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

Peter, Paul and the latkes

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

Paul – You hypocrite.

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

Paul –  I’m ephing oph to Ephesus.

Latkes

Latkes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

OneDaring Jew

Preamble

Grammar policeGrammar police (Photo credit: the_munificent_sasquatch)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sufficiency of the atonement: So what!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 6

39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bography

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

A Servant

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

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

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

Thanks for the visit and comment.

bography

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

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

A Servant

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

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

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

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

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

bography

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

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

A Servant

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

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

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

bography

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

A Servant

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

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

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

bography

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

A Servant

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

bography

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

A Servant

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

I then posted on A servant’s site:

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

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

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

The Elect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer: “God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9:18). But (verse 19) “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” Your question is awaiting conflagration, because (verse 20) “… who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?”

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

The RCC is Arminian. When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as Calvinism understands it.Arminians believe that God wills everybody to be saved. Their key verse is “God will have all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). The “Pulpit Commentary” says: The Divine love is the sublime source of the whole proceeding, and it has been lavished on “the world.” This world cannot be the limited “world” of the Augustinian, Calvinian interpreters – the world of the elect; it is that “whole world” of which St. John speaks in 1 John 2:2. “God will have all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). (see The gift: The reward of suffering).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting – Heaven before the Fall; before anything.

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

Son – I do what you tell me.

Father – You’ll have to be killed.

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

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

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

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

Son – Judas; of all people! Betraying me.

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

Son – Is Judas going to kill me?

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

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

Father – Everybody in the world?

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

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

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

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

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

O Jerusalem Jerusalem! Grammar is of the Lord

 

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

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

Another example, which is my focus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does God blind Arminians?

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

Romans 1

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

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

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

Ephesians 2 

1. As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

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

Jesus heals the blind man (John 9)

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

Spiritual Blindness

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

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

Isaiah 6

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

Mark 4

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

Acts 28

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

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

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

What does the scripture say?

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:37-40, 44, ESV).

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

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

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

Why do they refuse to believe the scriptures? It could be they are inconsistent. Or they are consistent: they deny that they are blind and stubbornly refuse to believe in a God that offers to save without their cooperation, without respectingthe dignity of their “free” will. They refuse to believe in a God that saves some, and passes others by. “It’s not fair!” They refuse to believe “’I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ 16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”

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

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

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

To answer the question: Does God blind Arminians? Yes. For the simple reason that, as R. C. Sproul sprouts it, there is not one rogue molecule in the universe.”Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”  21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? 22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea:I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,

I end with Eric Tuininga

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

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

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

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

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

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).

OneDaring Jew

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

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

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

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

Aner has the following meanings in the New Testament:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 9
10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
 and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? (NIV).

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

 

When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as Calvinism understands it.

Todd Pruitt writes:

I’m thinking about starting a support group for Calvinists who have been mistreated by Arminians, Mennonites, Amish, Mormons, Hindus, stamp collectors, and residents of New Jersey. More seriously, I do wonder what is behind the “Calvinists are meanies” posts to which we are treated routinely. Don’t misunderstand, I know there are prickly Calvinists. But I don’t buy the hype. I suppose we could trade anecdotes. For example I could write posts about the fact that the meanest and most self-righteous people I have ever encountered are Arminians. But what would that accomplish? Honestly, some of these posts sound a bit like, “I thank you Lord that I am not like this mean Calvinist.” What is more, until prominent Arminian theologians stop publicly comparing “the god of Calvinism” with Satan, then the reports of mean Calvinists are going to ring a bit hollow.”

Certainly I am not the only one concerned by these conversations. Have we become this soft? I am trying to imagine previous generations of Christians complaining about their feelings being hurt. I am not trying to be glib, nor am I seeking to mock anyone. But I am genuinely concerned about the softening of our spines. I suppose we can ask Calvinists to be less confident in their doctrine or that they take a softer stand on Joel Osteen and substitutionary atonement. But then we would be robbing Calvinists of some of the fun in being a Calvinist. And who wants to be around an unhappy Calvinist? How about we do this: The next time a Calvinist acts like a horses rear end, forgive him. If he persists then confront him in a spirit of gentleness and continue to forgive him since the Lord has forgiven you so extravagantly. And I promise to do the same the next time I encounter a particularly nasty Arminian or stamp collector. (“My name is Todd and Arminians have been mean to me“).

Not all stamp collectors are Arminians; indeed, most are agnostics, at best. I bet, though, that most Christian stamp collectors are Arminians. Pruitt’s Arminian stamp collectors remind me of the physicist, Ernest Rutherford’s (1871–1937) contempt for non-physical (non-materialist) science: “All science is either physics or stamp collecting.” Noam Chomsky mentions another hobby to describe the same mind-set: “You can also collect butterflies and make many observations. If you like butterflies, that’s fine; but such work must not be confounded with research, which is concerned to discover explanatory principles.” One famous clutch of Arminian observations is the univocal interpretation in the New Testament of “world,”  John 3:16 for example: God loved the world. See it says “world.” So it means everyone in the world. The Arminian unifying principle for instances of “world” in the New Testament is “every Tom, Dick and Whosoever.” Why do they think this way? Why do they ignore the basic rules of language use, of living language, of which the key principle is context? Fo one reason: they hate the idea that God does what he pleases, regardless of what pleases man; they hate that he chooses to have mercy on some reprobates while passing other by (“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
 and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”[Romans 9:15 Exodus 33:19), that he chooses to elect to salvation some deserving of hell, while giving others deserving of hell their just desserts.

John Owen gives a superabundance of contexts in which “world” is used, which, one would think, should sink the Arminian’s straight-jacket exegesis of “world” to the bottom of the lake of fire. Here is Owen’s exegesis of the “world.” (John Owen, “The death of death in the death of Christ,” p. 141 ff.).

The word world in the Scripture is in general taken five ways:—

First, Pro mundo continente; and that, — First, generally, ὅλως, for the whole fabric of heaven and earth, with all things in them contained, which in the beginning were created of God: so Job xxxiv. 13; Acts xvii. 24; Eph. i. 4, and in very many other places. Secondly, Distinctively, first, for the heavens, and all things belonging to them, distinguished from the earth, Ps. xc. 2; secondly,  The habitable earth, and this very frequently, as Ps. xxiv. 1, xcviii. 7; Matt. xiii. 38; John i. 9, iii. 17, 19, vi. 14, xvii. 11; 1 Tim. i. 15, vi. 7.

Secondly, For the world contained, especially men in the world; and that either, — 1. universally for all and every one, Rom. iii. 6, 19, v. 12. 2.  Indefinitely for men, without restriction or enlargement, John vii. 4; Isa. xiii. 11. 3. Exegetically, for many, which is the most usual acceptation of the word, Matt. xviii. 7; John iv. 42, xii. 19, xvi. 8, xvii. 21; 1 Cor. iv. 9; Rev. xiii. 3. 4. Comparatively, for a great part of the world, Rom. i. 8; Matt. xxiv. 14, xxvi. 13; Rom. x. 18. 5. Restrictively, for the inhabitants of the Roman empire, Luke ii. 1. 6. For men distinguished in their several qualifications, as, — 1st, For the good, God’s people, either in designation or possession, Ps. xxii. 27; John iii. 16, vi. 33, 51; Rom. iv. 13, xi. 12, 15; 2 Cor. v. 19; Col. i. 6; 1 John ii. 2. 2nd, For the evil, wicked, rejected men of the world, Isa. xiii. 11; John vii. 7, xiv. 17, 22, xv. 19, xvii. 25; 1 Cor. vi. 2, xi. 32; Heb. xi. 38; 2 Pet. ii. 5; 1 John v. 19; Rev. xiii. 3.

Thirdly, For the world corrupted, or that universal corruption which is in all things in it, as Gal. i. 4, vi. 14; Eph. ii. 2; James i. 27, iv. 4; 1 John ii. 15–17; 1 Cor. vii. 31, 33; Col. ii. 8; 2 Tim. iv. 10; Rom. xii. 2; 1 Cor. i. 20, 21, iii. 18, 19. 

Fourthly, For a terrene worldly estate or condition of men or things, Ps. lxxiii. 12; Luke xvi. 8; John xviii. 36; 1 John iv. 5, and very many other places.

Fifthly, For the world accursed, as under the power of Satan, John vii. 7, xiv. 30, xvi. 11, 33; 1 Cor. ii. 12; 2 Cor. iv. 4; Eph. vi. 12. And divers other significations hath this word in holy writ,

which are needless to recount.

End of Owen

photme new

Now we know why Calvinists have that sickly other-worldly grin on their face. “You can tell he’s a Calvinist by the smile on his face.” – the late Robert K. Rapa, former pastor of Indian River Baptist Church, referring to the “Lighthearted Calvinist,” as he entered a Wednesday night Bible study. When it comes to stamp or butterfly collecting, Calvinists have more than one stamp or one butterfly to drool over; and a unifying principle to boot (not to boot out):

Isaiah 46

8 Remember this, keep it in mind,
 take it to heart, you rebels. 9 Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
 I am God, and there is none like me. 10 I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
 and I will do all that I please.’

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

Arminius taught that God votes for you, the devil votes against you, and you have the final vote. Spurgeon held to the Reformed position that salvation was totally dependent on God’s sovereign will.

Here is a part of Charles Spurgeon’s ironic “Arminian’s prayer.”

“There are many that wilI go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as l am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not—that is the difference between me and them.”

Now, no Arminian believes that it is good to boast of being better than the person who rejects Christ, and so would not really pray in this fashion. In fact he’ll protest that all is grace, that they are no better than anyone else; which, of course, is true.

I heard this prayer recently: “We pray that you will remove his heart of stone and give him a heart of flesh. We pray that he will surrender his life to you.” So, if you surrender your life, God will remove your stony heart that makes it impossible for you to surrender, that is, to come to Christ (to believe, have faith, trust). Which is it then; does God first have to regenerate you to enable you to surrender (have faith), or do you first surrender then get regenerated (born again)? The difficulty with the latter is, if you surrender your life to Christ, this can only be done if you’ve already been regenerated (enabled to do so by God’s grace), which renders regeneration obsolete. “Regenerate” means “qicken” means raised from the dead. Imagine in wartime asking your dead enemy to surrender.

A few days ago I was discussing this issue with an Anglican priest friend in my home over tea. He remarked: “Chicken and egg.” In other words, who knows what came first, regeneration or faith, and does it really matter?  Of course it does, silly!

 

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

About five years ago, I gave a sermon in a church, as part of my practical for a Bible diploma. Previously, I had asked the pastor of the church why he never preached on sin. He told me that sermons on sin were the old days and people need to be encouraged rather than be condemned. Besides, he said, many of his congregation are either elderly, sick or hurting in one way or another. What they needed was encouragement. They needed, he said, to be told that when God looks at them, he jumps with delight. He did go over the basic outline if my sermon with me beforehand, but I later added some undelightful bits.

 After church, he called me into his office. Four or five of the elders were already there. The pastor told me that that my sermon was bad. One of the elders said I was “very harsh.’’ One of the parts of the sermon I think she was referring to was: ‘’Therefore, it is not unreasonable to say that one can be poor as well as evil, frail as well as evil, jobless as well as evil.’’ I have published my harsh sermon elsewhereWhat I’d like to do here is quote different parts of a sermon by anti-Calvinist Shawn McCraney on his rejection of “unconditional election” and Calvinist James White’s response, which are directly related to my harsh appraisal of “little gran’ma” (Shawn McCraney). (The Dividing Line, 9 January 2014).

McCraney 

“Those condemned to hell are not horrid murderers, serial killers, but they could be anyone that God has not elected. Little gran’ma who faithfully served the community, or twelve-year-old girls, who loved dolls and flowers before they’re taken, and babies, all created by God’s good will and pleasure for hell that never ends.”

White’s response

 

“There are not any little old ladies who are good. If they are going to end up under God’s judgment, then they have lived their entire lives with hatred towards God. They have taken the gifts of God and abused them. They are sinners. And either you believe that sinners are worthy of the judgment of God or you don’t. If you think that little old ladies and 12-year-old girls who play with dolls are not worthy of God’s judgment then we’re not reading the same Bible; we’re not reading Romans 3, we’re not reading Ephesians 1; we’re not seeing what God did in the Old Testament when he brought judgment upon the nation of Israel. Your anthropology is not a biblical anthropology; it’s not consistent with biblical anthropology.  

McCraney

“Just in case those who have been elected started to think that they were elected to salvation because they’re so good and all that, Calvin clearly explains that the elect are chosen not because of any act of goodness present in them but solely based on God’s sovereign will. Calvin suggested that by God saving some, we are given a tremendous example of his mercy since we all deserve hell fire to begin with. That’s the thinking.”

 White’s response 

“Yes that’s the thinking because that’s the Bible. We all deserve hell fire: the 12-year-old girl, the little old lady. These are categories you are saying would not deserve hell fire. They are enemies of God, are not holy, and honestly if you have a high enough view of God’s holiness and being and a realistic view of man’s sinfulness, these issues are not going to be all that pragmatic to you. But since they are, I have to wonder where you are within the spectrum of having a Biblical perspective of man’s sin.” 

McCraney 

“Not one of us deserves God’s love and mercy, which I agree is true, if you think about it in that way, but to show his great love and mercy, he decided to save some reprobates while leaving the rest to become eternal kindling in the lake of fire.” 

White’s response 

“What is the reason you think that God is under some obligation to save anyone, because that’s clearly in your thinking. Your objection is clearly to God being the one who makes the decision rather than rebel sinners. As if the judge of all the earth won’t do right, but rebel sinners will do right. I want salvation to be in the hands of the just God of all eternity, not in the hands of mankind. Romans chapter 8, what does Paul say about those in the flesh? What can they not do? They cannot submit themselves to the law of God. They cannot be pleasing to God. How do you understand that? Part of your problem is your anthropology, your view of man… There are no morally neutral creatures.” 

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

 McCraney

 He quotes R. C. Sproul’s definition of “unconditional election.” 

“Our final destination, heaven or hell, says Sproul, is decided by God not only before we get here but before we are even born. It teaches that our ultimate destiny is in the hands of God. Another way of saying it is this: from all eternity, before we ever lived, God decided to save some members of the human race, and to let other members of the human race perish. God mad a choice; he chose some individuals to be saved to everlasting blessedness in heaven, and others he chose to pass over to allow them to follow the consequences of their sins into eternal torment in hell.” 

White’s response 

“Sproul talks about God passing over them and they experiencing the just condemnation of their sin. That is not the way you presented it.” 

A few remarks: 

With regard to Sproul’s “from all eternity, before we ever lived, God decided to save some members of the human race, and to let other members of the human race perish.” Why should McCraney object to God’s foreknowledge of the future? Surely he believes that, unless he is an open theist where God doesn’t know what people will do until they do it. The problem Arminians have is that they are transfixed between the rock of God’s foreknowledge and the hard place of his fixed foreknowledge. Their problem is that if God foreknows from eternity what’s going to happen, then what will happen must happen. And “what will happen must happen” is plain English for “God’s decree.”

We read in Romans 9: 

6b For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 

10 And not only so, but salso when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

 So, God’s election, that is, God choice of those he saves, has nothing to do with anything in themselves, because there is absolutely nothing they can contribute to their salvation. God’s grace is not only efficient but sufficient. It seems to me that the main problem with the idea of freely willing to come to Christ is the Arminian’s lack of understanding or rejection of the doctrine of “total depravity” (“radical corruption” is a better term); as James White puts it, a faulty biblical anthropology. 

For the Arminian, what Jesus can do is based on what individuals want him to do. “This whole idea, says James White that God’s activity in time is limited by man again illustrates the difference between looking at scripture from the divine perspective or the human perspective. If man is at the centre and God is peripheral, if it’s all about what God can’t do without man’s help, that would work. But if it is first and foremost about God, God as creator, and God’s glory, man is therefore secondary to these issues.” (James White’s review of Stephen Gaines’s sermon on Calvinism, Dividing Line, 2 January 2014). (See “Who limits God?).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

What did Jesus see in me that he wanted to save me? Truth be told, I am – there’re many of us – a sensitive Jewish intellectual. Is it because I’m Jewish that Jesus saved me? Not at all. Is it because I am an intellectual, of sorts, that He saved me. That’s silly. Sensitive? There might be something in that. Sensitive to what, though? Why, to his pleading to let Him into my heart, of course. Alas, that too is way off course. So, what is the reason why some are reconciled with God, and others not? Let’s see.

Roger Olson (an Arminian) wrote a book “Against Calvinism.” Michael Horton threw the book at Olson with his (Horton’s) “For Calvinism.” Olson and Horton were in a conversation moderated by Ed Stetzer. In the last five minutes of the debate, Horton said that Olson would agree that there’s no such creature as a Calminian – a hybrid of a Calvinist and an Arminian – and also a poxymoron. “It’s either yes or no,” says Horton. Yes or no to what? To this. Either it is through grace alone that one is born again (Calvinism) or through “prevenient” grace, something that necessarily precedes the sinner’s will, if he decides to believe – in a nutshell, prevenient grace is a gentle divine shake-up. Actually, contrary to Olson and Horton, there are lots of Calminians, that is, if the songs they sing in church are anything to go by. I describe Calminianism elsewhere. I’m also reminded of the well-known apologist, Walter Martin, who called himself a Calminian, meaning that he believed in both human responsibility and free will. Sorry, but that combination is reserved for Calvinism, not Calminianism. If Calvinism is “yes” and Arminianism is no, then Calminianism is “yo.”

Stetzer, the moderator, asked Olson whether the differences between Arminianism and Calvinism would prevent Olson and Horton from working together in any way. Olson says no. His example: missions. Au contraire, missions is the last thing they could logically (in the interview, Olson hammers the importance of logic) work together on. It would have been nice if Stetzer had addressed that question not only to Olson but to Horton as well. Perhaps Stetzer knew that his Michael Horton had nothing in common with the Michael Horton of the soapie “Days of our lives.” His Horton remained mum on the question of whether a Calvinist and an Arminian could work together in the mission field. If, though, Stetzer had asked this question to Horton, Horton probably wouldn’t have been as brash as Martin Luther was (and delightfully so) to Erasmus. Here are Erasmus and Luther, as reported by Jerome Zanthius in his “Absolute Predestination With Observations On The Divine Attributes” (1811):

“Erasmus (in most other respects a very excellent man) affected to think that it was of dangerous consequence to propagate the doctrine of predestination either by preaching or writing. His words are these: “What can be more useless than to publish this paradox to the world, namely, that whatever we do is done not by virtue of our own free-will, but in a way of necessity, etc.? What a wide gap does the publication of this tenet open among men for the commission of all ungodliness! What wicked person will reform his life? Who will dare to believe himself a favourite of heaven? Who will fight against his own corrupt inclinations? Therefore, where is either the need or the utility of spreading these notions from whence so many evils seem to flow?”

To which Luther replies:

“If, my Erasmus, you consider these paradoxes (as you term them) to be no more than the inventions of men, why are you so extravagantly heated on the occasion? In that case, your arguments affect not me, for there is no person now living in the world who is a more avowed enemy to the doctrines of men than myself. But if you believe the doctrines in debate between us to be (as indeed they are) the doctrines of God, you must have bid adieu to all sense of shame and decency thus to oppose them. I will not ask, ‘Whither is the modesty of Erasmus fled?’ but, which is much more important, ‘Where, alas! are your fear and reverence of the Deity when you roundly declare that this branch of truth which He has revealed from heaven, is, at best, useless and unnecessary to be known?’ What! shall the glorious Creator be taught by you, His creature, what is fit to be preached and what to be suppressed? Is the adorable God so very defective in wisdom and prudence as not to know till you instruct Him what would be useful and what pernicious? Or could not He, whose understanding is infinite, foresee, previous to His revelation of this doctrine, what would be the consequences of His revealing it until those consequences were pointed out by you? You cannot, you dare not say this. If, then, it was the Divine pleasure to make known these things in His Word, and to bid His messengers publish them abroad, and leave the consequences of their so doing to the wisdom and providence of Him in whose name they speak, and whose message they declare, who art thou, O Erasmus, that thou shouldest reply against God and say to the Almighty, ‘What doest Thou?’”

Paul, discoursing of God, declares peremptorily, ‘Whom He will He hardeneth,’ and again, ‘God willing to show His wrath,’ etc. And the apostle did not write this to have it stifled among a few persons and buried in a corner, but wrote it to the Christians at Rome, which was, in effect, bringing this doctrine upon the stage of the whole world, stamping an universal imprimatur upon it, and publishing it to believers at large throughout the earth. What can sound harsher in the uncircumcised ears of carnal men than those words of Christ, ‘Many are called, but few chosen’? And elsewhere, ‘I know whom I have chosen.’ Now, these and similar assertions of Christ and His apostles are the very positions which you, O Erasmus, brand as useless and hurtful. You object, ‘If these things are so, who will endeavour to amend his life?’ I answer, ‘Without the Holy Ghost, no man can amend his life to purpose’ Reformation is but varnished hypocrisy unless it proceed from grace. The elect and truly pious are amended by the Spirit of God, and those of mankind who are not amended by Him will perish.”

“You ask, moreover, ‘Who will dare to believe himself a favourite of heaven?’ I answer, ‘It is not in man’s own power to believe himself such upon just grounds until he is enabled from above.’ But the elect shall be so enabled; they shall believe themselves to be what indeed they are. As for the rest who are not endued with faith, they shall perish, raging and blaspheming as you do now. ‘But,’ say you, ‘these doctrines open a door to ungodliness.’ I answer, ‘Whatever door they may open to the impious and profane, yet they open a door of righteousness to the elect and holy, and show them the way to heaven and the path of access unto God.’ Yet you would have us abstain from the mention of these grand doctrines, and leave our people in the dark as to their election of God; the consequence of which would be that every man would bolster himself up with a delusive hope of share in that salvation which is supposed to lie open to all, and thus genuine humility and the practical fear of God would be kicked out of doors. This would be a pretty way indeed of stopping up the gap Erasmus complains of! Instead of closing up the door of licentiousness, as is falsely pretended, it would be, in fact, opening a gulf into the nethermost hell.”

To return to Michael Horton. Horton writes on “Rick Warren, Modern Reformation, and Desiring God – White Horse Inn Blog Highlights” that the “first Reformation was about God and the gospel of his Son. It centered on the justification of sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.” With regard to missions, I suggest that Horton would say that these “alones” (solas) are the three pillars on which missions should be based. Olson, because an Arminian, would leave out “through grace alone.” I suggest, therefore, that it is impossible for a Calvinist missionary to cooperate with an Arminian missionary except on social issues; in other words, doing things for others. For example, Rick Warren, who says:

I’m looking for a second reformation. The first reformation of the church 500 years ago was about beliefs. This one is going to be about behavior. The first one was about creeds. This one is going to be about deeds. It is not going to be about what does the church believe, but about what is the church doing” (beliefnet.com/faiths/Christianity/2005/10/Rick-Warrens-Second-Reformation.aspx?p=1). (Quoted in Horton above).

The Arminian missionary and Calvinist missionary can certainly work together. And play together – golf; unless they’re holed up in the Central African Republic. This does not mean that an Arminian theologian, say Michael Brown, and a Calvinist theologian, say James White cannot team up to defend say the perspicuity of scripture. On second thoughts, maybe not the perspicuity of all scripture; for example, for the Calvinist, what is more perspicuous than the clear teaching in scripture that salvation is all of the Lord? The Arminian’s view of grace is that it is always necessary, sometimes effective but never sufficient, while for the Calvinist grace is necessary, always effective and always sufficient. In Arminianism, grace is only effective if the person cooperates with God in removing his hard heart, or, to use another biblical image, if the person cooperates with God in raising himself from spiritual death: Ephesians 2:4-5 – “God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened (raised) us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).

Ephesians 1 is clear: it is God’s will not man’s will that saves (Young’s Literal Translation):

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:

2 Grace to you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!

3 Blessed [is] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who did bless us in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

4 according as He did choose us in him before the foundation of the world, for our being holy and unblemished before Him, in love,

5 having foreordained us to the adoption of sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, in which He did make us accepted in the beloved,

7 in whom we have the redemption through his blood, the remission of the trespasses, according to the riches of His grace,

8 in which He did abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,

9 having made known to us the secret of His will, according to His good pleasure, that He purposed in Himself.

God’s election, that is, God choice of those he saves, has nothing to do with anything in themselves, because there is absolutely nothing they can contribute to their salvation. God’s grace is not only efficient but sufficient. Verses 3 -6 cannot be more perspicuous (clearer). The only thing you can offer God is what he offers you. This truth, like so may truths in the Bible, cannot be learned from human wisdom or philosophy. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards…(1 Corinthians 1;26). The reason why I find it difficult to call Arminians fellow believers is because the issue of the role of believers in salvation is central to the Gospel. If this is so, the Arminian Gospel is another Gospel; it’s not biblical Christianity. (See Greg Price Election and Man’s Responsibility Before God”).

Where does the ability come from to believe. It is a gift of God. James 1:18 of his own will, “Of his own will he brought us forth (gave birth to us) by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” Not of our own will. God acts according to his own pleasure and counsel, according to his sovereign holy will. And in John 15:16 – “You did not choose you but you chose me. When you turned to Jesus in faith, what you did was to only accept your entrance into the kingdom of God. God had elected you to be a child of God. Once the decree is made, you cannot but (want to) persevere to the end.

Scripture says the Christian has been elected/predestined to be holy: “according as He did choose us in him before the foundation of the world, for our being holy and unblemished before Him, in love, having foreordained us to the adoption of sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:4-5). To say that God cannot ensure that you persevere to the end implies the rejection of God’s promise that all things will work together for good for God’s children. If God’s decree is conditioned on our will, how can we be sure about anything? If you will yourself to be born again, you can will yourself to be unborn again, and later born again again – and again .

Greg Price gives the following illustration of the “total depravity” of the natural man:

We are like the stubborn insensitive 10 year-old, Glen, who lived to make fun of a fellow class mate called Jim, who had lost all of his hair in chemotherapy. Glen called Jim “marble head” every time he saw him. Jim pleaded with him not to do it. One day at a pool together, Glen fell into the pool. He couldn’t swim. He struggled to stay above water. Every time Glen surfaced, he called out “marble head, marble head save me.” Jim said stop calling me marble head and I will. Call me Jim. Glen refused even to the point that he could no longer keep his nose above the water. And just when Jim dived into save Glen from certain death, Glen could no longer yell marble head because his mouth was submerged under the water. He raised his hand out of the water in a gesture of shooting a marble. Marble head is going to stay marble head. That is our condition.

The upshot of Grep Price’s illustration is that apart from God’s saving grace, we will not change our attitude to God. That is a bald fact. If a drowning sinner really wants to be saved, if the arm he extends out of the water signifies a sincere acknowledgement to the power and holiness of the one who can save him, this desire to be saved has its source in God, not in the drowning sinner’s corrupt will. “When we were completely helpless to save ourselves, God died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).

How do you know you are among the elect? “Not every one who is saying to me Lord, lord, shall come into the reign of the heavens; but he who is doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens” (Matthew 7:21). You desire to do God’s will. You often struggle but you repent.

It seems to me that the main problem with the idea of freely willing to come to Christ is the Arminian’s lack of understanding or rejection of the doctrine of “total depravity” (“radical corruption” is a better term). For the Arminian, what Jesus can do is based on what individuals want him to do. “This whole idea, says James White that God’s activity in time is limited by man again illustrates the difference between looking at scripture from the divine perspective or the human perspective. If man is at the centre and God is peripheral, if it’s all about what God can’t do without God’s help, that would work. But if it is first and foremost about God, God as creator, and God’s glory, man is therefore secondary to these issues.” (James White’s review of Stephen Gaines’s sermon on Calvinism, Dividing Line, 2 January 2014).

Gaines asks, “Why would God be amazed by their (Pharisees) unbelief if he had predestined their unbelief? “Why, says White, would you be amazed by their unbelief unless you’re an open theist?” Open theism holds that God has to wait to see what his creatures will do. In Arminian theology, “open theism” is generally rejected, and in Calvinist theology always rejected. For most Arminians, and for all Calvinists, God knows what people are going to do.” So why is God amazed at the unbelief of the Pharisees? “The amazement, says White, is not an amazement of ignorance; it’s an amazement of knowledge. He knows their hearts. The God-Man remains amazed when his creatures rebel against his will. We should be amazed when men do not believe.” This unbelief provides insight to the depravity of the human heart, which, alas, Arminians rarely fully, and often hardly, appreciate. What is the doctrine of “total depravity” (“radical corruption). What it’s not is that people are as bad as they could possible be.

Here is Jonathan Edwards’ description of “total depravity.”

“The depravity of man’s nature appears, not only in its propensity to sin in some degree, which renders a man an evil or wicked man in the eye of the law, and strict justice, as was before shown; but it is so corrupt, that its depravity either shows that men are, or tends to make them to be, of such an evil character, as shall denominate them wicked men, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace. This may be argued from several things which have been already observed: as from a tendency to continual sin; a tendency to much greater degrees of sin than righteousness, and from the general extreme stupidity of mankind. But yet the present state of man’s nature, as implying, or tending to, a wicked character, may deserve to be more particularly considered, and directly proved. And in general, this appears, in that there have been so very few in the world, from age to age, ever since the world has stood, that have been of any other character.”

The Reformers – Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, for example, accuse the Arminian of not having a saviour but only a possible saviour – possible in the sense that if a person says to Jesus “keep aknocking but you can’t come in” this means that Jesus can only save you if you enable him to do so by inviting him into your corrupt heart. Actually, in Arminianism Jesus is no saviour at all, not even a possible saviour, because in Arminianism, it is ultimately believers who save themselves. Why glorify God in your salvation when it is you that unties God’s hands to save you? This is not what is meant by “having made known to us the secret of His will, according to His good pleasure, that He purposed in Himself” (Ephesians 1:9).

So can Roger Olson and Michael Horton hole up together. Sure they can if they want to. But should they do so – off the golf course?

Question: Isn’t it true that most Christian converts who come to accept the Reformed (Calvinist) position were once Arminians? And didn’t you say that Arminianism was, as Paul the Apostle would have put it, another Gospel. So why would Christ use another Gospel to save sinners?

Answer: Good questions. Let me think more about it.

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

When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. This faith is God’s gift to man but man’s gift to God. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as Calvinism understands it.

Ephesians 2:1-9

1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

In the above passage, the Arminian says that grace is God’s gift to all people without exception while faith is a person’s gift to God. In the above passage, the Arminian introduces an intervening step. After being quickened (raised up), one can say yes or no.

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

”Strickened, please.”

“Ok, but I’ll never give up on you; I’ll be prodding you corpse come eternity in case you change your mind.

“What love is this! I can come forth like Lazarus if I want. Love wins!” My love.

Calvinism is STUPID, stupid

“Keep it simple, stupid,” from Turrentinfan

But first TULIP, the acronym of the Calvinist understanding of grace in salvation:

Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)

(See Calvinist Corner for the detail).

The overarching sovereignty of God is missing. Turrentinfan adds God’s sovereignty and rearranges the petals. He renames (which many Calvinists now do) “limited atonement” calling it “definite atonement,” not only because

1. the former is a misnomer, owing to the fact that God is never limited in anything, specifically in the salvation of sinners where his atoning power fulfills totally whom he intends it for (the “elect”), but also because

2. without this label change, TF’s “Keep it simple, stupid,” becomes “Keep it simple stupil,” which, although it has a nice ring to it, would be stupid. Over to TF.

Keep it simple, stupid.

TULIP is a great acronym for the doctrines of grace. But it’s not very American. Here’s another that may be easier to recall, next time people tell you that election, predestination, or Calvinism is “stupid.” You can respond, yes:

Sovereignty: God is in charge – we are not. All things happen according to his foreordinate counsel – from the death of Christ to the last hair on our heads.

Total depravity: In Adam we fell and our natures became corrupt, so that we do not obey the law of God and are not able to.

Unconditional election: God has chosen some of humanity for himself, based only on himself and his love – not based on us and our merit.

Perseverance of the saints: God will finish the work of salvation that he begins at justification, saving to the uttermost those who approach Him in faith.

Irresistible grace: God’s grace acts directly to convert the heart, change the will, and make a new creature, who then responds. God’s grace does not have to wait for the creature’s will, in order to effect a change.

Definite atonement: Christ’s death was particularly intended to bring about the salvation of the elect: his sheep – those that the Father gave him out of the world.

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

For the last few months I have listened to many of Greg Koukl’s “Stand to Reason” podcasts. I learn a great deal and am very grateful to him for his wide and often deep knowledge. And he’s a Calvinist, that is, he believes that God is free to do what he wants including choosing whom he wants to save while passing others by – where the reason for His choice has got absolutely nothing to do with any human contribution or cooperation. In a 2013 podcast (00.50), he tries to answer a caller’s (Sam) question: How can Jesus be the Savior of all and some at the same time? Here is the verbatim exchange – cut short by the predetermined commercials: (I italicise parts for discussion) Sam, a Calvinist, quotes 1 Timothy 4:10 and asks Koukl how from the Calvinist perspective can God be the saviour of all men: That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.” Koukl – “If we built a highway in the wilderness and it was paid for by government money, and it was a public highway, would that be a highway for all men? Sure it is. But does everybody go there. Who takes advantage of it? The people that use it. It’s especially beneficial to them because they take advantage of the highway. In the case of Jesus it is clear that universalism is not the case, that everybody is not going to heaven – some are not. So when it says that he is the savior of all men, it cannot mean that he is effectively the savior of all men, but he is the one for all men from whom all salvation is possible. And if you take advantage of that, especially for believers, you’re on the road. I don’t know any other way to take that, Sam. Sam – The reason why I ask you that is because you and I are Calvinist and you prescribe to particular atonement. Koukl – Yes Sam – So in what sense is Jesus the savior of all men? Koukl – In the sense I described it. Sam – But the way you described it sounds like he provided a way for everybody to be saved, that everyone has the potential to be saved. But how can a person have the potential to be saved by Jesus if Jesus didn’t actually die for them? Koukl – Let me put it this way; it is a classic way of putting it. The cross is adequate for everyone but only effective or applied to those who fulfill the requirements. If you don’t fulfill the requirement for getting it, it isn’t effective for you. It is there for all men. It is adequate for everyone because Jesus’ work was not a quantitative thing but a qualitative thing. That was the reason why God became a man because it took the God-Man to do the whole job. It is adequate for everyone; it is only applied to those who satisfy the requirements, that is, faith in Jesus. And so he is the savior for the world, the only one who can rescue the world, and only faith in him saves. But everybody doesn’t exercise that faith. Why they don’t is a different discussion. We’re just trying to make sense of the phrase [ 1 Tim 4:10]. And I think that does the job.” Here is Koukl in my nutshell: Faith is adequate for everyone without exception (“all”) but it is only applied to those who “exercise” faith. Why everybody doesn’t exercise faith is not relevant to 1 Tim 4:10. But I think it is very relevant, maybe not in evangelism but certainly in a response to Sam’s theological question “It sounds like he provided a way for everybody to be saved, that everyone has the potential to be saved. But how can a person have the potential to be saved by Jesus if Jesus didn’t actually die for them?” Koukl gives the strong impression that faith – as the Arminian would say – is not a gift from God but man’s gift to God. Sam is right; Koukl does seem to be saying that Christ died for everybody on earth (Koukl’s “world”) and thus gave everybody the potential to be saved. As the Arminian would say, God (the Trinity) was not certain that he would save anybody until he foresaw that some (say 100 million out of 60 billion) would exercise their faith in Him through the Gospel. Even if the ratio was very small, there would still be at the end of time 10 000 times 10 000 souls in heaven. Worth taking the “risk,” as only an Arminian could say, in this case, C. S. Lewis: The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free. Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. … If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will – that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.”

(C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity).

In Koukl’s very useful book “Tactics: A game plan for discussing your Christian convictions” describes how he would explain God’s offer of salvation. (My italics)

We know we’re guilty. That’s the problem. So God offers a solution: a pardon, free of charge. But clemency is on his terms, not ours. Jesus is God’s means of pardon. He personally paid the penalty in our place. He took the rap for our crimes. No one else did that. Only Jesus. Now we have a choice to make. Either we take the pardon and go free, or we turn it down and pay for our crimes ourselves.”

A Calvinist would have no problem telling a person, “Now, you have a choice to make,” for we read in Deuteronomy 31:11: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose  life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” Yet, the LORD said previously: “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people (Deuteronomy 7:7). And we read in John 15:16: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained/appointed you [set you in place], that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain…”

For both the Arminian and the Calvinist, God’s freedom and, indeed, human freedom are involved in coming to Christ. The difference between the Arminian and the Calvinist position is that in the latter position, God has to first release the will from its bondage to the “flesh.” Arminians (named after Jacobus Arminius) believe they have the natural ability to come to faith in Christ. Human beings believe what they want to believe. Their hearts (desires) predetermine what they want. This predetermination is not from outside but from within, so inwardly determined. Their wills are prisoners of their hearts, which in its natural state does not receive the “things of the spirit.” This is what is meant by the “bondage of the will.” What does the natural man want? Not Christ: 1 Corinthians 2:14 “The natural man (born with a sin nature) receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” It’s a delusion to think if you improve your “naturals,” God is bound to give you “spirituals.” Only God can do that – and only to whom he will: John 5:21, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” (See If you improve your naturals, is God bound to give you spirituals? Fiddling with free will). How do Koukl’s descriptions of, as he describes it, exercising free choice tie in with his belief in “particular” redemption? Before try and answer, let us briefly examine “particular” atonement. The traditional term is “limited” atonement, that is, atonement/salvation/redemption/justification is limited to those on whom God exercises his mercy. In Calvinist understanding, everybody is under condemnation and deserves damnation. God’s mercy is dependent on nothing but God’s freedom to save some sinners and pass others by. It is true Arminianism generally also believes in a particular sort of redemption but only in the sense that not everybody is saved for the reason that they – being deadish, not really dead, in sin – did not exercise their free wills to give God the gift of faith in exchange for His gift of grace. The freedom to choose Christ before he has brought you to life (before you were born again) contradicts the following scriptures: John 1 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. Romans 9 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. In an earlier explanation (in 2011) of particular/limited atonement, Koukl explains clearly, off the cuff, it seems, in under four minutes the Calvinist position. I wonder why it didn’t go so well in his later explanation (in 2013) above. Here is the 2011 Koukl:

 “As a Calvinist how do i deal with God/s free choice of choosing some for salvation and not others. there’s a kind of ambiguity in the question because I’m not sure exactly what they mean by how i deal with it. How i deal with the unfairness of it, how do i deal with it emotionally? I don’t know what else it could be meaning. Let me take a shot a couple of these things. How do  ideal with the fairness of it. actually I don’t think  fairness enters into the equation. when you think about it, God’s act of forgiveness of any individual is grounded in grace. that means it is unmerited and not required. If God was obliged to forgive under certain circumstances then it wouldn’t be grace. Paul makes this very clear in Romans chapter 4 where he says if I earn it then it has got to be given and God owes it to us. But if it is not earned and God justifies those ungodly people who put their faith in Christ, well that’s an act of grace. That’s the way I see salvation: it is a sovereign act of grace; God has never owed anybody forgiveness. He did not have any plan of salvation for the fallen angels. He didn’t have to develop a plan of salvation for us either. He chose to do that according to his good will and his mercies. It’s like a supererogatory act, that is, an act beyond the call of duty. He didn’t have to do it, but when he does it, it is supererogatory to the extent that he dispenses grace. So when he acts mercifully towards people, he can do what he wants with his mercy. It’s got nothing to do with free choice. Not our free choice; not our freedom, it has to do with God’s freedom. Can God cancel debts against him? Sure he can; that’s his side of the ledger. There’s no problem there. So I don’t think that God is obliged to give everybody the same shake. If that were the case then grace wouldn’t be grace; it would be obligatory for God. So I don’t think there is a fairness problem because I don’t think the constant of fairness applies to the situation. Why is it that God gives sovereign grace to some people and not to others? That’s another question and I don’t have the foggiest idea. This is something that is not addressed in the scripture. Some people have speculated on it but I haven’t heard anything convincing. It’s just a mystery to us. God is the creator; he can choose as he wills according to his good pleasure. And if he chooses too save some and not others, that is perfectly within his purview. He is the sovereign after all; he can do what he likes with his own, and there is nothing unjust about punishing people who are guilty. And so for those who do not receive free grace, they end up receiving a judgement that is deserved by them. The unfairness is not that some people receive grace; it’s that some people do not receive the judgment they deserve. So all those who are saved are saved by an act of God’s grace that they didn’t deserve, and that when they get punished, are getting punished by an act of God’s justice that they did deserve.”

Now that Koukl  and Sam (and I) are sitting at the same table, eating the same cake, I hope they will allow me to elaborate and what all three of use believe.

If it is true that true believers in Christ are “born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:13 above), does this mean that they are zombies, puppets in the hands of God? Isn’t Koukl right that true believers “exercise” their faith? Of course believers exercise their faith; but only after it is given – God’s gift to man, not man’s gift to God. We are reminded of Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” All Calvinists hold that both grace and faith are gifts from God whereas the Arminian says grace (“prevenient” grace) is God’s gift to man, and faith is man’s gift to God. That is how they understand the two earlier verses in the chapter (Ephesians 2):

4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. So, for the Arminian, we are made alive to the possibility of exercising faith in Christ, that is, of giving God the gift of our faith. All this sounds very similar to what Koukl is saying. Granted, he did not have (provide?) enough time to elaborate, which might have shed more light on what he was saying. In this case, what he had already said was already so Arminian in its expression that what would be required not more light, but a different light; something like this – from Alan Kurschner. Here is his exegesis of 1 Timothy 4:10, which takes a few minutes to read or speak, shorter than the time that Koukl spent on his caller, Sam.

For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” (1 Tim 4:10). Here is Kurschner’s exegesis with which I conclude:

What does “all people” mean here for Paul? Does it mean all people without exception or distinction? And most importantly, how can God be the Savior of those who do not believe? Or is there some other element that has escaped our notice? A universalist reading should be ruled out since that would contradict Paul’s unambiguous teaching in his corpus that many will indeed perish eternally. Next, the Arminian interpretation reads too much into the statement, “Savior of all people,” with two assumptions: (1) that the term “Savior” here must mean “possible Savior” and (2) it denotes “every single person.” But if Christ died for all sins, then there is no legal basis for him to punish or condemn any sinner to perdition; thereby making the Arminian an inconsistent universalist. What basis is there to punish the same sin twice: on the cross and on the sinner. There is none.

In addition, the context here does not state what Paul means by “all people.” He could refer to every single person, or he could refer to all kinds of people. Earlier in this same epistle, in the similar context of salvation and all people, Paul makes it clear that he is referring to “all sorts of people,” not every single person who has ever lived on planet earth. (See my exegesis on 1 Timothy 2:4 here).

Some interpreters have suggested that God is “Savior of all people” in a physical-preserving sense — if you will, a “common grace Savior.” And then he is a spiritual Savior, especially of those who believe. This is an unlikely interpretation since there is nothing in this context where Paul defines “Savior” in these two different ways. Further, v. 8b provides a soteriological [salvation) context, “the present life and also for the life to come.” And in v. 10, the natural reading is that Paul uses the same meaning for “Savior” for humanity in general, and believers in particular.

The most plausible interpretation of this verse is what I call the Monotheistic-Exclusivism Interpretation. What Paul is saying is that God (and by extension Christ as Redeemer) is the only true Savior in the world, therefore humanity cannot find any other competing Savior outside of the living God. They have no other Savior to turn to. It is not by mistake that the phrase “living God,” a term that suggests monotheism, is connected with this verse. This phrase is often found in the context of polytheism (e.g. Acts 14:15; 1 Thess 1:9; Josh 3:10; 1 Sam 17:26, 36; 2 Kgs 19:4). Since there is only one God who is alive, there is only one Savior for humanity to embrace. Also, earlier in this same epistle Paul makes a similar exclusive statement that there is one medium of salvation for humanity: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Tim 2:5). Here Paul connects this with the truth of “one God” with only one mediator, anticipating what he says two chapters later.

In addition, this is similar to Jesus’ exclusive statement:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). And in the same vein, Peter proclaims: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). For all humanity, there is only one way, truth, life, Father, name, mediator, and Savior – especially to those who believe.

Finally, I want to conclude with another interpretation that is compelling. The term for “especially” is malista. George W. Knight III argues that this term here should be rendered, “that is,” thereby functioning as an explanation or further clarification of the preceding statement. The translation would be as follows: “who is the Savior of all people, that is, of those who believe.” So this interpretation does not view “those who believe” as a subset of “all people”; instead, “those who believe” identifies the “all people” (NIGTC, The Pastoral Epistles, 203–4).

I can’t resist the last word: What is distinctive about Calvinism? This: God so loved, and thus died for, the world, not Mars. He died for Jews and Gentiles, thus everybody –  without distinction, not without exception.                                                                                                                

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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