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

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

Revelation 3:19-22
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. 21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

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

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

John Stott also speaks of God standing at the door waiting for sinners to let him in:

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

Alexander Mclaren resonates with Stott:

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

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

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

Here is Revelation 3:20 again:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related post:

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

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

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

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

One can be forced to practice a religion but, owing to the fact that no one can read your heart, no one can force you to believe a religion. Therefore you are free to believe what you want. What does the natural man want? Not Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:14 “The natural man (born with a sin nature) receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Human beings believe what they want to believe. Here’s a thing: their hearts (desires) predetermine what they want. This predetermination is not from outside but from within, so inwardly determined. Their wills are prisoners of their hearts, which in its natural state does not receive the “things of the spirit.” This is what is meant by the “bondage of the will. It’s a delusion to think if you improve your “naturals, God is bound to give you spirituals.” Only God can do that – to whom he will. John 5:21, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.”

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

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

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

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

Does God the Father’s will and God the Son’s will override the will of those who come to believe. Of course, they do, otherwise, for one, how can a human being, who, by nature, rejects “spiritual things” change his nature to accept “spiritual things,” and, for two, is God’s dependant on what sinners will? The Arminian says, yes. Yet, we read in 1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural man (born with a sin nature) receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

No, people are not robots, just dead to the things of God. The Arminian would say not really spiritually dead as in dead dead, but only deadish. Arminians say that God won’t override a person’s will. They are either confused or perverse: they reject the fundamental doctrine enunciated in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural man (born with a sin nature) receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Some call this fundamental doctrine, on which all us hang, “total depravity,” which doesn’t mean more than the fact that all of the human faculties, mind, will and emotions, are flawed and floored. A better term is “radical (root) corruption.” Most professing Christians would not be averse to being called a “ragamuffin” with whom God is longing to have a loving relationship. Brennan Manning says, “God is a kooky God who can scarcely bear to be without us” (The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 165). Ragamuffins are a bit like “sabras” (literally prickly pears, figuratively, a person born in Israel); prickly on the outside but sweet on the inside. Actually ragamuffins – and Israelis, for sure – are not all sweet on the inside, so a better description of Arminian Christinianity is as descibed in Helmut Thielicke (and Philip Yancey, who quotes Thielicke approvingly in his “What is so amazing about Grace,”( Zondervan, 1997, p. 175):

“When Jesus loved a guilt-laden person and helped him, he saw in him an erring child of God. He saw in him a human being whom his Father loved and grieved over because he was going wrong. He saw him as God originally designed and meant him to be, and therefore he saw through the surface layer of grime and dirt to the real man underneath” (Helmut Thielicke, “Christ and the meaning of life,” Grand Rapids, Baker, 1975, p. 41).

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

And:

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

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

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

God cannot change you: A NewISH creation

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

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

Arminius (1560 - 1609)

Arminius (1560 – 1609)

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

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

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

OneDaringIsh

Free swill: Baa Ram Ewe: Apologies to Babe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arminianism is insufferable.

All I want is a shack somewhere,

Far away from the cold night air.

With one enormous chair,

Aow, wouldn’t it be loverly?

Lots of choc’lates for me to eat,

Lots of coal makin’ lots of ‘eat.

Warm face, warm ‘ands, warm feet,

Aow, wouldn’t it be loverly?

Ephesians 2:1-9

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

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

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

” Strickened.”

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

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

Related Post Is Sovereign election fair?

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

hands nail-scarred-hands-300x278

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

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

When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as Calvinism understands it. Both the Arminian and Calvinist accept Christ – freely; the difference is that for the Calvinist, Christ has to first free you from the bondage of your will, which, in its natural state, does not seek God (of the Bible). “There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:11). For the Arminian, in contrast, you are free to choose or reject God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Arminian and Calvinist agree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go figure.

See follow-on post 

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

 

There’s no such being as an Arminian Armenian

There are no Arminian Armenians, only Calminian ones.

Armenian Christian on his knees praying for a loved one:

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

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

Very calfused.

Born again, hell and other questions from a disbeliever

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

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

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

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

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

3.  How do Calvinists differ from Anglicans?

Reply – I quote a good answer.

Difference between Calvinism and Anglicanism

[Words in square brackets are mine]

  • Anglicanism is a Protestant Church that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related articles

 

Unconditional election and unconditional eclection

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s delusion

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

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

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

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

Isaiah6

1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train] of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:

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

4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

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

Isaiah’s Commission from the Lord

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Albert Barnes

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

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

Exodus 7:13

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

Exodus 7:14

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

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

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

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

Exodus 7:3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Gill echoes Calvin:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preamble

Grammar police

Grammar police (Photo credit: the_munificent_sasquatch)

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

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

 Definitions

 When monergism/calvinism is contrasted with synergism/arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the arminian says that man cooperates with God by turning his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In this regard, the favourite word in arminianism is “whosoever,” (John 3:16), which in the original Greek simply means “the one who” and not “the one who wills.” In calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation.  “Doesn’t Jesus command me (John 3), “You must be born again?” Yep. “Well, I did what he said I must do, I borned again.” Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as calvinism maintains. 

Introduction

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

 (2 Corinthians, 5:21)

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

 Romans 3:19 – 28

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

[21] But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—[22] the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: [23] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [24] and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, [25] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. [26] It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

[27] Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. [28] For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Grammar in the Bible

 In Ephesians 2 we read:

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

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

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

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

 (My italics)

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

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

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

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

The Greek Arminian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say, however, that an arminian concedes that touto does refer to both 1. “faith” and 2. faith is not of ourselves – 100% a gift from God, he will nevertheless maintain that this does not mean that God rams this gift down a person’s throat; we still must exercise, he says, the other precious gift, the one he was born with, his free will to love God, which God not only respects but insists is His ordained decree of how salvation should be done. This means that God is merely offering the gift of faith; we still have to let God, the arminian reasons, do what He desires us to do; dare I say “dying for us to do?” Knock, knock, knock, please let me in! Contrast this knocking on the door of hearts with: “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure? ( Isaiah 46:9-10:9).

 Hebrew translations of Ephesians 2:8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hutter eph 2 8 hebrew

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

Conclusion (Concussion)

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

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

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

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

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

Related articles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So we have:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you are an evangelical Christian and someone asks you, “Do you believe in faith alone?, you will probably retort – if the questioner is another evangelical Christian – “What a dumb question, of course I do!” The meaning of “faith alone” is that one is justified by faith alone, not by faith plus works. That is not to say that faith is alone, for works are involved, but not as part of your justification but as part of your salvation.

[W]hen, says Craig Keener, Paul says that a person is justified by faith without works (Rom 3:28), his context makes it clear that he defines faith as something more than passive assent to a viewpoint; he defines it as a conviction that Christ is our salvation, a conviction on which one actively stakes one’s life (Rom 1:5). James declares that one cannot be justified by faith without works (James 2:14)—because he uses the word “faith” to mean mere assent that something is true (2:19), he demands that such assent be actively demonstrated by obedience to show that it is genuine (2:18). In other words, James and Paul use the word “faith” differently, but do not contradict one another on the level of meaning. If we ignore context and merely connect different verses on the basis of similar wording, we will come up with contradictions in the Bible that the original writers would never have imagined. (“Biblical Interpretation” by Craig Keener).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time for your nap, darling.”

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

If Augustine were an Arminian.

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

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

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

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

Augustine: I want to accept your gift of faith.

God: Good. Here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We go to Augustine’s Confessions:

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

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

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

1. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

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

John 17

6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

2 Timothy 1

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

John 6

[37] All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. [38] For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. [39] And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. [40] For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Calvinists who know their oats: Salvation is indeed by works

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction

In the previous post, I  mentioned that  Aristotle and Goethe covered three aspects of personality, namely, intellect (logic [how we think] and knowledge [what we think]), the will and behaviour. When we add the emotions/feelings to the pot, we have the basic ingredients of the Psychology of Personality (or Personality Psychology). Christian theology adds another ingredient, faith, which is the reason for the existence of the intellect, the will, the emotions and behaviour (works). The Reformers of the 16th Century divided true saving faith into three parts: notitia, assensus and fiducia. Notitia comprises knowledge, such as belief in one God, in the humanity (1 John 4:3) and deity of Christ (John 8:24), His crucifixion for sinners (1 Cor. 15:3), His bodily resurrection from the dead, and some understanding of God’s grace in salvation. Assensus is belief. This belief hasn’t yet penetrated the heart; it is still on the mental level – a mental assent. In his article, I examine in more detail the relationship between logic (how we think), knowledge (what we think), the will, and the heart.

The essence of Christianity and the limits of the mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many understand Calvinism to believe:

 1. Only that which God wills happens.

2. God doesn’t love all people.

3. Jesus didn’t die for all people.

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

1. Only that which God wills happens.

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

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

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

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

 2. God doesn’t love all people.

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

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

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

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

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

[6] “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. [7] Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. [8] For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. [9] I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” (John 17:6-9).

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

3. Jesus didn’t die for all people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Benjamin Warfield on John Calvin:

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

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

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

The Christian view of “faith” is summed up in Ephesians 2:8-10 [my square brackets and italics]:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith [in Christ]. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them [be faithful – Hebrew “emuna” – in them).

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

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

word tradition brain new

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

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

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

But then what to make of:

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

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

Here is Lewis Johnson:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 50:16-20

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

Proverbs 16 explains further:

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

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

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

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

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

There is:

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

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

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

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

Psalm 118

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Arminian, why does God keep you confused or hardened?

Dear Arminian, why God keeps you confused or hardened beats me. Why he won’t let you see that when he has begun a good work in you, he will certainly perform it is beyond me. And that, alas, is how it should be and always shall be – beyond me. What is that you say, that God has indeed begun a good work in you and will certainly perform it until the day of Jesus Christ? You mean that you were free to open the door of your heart to Jesus but are not free to boot him out when the spirit moves you? What’s that, you will do no such thing? Why not? Because you trust you won’t? Trust whom, Jesus? No, silly, yourself, of course, for how can you allow Jesus to shackle the most precious thing you have, which ultimately saved you – your free will.

Michael Brown’s Unconditional election of Israel: surely what’s good for the Jewish goose is good for the Gentile gander.

Michael Brown is good for me in at least two ways: He is very good on the election of Israel, and not so good on the election of individuals. So why do I find “not so good” good? Because it provides me with another opportunity to show up the weak position of Arminianism (in a nutshell, Arminianism is I decide whether to be saved or not). This, of course, is not all I do (protesteth he too much).

I was listening to the “Israel debate” between Michael Brown and Steve Wohlberg.

Michael Brown is a Messianic Jew who believes that God’s promise to preserve (a remnant of) the Nation Israel is unconditional. He believes, therefore, that the Church has not replaced physical Israel. Steve Wohlberg is a Jewish Seventh Day Adventist who believes that God’s promise to preserve the Nation Israel was conditional. For Brown, the Church has not replaced Israel, whereas for Wohlberg (no matter how much he protests; his words say it all), the Church has replaced Israel. Thus, Brown believes in the unconditional election of Israel while Wohlberg believes in the conditional election of Israel. Election to what? Eternal life (ultimately), of course.

Both Brown and Wohlberg are Arminians, that is, they believe that only after the sinner decides to believe is he born again – the sinner’s act of faith precedes his regeneration (by God). In other words, his regeneration is the effect of his willingness to accept Christ.

I am reminded of John 6:37 and 6:40:

37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out….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.”

Therefore all that the Father gives the son will consequently believe and will consequently be given eternal life. This is clearly unconditional election by which I mean that the giving of a sinner to the Son unconditionally results in the gift of eternal life. Your sick will has nothing to do with it. Once, however, God has restored you to health – raised you from the dead, more like it – you will indeed feel free to accept Christ.

Although I agree with Brown on the unconditional election of Israel, it seems to me that he is inconsistent in that

1 he believes in the unconditional election of (a remnant of) Israel, where the Father sovereignly decides to preserve Israel as a gift to the Son and thus grant Israel eternal life (and a return to the Land), but

2. also believes election (to salvation), in general, is conditional on what sinners decide to with Christ, and not on the unconditional Father’s giving of them to the Son.

Wohlberg, the Arminian, is consistent because he believes salvation for all Jews and Gentiles (all human beings without distinction and without exception) is conditional on their willing obedience to God. Brown, the Arminian, is inconsistent because he believes that unconditional election only applies to Israel.

I prefer S. Lewis Johnson and John MacArthur, who believe in both the unconditional election of Israel and the unconditional election of sinners without distinction (Jews and Gentiles).

It seems bizarre that any Arminian (Michael Brown in this instance), for whom the individual’s ability to choose Christ is sacrosanct (the Holy Spirit is a gentleman and so does not resist the wishes of the human heart), should believe in the (divine unilateral) blanket election of an amorphous group (Israel) but not in the election of individuals. God, of course, Brown might retort, does not have his eye on the entire “apple of his eye” (“whoever touches you [Israel] touches the apple of his eye” – Zecharia 2:8), but only on a thinnish slice, that is, on particular individuals; those particular Jews (comprising 1. those who join the Church and 2. the unbelieving remnant) whom the Father has given together with particular Gentiles to the Son before the world began.

Thus, Michael Brown’s stance on election is bizarre because he believes in the election of the Jewish goose (not without exception; remember the remnant) but not in the election of the Gentile gander. Gentile election in the Arminian scheme is similar to the election of a president: the voter chooses him or her based on something good in them. God looks down the corridors of time to check out all the whosoevers willing to vote for Him, and elects them. ” Ah, look, there’s another one. Here Son, he’s yours.”

I know I am justified; now I must focus on the job of sanctification

How many times have I heard a Christian say: there’s justification, which occurs when you are born again, and then there’s (the job of) sanctification! Neat. By sanctification they mean, if not in so few choice words, don’t just sit there on your pristine born anew bottie and talk holy talk; stand up and walk the holy walk.

Although Christians have indeed to sanctify themselves through living close to God and doing godly things, Christians who bisect the Gospel into two chronological stages, justification and sanctification, have a paltry idea of what both terms mean. In 1 Corinthians 1:2, we read:

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are SANCTIFIED in Christ Jesus, called to be SAINTS, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.”

Although the same Greek word “hagioi” is used in both “sanctified”  and (called to be) “saints,” the first means that at the moment of justification, you become (you are passive) sanctified (holy). That is what the following scripture means:

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” ( 1 Peter 2:9).

God chooses whom (let’s say you) he decrees to save. You accept, of course, because when your corrupt will is released from bondage through God’s unilateral sovereign act of bringing you out of darkness into his light, you heart can want to do nothing else but leap and bound into the arms of your saviour. In this very process, as we found in 1 Corinthians 1:2, God declares you holy (and royal). You see, Calvinism isn’t all that horrid. No, it doesn’t teach that there’s no need to evangelise!

“Well and good, now I have to do the hard practical part and do holy deeds. No, I don’t want to be, I can never be a saint – what chuzpa! – because very few ever achieve that. Maybe a dozen, if that, a year.” Silly talk, I say. “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling,” you say. Who wouldn’t tremble knowing that it is Christ working in you:

“… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12b-13).

God’s corporate election of Israel and individual election (Jew and Gentile)

In the Hebrew scriptures, God chose the Jews not because they were a piece of God, not because they were humble or because they were better than any other nation. He did it because that is what He wanted to do. In Romans 9, in contrast, the main emphasis is on the election of individuals – Jew and Gentile. The election of Israel as a nation is not the purpose of Romans 9. Both Jacob and Esau were Jewish (both father and mother), yet God rejects Esau and accepts Jacob. Here’s the hard part: God’s choice had nothing to do with foreseeing who was going to be good and who bad. Both of them were rotten. Jacob was a heel (a pun in English), a deceiver – that is what his name means – yet Jacob was chosen as the channel of the promise.

The majority of Christians, except those of the “Reformed” (the Reformation) movement would say that Romans 9 is not about individual Christians but about the Jewish nation or a remnant of the Jewish nation, for to admit that God “mercies” (verb in the Greek) individuals – all of whom merit damnation – those he wants to mercy, implying that salvation is a unilateral sovereign act of God, is just not fair. (God’s election. No not of a Mormon president)

How to discuss and preach “election.”

“The doctrine of election we profess to hold, should not be a mere abstraction of theology; an article of faith which we find it necessary to adopt in order to insure a consistent and scriptural body of Divinity, while we ignore and deny its practical application. It is perhaps the most solemn and awful of all Scriptural revelations. It certainly can only be discussed and preached effectively by us in those rare states of mind when the exquisite balance has been reached between tender adoration of the sovereignty and holiness of God, and pathetic sympathy with the helplessness and sinfulness of man.”

(“Second coming of Christ: Premillenial Essays,” by Nathaniel West, 1879).

Faith and Jerks: The Bible out of context is a con; that’s why James White is not going to hell

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

(Hebrews 3:12-14)

“Johnny Boy. Straight to the
detention room and write out ‘I must not
have fun ridiculing silliness and its advocates’
four hundred times, please!”
(Carl Trueman, “The true repentance of an inconvenient jester” in “Fools rush in where monkeys fear to tread”).

The relation between faith and works in the justification of sinners is one among several theological issues that divide Christians. The issue I examine here is the relationship between justification (that is, salvation, reconciliation with God), faith and works.

For the Jew, faith means faithfulness (emunah), and emunah for rabbinic Judaism means faithfully fulfilling God’s commandments(mitzvot). There are some Christians who say that the way a Christian lives (his works) is totally irrelevant, for the moment you believe, you are saved. You don’t even have to repent because you’d be doing a work. Once you believe, you can sin as much as you like, for doesn’t Jesus say,” I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life”(John 6:47)? And doesn’t it say in Galatians?

“I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (Galatians 5:3-6).

The Roman Catholic position on the issue is expressed in Canon 24 of the Council of Trent:

“If anyone says that justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely fruits and signs of justification obtained, not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema. (Council of Trent sixth session, celebrated on the thirteenth day of January, 1547, Decree concerning Justification).”

The prevalent Protestant view, in contrast, is that works are indeed “(merely) the fruits and signs of justifications obtained” This is my position as well. This Protestant position, though, would not say that works are “merely” the fruits of justification, which might create the impression that it doesn’t matter what kind of good works you live once you believe.

Last week I listened to an episode on this topic on James White’s “Radio Free Geneva.” White is a Calvinist; so am I. Hey, come back! Although some Calvinist doctrines did come into White’s discussion, most Protestant Christians, I think, would resonate with White’s position on the faith-works issue, which we shall deal with later on. White usually plays excerpts of recordings of the people he discusses. Here he is unravelling and revelling in Brother Jack’s sermon on “James White is going to hell.” The sermon appeared on Youtube but, says White, has subsequently been removed from public viewing. I think this Jack is Jack Lennom of “Free Grace Bible Chapel.” Here are some of the highlights of Jack’s sermon.

Faith versus Jerks

Characters: James Jerk, Jack Faith.

Setting: The underground bunker of Liberty University. (White beams his “Radio Free” Geneva,” he says – only I believe him – from “an underground bunker of Liberty University.” Most of what White says here, though, could be safely aired above the boards. Brother Jack is going to give ten reasons why James White is going to hell. James is going to tell Brother Jack – think of fruits of the spirit, or the fruit of faith – that engaging with him is like picking on low hanging fruit; he is ignorant; he has no capacity to handle the biblical text in a meaningful fashion. James doesn’t have to use invective, he can just go to the text. (Telling someone they’re ignorant is not invective but an incentive – to go back to school).

“James doesn’t know anything about God, he’s going to hell, he’s a deceived jerk, he doesn’t have the Son. Why? Because he said it’s (salvation) free but it will cost you your life,” says Jack.

James says “theology matters,” For Jack, James would say, theology natters. So, as long as you believe that Jesus saved you, it’s done. And don’t ever think of repenting of your sin, ’cause you’ll be working. For Jack the fat of faith does not need the lean of works. If, alas, salvation has nothing to do with works, then it can’t have anything to do with becoming holy. In such a sinario Jack would, for starters, have to drop the “good works” bit in Ephesians 2:8-10:

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

I would imagine that Jack and James like each other, if for nothing else, for liking the whole passage above except the walk-the-talk bit: “that we should walk in them (works).” In Jack’s Gospel, says James, “you can get saved without the need to reflect God’s pattern of life.” James, you don’t understand. The pattern of life is nothing else but the life that God has stamped onto Jack’s soul when first he believed. Jack would say that a Christian does indeed reflect this pattern, because when he decides to give God a chance and believes, God transforms his murky soul into a glossy mirror.

Jack says James is “going to hell; we can’t do anything about it.” Hey, can’t I still pray that James will see the light? Jack, being a good Arminian, would say no because you can only see the light if you work your eyes in that direction, that is (will to) look at the light. And as we all know with James, where there’s a will there’s an OyVey. So? He’s going to hell. What if James repents and says that the “Gospel is indeed all about what God has done,” but part of this all is that “God has a purpose for us on earth, which is “accomplishing a body on earth.” Shut up; “he’s a lost cause…it does not say you have to repent of your sins. It says he who believes in the son is saved… He was never saved,” for, continues Jack, it is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt (Hebrews 6:4-6).”

You can’t lose your salvation, says Jack; and so does James. But James, you never were saved in the first place “It’s impossible, to convert people who have been taught so much bible. White will never be saved. This guy’s got too much pride. Look at his face on Youtube; you can see he is full of pride. He’s going to hell and there’s nothing we can do about it. He doesn’t believe the gospel. He says you have to repent to be saved. He says you have to conform to Christ. He says you have to persevere, He says that we have a share in Christ only if we hold our original confidence firm to the end. He’s going to hell. Let’s move on.”

But Jack, says James, “you don’t serve God in order to be saved; what we are saying is when God saves his people, he changes their hearts and make them new creatures created for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). We recognise faith and repentance as a work of God. Becoming holy is not something we add to our faith. Sanctification is the outworking of our faith.” James, Jack might misunderstand you; rather say “sanctification is the outworming of our faith.” James – “But if I say that Jack’ll hit me with “where the worm never dies.”

Jack makes no distinction between “continual rebellion against God, an ongoing sin attitude and believers who sin and turn to God for mercy.” Jack is for “free grace” (the name of his church). As we know “grace” already means gratis, free. So what we have in Jack is “free free.” The second “free” we know; that’s “grace.” It’s not difficult to work out what the first “free” means; it means free of works such as repentance or any effort of conformity to Christian principles of behaviour, for when you behave you don’t only be saved but behave saved. Jack says that an unrepentant person who believes is going to heaven. Poor devils. This “free grace,” James calls “licentious grace.”

James relates how he once stood outside a Mormon Temple handing out the tract, “Grace plus works is dead” whose message was that the addition of merit (works) destroys grace. Another reason why James White is going to hell, says Jack, is because James said that that it doesn’t matter if believers are saved by grace. According to James, continues Jack, if you lie, you don’t even know what grace is.

“I have never said anything like that. I distinguished between John 1, he who is sinning (habitual action) and those who flee to the cross in repentance…Here is a man that says that faith merely punches your ticket, never makes anyone holy.”

James read my slips: John 3:36 says he that believeth on the son hath everlasting life. “This doesn’t mean that you have to repent of your sins.” Yes, James, believe; all you gotta do is believe; not behave; that’s work. John 6:47 is one of Jack’s favourites: Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. “That’s one of my favourites, too,” says James. TV entertainment, and thus most people whose mother tongue is English know only three expletives: cool, awesome and oh my gaaaaad. A favourite of Arminians is “whosoever.” And John 6:47 provides a great occasion to use this word. James explains that the Greek means “the one believing” (look it up whosoever is not believing me); it does not mean that anyone who opens the door of his heart to God’s persistent knocking has eternal life. Follow the context back to John 6:37: All that the father gives me will come to me (believe in me) and no one else. Now, please don’t say that the father looks down the corridors of time, sees who is going to believe and consequently gives these prospective believers to the Son. But that’s for another day.

Jack – “White says ‘salvation will cost you everything.’ How can you accept a free gift if you’re trying to pay for it?”

James – “I have said it will cost you everything. I have never said that in the context of you make that down payment and God does the rest. What I have said is what Jesus said. If you want to follow me you must deny yourself take up the cross and follow me. We have to die with Christ. The old man has been crucified.”

Jack – “If someone comes to my door and wants to give me something that is free and I say no I want to pay for it, it is going to cost me everything. Can I receive the book? Absolutely not. You can’t receive faith that way because it is offered freely. John 4 freely. ‘If you knew the gift of God eternal life.’ What cost?… No it is not going to cost you your life, it cost Jesus his life. John 4 living water faith gift. If you think faith is not a gift you don’t have the Holy Spirit inside of you. You’ve got the spirit of world in you; You can’t add repentance to the Gospel; that’s a false Gospel.”

What about “repent and believe?”

Jack – “Jesus hangs on the cross and you think you are going to heaven for what you did, that is blasphemy. Calvinists say faith is a work. The only people that say that faith is a work are Calvinists.”

White – “Obviously what he (Jack) is talking about is that there are times when talking about the origin of faith, Arminians make faith something that comes forth from them as part of the ability of man, and (what Jack is against is that) it is one of the things man must do to gain God’s favour. We are not saying that saving faith is a work. We recognise that saving faith is the action, the natural action of the redeemed soul.” In other words, a Calvinist is free to accept Christ, but only after Christ has made you free.

“How can faith be work? persists Jack. Faith is opposite to deeds of the law. Why are they so lost and blind? Because God is not saving these people.” Hey, uno momento says James in English; “is God not trying to save me equally as Brother Jack?” Brother Jack that’s election,” calvinist talk.

Jack – “Calvinists! they’re like Hitler. Four footed beasts. The god of Calvinists is a beast. And that is why (that jerk) James White is going to hell.”

There is no biblical reason why Jack is not saved. One thing I do wonder about though, when he gets to heaven, what city will he rule over as his reward? Jerkville? Not to worry, Jack, James won’t be there, he’s been jerked around enough already.

The problem with Jack is “context.”

“[W]hen Paul says that a person is justified by faith without works (Rom 3:28), his context makes it clear that he defines faith as something more than passive assent to a viewpoint; he defines it as a conviction that Christ is our salvation, a conviction on which one actively stakes one’s life (Rom 1:5). James declares that one cannot be justified by faith without works (James 2:14)—because he uses the word “faith” to mean mere assent that something is true (2:19), he demands that such assent be actively demonstrated by obedience to show that it is genuine (2:18). In other words, James and Paul use the word “faith” differently, but do not contradict one another on the level of meaning. If we ignore context and merely connect different verses on the basis of similar wording, we will come up with contradictions in the Bible that the original writers would never have imagined. (“Biblical Interpretation” by Craig Keener).

In 1 Thessalonians, Paul writes:

4 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body[a] in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.[b] The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Preach from the Bible, not from a con-cordance.

God’s election. No, not of a Mormon president

As regular readers on this site know, I’m a Jewish believer in Jesus Christ. Over tea after church, I was speaking to someone who attends the service from time to time. We were, actually I was, talking about the Jews. “Election” came up. No, we were not wondering why a Mormon can be a elected president, but not a Jew. He asked me,”Is it fair?

I flew at him. He reddened. “Fair, fair, I said who are you to tell God what is fair! Doesn’t God have a right to do with his creation whatever he wants. Have you read Romans 9. Even Christians, many many Christians don’t know what to do with this chapter. Let me read some of it you.”

Romans 9:13-16
“As it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy.”

I explained to him that I was not really angry but, for effect, was acting out what the Apostle Paul might have done if, instead of a letter to the Roman believers, he had been in their midst.

I said that God chose the Jews not because they were a piece of God, not because they were humble or because they were better than any other nation. He did it because that is what He wanted to do. Their main purpose was the promise of Jesus Christ, or as some Jewish believers like to say “Yeshua the Messiah.”

“But, I continued, the election of Israel as a nation is not the purpose of Romans 9. Both Jacob and Esau were Jewish (both father and mother), yet God rejects Esau and accepts Jacob. Here’s the hard part: God’s choice had nothing to do with foreseeing who was going to be good and who bad. Both of them were rotten. Jacob was a heel, a deceiver (that is what his name means), yet Jacob was chosen as the channel of the promise.”

The man I was speaking to was probably without any faith in Christ, or possibly very confused, because I’ve never met or read about any Christian who does not believe that the Jews of the Hebrew Bible were elected by God.

The majority of Christians, though, would say that Romans 9 is not about individual Christians but about the Jewish nation or a remnant of the Jewish nation, for to admit that God has mercy on those he wants to have mercy, which implies that salvation is a unilateral sovereign act of God, is just not fair. And I say to them as well, “Who are you to talk back to God!”

And if you think I’m horrible, I won’t say, You are a poor, vile worm; it is a wonder the earth does not open and swallow you up.

Conversation between a Jewish agnostic and Jewish Calvinist

Although I have written about 20 posts on “Arminanism and Calvinism,” this topic is relatively a small part of my “bog” (My user name is “bography”). It is, however, very important because it deals with the role of man and God in salvation. 

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.

Here is a verbatim conversation between an agnostic and a Calvinist, moi. We both had Jewish parents. The agnostic did not grow up in a Jewish-keeping home whereas I  did. The issues discussed deal with differences between Calvinism and Arminianism in relation to faith, works and assurance of salvation. 

Conversation

Agnostic Jew (AJ): You say that it’s not ok for Arminians to ask God to forgive them and then go ahead and repeat their sin and then ask for forgiveness again etc and assume that they are saved.  (Because their being saved has nothing to do with their deeds, only with God’s choice).What about Calvinists?  You say they are saved because God has chosen them.  But what if these saved Calvinists commit murder or something? Are you assuming that, because they are saved, Calvinists never sin?

Calvinist Jew (CJ): One’s life  indicates whether one is regenerated or not. So whether you are Arminian or Calvinist, the evidence of your faith lies in the fruit it bears in your thoughts, actions and attitudes.

AJ: So, then it IS possible that a saved Calvinist can be lost if he/she sins?  So it DOES have quite a lot to do with the person him/herself?  So in spite of God’s choosing to save a particular individual, that person can still be condemned?

CJ: With regard to losing your salvation, a Calvinist says no, an Arminian says yes. In Calvinism, salvation is wholly a work of the Lord (monergism – mono “alone; ergon “work”). In Arminianism, salvation ultimately depends on man (synergism – syn “together”; ergon “work”), where man and God cooperate in salvation. 

In Calvinism, 1. if good works do not accompany faith, this means you had a false faith, and 2. you are assured  that you will never lose your faith. If you do “lose” it, it means you did not have true faith. 

In Arminianism, there are two main attitudes towards “works”: 1. The Protestant view – works cannot save you, 2. The Roman Catholic view – works (plus faith) save you. In all Arminian views, you CAN lose your faith again and again and again. The reason is that you get to decide your salvation, and you know how fickle the human heart is. I give a more comprehensive explanation here.

https://onedaringjew.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/did-you-accept-christ-before-or-after-you-were-regenerated-born-again/

AJ – I see what you mean.

End of conversation

Now, if an agnostic and a (clever) Jew to boot can see what I mean, why is it that Arminians (both Jewish and Gentile) kick against the pricks? Simply, as the Bible says, it is God who opens or keeps shut blind eyes – so that no one may (even be tempted to) boast.

Does the fact that we’re both Jewish contribute to the content? Not really, but the title did grab your attention. Crafty.

Objections to Calvinism and Christian behaviour

Here are some typical questions and objections to Calvinism and Christian behaviour, with my responses.

1. “Can anyone “choose” to be a believer?”

Answer: One view is that the Father looks down the corridors of time to see who will make a decision to accept the gift of salvation. On this basis, the prospective believer is given to the Son from eternity, but if the believer does not practice his faith, he goes to hell. In theological jargon, this kind of Christian is an Arminian (someone who opens the door of her heart to Jesus. He cannot open the door from the outside because there is only one doorknob – on the inside).

2. No one knows if they are chosen by God (among his elect).

Answer: From the Calvinist perspective, no one cares about this until they are (in their deadened spiritual state) drawn (raised up) to believe. Once they believe, they either lean to the Arminian or Calvinist view. Imperfect understanding does not disqualify one from being among the “elect.”

3. “How about that puzzling quote from Christ where he tells some followers to get away, he never knew them?
”

Answer: There are hordes of “followers” of Jesus. They follow a distorted picture of Jesus. One example is “as long as you are good and kind to people and work for world peace” you’re a follower.

4. “I have seen “moral” Christian subscribers, I have seen “immoral” Christian subscribers. I have seen “moral” non-Christians, Muslims, atheists, etc. I have seen “immoral” ones.”

Answer: The central teaching of Christ is that one believe that in the shedding of his blood he took upon himself the sins of those whom the Father gave to him (the elect) and reconciled them to (made them right with) with His Father. For Christ, the crucial thing is “believe IN” him; for the world; the important thing is to try and make the world a better place. A Christian, of course, should be good and kind.

5.  “I don’t get the part about if you’re a ‘true’ Christian, you will not willingly sin.”

Answer: “Willingly” is not the best way to put it. It’s more a Christian’s attitude, the desire to break bad habits.

6. “I have a bad taste in my mouth from many of the “Christians” I encounter. Most haven’t even fully read the entire book they profess to support.”

Answer: True, most haven’t; they get by on the minimum. If so, they could very well be merely professing Christians.

7. “Of those who have, many do not possess the intellectual capacity to understand, explain or question it. Not saying that should be a requirement, but it would also help to have intelligent marketers to spread your word, that being an act you are supposed to fulfill.”

Answer: All that Christ requires is that you renew the mind you’ve got. The Bible caters for all levels of mental capacity.

8. “I am hurt every time a “Christian” approaches me to attempt conversion, yet runs as fast as he/she can when it is my turn to espouse my dogma. Seems unfair and narrow-minded. Are you guys afraid to hear other viewpoints? I welcome and respect your right to speak and share, but please- afford me the same respect when it is my turn.”

Answer Christians who do this are pathetic. Most do not do this. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

9. “At the end of the day, we all arrive at our personal dogma through the same untested means, and therefore, should afford one another equal respect. If I disrespect yours, I am in effect disrespecting my own.”

Answer: Most religions hold that there exists a personal God who communicates with mankind. This communication must be consistent. As religions contradict one another, only one can be right (I’m talking about hose who have a religion). You believe in “your truth my truth.” In other words, truth is subjective, it’s what you feel. Christians and most other religions teach objective truth – distinct from your heart and neurons.

Related articles

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

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. Two other terms are monergism (God alone is involved in justification – the Calvinist view) and synergism (God plus man cooperate in man’s justification – the Arminian view).

Say you are a professing Christian but keep on sinning, the Arminian view would be that God feels compassion for you and wants to forgive you. Alas, He is unable to forgive you because every time you tell God you’re sorry, you do it again. In the end, God fails to save you whom he brought back to life (regenerated). If, not by some miracle (this can’t happen for an Arminian) but by your resolve, you really repent and stick with it, you will be ultimately saved. But you will never be sure you’re saved until the moment after your last breath. If you presume to be sure (of your salvation) before you die, that would mean that you don’t really have free will, because if, for any moment of your life, you’re not free to reject Christ, that would mean that you are predestined to be saved. It is possible that you’re very confused. God does not condemn a Christian who is confused. For example, you might be confused about 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).

So, those given by the Father will come and never be lost, because Jesus says those who come (because they are given by the Father) will certainly be raised on the last day. “Raised, of course means “raised to eternal life.”

Many Arminians are confused: 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. The following excerpt explains:

Are Arminians Saved?

Question: 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 and that you can lose your salvation? If one believes they can lose their salvation does not that faith then become a work, rather than a gift of God? If someone believes he can lose his salvation, do he really believe that it is the finished work of Christ, and not the “work” of faith, that saves him? If people  believe that they can lose their salvation, would it be true that their faith is no longer a free gift from God, but something they need to muster up daily to keep their salvation? So here is the hard question. In this matter, can we be saved in spite of bad theology? If someone truly held to the five points of Arminianism, could they have “real” saving faith? Can you have real saving faith without understanding Grace Alone?

Response: Important question. 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 (“thank you very much!”) when Arminians affirm that they justly deserve the wrath of God save for Christ’s mercy alone – which most Arminians do. So most Calvinists 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 of 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.  For more see here.

Here is a scripture passage that Christian groups use against one another, in our case, Arminians (synergists) and Calvinists (monergists).

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life” (1 John 2:19-25).

Both synergists and monergists confess that Jesus is the Christ and believe “the promise that he made to us—eternal life.” “Receive eternal life” is another way of saying “raised on the last day” of John 6:44, discussed above. Recall what must occur before one can receive eternal life (be raised to life 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 6:44). If a professing Christian says he knows – and loves – the truth and yet believes that once he is born again he can still be lost, this can only mean that does not believe in the Jesus Christ of the Bible. He believes – as he does about his salvation – in a Jesus ultimately of his own making. The question is: “Is he confused about, or does he refuse, the words beaming up at him from the page.”

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

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

if you say that these verses are not talking about individual salvation, you’re one of two kinds of Arminian: you’re confused or your heart is hardened. And we know from Romans 9 who hardens hearts.

The Chimera of Neo-gnostic Calvinism: Advice to those opening a savings account

Can a wrong interpretation – only one can be right – of scripture bring one to faith in Christ. That’s what happened to Archibald Alexander, the founder of Princeton seminary (See Archibald Alexander and how we come to faith: Thank God that he never depends on human understanding to bring us to faith).There is an extreme chimerical form of Calvinism called “Neo-Gnostic Calvinism.”(Greek neo “young,” gnosis “knowledge”). In “The Bane of Neo-Gnostic Calvinism, Greg Fields writes:

The main tenets of this aberration of Calvinism, Fields continues, involve primarily a comprehensive cognitive system of knowledge (gnosis) that must be firmly grasped and indoctrinated into before the professing Calvinist or seeking Arminian is truly considered “saved” by these ersatz-Calvinist “teachers”. The subtlety involved in this neo-gnostic Calvinistic soteriology is that they vigorously promote truths that any committed believer would commend. For example, they incessantly exhort all to focus on Christ’s imputation of Righteousness as being indispensable to one’s salvation. Of course this is true and this needs to be emphatically declared in our presentation of the gospel. Particular Redemption is stressed with great vigor. Again, a hearty amen to the vital importance of this great doctrine is in order. They clearly enumerate the “five points” with undiminished zeal. Again, I concur and wish we all would stress these great doctrines with the zeal demonstrated by these men.” (See Calvinists, Neo-gnostic Calvinists and Seeking Arminians).

No, you don’t have to be clear in your head to be saved. You might, though, need to be clear in your head when you open a savings account.

Colossians 1 – Paul writing to believers

9… since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

God’s grace and the bugbear of an authoritarian God: Why do Christians need psychology to relate to God?

This post was published earlier. I repost it here.

What contribution does Christian psychology make to the relationship between Christians and God? I shall argue that Christians who need psychology to come to God are deceived. They may need psychology because they often do not understand or refuse to accept the biblical view of coming to faith in Christ. 

According to Pastor Steven J. Cole, who had been deeply involved with Christian psychology, psychology contributes hardly anything to an understanding of how a person comes to Christ. But the worst of it is that Christian psychology claims to enable a person to come to Christ by cutting through all the authoritarian stuff such as God ordering one what to think, what to believe, what to do. Cole relates the following incident:

…the elders assigned to another elder and me to check out the book that the proposed “Recovery Group” led by my associate wanted to use. This elder and his wife had been on Campus Crusade’s staff for about 20 years and he taught at their seminary (my church was near Crusade’s headquarters and many of our people were on staff). His wife was one of the emotionally “hurting” people who wanted us to start these recovery groups.”

The book we read was Henry Cloud’s When Your World Makes No Sense [Oliver-Nelson, 1990]. I was told that it would help me understand these hurting people. I tried to give it every benefit of a doubt, but there was one part early in the book that troubled me, where Cloud asserts that for these hurting people, the “standard Christian answers” (dealing with sin, faith, obedience, time in the Word and prayer, etc.) did “not work.” He compares such things to the counsel given by Job’s friends, calling it “worthless medicine.” Then he proposes his solution, which is essentially a baptized version of developmental psychology.”

Here’s the mother load (my italics):

As this elder and I were discussing Cloud’s approach, he told me that people like his wife who were from dysfunctional homes could not relate to my preaching because I emphasize obedience to God’s Word. Because they had strict, cold, authoritarian fathers, they don’t relate well to authority. I replied that I thought that I also put a strong emphasis on God’s grace as the motivation for obedience. But he responded that his wife couldn’t even relate to God’s grace — it went right by her. I was a bit taken aback, and so I said, “You mean that the many times I have spoken on God’s grace, she didn’t hear me?” He said yes, in her 20 years on Crusade staff, never once had she felt God’s grace and love on a personal level.”

I thought about what he had said and asked some clarifying questions to make sure I understood him. Then I responded, “If your wife has never felt God’s love and grace, she is not converted!” I had been reading Jonathan Edwards’ classic, A Treatise on Religious Affections, in which he makes a strong biblical case that saving faith is not mere intellectual assent to the gospel, but that it affects the heart. This elder got very upset with me. But I stuck to my guns then and do so now, that if a person can sit in church for 20 years and never be moved by God’s grace and love as shown to us at the cross, then that person is not truly converted.”

As I thought about what this elder, my associate, Henry Cloud, and others in their camp were saying, I realized that, in effect, they were saying that the transforming power of the gospel, which has sustained the saints in and through every conceivable trial, was not sufficient to deal with the emotional problems of these late 20th century Christians. And, I came to realize that the psychologized approach to Christianity was built on the inadequate theology that equates conversion with making a decision to invite Christ into your heart. But the two are not necessarily synonymous.”

And here’s where Arminians (a sinner participates in being born again) and Calvinists (God does all the “rebirthing”) disagree. 

Biblically, conversion is the supernatural act of God whereby He imparts spiritual life to a person who is dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-5). It is not something that man can effect at all (John 1:12-13). As Calvin (and Edwards) helped me to see, invariably God has revealed to the truly converted person something of His awesome majesty and holiness.”

Arminians are synergists (erg – work, syn -with) ; they believe they co-operate with God in their regeneration – “born again”), while Calvinists are monergists; they believe that the dead cannot regenerate themselves, and so God does all the work in “rebirthing” the sinner.

The heart of the matter is this: Nobody in their “right” mind (that is, natural mind) wants an invisible force lording itself/himself over him/her. That is why regeneration is a unilateral act of (a living personal) God. Here is the Apostle John (Gospel of John 1):

9 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 (flesh) descent, nor of human decision (the will) or a husband’s will, but born of God.

I said that “regeneration” is a unilateral act of God. Once the sinner has been raised out of the grave, he is enabled to convert (to turn to Christ), that is accept Christ. He does so willingly, and joyfully, of course, because he not only is made free to do so, but he discovers that he was made free to do so. Eureka. Much more joy.

How is it that most professing Christians don’t get it? See; born not of your dead nature, not of your will (two ways of saying the same thing).

When God draws sinners to Him, they don’t yearn for a counsellor to ease them into their prospective role as servant son or servant daughter of Almighty God. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:44). Why are you so concerned about your democratic rights when you have been assured that if God draws you to him, you will live eternally: “I will raise them up at the last day.” If a divine promise of living forever in joy and peace does not cut it for you, then go and emasculate yourself.

Instantly, continues Cole, like Isaiah after his vision of God, the sinner is struck with his utter defilement of heart in the presence of this unapproachable light, and he cries out, “Woe is me, for I am undone!” Rather than feeling better about himself, he feels much worse as he realizes his true condition before the Holy God. Like the man in Jesus’ story, he is even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but he beats his breast and cries out, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13). And, of course, God is merciful to all who truly call on Him.”

Post haste: Not all Arminians need the authority of a psychologist to ease them into the harness of divine authority. And hey, there’s also bound to be a Calvinist or two who are not averse to a little psychological help in matters religious.

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

 

God can use a crooked pencil to write straight

 

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

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

In this article, I speak of Calvinists and Arminians. There is a sense in which the person “follows” Calvin or Arminius but only in the sense that each believes that one of them is true to Christ and the other is not.

Christians, like Jews, indeed like people in general, can be sliced every which way. Among Christians, one of the most noteworthy, if not remarkable, distinction is that between those who believe that 1. without their co-operation, God will not bring them to faith, and 2. faith is totally from God. The former group are called Arminians, the latter, Calvinists. If you follow the grammar, surely the correct interpretation of how we come to (faith in) Christ, and remain forever in Christ , should follow. This, sadly, does not happen. I have in mind passages in John 6, Romans 8 and Romans 9.

(John 6:37-40 ESV; my italics)

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.”

Romans 8:29-30 ESV

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. 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 youin 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 ESV)

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.

Romans 9:13-18 ESV

We move on to Romans 9, the clincher – for a Calvinist, the (teeth-)clencher for many an Arminian. The context – it is definitely not the election of the nation Israel – is individual salvation: a remnant of Jews and Gentiles.

As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy…So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

I wonder how many Christians come to faith through any of the above verses. Imagine Augustine of Hippo, after hearing a child say take up and read, flicking open his Bible at random not to a passage telling him he was a miserable depraved wretch, but instead to “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. (Romans 9:18b). Here is Augustine:

So was I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, “Take up and read; Take up and read. “ Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find. For I had heard of Anthony, that coming in during the reading of the Gospel, he received the admonition, as if what was being read was spoken to him: Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me: and by such oracle he was forthwith converted unto Thee. Eagerly then I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I laid the volume of the Apostle when I arose thence. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, in concupiscence. No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away” (Augustine, Confessions Book XII).

Here’s a thing: Augustine later became famous for his “Grant what You command, and command what You desire,” which echoes “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy…So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. (Romans 9:13-18), which is summed up in his famous “Grant what You command, and command what You desire.”

Scriptures that speak to a person’s situation – depression, bereavement, poverty and so forth – are often the ones that attract one to the Gospel, but not always, for what is irrelevant to us may be, and indeed often is, relevant to God. God sovereignly chooses both means and ends, which may either connect to our situation or become a gradual realisation, or sometimes arrive as a bolt from the blue, where the last thing on your mind is Christ. Archibald Alexander explains:

The question is sometimes asked, is regeneration an instantaneous or a gradual work? This is not a merely speculative question. If this is a gradual work, the soul may for some time, yea, for years, be hanging between life and death, and be in neither one state or nor the other, which is impossible. Suppose a dead man to be brought to life by a divine power, as Lazarus was, could there be any question of whether the communication of life was immediate? Even if the vital principle was so weak as not to manifest itself at once, yet its commencement must be instantaneous; because it may be truly asserted that such a man is dead or alive; if the former, life has not commenced, and whenever that state ceases, the man lives, for there is no intermediate state. So in regard to the communication of spiritual life, the same thing may be asserted; for whatever regeneration is, the transition from a state of nature to a state of grace must occur at some point of time, the moment before the sinner was unregenerate” (Archibald Alexander, A Practical View of Regeneration).

Archibald Alexamder

Here are the Arminian and Calvinist views of the famous passage, “Behold I stand at the door and knock”:

Arminian view

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). If you’re an Arminian like John Stott – whose “The Cross of Christ” has been called a masterpiece by a Calvinist like J.I. Packer, and which I also think is a great work – Revelation 3:20 means this:

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

Calvinist view

Here is the Calvinist interpretation from Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon is addressing the depressed Christian:

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

The question is: Can a wrong interpretation – only one can be right – of “I stand at the door and knock” be the catalyst of salvation. Yes, and the same goes for any verse in the Bible; though it’s hard to see how “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” can bring someone to Christ unless Christ has already brought him. That’s what Calvinism teaches: you’re dead and the next thing you know you’re coming alive or are alive. That’s what happened to Archibald Alexander, whom I have already quoted above. And what scripture did it for him? Why, “I stand at the door and knock.” Here’s the story byJohn Van Der Brink:

Archibald Alexander was born in 1772 in a log house in Lexington, Virginia. Life was hard and crude for the young boy, but he was a good scholar, and at an early age showed signs of academic promise. His learning was, however, without piety, and his only notion of religion at this time was that it consisted in “becoming better.” The idea of a second “birth” was totally strange to him.”

It is remarkable how the Lord led young Archibald to his conversion. He was employed as a young tutor, and his task was to read for an old woman from the sermons of John Flavel. While reading Flavel’s sermon on Rev. 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock,” he was so struck with the patience, kindness, and forbearance of the Lord Jesus Christ to impenitent and obstinate sinners that he felt overwhelmed. His heart was moved and made anxious and inquiring. This led to an interest in the works of Owen, Baxter, Alleine, Halyburton, Boston, Erskine, Dodridge, and Whitefield. These sermons, which to him were boring before, now became moving and eloquent as they were blessed to his heart. He was led to see Christ as his only Advocate before the throne of God. He made profession of his faith in 1789 at 17 years of age.”

Alexander went on to become a Presbyterian and founder of Princeton seminary, a Calvinist institution. Alexander came to faith through an Arminian interpretation of “I stand at the door and knock.” The irony is that Calvinists follow Spurgeon’s interpretation of “I stand at the door and knock.” This example illustrates that God can use contradictory interpretations of scripture (indeed of any situation) to draw his elect – those whom the Father gave to the Son before the creation of the world. I don’t know whether Alexander wrote about (what must have been for him, as a subsequent Calvinist) a wrong interpretation of “I stand at the door and knock.” It would be interesting if he had written about it. Here is Alexander’s explanation, in his mature years, of how we come to Christ:

Lazarus was called from the dead by the voice of Christ, but he must have been inspired with life before he could hear that voice. But still it is proper to say, that he was called into life by the omnipotent voice of our Savior. So when the gospel is preached, the dead hear the voice of the Son of God and live. Or we may illustrate the instrumentality of the word by the case of the blind man whose eyes our Lord opened. This man, when he first looked up, saw objects indistinctly, “men as trees walking;” but when he looked a second time, he saw things clearly. Christ caused this man to see by the light of heaven which shone around him; but the power causing him to see was exerted on the eye, removing the obstacles to vision, or supplying what was defective in the organ. As soon as this was done, the light was the medium of the perception of surrounding objects. Thus the soul of every man is by nature blind. The light may shine around him, but he comprehendeth it not. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.” By the energy of the Holy Spirit this incapacity of spiritual vision is taken away; the eyes of the understanding are enlightened. The blindness is removed, and spiritual objects are perceived; but alas! with most, very indistinctly at first. “The light of the just increaseth more and more unto the perfect day.” ( Achibald Alexander, A Practical View of Regeneration Part I).

A far cry from “I stand at the door and knock, now all you have to do is turn the key, let me in and you will be saved.” Archibald Alexander, the Calvinist of later years, might have said something like this about his conversion: “How could my withered hand have opened anything? There’s more – or is  it less?: How could my withered soul desire Christ?”

If only I could understand more; alas, or should it rather be, thank God that I don’t fully understand. Here is Adolph Saphir, a Jewish Christian, in his “The divine unity of scripture,” p. 144-145:

“There are many difficulties in the Bible, but they are as great difficulties to the learned as they are to the unlearned. In the Church of Christ there is no distinction. These things are written for all the children of God, and if we do not understand everything we must wait till it pleases God to make it plain to us, and perhaps it will never be made plain to us ; but all that is profitable and necessary and salutary and enjoyable is plain to the Christian. I admit that the Bible is very obscure to two classes of people. The Bible is very obscure to those who wish to find in the Bible what is not there. And if we are determined not to find inthe Bible what is in the Bible, the Bible is also very obscure. Oh, what difficulties have those rationalists had! They did not wish to find in the Bible the divinity of Jesus. They did not wish to find in the Bible the substitution in the death of Christ. They did not wish to find in the Bible the necessity of regeneration. They afterwards did not wish to find in the Bible anything miraculous. Oh, it was exceedingly difficult to explain the Bible, until at last a man like Strauss came and said, ‘Now what is the use of deceiving yourselves and deceiving the world and being simply jugglers? You do not believe it, and it is much better to say that you do not believe it and there is no explaining it. It is simply a mythical representation of ideas.’ But if we are willing to find in the Bible what is in the Bible, the Bible simple.” (David Strauss, himself a “rationalist,”rejected these doctrines)

Thank God that He never depends on human understanding to bring us to faith. But, dear Arminians, this may be true about coming to faith, but certainly not true about growing in faith.

One thing Jewish Arminians and Jewish Calvinists have in common

Sign leaving Brooklyn on Williamsburg Bridge s...

Sign leaving Brooklyn on Williamsburg Bridge saying “Leaving Brooklyn: Oy Vey!” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One thing a Jewish Arminian and a Jewish Calvinist can definitely agree upon is this: where there’s a will, there’s Oy Vey. But let’s not be partial; we should not be a respecter of persons, even a respectful respecter. So, let’s include Gentile Arminians and Calvinists. After all, not only do they know what “oy vey” means, it has become part of their working vocabulary. As the Bible says, defend the Gospel with gentleness and respect. Must not go kick the cat. Hey, play nice.

The Christian Trinity and the Unity-plurality of Cabala

My understanding is that Christians are by definition trinitarians. The doctrine of the Trinity states that there is one divine being (nature), God, and three persons, each of which has the same divine nature. God is Triune. “I cannot think, says Gregory of Nazianzus, on the one without quickly being encircled by the splendor of the three; nor can I discern the three without being straightway carried back to the one.”

My question is: Are trinitarians in cahoots with cabalists? Here is the Cabala (Kabbalah):

“Regarding the distinction between monotheism, polytheism and pantheism, this distinction hardly exists for the Initiate. Verily there is little difference between a single God and a harmony of Supreme Forces, so absolutely linked that the effect would be that of an indivisible unit, a plurality whose action is unified, a unity whose action is pluralised.” (Cabala Unveiled)

Christians are certainly not in cahoots with cabalists. You may say, It sure looks like it. Let’s see. Compare:

“the one encircled by the splendor of the three; the three being straightway carried back to the one” (Christianity)”

with

“a plurality whose action is unified, an unity whose action is pluralised” (Cabala – we could include Eastern thought in general).

Now, just because both these descriptions share similar words does not imply they connote the same meanings. Three what, one what (Christianity), a plurality of what, a unity of what (Cabala). In other words, to what categories do these numeric adjectives refer? The Pharaoh, Akhnaton’ worshiped one God, does that mean that Akhnaton’s God is the same as Allah or as Yahweh, or that Allah is the same as Yahweh?

In Christianity, “one” refers to God’s Being/Nature/Essence, while three refers to “Persons.” If you’re Jewish or Muslim or a Gentile Unitarian, or just a plain old gentle atheist, you’d think this distinction between one divine nature and a plurality of divine persons makes no sense; the distinction would be logically incoherent. The Trinity for the Unitarian (one God equates with one person) is a doctrine, says Jacob Neusner, that does not “fit in place” because it imposes “stresses and strains on the [coherent] structure that encompasses [it].” (“Rabbinical theology: Language, system, structure.” Brill Academic Publishers, 2002, pp. 9-10). It cannot be a solution, Neusner would argue, because it posits more than one God. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity, of course, posits no such a thing.

Anti-trinitarians maintain that the Trinity is a post-biblical aberration concocted by Constantine – (if they’d only study history), a theological klutz – at the Council of Nicea. On the contrary, the trinity is based on sound biblical inferences. The Bible should be the Christian’s foundation and guide on this matter and on all matters.

Art Katz’s Agony and Ecstasy of Paul: Contradiction and election in Romans 11

Who do many Jews and “Messianic Jews” (followers of Yeshua) hate more than John Calvin and Martin Luther? Another Jew, a follower of Jesus, Art Katz. Art said that the Jewish Holocaust was a judgment of the Holy One of Israel on His people.

Art Katz. He could be my brother Benny's twin

I am not going to discuss the merit of Katz’s Holocaust argument (I’ve done that elsewhere ). What I’d like to talk about here is Katz’s “The agony and ecstasy of Paul in Romans 9-11.” The audio can be found here, and the video here. Here is Katz:

“The end of Romans 11 is the most magnificent peon of praise to God stated anywhere in the whole corpus of the Bible. There’s no greater ecstatic statement that stretches language to breaking than Paul’s spontaneous eruption at the end of his final statement in Romans 11. The man is staggered, he is reeling, his breath fails him, ‘oh the depth of the riches.’ What has he seen that he would exclaim something so ecstatically that defies language to comprehend. ‘For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.’ “

“If you trifle with this, if you think Paul is only employing a little bit of flourish and rhetoric, some stylistic thing to end his remarkable statement in Romans 11 with the glory of God forever because it has a nice lofty sound, you are condemned, you’re short-changing God, you’re crippling yourself…it’s the issue of the glory of God forever. If we miss what Paul is saying, why he’s ecstatic, why he concludes like that, we turn the word ‘glory’ into a piece of traffic, we make it a little convenient piece of verbalism that we can put into our choruses, our songs, talk, pray, but we don’t know what it means, it doesn’t pierce us through, we don’t understand the ultimacy of the word ‘glory,’ which is at the heart of a church which is church, its very purpose for being beyond any and other consideration, of any benefit that is derived from believing, the purpose pertaining to the glory of God…The church that is not jealous for the glory of God is not a church…it has lost its reason for being. The phrase ‘the glory of God’ defies every concept. We cannot summon humanly even an understanding let alone an appropriation of a phrase like ‘the glory of God forever.’ There is no way you can even aspire to it or consider it unless it is given to you by the grace of God. Isn’t it a remarkable contradiction that we cannot live for the jealousy of the glory except that God himself communicates the something of the substance and meaning and spirit of that word; that we are dependent upon Him even to catch some sense of the thing which is central to our own reason for being. That’s why he says,

‘of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.'”

” I plead with you that Paul is not going on a flight of fancy, getting poetic to bring a nice sounding lofty conclusion to a great epistle. This is the heart, the genius of what is apostolic…This is of Him.”

What a magnificent passage. It cuts deep into my soul. I need to catch my breath. I have, however, one criticism, which has to do with Katz’s “Isn’t it a remarkable contradiction that we cannot live for the jealousy of the glory except that God himself communicates the something of the substance and meaning and spirit of that word; that we are dependent upon Him even to catch some sense of the thing which is central to our own reason for being.” (My italics).

It’s only a contradiction for an Arminian, who is someone who believes that the human mind and human freedom in its natural state are not radically corrupt, and therefore has the ability to understand and to will the things of God before he is regenerated (born again). This Arminian view contradicts Romans 3:11 “There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God.” And, of course, Ephesians 2; we are dead in sin.

If the “we” in Katz’s “Isn’t it a remarkable contradiction that we cannot live for the jealousy of the glory except that God himself communicates… ” refers to the natural (unbelieving) man, then he’s right, of course. But, he wouldn’t be talking about Romans 11 (never mind in such staggering depth) with unbelievers.

Katz says that he uses the word “ultimate” often. Who, asks Katz, ever uses that word in the sense of “ultimate things?” Hardly a soul, Christian or not. As Katz points out, Christianity is ultimately about God’s glory. How I wish he could have understood not only that the election of Israel was a sovereign act of God totally independent of what Israel does or does not do (which he understands very well), but also that this same kind of sovereign election extends to all those the Father foreloved and as a result gave to the Son before the creation of the world. (See “The moment of decision Did you accept Christ before or after you were regenerated (born again)?”.

S Lewis Johnson, in his description of the purpose of election says that its ultimate purpose is the glory of God. Election has a near purpose our salvation. It has an intermediate purpose of a holy life. And it has an ultimate purpose the glory of God.” (See “Gods glory. And mans?”).

God’s glory is the ultimate rationale of His Being. Paris Reidhead says an astounding thing: the reason (rationale) for being – it’s not clear whether he includes God’s Being, yet it seems so – is: “Lamb that was slain receive the reward of your suffering.”

If the ultimate of God’s Being is His glory, then His ultimate purpose for man is sovereign choice of those whom He has elected. Could it be that God’s ultimate purpose for Himself is the election of man? If Paris Reidhead (above) is right, the ultimate of God’s glory are those he predestinated to eternal life: ”Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will… being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will (Ephesians 1:5, 1:11). “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:39). “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44).

Katz says, correctly, that only by God’s grace can a Christian appropriate God’s glory (an appropriation that is always imperfect in this life, and perhaps in eternity as well). It is also true that only by God’s grace can the Gospel be understood, can election be understood. When grace appears, contradiction disappears, surely. Yet Katz says no. When grace appears, it makes no sense, on the one hand, to pray on your knees, “Lord please change his/her will,” yet when back on your feet you tell the person you prayed for, “God voted for you, the devil voted against you, and you have the final vote.” I’m biting my tongue.

I wish that Art Katz, and many other outstanding preachers like the Wesley brothers, and my favourite modern preacher, Paris Reidhead were not Arminians. (Listen to Reidhead’s ending to his “Ten Shekels and a shirt”, the most moving sermon I have ever heard). Charles Spurgeon says a regeneration that begins in the flesh (where the person who comes to Christ believes that he has the deciding vote in his coming) ends in the flesh. I struggle with Spurgeon’s conclusion that Art Katz and the Wesleys ended in the flesh. Not that this is the only thing I struggle with (indeed should struggle with); for example, the clear biblical teaching that God decrees to save some and pass others by is hard to understand: “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 shews mercy (Romans 9:15-16).

Someone has said this about Art Katz:

“Art portrayed a knowledge of God that few in contemporary times have fathomed or understood. Whether the subject was the future, necessary death and resurrection of the nation Israel, or Paul’s teaching on widows and slaves in the congregation, Art strived to represent ‘God as He in fact is, and not as we think Him to be.'”

Carl Trueman, in his “Luther’s Theology of the Cross” refers to Luther’s contrast between “theologians of glory” and “theologians of the cross.”

The ‘theologians of glory,’ says Trueman, are those who build their theology in the light of what they expect God to be like—and, surprise, surprise, they make God to look something like themselves. The ‘theologians of the cross,’ however, are those who build their theology in the light of God’s own revelation of himself in Christ hanging on the cross.”

I think we can and should break down the wall between these two kinds of theologians, for the God of glory is also the God of the cross. And that is what Art Katz has tried to show.

In “a silent grave in the middle of the north woods” of Minnesota lies the physical remains of Art Katz. Thank you, dear Art, for your passion for the Gospel and love for the crucified Christ that poured so ecstatically forth out of the abundance of your agonising heart. For it can be truly said of you, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).

The moment of “decision” – Did you accept Christ before or after you were regenerated (born again)?

Two core Christian doctrines are based on two consecutive verses in John 1:

“As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons/children 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” (John 1:12-13).

The first doctrine is that those who believe in Jesus Christ are born (regenerated) into the family of God. The second is that the children of God are not a genetic/ethnic group (not born of blood) nor do they come because they decide to (“nor of the will of man” reinforces “nor of the will of he flesh”) but solely because God decrees it.

“How can this be?” most (including the majority of Christians) would balk at verse 13 “How” though, does balking change “what” the Bible says, namely, your will has absolutely nothing to do with your regeneration. This does not mean that those whom God regenerates are robots. It means that if they accept, come to, believe in Christ, it is because God gave them the desire – freeing them from the bondage of their corrupt will – to come to Christ. The gift of this desire is wrapped up in “drawing.” I explain shortly.

Here is John 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” Consider what verse 13 means in terms of the common understanding of “free” will. In the decisions we make, we follow our heart, we are dragged – and sometimes drugged – along by our desire. The heart (desire), therefore inwardly (pre)determines the decisions we make. Now, in Romans 3 we read that no one desires to believe in God, specifically the Christian God:

Romans 3:10-12
“… There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

For this reason, Jesus says, ” (John 6:4 4) No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.”

If you’re a good Arminian (a synergist), you will say, “yes I know you cannot come to Jesus unless Jesus draws you, but after Jesus has given you that prevenient (coming before) push (grace), the rest is up to you.” I ask, where does it say in the Bible that the rest (making the final decision to be saved) is up to you? Nowhere. Indeed, as we see in John 1:13, coming to (believing in) Jesus has got stones to do with your meaty will. Suppose God gave you permission to drop John 1:13 from the inspired text, you still have to deal with other texts in scripture that say the same thing; for example, Romans 9:15-16, “And he saith 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 willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”

We return to John 6:44 – “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” You will probably say there’s nothing in the previous verse that says we can’t choose to withdraw after being drawn. True; I didn’t, however, give the whole of John 6:44. The rest of it says, “and I will raise him up at the last day.” So if Jesus draws you, you will certainly come, as well as never leave, and it is only such people who are raised up on the last day. Now, if Jesus raises up on the last day all those he draws, then they will certainly always (want) to have faith in Him, and always (want to) remain steadfast. Jesus guarantees that they will remain steadfast, because he says that he will definitely (in the English of yesteryear, “he shall”) give them eternal life. John 6:44 reinforces what Jesus said to his stubborn Jewish audience in John 6:33-37 (focus on verse 37):

“He said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. 34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. 37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

In verses 36 and 37, Jesus is telling his hearers that the reason why they do not (want to) come to Him is because they were not given to Him by the Father (in eternity past). Only those the Father gives to the son are given the ability to come. When and where is this ability given. In your coffin. All will become clear very shortly.

We put John 1:18, John 37 and 44, and Romans 9:13-14 together to get: the Father draws those whom He has given to the Son. Those given are those on whom the Father has mercy. If given, then drawn. Those who are drawn are those whom God has enabled to come (to believe). This enabling – I need to bring Ephesians 2 into the picture -requires no less than a resurrection (a “quickening” King James Version) from the dead:

Ephesians 2:1-6

“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.”

“Dead,” doesn’t mean really dead, silly,” you, being a clever Arminian, might say; “Dead to the world” does not mean you’re really dead,” you protest. I reply, if, in your degenerate/radically corrupt state of your human condition you do not want to come to Christ unless he changes your heart (as John 1:13 and Romans 9:16 make very clear), then you are, if not really dead, at least dead to any desire to come to Christ, you might as well be as dead as some churches. And that is what Ephesians 2’s graphic coffin imagery is saying.

Dead, dead, see I am dead, and there is a flower sticking out of my belly button. My blood is ice cold. Now, look, there is Christ standing over my coffin. He raises the lid. ‘Come! get up!’ I tremble inwardly. I’m stiff, and rather iffy; can’t lift a finger. Slowly I tilt my head upwards, Christ is pouring his life into me; he is regenerating me. Now he holds out a hand and gives me something – too wonderful for words; yet that’s what they are – words. I believe. I accept. I come. Why? Simply and only because God’s mercy wanted it so. That’s what the verses mentioned in Ephesians 2 and Romans 9 are about. (Dead, dead, see I am dead: How to soup up a sermon on monergistic regeneration.

Roman Catholics and all other Arminians, please listen to the great Bernard of Clairvaux, who says, in the spirit of Augustine of Hippo:

“… we have received from God in the state of nature
the power to will, in the same way as we have received the
power to fear and the power to love, so that thus we might
be simply created beings ; but to will what is good, even
as to fear and to love God, we receive by the visitation of
grace, so that thus we may become (not simply creatures
but) God’s creatures.

In a certain manner then, created as our own possession
for freedom of will, (it is) by means of goodness of will we are
Made God’s possession. Moreover it is He that made the
will free. Who also maketh it good ; and to this end
doth He make it good that we may be a kind of
firstfruits of His creatures.”

The treatise of St. Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux, concerning grace and free will, addressed to William, abbot of St. Thiery; (1920), p. 30.

“it is He that made the will free.” Free to love the good, which is God in Christ.

John Calvin and Martin Luther loved Bernard for he understood and explained so clearly that only Christ can set us free from the bondage of our corrupt will. Once this fact is understood, it should not be difficult to see that regeneration (God making us free) must precede faith in Christ.

Amazing Free Will: irresistible

I couldn’t resist posting this piece from Alpha and Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog:

Amazing Free Will
06/15/2011 – Alan Kurschner
Amazing Free Will how sweet the sound,
That saved a neutral soul like me.
I once was sickly not even drowned,
Was seeking then given opportunity.

T’was a soft voice that taught my Will to decide.
My seeker-self ultimate prime.
How precious did that Free Will coincide
Looking down the corridors of time.

Through foreknowledge and capacity
‘Tis also Free Will that determined my possible lot
Whosoever Will!, can come through synergy
“How often I wanted to gather you but you would not”

Adam preserved ability for me.
My cooperation my hope secure.
Faith then rebirth hence eternity,
His salvific potential always near

Yea, this Free Will shall never fail,
but irresistible grace may cease,
Sinner’s prayer way back as I can tell
God must honor when I decease

When I’ve been there a thousand years
Bright shining standing in my glory.
I’ve no less days to reflect in mirrors
Than when I’ve first chosen Him, wholly.

Of mysticism, cooking and them goose bumps

Teresa of Ávila, Ulm, Germany

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220)
St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning, a good friend, whom I haven’t seen for more than 20 years, phoned me from Belgium. I asked a variation of my pet question, which I used to ask a phalange of friends my daughter used to bring home from school: “Have you read any good books lately.” The insult – not that her friends were aware of the insult (there I go; another insult) – was double: not merely books, any books, but good books. I would, of course, never ask my friend – or an adult, unless I was very mad, or mad at him or her – such a double-barbed question; not even the single barb alternative (Have you read any books lately?). Besides I know he loves books. So, I simply asked, “What are reading?

He said St Francis of Assisi, especially the classic biography. “The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi” by Mary Roberts Rinehart. Hang on a mo….there, click, click, I’ve downloaded a free pdf into Goodreader on my ipad.

Also Teresa of Avila and a few others were mentioned. In my “Catholic” days, I loved reading how the arrows of divine love pierced Teresa’s heart and made her swoon. There’s nothing wrong, indeed there can be everything right about swooning. I’m not the typical Calvinist who advises you, if you show symptoms of “mysticemia” or any kind of religious experience, to repent or see your doctor.

One atypical Calvinist is Martyn Lloyd Jones – respected by all Calvinists – who in the early part of his sermon series on Ephesians (somewhere between Ephesians 1 – 3, I forget) says that it’s silly (my word for what he respectfully said) to imagine that if God comes to live in those born of God that the regenerated person cannot, indeed should not, feel a thing.

I want to specifically address my Calvinist brethren: There’s a TV advert for shampoo or whatever where a pretty girl says, “It’s all about feeling – AND feeling.” She is, if course, not distinguishing between two kinds of feelings, but merely emphasising that it’s all about feeling; life is all about feeling – “Let’s get physical, physical, I wanna get physical, let’s get into physical, Let me hear your body talk, your body talk, let me hear your body talk.” In the spiritual domain, there are also two kinds of feeling, which requires discernment. There’s goose bumps AND good bumps. The one kind will cook your goose, whereas the other may provide deep insights into what’s cooking. Mysticism does not necessarily, as someone said, begin in a mist and end in schism.

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

”Thomas Jay Oord is a theologian, philosopher, and scholar of multi-disciplinary studies.  He is the author or editor of a dozen books and professor at Northwest Nazarene University, Nampa, Idaho.  Oord is known for his contributions to research on love, relational theology, science and religion, Wesleyan/Holiness/Church of the Nazarene thought, Evangelical theology, and postmodernism” (From his biography).

Oord quotes CS twice in his “Imitate GodTake Risks!”

The two Lewis quotes are from Lewis’s lion character, Aslan, “(he is) on the move,” (describing Aslan), and what another Narnia character says of Aslan, “He’s not safe.  But he is good.” Oord applies these descriptions of Aslan to a “missional God.” A bit of Lewis that would have slotted in well into Oord’s “Imitate God—Take Risks!” is Lewis discussion about the risk that God took in giving man “free will.”

“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).

Reminds me of Pascal’s wager addressed to man: risk choosing God, you’ve got much more to gain than to lose. The boot, for Lewis, though, is on the other risky foot (addressed to God): God risks choosing man. With this difference to Pascal’s wager.

“Granting free will to man (I’m ad-libbing,like a good libertarian) is an extremely risky business; who knows how my plan is going to turn out. But hang on, isn’t one of my attributes the ability to see ahead (pro-vidence)? Of course it is; and, although I don’t get everyone to do my pleasure, in the end I do win some; but, alas, also lose some – in fact, I lose a lot. Now you might quote my favourite prophet, Isaiah, who said – correctly – what I told him to write, namely, ‘Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure (Isaiah 46:9-10).’ Now, you (have to understand, indeed, uberstand – I’m speaking sub specie aeternitatis (from my eternal point of view) – that my pleasure will never interfere with the greatest thing I have, and also the greatest thing I have given my untermensch: free will.

Let’s come back to  earth, to Oord’s orchard.

“… God took the ultimate risk in the self-giving love of Jesus. In our everyday language, “risk” is often preceded by “foolish.”  Unfortunately, this combination of words – “foolish risk” – occurs so frequently that we may assume risk-taking and wisdom are antithetical.”

Oord is referring to the “Kenosis” (self-emptying) in Philippians:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:5-8).

Here is Alva J. McClain on the ” Doctrine of the Kenosis in Philippians 2:5-8:

“Nothing beyond a cursory review of the astonishingly numerous interpretations of this Philippians passage is enough, as someone has suggested, to afflict the student with “intellectual paralysis. This is especially the case in regard to that section (v. 7) which speaks of the self emptying”, or kenosis, of Christ. Some make of this a mere skenosis (see note); Deity was veiled, but was limited in no important or essential respect. Others think the self-limitation was real, though very inconsiderable. A third view holds that the Logos, in becoming man, retained full possession of His divine attributes, and that the kenosis consisted in His acting as if He did not possess them. Another school supposes that He actually gave up certain of his attributes, ones designated by theologians as relative, such as omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. Still others go farther in asserting that He gave up all the divine attributes, so that Deity was stripped to a bare essence. Finally, there are those who, excluding from the passage all reference to a pre-existent state, regard the kenosis as having taken place wholly within the earthly life of the man Christ Jesus.”

[Note: Skenosis Christology is the opposite of, and a reaction to kenosis Christology. While kenosis Christology emphasizes “emptying,” skenosis Christology emphasizes, “divine indwelling” in incarnation. The biblical basis for skenosis Christology is the Gospel of John, especially 1:14. The verse states that in incarnation the Logos “indwelt” (translation on contextual ground) the flesh (or indwelt humanity). This indwelling is the relationship where God graciously indwelt man (in Christ), and he in turn fully submitted to Him (God).”]

We can now add yet another theistic take on this keynote Kenosis passage: a risk-taking deity. 

Risky interpretations, besides the pleasure it affords, leads me to the philosopher and literary theorist, Jacques Derrida. Here is an excerpt from a broadcast interview with Derrida:

Interviewer – In your text, one always feels a lot of pleasure, a pleasure in writing, even a certain playfulness. For you, is the pleasure of philosophizing or the pleasure of philosophy essentially a pleasure of writing?

Derrida – Yes , if one uses this word “writing” very carefully. I don’t believe, for example – and perhaps contrary to what certain people might tend to believe – that I have a lot of pleasure in writing, that is, in finding myself before a sheet of paper and in devising sentences. I probably even have a certain immediate aversion for the thing. On the other hand, and also contrary to what certain people might think, I love to “talk” philosophy. Of course, it is also a writing, it is a certain form of writing… So pleasure, yes, but, you know, pleasure is a very complicated thing. Pleasure can accumulate, intensify through a certain experience of pain, ascesis, difficulty, an experience of the impasse or of impossibility; so, pleasure, yes, no doubt, but in order to respond seriously and philosophically to your question, we would have to open up a whole discourse on the pleasure principle, on beyond the pleasure principle, etc.

Then the interviewer mentions “risk.”

Interviewer – What is more your taste for philosophy also always takes a path through risk, adventure, high stakes . . .

Derrida – To have the very complicated pleasure we were just talking about, to have this pleasure, I suppose one must, at a given moment, stand at the limit of catastrophe or of the risk of loss. Otherwise, one is only applying a surefire program. So, one must take risks. That’s what experience is. I use this word in a very grave sense. There would be no experience otherwise, without risk. But for the risk to be worth the trouble, so to speak, and for it to be really risked or risking, one must take this risk with all the insurance possible. That is, one must multiply the assurances, have the most lucid possible consciousness of all the systems of insurance, all the norms, all that can limit the risks, one must explore the terrain of these assurances: their history, their code, their norms in order to bring them to the edge of the risk in the surest way possible. One has to be sure that the risk is taken. And to be sure that the risk is taken, one has to negotiate with the assurances. And thus speak . . . in the mode of philosophy, of demonstration, of logic, of critique so as to arrive at the point where that is no longer possible, so as to see where that is no longer possible. What I am calling here assurance or insurance are all the codes, the values, the norms we were just talking about and that regulate philosophical discourse: the philosophical institution, the values of coherence, truth, demonstration, etc.

(An interview broadcast in the program prepared by Didier Cahen over France-Culture, “Le bon plaisir de Jacques Derrida,” (“The good pleasure of Jacques Derrida”) on March 22, 1986 and published with the title “Entretien avec Jacques Derrida” (Interview with Jacques Derrida in “Digraphe” 42 (December 1987).

There’s the God of the gaps and now there’s the God of the risks. And surely, it would be anything but blasphemous – indeed it would be very fitting for a God who is not only the creator of language, but the supreme master of style – to put Derrida’s striking remarks on risk into the mouth of such a God, who does all things – as the Bible says – for his pleasure.

“To have this very complicated, I suppose I must, at a given moment, stand at the limit of catastrophe or of the risk of loss. Otherwise, I would merely be applying a surefire program. So, even though, indeed exactly because I am almighty and sovereign, I must take risks. That’s what experience is. I use this word in a very grave sense. There would be no experience otherwise, without risk.”

Derrida’s risk, like his faith in philosophy, is not blind. And I would hazard this to be true of Oord as well. God – please keep in mind I’m talking about the “God of the risks” and not the God I find in the Bible – also doesn’t, of course, do anything blindly, that is, without some kind of insurance. 

In CS Lewis, love implies the freedom to love. God took the risk by giving man the free will to choose Him. And Oord: this risk demonstrates the humility of God.

What do I explicitly think of these sentiments? Lewis was no postmodernist. For one thing, he left the world in the early 1960s. Oord is interested in postmodernism and teaches it, but I don’t know whether he is a postmodernist. He is also a Wesleyan, which explains his risk-taking God. Derrida is a postmodernist. In a postmodern universe everything is up for grabs, everything is open, nothing final, including the Messiah. In open theism, God has to take risks with his libertarian creatures. No, no, never; God never takes any risks. God said so, and that’s final:

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

And that applies to salvation, surely? Most assuredly. To return to Isaiah 46:9-10: If I’ve said it once, I’ve said, I’m now saying it twice: “Thats why you need a (respectful and reverential) kick in your Arminian pants.”

The Gospel of God and the Gospel of man

There is the Gospel of the “old paths” and a different Gospel; the “new” Gospel. Here is J.I. Packer:

“The old gospel’s ” first concern was always to give glory to God. It was always and essentially a proclamation of Divine sovereignty in mercy and judgment, a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good, both in nature and in grace. Its centre of reference was unambiguously God. But in the new gospel the centre of reference is man. This is just to say that the old gospel was religious in a way that the new gospel is not. Whereas the chief aim of the old was to teach men to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old gospel was God and His ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him. There is a world of difference. The whole perspective and emphasis of gospel preaching has changed.

“From this change of interest has sprung a change of content, for the new gospel has in effect reformulated the biblical message in the supposed interests of “helpfulness.” Accordingly, the themes of man’s natural inability to believe, of God’s free election being the ultimate cause of salvation, and of Christ dying specifically for His sheep, are not preached. These doctrines, it would be said, are not “helpful”; they would drive sinners to despair, by suggesting to them that it is not in their own power to be saved through Christ. (The possibility that such despair might be salutary is not considered; it is taken for granted that it cannot be, because it is so shattering to our self-esteem.) However this may be (and we shall say more about it later), the result of these omissions is that part of the biblical gospel is now preached as if it were the whole of that gospel; and a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth. Thus, we appeal to men as if they all had the ability to receive Christ at any time; we speak of His redeeming work as if He had done no more by dying than make it possible for us to save ourselves by believing; we speak of God’s love as if it were no more than a general willingness to receive any who will turn and trust; and we depict the Father and the Son, not as sovereignly active in drawing sinners to themselves, but as waiting in quiet impotence “at the door of our hearts” for us to let them in. It is undeniable that this is how we preach; perhaps this is what we really believe.”

(Introductory Essay to John Owen’s Death of Death in the Death of Christ by J. I. Packer)

http://www.all-of-grace.org/pub/others/deathofdeath.html

The socks of salvation

I like this prayer:

“It’s only what you have done in us that has brought us to salvation.”

We read in Isaiah 6:10:

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.”

See, it is God who clothed me in salvation; all the clothes – and the jewels – of salvation; even down to my socks.

Now, don’t stretch the metaphor too far with your Arminian riposte:

“But I prepared my body to receive my new clothes.”

For starters a dead “body” cannot prepare, or even stretch anything, even his pinkie:

“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” (Ephesians 2:1-2).

Now get a life. Life, of course, you can’t get; it has to be given.

I’m nothing but a sinner saved by grace, nothing but forgiven, nothing but emasculated

In 1 Peter 3:15, Christians are admonished to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”

I sometimes fall down on giving an answer with gentleness.For example, I said elsewhere that you Christians who maintain that you first believe (decide to have faith) and then are raised from the dead to decide to believe even more “need a (respectful and reverential) kick in your Arminian pants.” I may have been even more brassy to Arminians when, taking a leaf out of Paul the Apostle’s book, I didn’t only let loose, as Paul did (in connection with those believers who insisted that Gentile believers be circumcised – Galatians 5:11) that he wished they would go the whole hog and emasculate themselves. I was much more blunt: “Go and emasculate yourselves.” To add insult to injury, 1 Peter 3:15 is about giving an answer to those who ask me, and no Arminian asked me how faith and regeneration work together; I just went in hammer and tong(ue). Good thing I’m not an apostle.

But let me move on to the main clause in 1 Peter 3:15, “… always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” “Everyone” here refers to unbelievers. Permit me to expand the cohort of Peter’s listeners to Christians as well, who also need to ingest from other Christians the vittles of Christianity. Sometimes, alas, the meat dished out can be rather stringy. Here are two examples:

Not only those who call themselves Christians but even committed ones, say, when asked (and sometimes not asked) what Christianity means to them: “I’m no more than a sinner saved by grace.” To wit: 

Hazlett Lynch, in introduction to “D. Martyn LLoyd-Jones (1899-1981: A Personal Appreciation,” says in his opening paragraph:

As one who has been reading and studying the Lloyd-Jones material for about 40 years, I am delighted to offer this paper as my humble contribution to the legacy of this dear servant of Christ to the Christian Church. To write about such a man as the Doctor (as he was affectionately known) was is an enormous privilege, and yet is a deeply humbling experience for me. I lay no claim to an expertise in the works of Dr D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and am no more than a sinner saved by divine grace; yet I am that, and for that I am eternally grateful” (my italics). (For more context, see here).

Another example: Your answer you give to the hope that is within you is “I have been forgiven.” With regard to forgiveness, guilt is one the greatest human burdens. So, when you are told that God can wipe away all your sin, and all you have to do is believe that Christ paid the penalty in your place, and all can be wiped clean, you may – most, of course, won’t – jump at the offer and “give your heart” to Christ. If, however, that is all Christianity is for you, and all the other “stuff” like reading your Bible, praying, going to church, sharing with other Christians are a drag, then all you would’ve done is replace one burden with a another: religion. You’ve dredged up your guilt and masked it by the drudge of religion. 

A Christian is forgiven, of course, and that is most wonderful; the chains have been removed, indeed, you have been raised from death. But, the even more glorious thing than being no longer dead is becoming alive, is being in Christ. What is it to be alive in Christ?

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory

(Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV)

Christians, should you give such an answer as above to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope within you? Won’t it be too much for an unbeliever? Shouldn’t we rather aim lower, at something an unbeliever can dig their rational teeth into such as the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus? Now you’re making me want to pick up something sharp again. Don’t you think the Holy Spirit of God can turn a heart of stone into a heart of flesh, and don’t you think the best way He has chosen to do this is the scripture, for didn’t He say this was the way to do it? Wasn’t this the way He did it for you? 

Talk till you’re purple in the face about the evidence of the resurrection and the moral argument for God, about the wonders of human embryology (something amazing to see) , even calling it “divine” and “miraculous,” but unless the Holy Spirit of God irrupts into your life, you remain dead; in what ultimately matters: a life with God in Christ. 

Can’t continue…was cut off.

 

The pith of ”It’s not he who willeth.” Romans 9 and free will

This image was first published in the 1 st (18...

Arminius

Lately, I’ve been writing much on that “hellish” doctrine of the bondage of man’s will. Today I was listening again to gentle James White’s exposition of Romans 9 and reading again (which is always a gain) one of my previous posts, The Jew’s role in salvation and the future of ethnic Israel: Give John Piper his due.

Here are a few more comments on the bondage of the human will in salvation with reference to Romans 9, which encapsulate (but hopefully do not insulate) what I said in “The Jew’s role in salvation…”(URL above).

Jewish believers in Jesus are generally Arminians (a very few might be Armenians as well). Arminianism states that human dignity requires an unimpaired freedom of the will to choose salvation, which implies that the one who ultimately decides salvation is the believer. In contrast, the Reformed (Calvinist) position states that salvation is totally of the Lord. Christians are Arminians on their feet and Calvinists on their knees.

On feet – Jesus thank you for giving me, and my brothers and sisters I’m praying day and night for, this precious freedom to allow you to change my, and their, heart.

On knees – Jesus please please change their hearts.

Arminians are unable (until enabled) to see that the main focus of Romans is not about the pre eminence or eminence of ethnic Israel. Romans 9 is about individual salvation where Paul uses the example of two Jewish boys (Jacob and Esau, both rotters) to show that not all Jews are automatically part of God’s family. That’s the plain sense of Romans 9:13-16, that is, if you accept that you cannot accept the Gospel unless God makes you willing to do so.

To our Romans 9:

13 ”As it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated. 14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15 For he saith 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 is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy.

What about verse 16?

“So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy.

Him” in v. 16 is an individual. It’s clear as day. So, to repeat, it’s not the person that wills, or runs (a parallel for “wills”) who ultimately saves himself (makes the final decision) but it is God’s mercy that saves. Arminians retort that there are many other parts of the Bible that command you to choose. That’s true, but those commands are the means God uses to call those on whom he will have mercy. No human being knows whom God has called – from eternity (irrespective of what he sees they’re going to do once on earth), so all an evangelist can do is make a general call. If you understand that, you’ve got the kernel of how one comes to Christ. No medals, though.

But hang on, consider what I said above about Jacob and Esau:

“Romans 9 is about individual salvation where Paul uses the example of two Jewish boys (Jacob and Esau, who both turned out to be rotters in their own way) to show that not all Jews are automatically part of God’s family.”

Now, it says the following in verses 11 and 12, which I had not included above: “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad–in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls–she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”

So, if God’s purpose of election does not depend on Jacob, or Esau (or you or me) doing anything good or bad, what has not  doing anything good or bad  to do with the twins turning into rotters later on in their life? Surely, a rotter is a doer.

Paul provides the answer in Chapter 5 of the same Epistle. It’s called the doctrine of ”Original Sin”:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

(Romans 5:12-19)

In Ephesians 2:1-3, we read:

”And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins, 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 worketh in the sons of disobedience; among whom we also once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”

The first sentence “dead through trespasses and sins,”could very well be talking about personal sins we commit throughout our lives, and, therefore, is not dealing with the concept of being born in sin (as spelled out in Romans 5 above). Later in the passage, however, we do read that we (Christians) were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (all other human beings).”

There are swathes of Arminians who hate the doctrine of ”original sin” ( clearly explained in Romans 5 above) so much that they will insist that ” by nature children of wrath” definitely does not mean ”born with a sin nature.” Here, for example,  is Wayne Jackson’s conclusion to his Are Infants “by Nature” Children of Wrath?

”The Bible does not teach the doctrine of inherited depravity. The dogma is strictly of human origin. ”And it is a serious tragedy that those who profess to be friends of the Scriptures will teach this error, thereby subjecting the Christian system to unjustified criticism. Ephesians 2:3 does not teach inherited depravity.”

Barnes’ notes on the Bible takes a neutral position, which, implies that he is not out to promote the doctrine of ”total depravity.” ”Radical corruption” is a more accurate term, because ”total depravity” suggests ”utter depravity,” which would suggest that no one can be good enough to love his dog, or Beethoven. Barnes is a Methodist, therefore, an Arminian. He couldn’t be anything else, for it is only an Arminian who hates the doctrine of ”Original sin” and her daughter ”total depravity.” Here is Barnes (my italics):

”And were by nature – Φύσει Fusei. By birth, or before we were converted By conversion and adoption they became the children of God; before that, they were all the children of wrath. This is, I think, the fair meaning of this important declaration. It does not affirm “when” they began to be such, or that they were such as soon as they were born, or that they were such before they became moral agents, or that they became such in virtue of their connection with Adam – whatever may be the truth on these points; but it affirms that before they were renewed, they were the children of wrath. So far as this text is concerned, this might have been true at their very birth; but it does not directly and certainly prove that. It proves that at no time before their conversion were they the children of God, but that their whole condition before that was one of exposure to wrath.”

Let us grant that Barnes’ neutral position is true. What, however, about ”just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given…” (Romans 5 above).

When it comes to biblical exegesis, Calvinists are accused of being more ”philosophical” than biblical. Too much noggin is the complaint. Too much pride, pomposity, assumptions, presumptions, presuppositions, interpretations, categorisations, ratiocinations – in short too much philosophy.

The upshot: whereas Barnes is painfully neutral, Calvinists are painstakingly neural. I think the root of the differences between the Arminian and Calvinist goes deeper than the core text or the cortex, into what the psychologists call ”conation.”

”Conation”  is a term that stems from the Latin conatus, meaning any natural tendency, impulse, striving, or directed effort. It is one of three parts of the mind, along with the affective and cognitive. In short, the cognitive part of the brain measures intelligence, the affective deals with emotions and the conative drives how one acts on those thoughts and feelings” (Wikipedia).

The Bible calls these three areas, the mind, the will and the heart. With regard to ”radical corruption,” the Calvinist exegesis is that when Adam ”fell,” all three, mind, will, and heart, became radically corrupted. The Bible is adamant that the whole human race fell in Adam. How this happened, the Bible doesn’t tell us. In my book, and in my Bible, that is the only hard doctrine hard to swallow whole. Why should I suffer because of what my father (umpteen generations ago did)?

The Arminian, in contrast, is obsessed with ”conation,” with the coronation of his ”free” will,  free to love God.  And so, in his endeavour to hold tight on to his ”free will,” he plays footloose with the doctrine of ”Original sin,”  distorting  it into a aboriginal monstrosity. The boot is on the other foot.

When the Calvinist reads the Bible, he sees man freely following his heart. The man thinks, he desires, and his mind directs that desire to its object. The will is not a noun, it is a verb, a present continuous, always willing, moving, in its natural state, away from God (of the Bible). Man is dead, totally dead, totally deprived of the love for God; in other words, totally depraved. And that includes his willing. And that is the original Bible doctrine of ”original” sin; willy-nilly.

Ipad 3 explains salvation and a Calvinist sees the light

“Don’t touch my Ferrero Rochers. Too late! You’ve gone ‘n ruined the friendship. And if you even as much as blink at my ipad 3!

Calvinist: “Ouch, wazzat for?” ipad 3 owner: “That includes the back.” And don’t talk back to me, especially about free will, ’cause no one must tell me I didn’t freely choose my irresistible ipad and to-die-for Ferreros? So don’t go telling me I’m not free to choose my saviour. You give me the willies. I’m not that dead that I can’t will to buy my ipad 3 and my Ferreros, or will to give you one if you go near them. So why in Heaven’s name am I, you say, too dead to be able to choose Jesus. Can’t you see that God has said – in the Bible! – that he requires my co-operation to come to Him. And, naturally, he helps my will along with his grace; otherwise I’d just be like my ipad 3 in His hands; press button, whoops, ipad am born again, ipad believe. Now, I’m not saying that I contribute anything to my salvation; of course I don’t; I merely cooperate with God. God doesn’t only want to love me, He wants me to love Him back. That’s what relationship is all about. I’m not His ipad, or His Rocher. In fact he’s my Rock. Love’s a two way street. And without this mutual love and respect for each other’s free will (God ordained it that way) God’s whole plan of salvation – the Son taking on flesh, suffering, dying, and so on for me, who was, before I made the right decision, deadish in sin – would be pointless. Now, perhaps you’ll understand what Paul is going on about in that passage from Ephesians that you Calvinists love to quote. Come read it slowly with me and you will see that you’re not a pathetic dead ipad that only springs to life (lachaim) when God presses your belly-button; you would say “quickens you unto life.” Hang on a mo. Let me find the Bible app. Wow, there you go; quick, no fuss. I loooove my ipad 3 – reminds me of the trinity:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 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—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of humanity. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Calvinist: When we read, ”But God, being rich in mercy…,” it makes me think that we don’t only need to be saved by God, but saved from God. From what? His wrath; otherwise what does God’s mercy mean? The from, therefore, is pivotal to salvation. So, we first have to be saved from God’s wrath before He can bless us in his Beloved (His Son, Jesus, Ephesians 1:6) and when God does so, we also become the beloved of the Father exactly in the same way that Jesus is beloved of his Father: “…that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me”(John 17:23). You know, that word “dead” in the passage bothers me, for if you’re merely deadish, why does the passage say ”dead.’ In Hebrew we would say you’re a dead ISH, a dead MAN. And dead men don’t even blink (as I was afraid to do at your ipad). So, what kind of dead ISH – and dead ISHA (woman) – is able to decide to be raised from death and be born again? A dead ISH (man), ISHA (woman)? A Jewish zombie? Eish! Eisha!

On passivity, mood and free will in Christian regeneration: With a little help from Glen Miller and Little Richard.

In Walking backwards to the Cross: The Passivity and Suffering of the Passion of Christ, I examined the meaning of the “Passion of Christ.” The heart of the “Passion” lies in its historical (etymological) meaning. “Passion” comes from the Latin root passio “to render,” “submit” “be passive.” So, the ground of Jesus’ Passion was his submission to causes that deprived him of his freedom and well-being. Jesus’ passivity, however, was not the passivity of resignation: “Oh well, I’ll have to do what my Father commands me to do; come to earth, suffer and die for sinners.” Not at all. The Father’s will is also the Son’s will, is also the Holy Spirit’s will. It was the Tri-une God’s will that the Son should take on flesh to give his life to “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages (Revelation 7:9).

“…though he was in the form of God, (he) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

What was the main reason why the Apostle Paul wrote Philippians 2:6-8 above? The main reason lies in the preceding verse, Philippians 2:5): “ Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself …”

So, the Christian is admonished to diminish himself. To do so, he has give up some of his rights, he has to curtail his freedom, as Jesus did. In other words, every Christian must suffer (undergo) his own “passion” (submission).

We see that there is both an active and a passive element to the “passion” (submission).

I would like to discuss now the following question that a Roman Catholic asked me in a comment on “Walking backwards to the Cross: Passivity and Suffering in the Passion of Christ.”

“I am at the moment curious to know how do you act ‘passively’ in your being protestant/Calvinist, in your being part of your church?”

Back of that question lies, I suggest, the view that Calvinism teaches that we have no free will. That, of course, is not true, but no matter how much you try and explain to an Arminian (someone who maintains that we have to co-operate with God in our regeneration), they don’t get it. And I have tried in every which way in a clutch of essays so far – this one is my 17th – to  disabuse the Arminian, but to no avail and much travail  (Calvinism and Arminianism). The etymological meaning of essay is “try,” hence the French essayer “to try.” Try, try, try again.

Here is the Roman Catholic’s question again together with related question in her follow-up comment, followed by my reply:

Questions: “How do you act ‘passively’ in your being protestant/Calvinist, in your being part of your church? And “You have yet not answered my question about how you are in a ‘passive’ mood in your denomination.”

My reply:

Your oxymoronic question: how do you act (tee hee) ‘passively’ in your being protestant/Calvinist, in your being part of your church? And your further comment: You have yet not answered my question about how you are in a ‘passive’ mood in your denomination.

There is the passive “mood” in grammar and being in a passive mood as in Glen Miller’s “ïn the mood;” 

Grammar: Active mood: “Christ saves me.” Passive mood “I am saved by Christ.”

Our issue, of course, is not the grammatical mood because in both the active and the passive mood, the agent and recipient of the action is the same. In my example, it is Christ who is the active party in both the active mood and the passive mood: He gives the faith; I receive it.

The question is: is my will passive in the reception of this faith. Not at all. I actively accept the faith that Christ has gifted to me. But I can only will (move my heart) to accept once – as Christ says – Christ has made me free. So I was passive (indeed dead) before God regenerated me and then (logically, not chronologically) gave me faith (Ephesians 2:1-3), but once I was made alive, I accepted (received actively) with joy – as did the last sower in the parable of the sowers – the faith that God planted in my regenerated soul And that’s Calvinism AND the biblical view.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:44. If you are drawn, you come; if you come, you WILL be raised on the last day.

Here is a bit from my “Anthony Flew and CS Lewis come to God.”

Whether one is forcefully persuaded, as in Flew or “gives in” as in Lewis, they both, in Lewis’ words, were “given a free choice. I could open the door or keep it shut. I chose to open.”

Brothers Lewis and Lazarus have been dead and buried for four days, and stinketh by now. Jesus says “Lazarus and Lewis come forth!” Lazarus exercises his atrophied muscles, rolls off the slab, staggers erect and stumbles out the entrance of the opened tomb. Lewis exercises his free choice to rise from the dead, get off the slab and move to the closed door. But look, the door is already open. I could’ve done that myself, says Lewis, but thanks for the gracious help.

As Lewis didn’t believe in the inerrancy of scripture, it would have been hard for me to appeal to what Jesus says in John 6:44:

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Like a good Arminian, he believes that Jesus is knocking at the door of his will, and pleading: “Let me in, let me in, please, I beseech you.” I’m reminded of Little Richard’s Keep a nockin’ but you can’t come in…come tomorrow night and try again.” One of the comments on that song was “Everything anyone ever needs toknow about rock and roll is in this song.” And everything that is wrong with Arminianism is in their interpretation of “I stand at the door and knock” (Revelation 3:20).

What does John 6:44 really mean? It means that God enables a sinner to come to him., which does not mean come as far as the moment of decision (shall I or shan’t I believe). No, “coming”means “believing,” And we need his grace to come to Him; that is indisputable.

Eureka; I’ve got an idea of how to get through to Muslims. Instead of talking of the “Passion of Christ,” let’s try “The Submission of Christ.” Actually that might not only open the door to Muslims it might also open the door to many a Christian’s understanding of the Passion of Christ – for the first time in his lethargic life.

Passivity and Suffering in the Passion of Christ

(See follow-on related post On passivity, mood and free will in Christian regeneration: With a little help from Glen Miller and Little Richard).

To focus on the physical suffering of our Lord is secondary to a much deeper meditation on His spiritual suffering. How, though, do you talk for five minutes, never mind a half an hour or more about such an intangible unearthly thing as spiritual suffering? Isn’t it much easier, and more experiential, to go the more palpable route by describing how Jesus’ body was broken for ”you.” For Jesus did indeed say, “Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

What is the Lord asking us to remember – on Good Friday? The graphics; the whipping, the flaying of skin and flesh, the blows with rods and fists, the one-inch razor sharp thorns (no, not three-inch ones)? Many a sermon has taken that emotive route, with great effect; “Jesus did all that for me.” The question is whether that route really gets to the root of Christ’s Passion? I suggest we are led astray by the term “passion.” In normal English usage, “passion” means “strong emotion” of short duration. Armed with this – as we shall see – faulty understanding of meaning of the term ‘The Passion,” the preacher may ask the congregation to try and feel some of the emotions Christ felt hanging on the cross. It’s the sort of meditation common in the Roman Catholic “Stations of the Cross.”

The heart of the “Passion” lies in its historical (etymological) meaning. “Passion” comes from the Latin root passio “to render.” So when we suffer, we have to submit to causes that deprive us of our freedom or well-being.

When I was at the 1993 Congress of Philosophy in Moscow, where I presented a paper, I attended a session where the French philosopher,Paul Ricoeur, “one of the most distinguished philosophers of the twentieth century,” (Stanford Encyclopedia) spoke on “suffering.” He spoke in English. I noticed, after he had used the word “suffering” several times, that his context nothing to to do with the English meaning of “suffering,” namely, extreme distress or pain. I studied the mesmerised faces of the audience. It seemed to me that even if he had talked backwards, they would’ve accepted it as Gospel. Hopefully the backward flip that I have done with my prospective sermon has faired a little better.

As I had some familiarity with Ricoeur’s philosophy, I was pretty sure that his “suffering” had nothing to do with extreme mental or physical pain but rather with one of his important philosophical themes, namelypassivity in actionSee END NOTE1). At question time, I asked him what he meant by “suffering.” The problem was, I said, that in French there exists the two words “subir” and “souffrir,” which originate from the same etymological root. “Souffrir” means “suffering”(extreme pain), while “subir” has the meaning, as in the King James Bible Version, of “suffer little children to come unto me,” (Mark 10:13), that is, let, or allow, them to come to me, or don’t take in action that will prevent them coming to me. So, when Ricoeur used the word “suffering,” he was thinking “subir” (passivity). And what was Ricoeur’s response? He meant “subir” (passivity) not “suffering.” He had committed a common error in French-English, English-French translation called “faux amis”(false friends). (For an example of a Yiddish-Hebrew “false friend” see When is a Hebrew youth not a Yiddishe fool?

To return to the Passion of Christ; its main meaning is the French “subir” – passivity, submission, undergo, be subjected to.

There are different degrees of passivity. For the Christian, the highest degree is when Jesus had reached his lowest point – in the garden of Gethsemane: “falling with his face to the ground, he prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’” (Matthew, 26:39). This leads on to he more evident events in his Passion.

What kind of suffering (passivity) must it have taken to submit to not only the brutal onslaught of men but to the crushing anguish of being torn from the bosom of his Father. How does one begin to grapple with such a mysterium tremendum? (See Rudolph Otto’s “The Idea of the Holy”). Human wisdom is useless. Understanding has to be granted from above, as does everything that is the Gospel is granted from above. To see even darkly into this holy “mystery,” one has to have the same vantage point as Christ; looking from above. He always was from above; we, if he has drawn us to him, has also drawn us up above, into heavenly places. We’re seated there now, yet still suffering in this world. Every Christian knows when he is suffering, but few realise they’re doing so in heavenly places; which makes all the difference to one’s attitude to towards that suffering.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:3-10).

A very important point. Just because Christ is passive in his Passion, this does not mean that he is helpless. Not at all; He is deeply involved. The deepest aspect of this involvement is his voluntary emptying of Himself (Philippians 2:5-10).

Scripture (the words) is not the revelation itself. “Revelation”is when the Holy Spirit of God reveals to you the meaning of the words. This meaning is far deeper than the linguistic meaning. The Passion begins more or less when Jesus is led “from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters (John 18:28) and ends in his Death with, “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30). The Passion is one of those moments, but of course, a pivotal one.

I ask the question again: What is Jesus really asking us to remember? After all, there were thousands that suffered a more barbarous and excruciating death. It is this: He suffered the full wrath of His Father. All the horror of sin was concentrated in those few hours. But worse; He was also cut off from the Father. To understand some of this requires to be borne on high by Christ, but first we have to be born again. Only then will I be able to see what the world or no psychology can see.

“It is finished.”

Now “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you (the Father), the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent”(John 17:1-3).

1“Ricoeur’s account of the way in which narrative represents the human world of acting (and, in its passive mode, suffering)” “Asserting Personal Capacities and Pleading for Mutual Recognition

Kluge Prize Winner 2004 – Paul Ricoeur Acceptance speech of Paul Ricoeur – December 2004

“I identify myself by my capacities, by what I can do. The individual designates himself as a capable human being—and, we must add, as a suffering human being, to underscore the vulnerability of the human condition.”

The Nature of Man: the Will and the Fall of Adam and his children

Can you prove that man is not a fallen creature? Sure, say many Christians. For starters, they say, here you are:

Man sins despite his upright nature – Eccl. 7:29

He is created in Gods image Gen. 9:6, I Cor. 11:7, James 3:9

Every sinner, they say, is the author of his own moral depravity. He becomes a sinner after he reaches the age of accountability Isaiah 7:16, Deut. 1:39, Rom. 2:15, Rom. 5:14, Rom. 9:11. And surely this verse clinches the fistful of previous verses: “Gods law is written in our hearts” (Rom. 2: 14,15).

There you are: man has a good nature and only becomes bad when he reaches the age of rotten reason, for as we read in Romans 9:11 – “though they (Jacob and Esau) 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.”

Don’t you see that if Jacob and Esau had not done anything bad – how could they, they hadn’t yet been born? – this surely means that they couldn’t have been bad (in their nature) before they became accountable (reached the age of reason – 7 years old?). If this is true, it must also mean that before they became accountable they also couldn’t have been good (in their nature); they were morally neuter(ed), which of course implies that the image of God that they were had no good in it. We know, of course, that as Adam and Eve before the Fall did not know the difference between good and evil and was only to know the distinction after eating of the tree of good and evil:

“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV).

Before the Fall, Adam and Eve – in their ignorance of the distinction between good and evil (of what it meant to be naked, as an example of this ignorance) – were a image of God What does the Bible mean by man being created in the image, in the likeness of God? What is certain – if we accept that God is Spirit (of course, when the Word was made flesh,the picture changes) – is that man is composite of spirit and flesh, while God is pure Spirit. What is important is that Genesis 1:26 does not specify what it means by man as the “image of God.” If, however, we examine the rest of scripture, the following human attributes emerge, which man shares with God: creativity, power to reason, power to make decisions, moral conscience and personal relationships. These are called the communicable attributes of God. The attributes that God does not share with man are God’s incommunicable attributes, for example, his omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (all-powerful) and eternality (no beginning), immutability (unchanging). (What does “man is the image of God” mean?).

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, sin shattered the image of God, and ever since crackpots abound. If this is so, what do we make of this biblical verse (quoted at the beginning), which many Christians use as proof against the doctrine of the radical corruption of man’s nature, namely “Man sins despite his upright nature?(Eccl. 7:29). Here is the King James Version: “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” KJV

In the above verse, the Hebrew word for “man” is ADAM אָדָם, and the Hebrew word for “upright” is YASHAR יָשָׁר “straight

עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאָדָם יָשָׁר וְהֵמָּה בִקְשׁוּ חִשְּׁבֹנֹות רַבִּֽים׃ …

(…asah ha-elohim et ha-adam yashar ve-heima vikshoo chishvonot rabim).

[the ch in chishvonot has the Scottish guttural sound as in “loch”]

The meaning is not that all descendents of Adam (the first man) are upright, but that Adam alone was upright until his progeny (following his fatal act of disobedience) sought out and continue to seek out many schemes/inventions.

So when we read “… in the image of God made he man” and “With it (the tongue) we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God (James 3:9), the “image/likeness” here is indeed of God, but – this is crucial for an understanding of the plan of redemption – it is a broken. What is the Gospel if not God’s plan to 1. restore the original image of Adam before he fell,and much more, namely, to make of this restored image (among those he has predestined from every nation and tongue according to his purpose) a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) that God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3)

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11)

So, to maintain that because a child below the age of accountability has a pure nature (and using as support that he is an image of God) is inimical to the Gospel because it denies (as Judaism does) “Original sin,” and thus I denies the fall of all human beings, who because of the fall, have been born with a corrupted nature, or damaged image of God. In such a view, Romans 9 cannot be understood. Neither can all the other verses be understood that state clearly that the will of man plays no role in salvation except to accept what Christ has already given him (by making him free by raising him from spiritual death.

Once you deny the Fall of all humans in Adam, you have made the journey to Arminianism (man makes the final decision about his salvation) certain. You’re also well on the road to universalism (“Love wins.” Everybody including the devil goes to heaven. Yet there are many Arminians who do believe in the “radical corruption” caused by the Fall. They have a more difficult time reconciling their corrupt nature (it does not want to seek God) and their “free will” (that might want to seek God).

What does sin “nature” mean? Lewis Johnson explains (I have transcribed this from one of his mp3 messages):

“One of the reasons why people have such a shallow view of sin is because they have not been taught to think rightly about sin. If you ask a man whether he is a sinner, he understands you to mean that he is a great flagrant outbreaking transgressor against the principles of morality that are found in the Bible. If you tell him that he is a great sinner in the sight of God, he thinks you are accusing him of being a blasphemer or a perjurer or a thief, an adulterer or a murderer. But without any of these forms of outbreaking forms of sin there may be a deep and damning hatred of the word of God in that man’s heart.”

But we must go deeper. Why do we hate the word of God? Because of unbelief. Every sin is a failure to respond to the word of God. This is clear in the Tanach (Older Testament) as it is clear in the Newer Testament, where God’s word is manifested through another (single) man, the second (and last Adam), Jesus the Christ, or if you prefer the Hebrew, Yeshua HaMashiach.

In much of Judaism, sin is no more than making a mistake, or missing the mark. Many Christians are not any closer than Jews to the mark when it comes to the seriousness of sin; for example, Helmut Thielicke (and Philip Yancey, who quotes Thielicke approvingly in his “What is so amazing about Grace,” Zondervan, 1997, p. 175):

“When Jesus loved a guilt-laden person and helped him, he saw in him an erring child of God. He saw in him a human being whom his Father loved and grieved over because he was going wrong. He saw him as God originally designed and meant him to be, and therefore he saw through the surface layer of grime and dirt to the real man underneath” (Helmut Thielicke, “Christ and the meaning of life,” Grand Rapids, Baker, 1975, p. 41).

An important question to address in the above paragraph is: “What is the attitude of a “guilt-laden” person toward God. Does it follow that if you feel guilt that you feel more than mere remorse, that you feel repentance? I don’t think so. “Guilt” is the human condition; but, so is pride. Guilt – except in rare conditions such as psychopathy – begets remorse: “I feel (really and honestly bad about this or that”. But repentance is a different mental state altogether, namely, its about longing for forgiveness and falling on your knees before a holy God and pleading for forgiveness. “Woe is me, for I am undone” (Isaiah, 6:5).

When Thielicke speaks of a “person”, and the “man underneath”, he seems to be talking about anybody who feels guilt, which is the whole human race (except possibly psychopaths, and even there we are not sure what they feel); and there lies the problem with Thielicke’s portrait of sinful man.

Thielicke’s Jesus and Thielicke’s human being are not the Jesus and human being described in the Bible. The Bible says the opposite: Jesus did not see “through the surface layer of grime and dirt to the real man underneath,” because the real man underneath was not only superficially grimy, he was filthy. The “real man” of the Bible is totally depraved in his very nature. Everything in the Bible glorifies God and abases man. God saves men and women not because deep down they are good, but in spite of the fact that deep down they are evil. He chooses to save them – for one reason only: because He wants to. The natural man despises such a God. Many professing Christians do so as well. But that is the God of the Bible. God floods the whole Bible – but not everyone -with mercy, and “I will show mercy to whom I will” (Romans 9:15), and its got nothing to do with you or me. (Why do you call me good).

The upshot is that every one has a shot nature, and,therefore no one is upright – right up there – to merit God’s mercy. All are condemned. Here’s a hard one: God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy.

And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (Exodus 33:19).

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.”

Whoever the Father draws, therefore, will be raised without fail, and thus this does not depend on the will of man but on God. Once saved (born again) always saved. You can only be born again once.

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.

To emphasise his point John repeats the idea using the parallel of “flesh” and “man.” So John (the Holy Spirit through John) wants to spell it out. Unless God brings light, all you’ll get out of this spell is a smell.

The above two texts from John are not rocket science. This is also true of most of the Bible. The crucial thing is that these two texts are, among others such as Romans 9, pivotal texts around which the whole salvation process rotates. Those who are born again are not born as a result of a decision they make. There is, of course, mystery here, but only in the sense of mysterium “secret.” What the Bible says is clear; why it says what it does is often not clear. But that should also be perfectly understandable ’cause that’s the nature of being human; an imperfect nature – from conception, born in sin, yet wonderfully and fearfully made.

Arminians (God is knocking and knocking at everybody’s door asking them whether they want him) think that only an evil God would “destroy” our free will. But God doesn’t destroy one’s ability to do what one wants. The issue is that what man wants is not God (of the Bible). The objection is that God chooses to save some and not others. It’s not fair. But!

Romans 9:14-23
“What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, (will and run mean the same. Here again as in John 1:13, there is reiteration for emphasis) but of God that sheweth mercy… hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.”

“Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.”

Th Arminian will never (wills never to) accept that anybody could be a “vessel fitted for destruction.” so he tries – which requires a massive mental contortion – to wriggle out of this one. Here’s the nub of the issue:

All vessels, without exception, are – because they are radically corrupt – fit for destruction, but some, through God’s mercy, are shown the riches of his glory. Others, in contrast, are “fitted” (that is, left in their state of corruption) for destruction. Romans 9 is clear and thus we do not require much mental energy to understand it. Is it easy or difficult to understand? What is difficult is not the plain words on the page but why God would act so “arbitrarily.” If, though, you ask why God would act in a such an “arbitrary” way, you’re merely using the form of a question to express what you have already decided to be the answer, namely, “God acts in an arbitrary way.”

What about other verses in the Bible that seem to contradict “it’s not he who wills…runs?”
I suggest that with the solid foundation of “it’s not he who wills” and other verses such as the two verses from John above (on the non-role of the human will in salvation) it is not hard to understand (with the renewed mind) how other parts of the Bible are able to harmonise with these pivotal “it’s not he who wills” verses; for example:

Romans 10

“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!” -Rom 10:8-15.

The above tells us that God’s means for achieving his ends is send, preach, hear, call on God. The above does not tell us that those who call on God among all those who hear are enabled to do so because God chose them (first) and thus made them free. “I chose you, you didn’t choose me (first).” This freedom is not the freedom (will)  of man/the flesh, of an unregenerate heart, but of the heart that has been “splashed” (as you vividly described it) with eternal life.

There is far less “mystery” in God’s word when studied with a regenerated mind. Much in the Apostle Paul, because he was teaching, relied on meticulous thought, that is, theology. Without theology (which relies much on our brains (hence “ology”), you may end up with, “give me less doctrine and more Jesus,”  less noggin and more snoggin’.

Isaiah 46:9-10. That’s why you need a (respectful and reverential) kick in your Arminian pants

 

One of the most controversial doctrines in Christianity is the role of a person’s will in coming to salvation. I am one of those who believe that the unregenerate will should be rebaptised total swill. In other word’s I’m a Calvinist. The very mention of Calvin sends Arminians (who are the bulk of Christians) and Jews into a tizz; for different reasons. The Arminian accuses Calvin of turning people into robots; the Jew accuses him of being horrible to Jews.

 

There is one passage in the Bible that should settle this matter of “free” will – but won’t.

 

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.” Do you really believe that God gets a kick out of failure? Yep, that’s what you must think BUT  will not to.

 

English: Jacobus Arminius

English: Jacobus Arminius (Photo credit: Wikipedia) That’s why you need a kick in your Arminian pants.

 

Freedom of the will, regeneration and faith: D.C. Carson’s “It’s up to you.”

I was discussing with a Christian friend the songs he sings in church, songs such as “At the foot of the cross,” (Worship and Wordship: What songs shall we sing in Church?).

In these songs, I described the radical contrast between monergism (regeneration and justification are totally of God) and synergism (regeneration and justification involve cooperation between man and God). Synergism is the common view among professing Christians, whereas the monergistic position belongs to Reformed (of the Reformation) Christianity.

The synergistic position will naturally receive more sympathy with the world for whom the freedom to choose one’s beliefs is what makes us human.

If, as the monergist claims, regeneration (born again) and justification (made right with God), are all of God, then this, argues the synergist, would mean that a person is unable to come freely to God, unable to freely accept Him. This inference is not biblically sound. The New Testament teaches that a battle rages between the natural self (the “flesh”) and the “new creature” in Christ. Every born-again person does indeed accept Christ, but he can only do so after his fallen will has been resurrected (“quickened” – Ephesians 2:1-3). In other words, only when the effects of the Fall are reversed (through a unilateral divine act of regeneration), only then will a sinner, as Jesus said, become free to know the truth (not all truth, of course), only then will he become free to believe/accept the truth.

D.C. Carson. In his “Christianity: Why it’s important and how to live it” says (discussing the difficult notion of the Trinity):

“It’s up to us to welcome him (God), even if he’s difficult to explain.”

So,  “it’s up to us,” –   it’s our decision.” Do you want Jesus? No one’s forcing you now. It’s up to you, ’cause God is so high up that he’s left it up to you down here.

Here’s a prayer from a monergist friend: We pray that he will surrender his life to You.” So, if you surrender (hand/render over) your life, God will remove your stony heart that makes it impossible for you to surrender in the first place. So, like Carson, he fluffs it. The bothersome thing, though, is that he doesn’t see any difference (theological or linguistic) between “surrendering” (handing your life over) to Jesus and “accepting” Jesus.

I was praying recently with a synergist relative who prayed: “Please send the Holy Spirit to them.” After the prayer, I asked, “don’t you believe that the Holy Spirit is hammering on everybody’s door begging to be let in (a synergistic interpretation of ‘I stand at the door and knock’) but in your prayer you ask God to send the Holy Spirit to them?” My relative turned on me: “the problem with you is you walk around everywhere with your red pen; you lack the social graces.” The thing is biblical grace can be so unsocial, so unkind, so mean, so divisive, so judgmental.

“I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” Unfair? “Who are you to talk back to God?” (Romans 9). Every synergist is a synergist on their feet and a monergist on their knees.

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

Make your mind up; it’s up to you. Or is it?

A while later.  Now D.C. has really gone and upset the apple cart. I returned to reading further in his book when I came across this degenerate-looking sentence:

“Regeneration is the process triggered by our faith where the Holy Spirit works to reconfigure us from the core so we can rightly love God and show His importance to the world around us.”

Carson has it back to front; faith does not trigger regeneration. Hw’s put the regenerative horse before (that is, behind!) the faith cart. For us monergists/Calvinists, it is regeneration that triggers faith, for  the dead have no triggers  of faith. Or to return to my horse ‘n cart, the horse of regeneration drags the motionless dead cart to life. “He has quickened you (brought you to life)” (Ephesians 2). Only then do you get faith, which is the second part of God’s gift after regeneration.