Thursday, January 31, 2008
I would like to get some opinions on the following two quotes by James White. The first comes from his debate with Dave Hunt and the second comes from his website. Maybe I am wrong, but I detect a bit of inconsistency here. It seems to me that he is quite comfortable using virtually the same tactics he rebukes Dave Hunt for in Debating Calvinism.
Am I reading this wrong? I know that Mr. White often plays the misrepresentation card so I want to be cautious here. That is why I am asking what you think.
Here is Mr. White on Dave Hunt comparing Calvinism to Roman Catholicism via Augustine:
"Hunt’s entire presentation is an attempt to poison the well through poor argumentation. He is saying:
1. Augustine was Roman Catholic.
2. Calvin cited heavily from Augustine and respected him.
3. Therefore, Calvinism is suspect by association with Catholicism through Augustine."
[Debating Calvinism, pg. 244]
Below is a post from Alpha and Omega with a few observations of mine concerning White's comments:
The Arminian01/05/2004 - James White
"A fine young fellow that I've been seeing a lot of lately (has something to do with my lovely daughter, I do believe) showed me a periodical titled "The Arminian." I was first amazed that there are still folks left on planet earth that willingly, gladly, without a word of remonstrance, accept the name of themselves. "
Does Mr. White really feel this way? Does he think it incredible that there are people who would still call themselves Arminians today?
"But what was far more interesting was the fact that there was an article in it by Steve Witzki written against "eternal security." You can see the article Here. Right at the beginning you will find the author quoting James Akin, staff apologist for Catholic Answers, from the debate notes he posted on his website from our radio debate from many years ago. This is the same debate where Akin misidentified various elements of the Greek language, as we documented in a previous Dividing Line broadcast."
Notice how James White doesn’t say anything about the argument Steve Witzki was making regarding the total lack of historical precedence for the Calvinistic understanding of perseverance. He doesn’t deny that Calvin invented a doctrine that was unheard of prior to Calvin himself. Instead, he tries to undermine Akin’s credibility by pointing out that he made some mistakes with Greek grammar.
"What was so strange is that this Arminian writer seemingly has no problem borrowing from a Roman Catholic when he is arguing that church history stands opposed to a belief in the perfection of the work of Christ."
The reason Steve Witzki references James Akin is because Akin did considerable research looking into the origin of the doctrine. This research included calling numerous Calvinist Seminaries and speaking with Calvinist professors asking them if anyone taught this doctrine prior to Calvin. The answer was always “No”. This is the point that Mr. White should have addressed in this article, and not the issue of any blunders on Akin’s part concerning the Greek language. Oh, and BTW, the belief in perseverance from a synergistic perspective is in no way analogous to opposition to "a belief in the perfection of the work of Christ".
"Of course, would the author likewise follow Akin's historical arguments on such topics as the Mass, purgatory, or the Marian dogmas? We think not."
Oh good, so Mr. White gives Mr. Witzki a little credit.
"But for those who get all upset when I point out the confluence of Arminianism and Roman Catholicism (based upon the centrality of synergism to both systems), please take up your complaint with Mr. Witzki."
And what exactly was the point of all this? Wasn’t it to cast doubt on Arminianism by pointing out how it is similar to Catholicism? Does it matter that Arminianism and Catholicism have similar synergistic views of salvation? Does it matter that James White agrees with Roman Catholics on the doctrine of the Trinity? Maybe he will say that the belief in the Trinity predates the RCC, and he would be quite right about that. It is just as true that a belief in synergism predates the RCC as well, which was one of Witzki’s main points. What does not predate the RCC or John Calvin is the Calvinistic understanding of Perseverance, and this was Steve’s and Jimmy Atkin’s main point. So just what have we learned from Mr. White? Could someone please explain?
How about this:
1. James Atkin is a Roman Catholic.
2. Arminian Steve Witzki cited James Atkin.
3. Therefore, Arminianism is suspect by association with Catholicism through James Atkin.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Monday, January 28, 2008
Oh, and I didn't forget about a certain visitor who was wondering what my thoughts were regarding Alcohol. I'll get to that too. Thanks for being patient.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
His post consists of trying to show that the Calvinist position in no way renders God the author of sin. As with most Calvinists, when it comes to this difficult task, he reverts to language that only makes sense in the framework of libertarian freewill (e.g. the language of "permission").
The following quote from Mr. Murrell demonstrates this lapse:
"While God is not the author of sin, He is the permitter of sin in such a manner for His wise, holy, and most excellent end."
Any Arminian could heartily agree with this statement, but such a statement is nonsensical with reference to determinism. I left a comment telling Mr. Murrell that I found his comments to be so consistent with Arminianism that I would, with a few minor exceptions, be willing to claim them as my own. I also pointed out that they are in no way compatible [pardon the pun] with his compatibilism. When I tried to submit my comments his blog informed me that I had used too many "characters". Apparently Mr. Murrell is not interested in any kind of meaningful interaction. Below is the comment I left which was rejected because it was too long:
I want to clarify something and make a few quick points. I wrote the post you are referring to. The context of that post is important. It was in response to some Calvinists at my blog trying to say that Arminians, to be consistent, must be Open theists. You can see how that conversation developed in the combox of this post:
I do want to say, though, that I would be comfortable affirming almost all of what you have said here as an Arminian. However, I believe your use of "permission", etc. is incompatible with determinism and implies libertarian free will, which was kind of my point. Permission makes no sense in a deterministic paradigm, compatibilism included.
Thanks for directing your readers to my blog.
Now, imagine if I had wanted to exegetically engage his list of proof texts! That would be pretty hard considering the comments I left above were deemed too long for his combox. I then left a shorter message telling him that I would be addressing his comments at AP. Those comments never appeared since all comments must first be approved by him.
So I invite Mr. Murrell to make free use of my combox if he likes. I will not restrict the number of characters he can use. Maybe he will take the time to engage the following questions I posed here without lapsing into the language of libertarian free will:
1) How do you make sense of regrets if you do not have the power of contrary choice? Why does your conscience bother you when you sin, if you could not have avoided that sin?
2) If God causes all things, then how can you claim that God does not cause sin?
3) Where did the first impulse to sin come from in both Satan and Adam?
Note: Appeals to mystery are inadmissible. Appeals to "second" causes, etc. must be explained in such a way that they actually get God off the hook for causing sin. It does not help to say that we choose according to our desires, and therefore God is not responsible. If God causes all things, then He also causes our desires. If God is the only true actor in the universe, then all creatures are but passive instruments. If we are but passive creatures with no power of self-determination, then all our actions must be directly attributed to God.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Which theologian are you?
created with QuizFarm.com
|You scored as Karl Barth|
The daddy of 20th Century theology. You perceive liberal theology to be a disaster and so you insist that the revelation of Christ, not human experience, should be the starting point for all theology.
Friday, January 18, 2008
1. Was your will free from Satan's control, yes or no?
2. Was your will free from sin's control, yes or no?
3. Is God sovereign & in control over humans' wills including yours, no or yes?
Yep. Though what they draw from it isn't quite accurate:
Wow! Could God possibly make it any clearer that He controls our wills? What we're saying is: God is in control (of ALL things, even salvation.) He is sovereign (over ALL things, even salvation.) Most Christians acknowledge He's in control only in a general, vague sense. But, He tells us He's in control of every minute detail of His universe, even your decisions, and the number of hairs on your head.
God is sovereign, so He retains control of everything, but this does not mean that He exercises control over every aspect of the human will. Indeed scripture plainly declares that He does not.
And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. (Jeremiah 32:35)
In the Fall, Did Adam & His Offspring Lose Their Desire and Ability to Come to Christ?
4. After Adam and Eve sinned, did they move toward God, or hide from Him?
5. Did Adam initiate contact with God, or did God initiate contact with Adam?
God did, and still does.
6. As a fallen sinner, were you just spiritually sick, or spiritually dead?
The spiritually dead can't raise themselves. They must be raised by God.
7. Could you spiritually see the gospel, or were you spiritually blind?
Blind, unless allowed to see by grace.
8. Could you spiritually hear the gospel, or were you spiritually deaf?
Deaf, unless allowed to hear by grace.
9. When you were spiritually dead, blind, & deaf, did you desire & seek God, yes or no?
Nope, except when influenced by prevenient grace.
10. Are unbelievers not sheep because they don't believe, or do they not believe because they're not sheep?
Because they're not His sheep. Though what we define 'His sheep' as may differ. Calvinists see sheep as being those who are regenerated, Arminians/Synergists see the sheep as those taught by God (John 6:45) and therefore given by God to Christ.
11. When you were spiritually dead, deaf & blind, were you born again by your will, or God's will?
God's will of course. He then states,
How much of a part did you have in willing your own physical conception? None! Your parents conceived you by their own wills. As it is with physical birth, so it is with spiritual birth. You didn't ask to be birthed. The Father birthed you.
Which has nothing to do with the conditions God has placed upon the new birth, since having faith and being born from above are separate events.
Then, the question arises, "If fallen, dead, deaf, blind sinners can't come to Christ, then how do they come to Christ?"
Answer: Prevenient grace.
Does God give the new birth because they believed, or so that they can believe?
Because they believed and are in Christ.
In other words, is faith the cause of the new birth, or is the new birth the cause of faith?
Grace and hearing the word of God is the cause of faith, faith is the cause of being in Christ, being in Christ is the cause of the new birth.
To believe that fallen, dead, deaf, blind sinners repented and believed to be born again is like getting the cart before the horse.
Unless you factor in prevenient grace, in which case scripture makes it clear that regeneration prior to faith is completely backwards. Jesus made it clear that spiritual life doesn't come until people hear Him,
Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. (John 5:25)
Ben also wrote an excellent post on the subject of regeneration which addresses it in more detail. Continuing,
Logically, they must have first been spiritually born again, before they could repent and believe in Christ.
Unless prevenient grace is factored in.
12. Did God predestine your adoption & inheritance according to your will, or His will?
13. Did God choose you because you would believe, or so that you would believe?
"God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth" (2 Thes. 2:13)
So we would believe, but note that faith comes by hearing and receiving the word of God (Romans 10:17), which still implies conditionality.
14. Whose choice made the ultimate difference, the apostles' choice, or God's choice?
"You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit" (Jn. 15:16)
'Ultimate difference' is ill-defined here, and is worded to suggest that either man's or God's choice is the only true variable in producing the outcome. God making a choice does not prohibit a man from going against His will. So while it is true that we don't choose ourselves, we do have to comply with the word of God if we are to be saved. In other words, both choices are required for a positive outcome, making 'which one' questions erroneous. Kind of like asking, 'Which is more important for life: your heart or your blood?' I touch on this logical fallacy further when he employs it again below.
15. Whose will made Paul an apostle, his own will, or God's will?
16. Did God call you according to your purpose (will,) or His purpose?
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom (not "what") He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom. 8:28-29)
Here he attempts to exclude any and all human will from the salvation process. The difference lies in the fact that it was no purpose of ours that we are saved, but God's; receiving Christ does however involve the will. If someone makes you the offer of the century (or eternity) and you accept, does that render making such an offer your purpose somehow? Again Calvinists are forced to stretch definitions and logical concepts to ridiculous extremes to make their point. He also cites,
"who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began" (2 Tim. 1:9)
Presumably equating receiving Christ with a 'work' of the law. This of course is fallacious and does nothing for the Calvinist position.
17. Who opened your heart, you or God?
God, through His grace.
18. How many of the lost does God call/draw, all or only some?
Apparently all. Though the proof texts he presents are interesting, none of which indicate that He draws only some,
"Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." (Mt. 11:27)
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (Jn. 6:44)
"Moreover whom He predestined, these he also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified."(Rom. 8:30)
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. (John 12:32)
Which Ben also addresses in this post.
19. How many of those whom God calls/draws respond, some or all?
Some. Let's look at his proof texts here as well.
"And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." (Acts 13:48)
There is no indication that all who were called were appointed, for it is also written,
For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:14)
"whom He called, these He also justified" (Rom. 8:30)
This is spoken in the category of those whom He foreknew, and does not necessarily indicate that everyone who was called was justified, but those who were both foreknown and then called. He then quotes from Romans 11,
"concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." (Rom. 11:28-29)
And this has nothing to do with who responded. The context of this passage makes it clear that this is speaking of the offer of salvation to Israel, to which many as of yet do not respond.
20. Who did your repentance come from, you or God?
Granted by God, embraced by man.
21. Who did your faith come from, you or God?
Same as above.
22. Who made the difference in your decision for Christ, the evangelist or God?
"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase." (1 Cor. 3:6-7)
Though he doesn't define what 'the difference' is, I think we can safely agree that it is God.
23. Who made the difference in your decision for Christ, you or God?
Again, "the difference" is poorly defined, as the question is worded to force a dichotomy that either only you were ultimately responsible for deciding to follow Christ or only God was, effectively giving only the choices of 'Calvinism or Pelagianism.' God makes the difference in our decision in the fact that we could make no decision to follow Him apart from His grace; man makes the difference in that once God has bestowed grace upon him, he is free to receive or reject the gospel, which is biblically congruent and doesn't hit the unbiblical 'unlimited free will' or 'effectively no free will' pitfalls of Pelagianism or Calvinism. He offers a few proof texts, which we'll examine:
"that no flesh should glory in his presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus...that as is written, 'He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.'" (1 Cor. 1:29-31)
How can one 'glory' over accepting what is freely given? Calvinists can't really offer a reasonable explanation here.
"For who makes you differ? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Cor. 4:7)
It's God who makes us differ -- from the world. Actually, it backs up our case very well, for if all we did was receive what God offered, then there is no room for boasting.
"But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10)
We agree. Note our emphasis on prevenient grace.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Eph. 2:8-9)
If you made the difference in your decision for Christ, then you'd have reason to boast, wouldn't you?
Not in the slightest. My decision is worthy of no merit or praise, but was what was expected of me and is expected of all men. Christ's words in Luke 17:10 put following Him in perspective,
So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
Mr. Gibson closes with,
Many credit God for 99% of salvation, and themselves for the other 1% (their decision.) Will you give Him ALL the glory?
And here's the straw man that constitutes the core of Calvinist indoctrination. I already do give Him all the glory, for my fallen mind could have had not have believed apart from God's grace, and even if it could have, it would still not have saved me apart from God's gracious will in sending Christ die for my sins, therefore there can be no reason for bragging on my part, and all credit necessarily goes to God.
The ridiculousness of trying to stretch the decision to believe in Christ into a cause for 1% glory to man goes well beyond any semblance of credibility. That's like crediting the pardoned criminal with his own release because he agreed and walked out of the prison. There is no room for boasting there, and hence we can firmly say, "To God alone be all glory."
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
As I have stated before, I am not (at this time) dogmatic about views of atonement. I do, however, favor the penal satisfaction view which seems to be the view that Owen is describing as incompatible with Arminian soteriology. I reject any view that does not incorporate some form of substitution. Since I more or less hold to the view that Owen thinks incompatible with Arminianism, I thought it might be fun to take on his little "dilemma" (Owen's argument is in blue).
"To which I may add this dilemma to our Universalists --"
Of course Arminians are not Universalists in a strict sense. I hope that Owen wasn't trying to paint Arminians in a negative light with this comment. Jeff Paton seems to think he was.
"God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for,
1. either all the sins of all men,
2. or all the sins of some men,
3. or some sins of all men."
I like #1 which Owen thinks incompatible with Arminianism.
"If the LAST, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved; for if God entered into judgment with us, though it were with all mankind for one sin, no flesh should be justified in his sight: "If the LORD should mark iniquities, who should stand?" [Ps. cxxx.2] We might all go to cast all that we have "to the moles and to the bats, to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty." [Isa. ii. 20, 21]"
I agree. #3 is no good.
"If the SECOND, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world."
I disagree. #2 is incompatible with numerous Scriptures which must be made to undergo tortured exegesis to comport with this position. #2, therefore, is no good. Sorry John Owen.
"If the FIRST, why then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, "Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.""
That is a very good answer. Count me among those who would say that.
"But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not?"
If by "unbelief" Owen means to reject Christ, then yes, unbelief is a sin.
"If not, why should they be punished for it?"
If it is sin, like all sins, then they should be punished for it. I personally think that sinners being condemned for unbelief creates serious problems for Owen's Calvinism, but we will get to that in Part 2. For now I will agree and walk headlong into the "dilemma".
"If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not?"
This seems overly simplified, but I will concede that Christ suffered even for unbelief.
"If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins."
And now Owen sticks it to me, so to speak. What am I to do? If I say that Christ died for unbelief and believe that he died for all, then I must adopt universalism (real universalism, i.e. all will be saved). If I deny universalism, then I am stuck with a limited atonement. So, Owen points out below...
"Let them choose which part they will."
I think I will choose a third option. An option that I believe best comports with the Biblical data. I will affirm that atonement is provisional "in Christ". In other words, Christ's death made provision for all sin, yet only those who come to be in union with Christ partake of that provision. I believe this view is supported by numerous Scriptures. Below are a few of them (emphasis mine):
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us [believers] with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." Eph. 1:3
All spiritual blessings are found in Christ. I think this must include (if not be founded on) the benefits of the atonement. We find further evidence of this in Ephesians 1:7:
"In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace..."
I think this passage confirms that the benefits of the atonement are provisional "in Christ".
Look at Colossians 1:13 and 14:
"For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
Again we see that the benefits of the atonement are provisional in the "beloved Son".
So how does one come to be in union with Christ and therefore benefit from the redemption and forgiveness provided in Him?
"In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation- having believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise." Eph. 1:13
We come to be in union with Christ through faith.
As soon as we accept the Biblical teaching that forgiveness is provisional in Christ, Owen's "dilemma" amounts to nothing. Unbelief is atoned for, but only "in Christ". When we are placed in union with Christ by the Holy Spirit, through faith, our former "unbelief" is atoned for just as our other sins are atoned for. If we continue in unbelief, we cannot benefit from the forgiveness that is in Christ alone, and will therefore suffer condemnation. In other words, the moment we believe, our prior unbelief is forgiven, and not before. Since the atonement is provisional in Christ we can both affirm that He died for all and that only believers will benefit from this atonement. 1 Tim. 4:10 states this truth very well:
"For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men [provisional], especially of believers [conditional application]."
I think that this passage plainly teaches that the atonement is provided for all, while only believers will actually experience forgiveness on the condition of faith (which unites us with Christ and the benefits of His atonement).
Calvinists struggle to get around the implications of this passage. Some will suggest that the "all" has reference to the elect. That would reduce the verse to tautology as follows:
"...who is the Savior of all [elect men], especially of believers [the elect]."
Some reason that the "all" means simply "all people groups" or "all kinds of people". There is no contextual warrant for this interpretation and it amounts to little more than the interpretation we just dealt with above:
"...who is the Savior of the elect [among all kinds of people], especially of believers [the elect]."
Still others note that "God" has reference to the Father as Savior, rather than Christ, as if this changes things. Does not the Father save through Christ?
Perhaps a last attempt should be added. Some Calvinists posit that "Savior" should be understood in a sense in which all of mankind, including the reprobates, enjoy certain divine blessings. Again, there is no contextual reason for assigning some other meaning to "Savior" other than the way Paul always uses the term in connection with God. This is truly a desperate attempt to avoid the Arminian implications of this text.
So, I think that we can safely conclude that Owen's dilemma poses no difficulty at all for Arminians who hold to both a universal and penal satisfaction view of the atonement. All one has to do is realize that the atonement is provisional and applied only on the basis of faith union with Christ.
Owen, however, has some dilemmas of his own to account for in his #2 choice above. We will deal with those in Part 2.
Friday, January 11, 2008
When addressing Hebrews 10, we will also examine some of the objections raised by Wayne Grudem concerning the Arminian interpretation. Grudem argues forcefully in Still Sovereign [Schreiner and Ware] that the warnings in Hebrews are describing the falling away of unbelievers and not an apostasy of true believers. He focuses primarily on Heb. 6 and then gives a comparatively brief treatment of Heb. 10, along with the numerous other warning passages in Hebrews, due to conclusions he draws from Heb. 6 (especially verses 7-9). It is my contention that Heb. 10 is a far more challenging passage for the Calvinist view and that there are elements to the warning in Heb. 10 that shed significant light on how we should understand Heb. 6. For that reason, my treatment of Heb. 10 will also focus quite a bit on Heb. 6 and the conclusions of Wayne Grudem, who I believe has written probably the best defense of the Calvinist position.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
I was very pleased with the article on election and predestination. It is, quite frankly, the best short synopsis of the Arminian position that I have ever read. It takes the corporate election view which I have come to favor [for now anyway]; but I think that any Arminian would be able to agree with much of what the article says. It is so comprehensive and brief that I thought I would post it here as a great summary of the corporate election view. Despite my disagreement with the pre-trib position, I think the Life in the Spirit Study Bible is a very useful resource for Pentecostal Arminian believers.
Election. God’s choice of those who believe in Christ is an important teaching of the apostle Paul (see Ro 8:29-33; 9:6-26; 11:5, 7, 28; Col 3:12; 1 Th 1:4; 2 Th 2:13; Tit 1:1). Election (Gk eklego) refers to God choosing in Christ a people whom he destines to be holy and blameless in his sight (cf. 2 Th 2:13). Paul sees this election as expressing God’s initiative as the God of infinite love in giving us as finite creation every spiritual blessing through the redemptive work of his Son (1:3-5). Paul’s teaching about election involves the following truths:
(1) Election is Christocentric, i.e., election of humans occurs only in union with Jesus Christ. “He chose us in him” (Eph. 1:4; see 1:1, note). Jesus himself is first of all the elect of God. Concerning Jesus, God states, “Here is my servant whom I have chosen” (Mt 12:18; cf. Isa 42:1, 6; 1 Pet 2:4). Christ, as the elect, is the foundation of our election. Only in union with Christ do we become members of the elect (Eph 1:4, 6-7, 9-10, 12-13). No one is elect apart from union with Christ through faith.
(2) Election is “in him…through his blood” (Eph 1:7). God purposed before creation (Eph. 1:4) to form a people through Christ’s redemptive death on the cross. Thus election is grounded on Christ’s sacrificial death to save us from our sins (Ac 20:28; Ro 3:24-26).
(3) Election in Christ is primarily corporate, i.e., an election of a people (Eph 1:4-5, 7, 9). The elect are called “the body of Christ” (4:12), “my church” (Mt 16:18), “a people belonging to God” (1 Pe 2:9), and the “bride” of Christ (Rev 19:7). Therefore, election is corporate and embraces individual persons only as they identify and associate themselves with the body of Christ, the true church (Eph 1:22-23; see Robert Shank, Elect in the Son, [Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers]). This was true already of Israel in the OT (see Dt 29:18-21, note; 2Ki 21:14, note; see article on God’s Covenant with the Israelites, p. 298).
(4) The election to salvation and holiness of the body of Christ is always certain. But the certainty of election for individuals remains conditional on their personal living faith in Jesus Christ and perseverance in union with him. Paul demonstrates this as follows. (a) God’s eternal purpose for the church is that we should “be holy and blameless in his sight” (Eph 1:4). This refers both to forgiveness of sins (1:7) and to the church's purity as the bride of Christ. God’s elect people are being led by the Holy Spirit toward sanctification and holiness (see Ro 8:14; Gal. 5:16-25). The apostle repeatedly emphasizes this paramount purpose of God (see Eph 2:10; 3:14-19; 4:1-3, 13-24; 5:1-18). (b) Fulfillment of this purpose for the corporate church is certain: Christ will “present her to himself as a radiant church…holy and blameless” (Eph 5:27). (c) Fulfillment of this purpose for individuals in the church is conditional. Christ will present us “holy and blameless in his sight” (Eph 1:4) only if we continue in the faith. Paul states this clearly: Christ will “present you holy in his sight without blemish…if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel” (Col 1:22-23).
(5) Election to salvation in Christ is offered to all (Jn 3:16-17; 1Ti 2:4-6; Tit 2:11; Heb 2:9) but becomes actual for particular persons contingent on their repentance and faith as they accept God’s gift of salvation in Christ (Eph 2:8; 3:17; cf. Ac 20:21; Ro 1:16; 4:16). At the point of faith, the believer is incorporated into Christ’s elect body (the church) by the Holy Spirit (1 Co 12:13), thereby becoming one of the elect. Thus, there is both God’s initiative and our response in election (see Ro 8:29, note; 2 Pet 1:1-11).
Predestination. Predestination (Gk prooizo) means “to decide beforehand” and applies to God’s purposes comprehended in election. Election is God’s choice “in Christ” of a people (the true church) for himself. Predestination comprehends what will happen to God’s people (all genuine believers in Christ).
(1) God predestines his elect to be: (a) called (Rom. 8:30); (b) justified (Ro 3:24, 8:30); (c) glorified (Ro 8:30); (d) conformed to the likeness of his Son (Ro 8:29); (e) holy and blameless (Eph 1:4); (f) adopted as God’s children (1:5); (g) redeemed (1:7); (h) recipients of an inheritance (1:14); (i) for the praise of his glory (Eph 1:2; 1 Pe 2:9); (j) recipients of the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13; Gal 3:14); and (k) created to do good works (Eph 2:10).
(2) Predestination, like election, refers to the corporate body of Christ (i.e., the true spiritual church), and comprehends individuals only in association with that body through a living faith in Jesus Christ (Eph 1:5, 7, 13; cf. Ac 2:38-41; 16:31).
Summary. Concerning election and predestination, we might use the analogy of a great ship on its way to heaven. The ship (the church) is chosen by God to be his very own vessel. Christ is the Captain and Pilot of this ship. All who desire to be a part of this elect ship and its Captain can do so through a living faith in Christ, by which they come on board the ship. As long as they are on the ship, in company with the ship’s Captain, they are among the elect. If they choose to abandon the ship and Captain, they cease to be part of the elect. Election is always only in union with the Captain and his ship. Predestination tells us about the ship’s destination and what God has prepared for those remaining on it. God invites everyone to come aboard the elect ship through faith in Jesus Christ. [Life in the Spirit Study Bible, pp. 1854, 1855]
I have not yet read all the articles but have found the articles: Individual Apostasy, Israel in God’s Plan of Salvation, and Regeneration to be faithful to the Arminian position and well written. If you are an Arminian who enjoys Study Bibles but has been frustrated by the lack of Study Bibles from and Arminian perspective, then I would highly recommend the Life in the Spirit Study Bible.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)
[Scene: The border of Canaan near the land of Midian, two Israelite men from the tribes led by Moses and a silent young woman all stand at a high point and look out over the promised land]
Zimri: Ah, finally on the border of the promised land!
Carmi: Yes, we've come a long ways.
Zimri: Now we get to enjoy the good part. Been quite a journey here, hasn't it?
Carmi: Indeed. We've known nothing but the desert our whole lives.
Zimri: Yeah, the was was pretty dangerous too, but God's been faithful to deliver us, even when we failed Him. Remember that time we all complained so much against Moses that God sent those vipers into the camp?
Carmi: All too well...
Zimri: But even then God's mercy was amazing; when Moses put up that bronze serpent, all we had to do was look at it and God cured us. It was awesome, all God asked was that I look up and acknowledge my need for His help, and He healed me.
Carmi: But, what you are in effect saying is that you cured yourself.
Zimri: Cured myself? What are you talking about?
Carmi: I'm saying that you hold a man-centered view of divine healing, and lack vital understanding as to how God cured us.
Zimri: Vital understanding?
Carmi: Yes, when God delivered those He wished to from the serpents, He did so all of His own power, with no inherent cooperation from those bitten. This important teaching is commonly called the doctrine of snakes.
Zimri: You lost me. How did I cure myself?
Carmi: Looking up at the snake, in your beliefs, is something you did, and therefore you caused your own cure.
Zimri: That seems to be a bit of a stretch. God was the one who gave the cure, and commanded Moses to put up the bronze serpent, all he told us to do was look at it and-
Carmi: But looking at it was a work, it was something that you did.
Zimri: Wait, now looking is work? Remind me not to wake up on the Sabbath.
Carmi: Since it was you who effected the condition, it was in essence you who effected the cure.
Zimri: So you're saying God just gave us the power to cure ourselves or something?
Carmi: Oh no, not at all. God had to revive you before you could look up at the snake at all.
Zimri: Revive me?
Carmi: Yes, you were actually already dead from your snake bite.
Zimri: Dead, like hyperbole 'dead?' Like a Genesis 20:3 'dead man?'
Carmi: No, literally dead.
Zimri: Like, "I am dead Horatio" dead?
Carmi: No, dead as in 'physically decomposing' dead, and therefore totally powerless to do anything but be a corpse.
Zimri: Uh, I don't recall this.
Carmi: Of course not, you were dead at the time.
Zimri: Oh right, right.
Carmi: And because you were already dead from your snake bite, you weren't capable of looking up at the snake, so you had to be brought back to life to do so.
Zimri: Well, I was certainly pretty delirious and weakened from the venom, so I have no problem buying that it was God who gave me strength to look up....
Carmi: No, no, God didn't merely give you strength to look at the snake, He irresistibly changed you so you would both be capable and irresistibly drawn to look up at the snake.
Zimri: Changed me?
Carmi: By reviving you of course.
Carmi: It's called the 'irresistible snake.' So you were literally dead and helpless, but God brought you back to life so you would be able and willing to look at the snake. See, it's written right here, "...and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived."
Zimri: Um, isn't that saying that the people who looked at the bronze serpent survived?
Carmi: No, it's saying that those who lived, or rather were brought to life, looked on the bronze serpent.
Zimri: That sounds a bit backwards. It seems that our living was contingent on looking at the bronze serpent, and I distinctly recall feeling the effects of the poison subside when I looked at it, not before.
Carmi: Your mistake is a common one, but your being revived, cured, and looking at the serpent all happened at the same instant in time, it's simply a logical necessity that your being revived came first. You have to study and think about it real hard for a long, long, long time before arriving at this important truth.
Zimri: I'm sure you do.
Carmi: Of course you being a Phinehasite wouldn't understand it.
Zimri: A what?
Carmi: A Phinehasite. Followers of the beliefs of Phinehas, you know, Aaron's grandkid - the priest.
Zimri: Oh, him.
Carmi: He holds to the heretical view that those bitten by the snakes weren't yet completely, physically dead, but merely had the sentence of death working in them. Phinehas is under the delusion that he wasn't irresistibly compelled to obey by being literally resurrected, but thinks that he somehow just 'cooperated' with God in performing the impossibly difficult task of looking up at the snake so that he could be healed! And since he believes that he had to make some kind of decision to look up (obviously a work meritorious beyond imagining), he is therefore robbing God of the glory in healing him! So anyone who believes that free will plays any role in divine healing is a Phinehasite.
Zimri: I barely know Phinehas, much less studied anything he wrote or said.
Carmi: Doesn't matter, you still fall into that category. If you don't believe in totally monergistic divine healing, then you're automatically a Phinehasite of some kind. Of course, Phinehasism is really just semi-Nimrodism, and everyone knows that the Phinehasism eventually leads to either spirit channeling or sun worship, as that's really what consistent Phinehasism amounts to....
Zimri: And I have no idea what you're talking about.
Carmi: Hopefully God will reveal it to you and save you from your Phinehasite blindness. In fact, here's a list of scrolls I recommend you read on the subject that will give you a better understanding of monergist divine healing and the Phinehasite error.
Zimri: So if God actually revived us so we could look at the serpent, then why did some people stay dead from the snake bites?
Carmi: Because God didn't want everyone to look at the snake. God only intended that certain people look at it.
Zimri: Really? I didn't get that indication at all.
Carmi: God's ways are very mysterious.
Zimri: Yeah, but Moses invited anyone who was bitten to look at it.
Carmi: Yes, that was the 'outward hiss' but not the 'effectual hiss.'
Zimri: The what?
Carmi: God only wanted certain people to be cured, so He made only a limited amount of antivenin,
Zimri: I wasn't told this.
Carmi: -then He chose certain people to be cured and let the rest die.
Zimri: Ah, so He chose them because He knew they'd hear and respond?
Carmi: No, He chose them from eternity past based on nothing whatsoever about them, then after they died from the snake bites, He revived the ones He chose so that they would both have the innate desire and the irresistible unction to perform the action of looking up at the bronze serpent, thereby receiving a dose of the limited supply of antivenin that He'd prepared beforehand.
Zimri: Where exactly are you getting all this?
Carmi: I...it's...it's so elementary, even a child could see it.
Zimri: But, didn't He say that anyone who was bitten could look and be cured?
Carmi: Oh He did, but that was God's "I don't really mean this, I just say stuff like this to relate to people" will talking. In God's "super-duper-secret really, really I actually mean this" will, He didn't really want everyone who was bitten to look at it, and hence wouldn't revive them, which is why the antivenin was limited.
Zimri: ....This seems like a somewhat overly complicated system of beliefs.
Carmi: Well it has to be true, otherwise you must logically have cured yourself.
Zimri: Hmmmm...I see. So since the antivenin is limited, then what if I get bitten by another viper? Could God not cure me?
Carmi: That's the best part. The fact that you were cured of your snake bite guarantees that you will make it into the promised land.
Carmi: Yes, it's like a divine seal of approval. To those who have been chosen and cured, God has unconditionally chosen to provide final entrance into the new land.
Zimri: I seem to recall Him listing some stuff we'd better not do, as well as what would happen if we disobeyed....
Carmi: Oh that's just something God's "I don't mean this" will says to goad you into living right. It's all up to His sovereign "super-duper-secret" will really.
Zimri: Hey, that kind of makes sense. I mean, He wouldn't have cured us if He'd wanted us to die in the desert.
Carmi: Exactly. While being brought to life again will certainly make you want to avoid future snake bites, there's no actual chance for you to fall short of entering, even should you run across every viper this side of the Jordan. You can rest in complete assurance that you will make it through.
Zimri: Oh wait, but I'm pretty sure I've seen a few of the people die who had previously been cured.
Carmi: They were never really cured. The belief that they were actually cured stems not from objective observation, but the influence of biased Phinehasite teachings.
Zimri: But they were, you know, walking around with no apparent problems.
Carmi: God provided them with a temporary means to give the illusion that they were alive and had been cured, so that we and even they thought that they were, but the fact that they have failed to make it to the promised land demonstrates that they were never truly cured.
Zimri: How could they think they were cured, or even move around at all if they were already dead?
Carmi: That- ...That's a mystery.
Zimri: So if someone might be walking around like they're perfectly healthy, but in reality still be poisoned, and dead no less, then isn't it possible that you or I might not really be cured as well?
Carmi: Technically, yes, but unlikely; and if you aren't truly cured there's nothing you can do about it anyway, so you really shouldn't waste time troubling yourself about such things.
Zimri: Wow, that's a relief. I was kind of worried about bringing this Midianite chick back to camp with me. If I didn't know for sure that God was going to preserve me, I'd be scared of what Phinehas might try and do.
Carmi: I for one find it hightly doubtful that he was ever cured in the first place.
Zimri: You're definitely right on that one. He is so man-centered. Come on Cozbi, let's get to the camp. I'll show you the Tabernacle.
Friday, January 4, 2008
I will not be quoting from Gordan in this post in order to shorten its length. If you are still interested in this exchange then I encourage you to read his latest response here to get the proper context for this post. I appreciate Gordan and all the guys at Reformed Mafia. They are passionate about Calvinism, but more importantly they are passionate about Jesus. I will only be addressing a few of his points below:
Regarding reductio ad absurdum:
Gordan spoke of real and genuine life in Christ beginning at an eternal decree. I mentioned that such a position was absurd and would amount to eternal regeneration of the elect. In his response, Gordan contends that he was positing this idea to demonstrate the absurdity of my own position. The problem is that it was never my position that the life of John 5 could refer to any kind of life. My argument was that it referred to the specific new life in Christ that includes and begins with regeneration when one comes to be in union with Him through faith. The person who was contending that the scope of life could go beyond what I was claiming for it was Gordan. In fact, that was his main argument and the comments concerning real and genuine life in Christ beginning at a decree of predestination was taking his position to an extreme and not my own. The only position, then, that Gordan reduced to absurdity with his comments was his own.
Now I think I understand what Gordan meant and said that I believed he misspoke. Gordan affirmed that he does not hold to a position of eternal regeneration, but that does not change the fact that the language he used says exactly that. If real life in Christ for the believer begins at an eternal decree, then we can only conclude that the believer has been regenerated from eternity. Gordan points us to Ephesians where Paul says that we were chosen in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world. This passage, however, does not help him for it does not teach that believers were actually in Christ prior to creation. It only teaches that God determined from eternity to elect believers in Christ. Election is in Christ and only believers come to be in Christ. Real and genuine life, however, does not begin until one believes and is sealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13). For Eph.1:4 to support Calvinism it must read “chosen to be in Him” but it does not. It can only refer to God’s eternal decree to elect believers in Christ. The only other option is to adopt the position that the elect were in Christ from before the foundation of the world, which would mean that the elect have always been alive in Christ, even prior to being born, which is plainly absurd and unscriptural.
Regarding the need for justification, and therefore faith, to precede life in Christ:
I stated that to assert that regeneration precedes faith is to have sinners attaining spiritual life prior to being justified. I explained that we would then have sinners having life prior to being forgiven on the merit of Christ’s blood. Gordan refers us to OT saints, saying that they were saved before there was any blood to apply. I agree that OT saints were saved prior to the cross, but they were still saved on the merits of the blood of the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world. Gordan would seem to agree. The point to remember, however, is that the OT saints were justified by faith (in a proleptic manner), and could not attain life until God made them righteous. By faith they drank of the Spiritual Rock that is Christ and attained life in Him.
Gordan raises an interesting point regarding John the Baptist being filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb. Union with Christ through faith is the God ordained principle for those who are old enough to exercise faith. Faith cannot be the condition of union with Christ for unborn and small children who lack the capacity for saving faith. Many Arminians and Calvinists believe that children are under grace prior to an age of conscious and deliberate rebellion (an age of accountability). If that is the case, then it is possible that this grace was applied to John in a proleptic sense to empower him for the unique ministry that God was preparing him for. The fact remains that for morally accountable adults the Scriptures clearly teach that one comes to be in union with Christ by faith and not before.
Regarding temporal order:
Gordan contends that part of my problem is that I am looking at this in a temporal sense. That is not the case. I am concerned with the logical order. That is the same thing that Calvinists are concerned with when discussing the eternal decrees. These decrees can have no temporal order, but they must have a logical order. This order is what separates infralapsarian Calvinists from supralapsarian Calvinists. Calvinists also generally have only logical order in mind when discussing the ordo salutis. That is the case with Arminians as well. I believe, with Gordan, that faith, justification, and regeneration happen instantaneously with regard to time. The logical order, however, is still significant. If it were not, then why is Gordan insisting that regeneration precedes faith? Our positions could be stated as follows:
Arminian: The moment one believes, he or she is regenerated.
Calvinist: The moment one is regenerated, he or she believes.
Gordan tells me that there is no causation in the text of John 5:40. He tells us that we are reading into the text by saying that “coming” in faith precedes having “life”. I agree that there is no causation there because I do not believe that faith causes regeneration. God causes regeneration when a sinner meets the God ordained condition of faith. That seems to be plainly implied when Jesus says, “you will not come to Me so that you may have life”. One must come [in faith] to receive life. I see an order of events there. If Gordan does not, then I don’t know what language could improve on it. We will just have to agree to disagree on that one.
Regarding a wooden use of metaphors:
Gordan agrees that the language of John 5:24, and 25 is consistent with regeneration. He argues, however, that there are other metaphors for regeneration besides spiritual resurrection, and gives some examples. I don’t see how this invalidates the fact that John 5:24, and 25 is using a metaphor for regeneration. To say that there are other metaphors for the same thing does not help things.
I am intrigued by one of his examples. He cites the example of the Lord opening Lydia’s heart to respond to the gospel. He concludes that “opening the heart” is another metaphor for regeneration. Remember that Gordan’s entire argument boils down to saying that my claims that the life Jesus speaks of in John 5 includes regeneration are inconclusive at best; this despite the context containing plain regeneration language [or metaphors]. I cannot think of a more ambiguous passage that Calvinists use to defend irresistible grace than Lydia’s conversion. The text says that the Lord opened her heart so that she could respond to the gospel. The text does not say that the opening of her heart made her positive response inevitable. It is also worthwhile to ask if the heart the Lord opened to respond was Lydia’s old heart. The text gives no indication of a new heart being opened. If it was her old heart that was opened to respond to the gospel then this account beautifully portrays the Arminian understanding of enabling prevenient grace.
The point is that the context and language of John 5 seems to me to be far more conclusive than that of Acts 16:14 which Gordan has no problem seeing as a definite example of regeneration. Surely there is a lesson here for both of us concerning the ease by which we allow our biases to effect our exegesis.
Gordan also insists that I am being inconsistent by holding a wooden view of the spiritual resurrection metaphor in John 5 while making light of the dead in sin metaphor that Paul employs. Arminians do not try to water down the “dead” of being dead in sin. What Arminians try to do is understand it in a Biblical framework and consider carefully what spiritual death means. There really is no contextual warrant for correlating spiritual death with the inability of a corpse. There is good reason to view it in the context of separation from the spiritual life that can only be found through faith union with Jesus Christ. I would contend that it is more accurate to say that Calvinists use this metaphor in a way that the Scripture never intended, rather than saying that Arminians try to downplay the metaphor. Many Arminians would fully agree with the Calvinist understanding of dead in sin while laying the emphasis on the power of God’s grace to overcome that inability. In any case, I just don’t see any ambiguity in the description of passing from death to life and experiencing a spiritual resurrection in John 5.
There is much more that could be said, but I will leave it there. Gordan has given me the last word so I will not over do it. I am flattered that he thought my arguments were worth his time and I have enjoyed the interaction. We may disagree on the particulars of how God goes about saving sinners, but we are both in agreement that we owe everything to Christ and His amazing grace.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Unfortunately, I have followed more in my father’s footsteps than in my mother’s. I am always improving but I am amazed at how often spell check keeps highlighting the same words that I have persistently spelled wrong. You would think I’d learn after a while.
A word that has been particularly challenging for me lately is “certain”. I really don’t like the “a” before the “i”. It just seems to me that it should be “certian”. I am glad to report, however, that I have finally conquered this word and can now spell it correctly most of the time without spell check.
Most embarrassing for me has been the fact that I spelled the “kangeroo” in my screen name wrong from the very beginning. I realized this a while ago but by then I had used it enough that I didn't know how to fix it without drawing attention to my stupidity. I tried to think of some clever reason for using “er” instead of “ar” if someone should call me on it, like: “…because you’ll end up in the ER if you mess with me!”, etc. I eventually decided against that approach, since it was a bit dishonest, not to mention corny.
What surprised me the most is that no one ever pointed out the spelling error. I can only think of three reasons why that would be the case:
1) Those I have corresponded with are very kind and polite and didn't want to embarrass me.
2) They foolishly thought I had a good reason for spelling the word wrong.
3) They don’t know how to properly spell “kangaroo” either.
I like #3 the best as it makes me feel a little less stupid. In any case, I have resolved to spell the word right from now on and I want to publicly thank anyone who knew of my spelling blunder but was classy and kind enough to let it slide. For those of you who fall into the #3 category above I encourage you to admit with me that you didn't have a clue how to properly spell “kangaroo”. It may not make you fell any better, but I assure you it will make me feel better.