Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

TULIP … Irresistible Grace

[Grace is] "the holy rape of the soul" -Jonathan Edwards

When I first heard about Irresistible Grace, I didn’t quite understand the point. I had been saved and I knew that God had shed His grace in my life. Without grace, which I understood to be God’s unmerited favor that He bestows on believers because of the merits of Christ, I knew I would be still on that road to destruction ... but irresistible? Well, I certainly do think that the gospel is a pretty awesome offer: my filthy rags traded for the righteousness of Christ. It sure sounded wonderful to me when I heard it. I don’t really understand all the pride and such that keeps people from “getting it” when they hear the message of Christ and His free offer of salvation. They sure seem to be resisting the grace of God that is offered in the gospel. Ah, but my friend that explained TULIP to me told me that it is because the offer of salvation is not really available to them and they are not being drawn, in the irresistible sense of the word.

Irresistible - impossible to resist, or exert oneself so as to counteract or defeat, impossible to withstand the force or effect of, impossible to oppose

Grace - the free favor of God toward humans, (which is necessary for their salvation), by which God makes a person (born sinful because of original sin) capable of enjoying eternal life.
Let's start here
One Calvinist blogger makes this statement: [a widely] believed misconception about this doctrine is that Calvinists believe that everyone that God has chosen will come to faith regardless of whether or not they want to. This is not true. Calvinists believe that no one is willing to believe (Romans 3:10-18) until this special work of the Holy Spirit is performed in them at which point they become willing.

Now, what is the difference between

… everyone that God has chosen will come to faith regardless of whether or not they want to … (which is supposedly not the belief)


… no one is willing to believe until this special work of the Holy Spirit is performed in them at which point they become willing … (which is the belief)

I don’t see the difference. You have the wretched sinner who doesn’t seek God …then God works in his heart and he WILL BELIEVE. So, he will come to faith whether or not He wants to. (I’m scratching my head).

It goes along with the other points of TULIP nicely though, and it completes the understanding of the passage that they call the Golden Chain:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)

So to the Calvinist, there is no room in this process for man to “kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14) or resist the drawing of the Holy Spirit. We were predestined, chosen specifically, called (this must be the calling of the Spirit through the gospel?), justified and glorified. There is not even a mention in the golden chain of faith or belief in the gospel. (It makes me wonder if this passage is even talking about salvation.) It is almost as though faith is just taken out of the equation … if this was the only scripture that we had.

Also, it seems foundational to this doctrine that the Calvinist (or Reformed) believes that faith is granted to us. To their understanding, faith is not ours, it is not from us, God puts it there and then we WILL BELIEVE. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that every breath I take is granted to me by God. I do believe the scripture teaches that it is by grace that I have heard the gospel and that I was issued the invitation to receive Christ. If God wanted to snuff out my life when I was 19, He could’ve done it and I would not have heard the gospel nor had a chance to believe. I believe the Bible teaches that the gospel is accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit drawing all the hearers to Christ, searching their hearts for belief, faith and trust as they hear the good news. However, I don’t see it that He offers some special grace that regenerates a person before they believe, and then this irresistible grace then makes them want to believe. That seems biblically backward to me. I have to quote my Dyspraxic friend again:

… [there is not] convincing Scriptural data to conclude that man is incapable of believing when under the influence of the power of the Holy Spirit, that accompanies the preaching of the Gospel. Otherwise how would the Gospel be the power of God unto salvation? If Regeneration were necessary to believe, then Regeneration would be the power of God unto salvation.

… and we could then say the same about irresistible grace. Why isn’t the Bible flooded with a clear message that it is irresistible grace that brings salvation? On the other hand, I don’t believe that man can regenerate himself, as the Reformed so often like to accuse the questioners of Calvinism of saying. God regenerates when we are born again by the Word of God which we hear, believe and receive. We don't regenerate ourselves.

I do think this doctrine is necessary to TULIP because of the two preceding it in the acrostic. If God unconditionally elected only certain ones, then he would only die for those … and then He would definitely make them believers. However, when one questions the idea that God only chose certain select ones, then it is not necessary to come to these other conclusions unless one is clearly convinced from the Bible itself that those conclusions are right.

I want to remember these scriptures also, when coming to my understanding of how God is dealing with humanity in this and other dispensations:

"You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! (Acts 7:51)

But concerning Israel he says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people." (Romans 10:21)

When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me. (John 16:8,9)

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Luke 13:34)

He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. (John 1:7-9)

But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. (John 12:32)

Do people perish in hell because they weren’t chosen, died for by Christ, or irresistibly drawn?

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. (John 3:18)

Irresistible Drawing

I need a new "pet containment" system for my dog. The current system we have, an invisible fence, does two things. Our dog wears an electronic collar that gives a warning when the dog gets too close to the boundary and it gives correction (shock!) when she tries to go over the boundary. A smug Rose Cole told you a few weeks ago how our dog responded to the training right away ... she stayed far away from that boundary. Oh, we were home free ... no survey of our property, no split rail fence with chicken wire ... our dog was going nowhere.
Wrong! Unfortunately, she figured it out. I think she discovered that if she runs fast enough, it doesn't really hurt so bad. Now, when we let the dog out, we are never sure if she will run over to the neighbors, or not. We are not confident in our invisible fence and its "pet containment" ability.

I don't like chasing after the dog ... following her... trying to remain calm ... trying to get her to stop sniffing 2 houses down, so I can grab here and bring her back home ... coaxing ... calling ... pleading ... getting frustrated. I call out the word treat and that works only some of the time. Other times, I lower my voice as deep as I can (to try and emulate my husband) and scold the dog. This works sometimes as she will cower with her tail tucked in, but it is not fail-safe.

So I was thinking ... I want a different kind of a device. I want a collar that helps me once she runs away. I need something to bring the dog back home. I need a collar which has some kind of signal ... so that when I press it, she will be irresistibly drawn to come back home. I need more than correction for this dog, I need drawing ... "wooing" ability!

What does this have to do with TULIP? Well, probably not a lot ... but, the dog is food for a lot of thought here! (I'm working on the next post)

Does anybody know if there is such a device for my dog? Maybe I need to invent it ...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

TULIP ... Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption)

I have been trying to understand the Calvinist doctrines represented in the popular acrostic TULIP for some time. I have, on this blog looked at Total Depravity, and (again,) Unconditional Election, and again, and now I will take a look at the doctrine of Limited Atonement.

Limited: Restricted, to have a limit on the bounds, to curtail or reduce in quantity or extent, lacking breadth, the scope or exercise of powers strictly defined.

Atonement: the removal of obstacles to reconciliation with God, the reconciliation of alienated parties, the restoration of a broken relationship, making amends, blotting out offenses, and giving satisfaction for wrongs done, reparation for an offense or injury. (according to Webster!)
When I first heard of TULIP, and the points were being explained to me, that was the first time I had ever heard anything like the doctrine of “Limited Atonement”. "What does that mean?" I wondered if it meant that the covering and cleansing of sin that I had found in Christ was available to all, but limited in effectiveness only to believers. I had learned that doctrine from the Bible, so if that was what it meant, well then absolutley ... it is true! I was corrected on this. This is not what it means. My 4-point Calvinist friend tried to make me understand what the word efficacious had to do with this. He believed that Christ died for the sins of mankind, but that the death was only “efficacious” for those predestined to salvation. (Efficacious: having the power to produce a desired effect.) Well, what is the conclusive difference between believing that He died for all men, but not efficaciously and believing that He only died for the elect … not much of a difference, I believe. The bottom line in this doctrine is: salvation is not available to all people, because Christ did not die for all of humanity.

I have searched for explanations to make sure I understand and I now think I clearly do grasp what the belief is (although I could be wrong). One of my favorite Calvinists has said: The doctrine of "Limited Atonement" answers the question of how God saves His elect. He sent His Son to die for them. That's the doctrine plain and simple. "Limited Atonement" means limited in scope, not in power or sufficiency. "Definite Atonement" might be a better description of the doctrine in this regard. Christ died for a definite people.

So it is: Christ died for the elect, (which had been chosen before the foundation of the world, for no other reason than that it was God’s will and that they are who they individually are) and ONLY for the elect. There are different reasonings behind this doctrine, a few of which are:

  • Christ would not die for the sins of people He didn’t intend to save.
  • Whoever He died for, would be saved and could never be lost .
  • No person could go to hell if the atonement was not limited (Double jeopardy, hence God would be unjust).

One troubling thing with this doctrine is the lack of Biblical passages presented to support it. All the reasoning I have read is in some way based on the other points of Calvinism. Here is one example:

"She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

The Calvinist would say to the questioner of Calvinism (that’s my new label), “Did Christ really save His people from their sins or did He just make it a possibility?” Always there is a reference to His “people” being a group of unconditionally predetermined individuals, which hearkens back to the second point of Calvinism, Unconditional Election. I think it makes logical sense. If Unconditional election is true, then of course Limited Atonement is true. So often the biblical proof that is offered for Limited Atonement is connected to the “fact” of Unconditional Election. Any doubts that arise are overcome by hearkening back to the basics of the TULIP and viewing from that perspective. I have a real problem with this kind of reasoning. Why not, instead, take the questions that the Scriptures raise in the Bible believer’s mind about Limited Atonement and then, cast the doubt back onto the doctrine of Unconditional Election (asserted by John Calvin)?

There is plenty of doubt about whether there is room in these verses for the doctrine of Limited Atonement:

Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. (Romans 5:18)

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:14-17)

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. (John 6:51)

As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. (John 12:47)

It is interesting to read what Calvinists say to these verses. The position is not defended from a contextual perspective; there is not usually a reference to who the audience was or what the intent of the writer or speaker was. It usually boils down to a redefining of the terms. All doesn’t mean all. “The Greek word 'pas' (all) can either mean every single one, or some of every type.” Also, the word world is not all encompassing in relation to its people. The passages that say “the whole world is going after him” or “if a man could gain the whole world are used to point out that world does not mean everyone. This doesn't seem honest to me. The first impression when reading these passages is the correct one, otherwise the gospel wouldn’t be the power of God unto salvation to anyone who believes. Also, can a little child do these kinds of acrobatics with language? (Matthew 11:25) You could look here for an interesting post and comments on Limited Atonement and wordsmithing.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Does this verse say that he was made to be “the sins” of the elect? The absence of the article “the” is interesting to note. “Sin” is a pretty all-encompassing term. So does He save because of His death … the atonement? Is it necessary to say that the atonement is limited because otherwise we have a universal salvation (and we know this is not true, the scriptures say that many go to hell.)

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

The atonement only applies to us if we believe. Just like Passover, (note that Jesus referred to it right when He was getting ready to atone) you must apply the blood to be passed over. Also note that the atonement it is an Old Testament concept. When the priests offered sacrifices, they were for all of Israel who would believe and obey God’s Word. (Were these references to atonement, for provision or payment? The difference between those two concepts is something I want to study further.) It’s important for the discussion to enter the OT ground from which it originated. I want to repeat the following passage with that in mind. Note the reference to the serpent which was lifted up for ALL of Israel (Numbers 21:8) so that whoever looked upon it would find healing.

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:14-17)

I read where one man said, “Did Christ enter the Holy Place having made salvation a possibility? Or had He actually obtained eternal redemption? The text is clear (Hebrews 9:11-12) that the Son’s work is, in fact, complete and perfect and not dependant upon man’s additions (even the addition of mere “faith”) is also taught in Hebrews… (Mere faith [!] ... Faith … which is how we are told that men receive salvation … is derided as being insignificant in the plan of God.) Does anyone else have a problem with this thinking? (I don't want to come right out in the post and disclose the quotee ... so as not to be inflammatory.)

Here is a question for my 5 point friends: If you are telling a person about the salvation in Christ, witnessing, sharing the gospel, (whatever we want to call the act that we have been commanded to perform), and they ask you, “What does that have to do with me?” … can you say to them “Jesus Christ died for you?” No, not according to your doctrine. What if you say, “Jesus Christ died for sinners.” … and they ask “Did he die for me?” What do you say to that person?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Back to Unconditional Election

The paragraph below was a comment in the previous post, but the waters have gotten a little muddied there, so I just wanted to augment it a little and throw it out as one last thought for consideration on this subject of the Calvinist doctrine of Unconditional Election ... before I move on to Limited Atonement.
Just ANOTHER MUSING thought .... I was thinking about the Calvinist doctrine of Unconditional Election. Some have characterized it as being like aperson choosing a treat from a box of chocolates ... that God arbitrily picks, not caring what is inside ... as though he randomly picks. But really, after reading a certain post on Buddhism it got me to thinking ... the condition, according to this doctrine of unconditional election is not "foreseen faith" but it is the identity of the person being elected. In other words, YOU must be YOU to be elected ... or ... did the Lord decree that person #78653708459867359 that comes into the world will be saved etc... and chose those who would believe based on some arbitraray system? (like the box of chocolates illustration) No, according to TULIP (or the confessions that Earl has listed) God has chosen CERTAIN INDIVIDUALS, so then ... how can it be said that the reason for the election lies with God? The reason for the election is still within the ELECT people, namely, their particular identity. I believe God is interested in saving individuals ... but is He interested only in saving CERTAIN INDIVIDUALS, and ... were they chosen before they were "in Christ"? With the "in Christ" model for election that I have come to, the reason for election is then Christ, not my identity alone. A lot to think about.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Rose's Thanksgiving Poem

For creating the earth as you did, we are thankful
You brought us from the dust and we live
For animals and plants everywhere we enjoy
Your gracious care and protection you give

For giving the Bible as you did, we are thankful
You chose a people to record and reveal your plan
From those chosen people came a Savior
To put down all the unthankful ways of man

For shedding your blood as you did, we are thankful
Your sacrifice was full and complete
The death that you died couldn’t hold you
You came back to life and rose up to your seat

For creating your church as you did, we are thankful
You opened your arms and gave grace to mankind
Every breath we now breathe is a gracious reprieve
From the closing of books at the appointed time

For all you do, all you give, all you are, all your plan … we are Thankful!

I am not a veery good poet, but it is the thought that counts, right?

Monday, November 21, 2005

TULIP … Unconditional Election, part 2

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.”
(Job 38:4)
A personal note:
I am a believer and I know I have been born again. If this is because I was selected to do so, that is wonderful for me … but what about the rest of humanity? All of us are born in sin, utterly corrupted. What about those who aren’t “elect”? The perfect, untainted, sinless God-man died for the sins of a chosen special group of individuals they were not part of, and they will burn in Hell for eternity for God’s glory. They cannot EVER believe and be saved because they were not chosen. How’s that? I didn’t like this doctrine from the moment it was explained to me. It flew in the face of what I had understood the gospel message to be: …whosoever will (believe), not whosoever is (elected). How does this glorify God? That’s just my human reasoning, but if the Bible clearly spells out that this is the way God does it, then I must accept that. However, I don’t have to accept a doctrine from men if I can’t find it clearly defined in the Scriptures.

Unconditional: not conditional or limited, absolute, unqualified, not subject to, implying, or dependent upon a condition.

Election: to make a selection of, to choose (as a course of action) especially by preference.
The concept of election is found in the Bible, so anyone who believes in the Bible must address the issue. Usually, if the person is not a Calvinist, he may say, that God foresaw the person’s faith and chose Him. In other words, God looked through time, saw that you would believe when presented the gospel, and therefore He said, “I’ll pick that one.” I don’t think a choice between unconditional election and forseen faith is necessary. A lot depends on your concept of election. But this truth is not deniable by Bible believers: faith is necessary for salvation.

Even as he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Ephesians 1:4)

This verse says that we were chosen in Him, not just as ourselves alone.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood … (1 Peter 1)

Does this say that individuals are chosen to receive salvation without the condition of faith? The Bible contrasts faith and works, not elect and non-elect.

… born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13)

So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has
(Romans 9:16 )

Is the “will of man” and “exertion” here talking about “faith”? No. Faith is contrasted many times in the Bible with the "will of man" and "exertion". Faith is necessary for salvation and if you’re not saved, you’re predestined for hell. Predestined…in other words, your destination is chosen before you arrive, unless something happens and your course changes. You can’t will yourself to be saved, but the Bible says that whoever calls upon the name of Lord will be saved, so the “will of man” spoken of in these verses cannot be speaking of belief in the gospel or by faith recieving the gift of salvation and forgiveness of sins.

I love the word “unconditional”. When I think of how the Lord doesn’t require works for righteousness, I think of this word, “unconditional”. When I think of how I am accepted in the Beloved, this word comes to mind. Before I was saved, when I had not the imputed righteousness of Christ, I was not, however accepted in the “Beloved.” I was fit for wrath. So what is the difference in the before salvation me and the regenerated me? Salvation is not conditional upon works, but comes to us through faith. The difference is faith in Christ (all He is and all He has done.) I believe that this is the condition for salvation and therefore it is the condition for election.

…They stumble because they disobey the message - which is also what they were destined for. 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. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2)

This passage is speaking of corporate Israel, not individuals ... and the same is true of Romans chapter 9. In fact, I don’t see anywhere where ordinary people are chosen individually for salvation. The Bible clearly says that certain prophets and apostles have been chosen for the specific message that God wants them to deliver, but it never says that every individual has a mark on him from birth that determines whether God will “grant” him faith or not.

I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (John 17)

Behold my servant, whom I uphold; my elect one, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him: he will bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. (Isaiah 42:1)

We only become chosen when we are “in Christ” because He is the chosen one. I was nothing before I was “in Christ”. How can we discount the difference between being “in Christ” and not “in Christ”? Are unregenerate sinners “in Christ”? No. Then, they are not chosen. My Calvinist friend, if you are elect (and you know this because now you are saved) were you “in Christ” before you believed? The answer is no. Therefore, did not the wrath of God abide on you before you believed? How can you apply Ephesians chapter 1 to the unregenerate you? How could it be possible then that such an faithless person is unconditionally elected?

When reading the first chapter of Ephesians, it jumped out at me. The phrase “in Christ” is there at least 14 times. Every time it speaks of chosen or predestined, it is in conjunction with this phrase. The chapter ends up in reference to “His body”, the church. I submit, if you look at the idea of election and think of it as the church, it makes so much more sense with the rest of the Bible. There are no conditions upon the church. They are elected. But there is a condition to become a part of the church, Christ's body, is there not?

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. (John 1:12)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. (Romans 9:30-32)

Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4)

That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
(Romans 10:9)

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9) Look at the sentence structure.

So, in the Calvinist mindset, “unconditional” means that there is no responsibility, no condition to be one of the elect. We don’t have to consent or believe in Christ to be elect. He will breathe new life into us, regenerate us and then we WILL believe. There is no decision card here ;~) ... no groping for God, no seeking Him, no persuasion of men, just the playing out of God’s perfect plan for individuals that He already had predetermined from the foundation of the world.

Let me say this will all due respect to my Calvinist friends: it almost seems to me that they have redefined the words faith and belief.

Believe: to accept as true, genuine, or, to have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something, to hold an opinion, to think, to consider to be true or honest, to accept the word or evidence of.

Faith: allegiance to duty or a person, loyalty, fidelity to one's promises, sincerity of intentions, belief and trust in and loyalty to God, belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion, firm belief in something for which there is no proof, complete trust, something that is believed especially with strong conviction.

These words require something in our heart and mind, a response from us. (They are not something done to us.) Not from our will, but from our soul and innermost being. Our parents cannot believe for us. A minister cannot believe for us, and God does not ever say that He will believe for us. (Does God invade our mind with faith when we are running from Him and when we won’t listen to His word?) People must hear the gospel and believe to become a part of the elect.

Here is just a little musing … What if God, has made provision for all of humanity like it says in the Bible. (Romans 5:18, 1 John 1:2) What if there are two “you”s out there. (Two you’s is not a concept foreign to the scriptures). Two contingencies, if you will … There is a version of every person “in Christ” destined for God’s presence and there is a version of every person that is not “in Christ”, destined for hell and eternal separation from God. Your response to the Gospel determines which “you” that proceeds into the future. Is that impossible for the mind of God to hold? Must we say that God’s mind is somehow limited to only one plan for each individual person on this earth?

Finally, I say this in regards to my musing and to TULIP: God is not like us, His ways are not our ways, His mind is certainly nothing like our mind. We can't understand what it is like to be Him. I don’t subscribe to open theism, but I think the Bible makes it clear that the ways things are playing out at this time are largely affected by human decisions and response, albeit, it is never out of God’s sovereign control.

In our zeal to recognize the eternality of God, let us not speak in terms that are outside of the model for salvation that has been given in the Bible. He is the never-changing One. He is eternal. God lives outside of time. The Bible speaks of conversion as an event that takes place in real time. Let us not think that we can rise above our understanding of it in this way. We are not God! Look at all the years of needless strife this doctrine has caused in the church and it is all because we are trying to see into things eternal. We must not try to lift ourselves above the understanding and the truths that God has given us. This is a dangerous area to enter and I think God is not pleased when we try to lift ourselves up in this way. When people start trying to define the infinite, we really screw it up. Whenever God gives us a glimpse into eternity, it is to see Jesus Christ, not ourselves. Christ is the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The condition for being part of the elect is being in Christ through faith.

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Romans 11:33)

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

TULIP … Unconditional Election, part 1

I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (Exodus 33:19)

After I was born-again and had read through the Bible a couple of times and was studying it, I first heard of the words of TULIP ... the 5 points being simply listed to me. I remember my first impression was that Unconditional Election probably means that a person who calls on the name of the Lord, believing and appropriating Christ's work on Calvary, is received without condition. I sure was wrong on that one … I was very naïve! I came to learn that what the Calvinists actually believe, as represented by this point in the popular acrostic, is that God has chosen those who would respond to him before the earth even existed ... and certainly before they ever existed.

According to this soteriological construct, everyone’s eternal destiny is completely predetermined. I recall hearing the term double predestination. This was said with disdain by a certain 4 point Calvinist. “God does not predestine people for hell; he only predestines the elect for heaven.” Well, it didn’t take much logical reasoning to understand that if God didn’t choose you, then he was predestinating you for hell. No way around that one. I can certainly then understand how the next step logically follows this one. (But we will deal with the “L” at another time.)

Was I unconditionally elect before placing faith in Christ? Was I unconditionally loved? No. I was an object of wrath, headed for eternal death. If the doctrine of Unconditional Election is true, I didn’t even need to place my trust in Jesus Christ and His work on Calvary on my behalf. Of course I WOULD do it, according to Calvinist theology, but I didn’t need to. The logical outworking of this theology is that the salvation was already there. I was already unconditionally elected. God had predetermined that I would be saved. According to TULIP, I was, in effect, saved before I was ever born. And anyone who is ever redeemed was redeemed before they were ever born. God chose them; they did nothing, believed nothing, and had faith in nothing to come to salvation.

According to TULIP, people don’t really have any input into their salvation because God is controlling everything, even their choices. A Christian may think he has placed his faith in Christ, but really, God determined in eternity past that He would breathe His Holy Spirit into this individual. Next, the Spirit, having given him new life, would cause him to understand the message of the gospel by “granting faith”. God would then cause the individual to call on the name of Lord and ... he is saved. So, if someone doesn’t believe the gospel, and doesn’t become saved, it is because he wasn’t predestined to do so.

One person puts it this way: “As a depraved being I was running towards hell as fast as my legs could take me, but the God who made me, loved me, even before I was born, and determined to save me. And if anyone is ever saved, it is solely based on His 'Unconditionally Electing' power.” This is quite an interesting thought. God chooses certain people over others. He loves them. The logical counter point, then, is that God hates others. This brings to mind a few of the things some people said to me when I first was born-again. I was telling of the wonderful way in which God had changed my life. This was all meant to bring God glory and encourage them to turn to Christ also, of course. A few of them said to me “Oh so you think you are special and better than the rest of us.” I was so perplexed by that. I insisted that no, I was not special; anyone could receive the free gift of salvation. In fact, it was the opposite … becoming saved had more to do with recognizing that I was quite wicked and calling on the One who shed His blood for that wickedness. “How am I saying that I think I am special? Anyone can receive this gift.” I just didn’t get why people would respond to me that way. Now I think I may understand why. Maybe they had met up with some of Calvin’s doctrines before they met me. How naïve I was!

Do I understand this correctly?

part 2: is it Biblical and right to promote such a doctrine?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Total Depravity/Inability ... What is the whole Bible picture?

UPDATE: J. Moorhead brought a Bible passage to my attention. It is listed at the top of the green section.

I have come to the conclusion that what I thought was meant by "Total Depravity" was not what the Calvinists believe. The doctrine actually means "Inability to believe in the Gospel until you are born again." I do not, at this time, think this is a "whole Bible truth."

I guess that makes me a one point Calvinist (... for the time being.) (That is so ridiculous.) In summary, my visitors who defended "INABILTY" have given me the following Bible passages (in green). My visitors who believe that people are able ... and urged to respond to God with faith, have given me the following verses (in blue).

All of these Bible verses are true! They do not mean something that would cause their true meanings to conflict. What is the understanding that validates every Bible truth on this post? That is the question.

When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and glorified the message of the Lord, and all who had been appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48)

No one can come to Me unless the Father draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44)

Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him of my Father. (John 6:65)

Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. (John 8:43)

Only the sheep who the Father gives the Son can hear His voice and believe. (John 10:25-30)

Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ. (Ephesians 2:5)

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.
(Colossians 1:13)

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. (Colossians 2:13)

It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. (Romans 9:16)

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. (Romans 3:10-11)

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. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 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. (Romans 8:7-9)

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius…
So he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God."
(Acts 10:1,5)

Paul and Silas … to Berea … These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore, many of them believed. (Acts 17:10-12)

And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. (Acts 17:26-27)

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
(Acts 2:21)

...Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4)

And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb… (Romans 4:19)

Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints…
(Philemon 1:5)

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. (1 Peter 4:3)

And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
(Revelation 22:17)

next up...Unconditinal Election


An easier question to ponder!

We "adopted" our dog, "Cookie" a few weeks back. Notice in the first photo, she has a nice, symmetrical look to her. That ear is now fixed in the "up" position. What happened? She must be tainted also! (Just a light-hearted break while I think about the next post.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

TULIP...Total Depravity

note: most all of the blue italic type in this post is scripture.

TULIP … I often find myself asking in frustration, “Why do I care about this subject?” But I know why. It is, because, to me, it goes to the very heart of the character of God. One blogger said that he felt the Calvinist view of God was like that of a mad scientist (he was intensly mocked). I wouldn’t put it quite his way, but it is disturbing the portrait I percieve they paint of Him …disturbing to me. (That is why I want to view more clearly this portrait - thus this blogging excercise). Now, I hear some say, “Repent and accept God for who He is, not for who you wish Him to be.” Well, what if they are not right about how He operates? Are they willing to repent? I am not trying to rebel against God by questioning the so-called “doctrines of Grace.” I just want to analyze these doctrines according to the Bible and see if the eternal God is really so easily defined like they say He is.

Here’s a personal note: I was regenerated at the age of 20. God bestowed mercy on me and gave me a new life as a result of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. Nothing in me caused me to deserve this mercy, but I cried out to Him and He saved me. He has been so merciful to me. However, I am concerned about others in humanity besides just myself. If God procured my salvation by electing me as an individual from the foundation of the world for no other reason than just because He chose me … because He wanted to, that would work out OK for me, wouldn’t it? I’m saved. But what about the rest of humanity? They all must find salvation through Jesus Christ's atoning death on the cross by grace through faith. What about someone He didn’t “elect”? They were born in sin, utterly corrupted. God became a man and died for the sins of a group they were not part of, and they will burn in Hell for eternity for God’s glory. No matter what, whether the gospel is presented to them, they will not and cannot EVER believe and be saved. Huh? This seems to be the Calvinist version of God's dealings with the less fortunate of humanity (those going to hell). How does this glorify God? That’s just my human reasoning, and I need to go to the Bible for answers.

Total: Of, relating to, or constituting the whole; entire. Complete; utter; absolute.

Depravity: Moral corruption or degradation, the state of being hopelessly bad, crooked.

The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. (Genesis 6)

You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against [your ways], you were angry. How, then, can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins. (Isaiah 64)

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17)

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3)

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned … (Romans 5)

…the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. (Romans 7)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2)

If the definition of the Calvinist doctrine of Total Depravity means that we are sinful to the core, then I believe it. In fact, I have said that I am a two point Calvinist (a ridiculous label) because of this … and one other point. There is nothing in me or any of the Christians I know that would merit salvation. Selfish, proud, wicked, prone to sin ... that’s us in the flesh. If the Calvinists mean this by Total Depravity, then AMEN! It is the first step of the gospel … seeing that we are utterly helpless in respect to righteousness. We can’t do enough good deeds to make up for the bad ones … and our thoughts and ways are always degrading.

Before salvation, when I really knew nothing about the true Bible, I used to ponder what it would be like if there were such a thing as judgment after I died. I figured, if God knew everything, He would be able to see into my mind and He would understand how I became the way I was and that I was a product of all those things I had been exposed to ... He would understand. The thing I wasn’t admitting or not realizing, was that even if I had the best of circumstances … the perfect mother … a completely loving and safe environment … if my father hadn’t died when I was twelve … I still would have wicked selfishness and all the other sin in my heart! Certain schools of thought like to say that babies are born as a clean slate, perfect, and only become bad as they receive input from the outer world. (Nurture, not Nature) Rubbish! We come out kicking, screaming mad and headed for a life of depravity! Apart from a provision for this depravity, a cleansing of the filth, we could never enter into God’s presence … we would be like rags soaked in gasoline thrown into a forest fire! Even that which is nice about us, is tainted with sin. Amen. Here is a post on this subject that I really appreciated.


If the Calvinist really means that the ordinary person is unable to believe and receive the provision for sin wrought by Christ on our behalf, then I can't say amen, because I don’t believe it to be biblical. Here's why: The people of this world are invited, encouraged, and, in some passages, commanded to believe in the Son of God and be saved.

The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelation 22:17)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37)

If ordinary people were not able to believe the gospel, or receive the Lord Jesus Christ, wouldn’t it be a disingenuous offer that God is making in the Bible?

In John 7:37, was Jesus standing there, making what seems like an open invitation, yet keeping the secret that no one was able to come to Him, unless he selected them out of the bunch and gave them a special power to do so? Are only the elect thirsty? If this was His thinking, why doesn't John 3:16 say, "For God so loved the certain people, that he gave his one and only Son, that when they believe in him, they shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Many other examples could be given of these types of open invitations, and commands.

Many Calvinists employ the doctrine of regeneration preceding faith. I think the need for this doctrine is because these particular Calvinists see this first point, Total Depravity in this second way. It is stated that since man is unable to believe, God must first birth him or give Him a new mind, and then He WILL Believe. I really don’t see one passage that says the ordinary sinner is unable to believe the gospel, except for possibly John 6 (although it is a hard passage to grasp).

Let me quote a fellow blogger ... Dyspraxic Fundamentalist (aka Matthew) says:
… [there is not] convincing Scriptural data to conclude that man is incapable of believing when under the influence of the power of the Holy Spirit, that accompanies the preaching of the Gospel. Otherwise how would the Gospel be the power of God unto salvation? If Regeneration were necessary to believe, then Regeneration would be the power of God unto salvation.

Now, I would not say that we don’t need the grace of God to come to Him ... of course we do. If left to ourselves, man ends up with Babel. We don’t seek Him. We are His enemies. But He has sought us!!! This is the GOSPEL. He sent His prophets to foretell of His plan, He has come and taken on the wrath of God for our iniquity, He has given us a sure, written account of Himself, He has sent His Holy Spirit to make His acts known and to convict “the World” of righteousness and judgment. His Holy Spirit is there in the preaching of the cross, drawing all men unto Himself. (John 12:32) We are unable, on our own, to come to God, but God has done all of this.

… Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. (John 6:65)


… God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19)

The people of this world are not on their own! God has done all that is necessary, opened the door to salvation, but we must spread the gospel and insist that men walk through that door … Simply put, they must receive Christ’s forgiveness and imputed righteousness, which they CAN DO. They are not unable, but sadly, many are unwilling. They don’t want to believe for reasons as innumerable as there are fingerprints, all stemming from their own individual brand of sin … and that is why they will be held responsible for their sins … because they WILL not!

So, can I say T is biblical? I don’t know. I guess it depends on what is meant by it.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Calvinism, Arminianism, Calminianism

A more edifying post is right below this one if you don’t like this subject…

I want to make sure I have my facts straight. Arminianism comes from the The Five Articles of the Remonstrants (Holland, 1610). The Five Points of Calvinism were sort of reactionary. (Dort, 1618) What I mean is that the Arminian points were refuted tit-for-tat in the Calvinist 5 points. I do realize that Calvinistic theology was around before this, but the whole 5 point model was set up by the Arminians. (Correct me if I’m wrong)

Also – It was hard for me to locate the original wording of these points without fear that they had been re-interpreted by someone. So, if any reader has a more orginal rendering of any point, send it my way and I will fix this post.

Arminian Article #1: Free Will/Partial Depravity
Freedom of will is man's natural state, not a spiritual gift - and thus free will was not lost in the Fall, but cannot be exercised toward good apart from the grace of God. Grace works upon all men to influence them for good, but only those who freely choose to agree with grace by faith and repentance are given new spiritual power to make effectual the good they otherwise impotently intend.

T Calvinist Article #1: Total Depravity (or Total Inability)
As a consequence of the Fall of man, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin. According to the view, people are not by nature inclined to love God with their whole heart, mind, or strength, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests over those of their neighbor and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are unable to choose to follow God and be saved.

Arminian Article #2: Conditional Election
God elects men on the basis of foreseen faith which is exercised by libertarian free will, thus making man ultimately decisive. God has decreed to save through Jesus Christ, out of fallen and sinful mankind, those foreknown by Him who through the grace of the Holy Spirit believe in Christ; but God leaves in sin those foreseen, who are incorrigible and unbelieving.

U Calvinist Article #2: Unconditional Election
God's choice from eternity of those whom he will bring to himself is not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people. Rather, it is unconditionally grounded in God's mercy.

Arminian Article #3: Universal Atonement Applicable Only to the Believer
Christ's death was suffered on behalf of all men and benefits all men alike. God then elects for salvation those whom he foresees will believe in Christ of their own free will.
Whatever the atonement accomplished, it did so universally for all alike, the atonement has no component which is decisive or effectual in gathering of the elect. Rather, the atonement is seen as a universally effective propitiation and the basis for a universal offer of salvation.

L Calvinist Article #3: Limited Atonement (or Particular Redemption)
The death of Christ actually takes away the penalty of sins of those on whom God has chosen to have mercy. It is "limited" to taking away the sins of the elect, not of all humanity, and it is "definite" and "particular" because atonement is certain for those particular persons.

Arminian Article #4: Resistible Grace
This point holds that God never overcomes the resistance of man to His saving grace. This resistance is never conquered by God because this would be a violation of man's libertarian free will. The grace of God works for good in all men, and brings about newness of life through faith. But saving grace can be resisted, even by the regenerate.

I Calvinist Article #4: Irresistible Grace
The saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (the elect) and, in God's timing, overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith in Christ.

Arminian Article #5: Uncertain Perseverance
Those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith have power given them through the assisting grace of the Holy Spirit, sufficient to enable them to persevere in the faith. But it may be possible for a believer to fall from grace.

P Calvinist Article #5: Perseverance of the Saints
Any person who has once been truly saved from damnation must necessarily persevere and cannot later be condemned. The word saints is used in the sense in which it is used in the Bible to refer to all who are set apart by God, not in the technical sense of one who is exceptionally holy, canonized, or in heaven.

Now, some say that you must embrace one or the other of these theological systems. However, I have read scripturally agreeable statements in writings about both of these systems, and scripturally disagreeable. In other words, based on the knowledge of the Word that I have, I agree with a little of both … and on some points, I can’t accept either the Calvinist or the Arminian point of view! Maybe that means I am inconsistent. Hmmm…. I will just deal with each one, one at a time, and work my way through them. Your help in the comments will be appreciated.

Wow! & Dr. Brown from Cedarville University

Yesterday in our morning service, we sang this song as a congregation. A flutist played a few notes in-between stanzas. It has a very celtic feel to it, which is probably one reason why my pastor loves it so much - that, and he said he loves it because it is rich in doctrine. I love this song and find it so very moving. Praise the Lord!

In Christ Alone (Stuart Townend, Keith Getty)

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My comforter, my all in all
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final death
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
'Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand

My favorite phrase in the new Testament is "in Christ". No wonder my heart sings when I hear or think about this song ... it contains the same phrase.

We had a special speaker also. The president of Cedarville University, Dr. William Brown gave a really incredible presentation: "Engaging the Culture with the Mind of Christ." He based his presentation on this passage:

To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:21-23)

He talked about knowing our culture so we can speak to those in it. He encouraged us not to assimilate or withdraw, but to engage. This guy was very interesting. He knows lyrics to many popular artists, so he can speak to youth on their level and "build a bridge to Christ." He talked about how Paul used this method when he went to Athens (Acts 17:22-24) and spoke to those idolaters about the altar to the "unkown God" that was among the idols there. He pointed out that if Paul had just started speaking to them about the Bible, they wouldn't know what he was talking about. Paul brought up Christ by using something in their own culture.

Side note: Paul speaks of "winning" people. I wonder if Paul was a Calvinist ... oh, never mind.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Bible has authority, but what is a believer to do when the Bible seems to contradict itself?

Have you ever thought you were seeing a mixed message in the Bible? I gave an example in a previous post of how the O.T. theologians may have had that feeling when looking at the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. “It says here He is to be born in Bethlehem … no … he is a Nazarene … no … he comes from Egypt…” Obviously, there was a scenario that accounted for the truth of all three of those Biblical passages. I believe, in the same way, everything in the Bible fits together and is part of the whole “bigger” picture. No scripture is wrong. They all must be true, and therefore, they must all shape our thinking and our theology. We must interpret all scripture in a method that is honoring to the entire Bible.

It is so important to let the rest of the Bible help interpret a particular passage. Every word in the Bible is true. So, if it seems that one verse contradicts another, we must discover the interpretation that accounts for all the verses on a particular subject. This is especially important to remember when there are many clearly understood verses dealing with a doctrine and one or two verses or passages that just throw our whole understanding of those clear passages out of whack! Usually, this is an indication that this "problematic text" needs some extra study, in its context, to see if our first impression is just a faulty interpretation. Only when an understanding of a doctrine allows for all the passages on its subject to be true, is that understanding the correct one.

We can also pray the way David the great king did in Psalm 119: 18: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” God alone is the omniscient Author of the Bible and He is pleased to lead us through it. God can take every “problematic” thread of His Word and weave it together with the whole of Sacred Scripture into a beautiful tapestry of truth! We need to ask and depend on Him for this enlightenment or we could wind up dishonoring the King whom we wish to serve.

Really, the Bible does not contradict itself. Rather, in many instances, our ideas about what certain passages mean may contradict our ideas about what other passages mean. (You see, the problems always lie with us, never with God's Word).

And if [salvation] by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. (Romans 11:6)

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? (James 2:14)

Is there an explanation that validates both of these scriptures? How can we figure out what it is? (We're not going to do that here, but we are going to attempt to spell out how.)

When we do an exercise like this, we have to remember not to lift a verse out of context. We must look at the overall line of reasoning that the whole chapter is taking. Simply put, taking a group of words out of its context can cause the true meaning of any thought, in any book, to become clouded over. We have to get a feel for the larger message that the author is trying to convey to his particular audience with their particular needs … shortcomings … misunderstandings. This is helpful when looking at the following two verses:

For he that is not against us is on our part. (Mark 9:40)

And Jesus said unto him, “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.” (Luke 9:50)

The use of literary tools is a very important aspect to consider, as well. I saw on one website (where a guy had listed all the verses that contradict each other in an attempt to discredit the Bible) two verses in Proverbs that were right next to each other. (Proverbs 26:4 & 5) He had them listed as a contradiction. Aha! No … the author was obviously using that as a literary tool to convey a larger truth. (duh)

We also have to recognize that the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek. When dealing with a very troublesome group of verses, maybe it is the English language that is at fault. An easy example is the word “love”. One word for English = four or five in Greek. Get a Greek lexicon or find one online and look up the original meaning of the words. Figure out what the author originally wrote.

Now, switching gears…

Before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:58)

… I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. (John 14:28)

The above is example of two verses that may seem to contain a paradox. How can Jesus be the great “I am” and also say that the Father is greater than Him? If we believe the whole Bible is true, we must accept both of these verses as true. These passages, along with many others are what have brought about the doctrine of the Trinity. Do I fully grasp the Trinity? No, but it is the only explanation of the person of Christ that affirms all the scriptures about Him. We always must also be willing to accept the fact that our understanding is somewhat limited. Cultists get into trouble when they resist this principle. Jehovah’s witnesses don’t like the doctrine of the trinity, so they do violence to the Word of God. Years ago, I heard about their translation of John chapter 1. A Jehovah’s Witness came to my mom’s door when I lived there. I talked to her for a little while and I asked her if I could see her Bible. Sure enough, the Watchtower had changed the Bible. Theirs reads, “In the beginning was the Word … and the Word was with God … and the Word was a god.” Sad as that is, isn’t it, in effect, what we do, when we aren’t honest in our attempts at understanding passages that contradict our presuppositions? Doing violence to passages that don't fit into our theology (by not looking at them honestly) is just a step behind altering the Word of God and it has a cult-like flavor. We have to be willing to accept that God is high above us. He is eternal, we are finite and therefore sometimes our understanding is limited. This does not give us an excuse for discarding the parts of His Word that don't fit into our understanding. We must adjust our theology … not our willingness to accept the Bible in its plain, normal, meaning. The other alternative can cause unrest and confusion. However, “...God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” (1 Cor. 14:33).

I leave you with this great quote:

Since the Bible does not contradict itself, the verses that can be interpreted in more than one way must be understood in the light of those that cannot. (Norman Geisler)

This post is just a simple Christian's methods of attempting to know what God wants me to know. I do not claim to be a theologian. Feel free to help me if I am missing something.

Some posts coming in the near future … let’s evaluate TULIP with these things in mind.

Friday, November 11, 2005

I love my church

This is an ad I recently designed for our local liberal newspaper, the Toledo Blade. It is going to be a large ad and should appear in the next couple of weeks.

I haven't typed my next post yet - hopefully tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Biblical Authority

When I was young, one of my favorite words was “why?” My poor mother used to tell me things such as, “A person is not supposed to have sex before marriage.” I would ask, “Why? Lots of people are doing it.” She would tell me, “It is not right.” But why? “Why can’t I smoke pot?” “Why can’t I stay out all night?” “Why can’t I do whatever I want as long as I don’t hurt anyone?” “Because I said so…” just didn’t cut it, for me, rebellious soul that I was. She tried to answer me, but none of her reasons convinced me. I never got a real good answer to these questions until I was about 20 years old.

Joe. That was the man’s name who witnessed to me of Christ’s love. He told me “Jesus Christ loves you.” He backed up his statements by telling me that the Bible said so. I was a sinner, part of the “ungodly” and a part of “the world”…all the qualifications you need to be one that Christ loved and died for.

My interest was peaked. I didn’t remember hearing much from the Bible except certain, select passages, chosen by the Catholic Church, to be read over and over again for your whole life of mass attending, which I wasn’t doing anyway! I hadn’t believed the Bible was true, but I was open to hearing why he thought it was.

Joe explained to me that there were prophecies which predicted many specific things about Christ. Now, I knew the one about being born in Bethlehem, but for almost 12 years of Catholic education, that is about all I knew, and it had become very easy to ignore. He showed me Matthew 2 about Christ, “…out of Egypt have I called my son,” and “…he shall be called a Nazarene,” and “…but you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.” He said that those in O.T. times studying prophecy had probably thought this was all rather confusing and contradictory, but that the way in which all three had been true about this one man, Jesus, was in perfect harmony with what had been pre-written of him. Wow!

There was a lot more that I heard. I was shown the law of the prophets and how that if they made a mistake even once, they were to be stoned. (The Pyromaniac touched on this subject recently.) He showed me how it was predicted that Israel would be scattered into all the nations and that they would be abused and hated in those nations. That shed some light on all the teasing that the Jews in my neighborhood got, and…the Holocaust. Joe showed me that the Bible predicted they would be brought back into their land again, and once again would be a nation. I knew nothing of this! I had heard about Israel, etc… but never paid much attention. He told me about 1948 and related it to the scriptures. Wow. There was a God! Who else could reveal the future? Now, I had seen television shows about Nostrodamus, but his prophecies didn’t seem to really matter in a cohesive sense. (Besides, he made mistakes and so, under the law of the prophets, he would’ve been stoned). Have you ever watched one of those shows about all that Nostrodamus has predicted? For me I was always left with the thought, “So what?” But this was different. This was God and He cared for humanity. He made us. He made me, and wanted me to know Him. He also showed me in my soul (with a proof that I could not show anyone else) that I was right to believe His Word, it really was true. Is this called "faith"?

This, and many other discussions with Joe, are what, I beieve, the Holy Spirit used to convice me of the truth of God's Word. The fact that the Bible was true was a turning point for me. Religion had left me hopelessly asking, “Why?” But truth from God…what a concept! What a wonder! The gospel was presented and it had teeth because it was from God’s Word, which was from the Creator himself. My "whys" were answered about all my bad behaviour, too, and I found forgiveness for things that were clearly sin. It was not a man-made idea, this was utterly clear to me.

Now I look to the Bible … for it is what God wants people to know about Him and His plan. It is true about whatever it speaks. It says God created everything in 7 days. If it said He created it in 7 seconds, I would believe that, too. It says He made woman from the rib of man. If it said, he made woman from a toad, I would believe that, too. He has answered many more of my “why” questions, and I now have something to go by. I don’t have to submit to the teachings of men. I can look to the scriptures, the whole council of God, to see what God wants us, me, to know.

My next post is going to be on how I reconcile scriptures that seem to contradict, because it is important to me that the whole Bible is true, not just parts.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Wonderful Grace of Jesus

This is being reposted from yesterday. Please see the post following this one for an explanation of the poll on the right.

The song below is my absolute favorite song to sing in a worship service with the church. The words inspire enthusiasm for the wonderful salvation that God has bestowed upon us ... and it is fun! I grew up catholic and we had no songs like this. Sometimes, in the last 13 years since I have gone to a Baptist church, I feel like a kid in a candy store ... this song makes me feel like that ... in happiness and wonder at all God has done! Tell me:

1. Do you know this song?
2. Do you sing it at your church?
3. Do you have any issues with the lyrics?

Wonderful Grace of Jesus
Words and Music by Haldor Lillenas 1918

based on Ephesians 1:6 "To the praise of the glory of his grace,wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved."

Wonderful Grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it,Where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden, setting my spirit free;
O the Wonderful Grace of Jesus reaches me!

Wonderful the matchless Grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Wonderful Grace, all sufficient for me, for even me
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame
O magnify the precious name of Jesus,PRAISE HIS NAME!

Wonderful Grace of Jesus, reaching to all the lost;
By it I have been pardoned, saved to the uttermost.
Chains have been torn asunder, giving me liberty;
O the Wonderful Grace of Jesus, reaches me!

Wonderful Grace of Jesus, reaching the most defiled;
By its transforming power, Making me God's dear child,
Purchasing peace and Heaven, for all eternity;
And the Wonderful Grace of Jesus, reaches me!

Have a great week!

New Look

As you can see, I am really trying to learn some things about web graphics while making my "blog' (what a weird term) more interesting to look at. That way, what I lack in content will be made up for in aesthetic appeal. I need your opinion.

First of all, can you see it right? Is there still a white background behind the post text? If you notice anything wrong, will you let me know?

Secondly, there is a poll on the right. The second choice on the poll is referring to my pencil drawing below.

Thirdly, thanks for your opinions! And please, any comments, constructive/critical, would be appreciated. Now I have to work on that content thing...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Living in the third person?

This lady has read a particular phrase over and over again this week, “It’s not about us, it’s all about Him.” One woman completely erased her profile and left these words “It’s not about me, its all about Him." These people seem to be saying that they want to get the focus off of themselves and onto Christ more. That is truly noble. They are appreciated and respected. It is a fine phrase. One person even used the phrase to rebuke a certain blogger for making a selfish joke/remark in a comment thread. On that same blog and others like it, people are discouraged from making anonymous comments, though … hmmm … if blogging and interacting with other people is not at all about us, and it’s all about Him, why does it matter what our names are? The person who was rebuked felt rather like a scolded schoolgirl and retreated into dimness. Comments were hard to type because she was very aware of the much use of I, me, my and mine and was trying not to use those words. She didn’t even want to show her face back at that particular blog. Well, that lasted about a week… but it made me think. Am I too focused on myself? Am I full of myself? I have the answer: yes.

I don’t love God like I should. I love reading His Word and I long to understand it, but I am often distracted with egocentric thoughts. I know others are more important than myself, but I am habitually preoccupied with my own needs. When I am tired, hungry, or my feelings are hurt, the fruit of the spirit starts to shrivel like a plum into a prune. Am I unusual? Even if I am not unusual, that doesn’t make my self-centeredness any less profound. Does the world see this fatal flaw of mine?

When I was first came to know Christ as my savior, I thought that if others saw a happy, fulfilled, content person that exhibited God’s grace and peace, they would want to know Christ, too. Christ delivered me from a whole lot of sinful habits immediately upon salvation, but I remember really struggling with certain things…irritation, impatience, other bad character traits … and trying so hard to hide them from my immediate family for fear they would spoil the picture I wanted them to see … of life in Christ. It later became clear that this wasn’t right. It didn’t work to win them to Christ, and it wasn’t genuine. I believe I have learned from God’s Word that He wants us to be authentic, not hiding our character flaws and idiosyncrasies, but letting the world see as God transforms us and grows us. How can they see this work of God if we mask who we really are?

I am selfish, but I am learning more everyday how to be a servant. I am impatient, but God is working in my heart. I am wretched, but He cares for me. He is here with me, in me, and somehow, people see Him here. When He laid down His life, He did it for His friends … that includes selfish, wretched me.

But God demonstrates his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

I once heard someone say that Christ died for God. I think I know what he means. But I take great joy in this fact: Christ died for me! He took my sin upon Him, and he wants to make me like Him. Anthropocentric vs. Theopocentric soteriology… I hear these words and I think I get where the concern is. No, the world does not revolve around me or any of us! I get it. Yet here I am, trapped in this body, as this person, with this life. This is the life that I am responsible to live and this is where I experience the new life He has given me. I am not going to hide who I am or what God is doing here in a quest to be generic and impersonal … not in the blogdom and not anywhere else. I don't mean this post as a criticism of anyone else ... it is just my thoughts on how I must operate. (I look forward to doing some more noble posts that avoid all the personal pronouns that I used here!)

(My concept of how the blogdom relates to real life is a work in progress).

Thanks to all of those who are patient with me here in this strange universe of BLOG.


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