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

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What to do with this QUOTE?

"The devil is God's devil."

Jeremy Weaver contributed this quote, by Martin Luther, in the previous post. I have been mulling over it for days! I get the idea ... I see where Luther was coming from ... I have read Job ... but I am just, er, um .... uncomfortable saying "The devil is God's devil." Ummmm ... what do you make of the quote?

I mean, does it make anyone else feel like it is saying that there is a side of God that is dark? I know we don't believe that because the Bible says that God is light and goodness and love .... but ... "The devil is God's devil" makes me think of, like, "the other side of God" or something wicked like that. I just ... am not comfortable with that saying, or concept. Help me.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Out of the Mouths of Babes?

Last night at the dinner table, John and I were breifly discussing a coverstaion in which a friend .... (let's call him Drew) ... said that "God is in control of everything." (The context was actually in reference to John MacArthur's theodicity which was posted about over here.) Drew had gone to the Ligonier's conference and was saying how great it was. (The pastor who wrote the above link also went to the conference and wrote about some of the things John MacArthur said there.) John was asking Drew earlier yesterday what he thought of John MacArthur's statements. Drew affirmed the idea that "God controls everything." This is what we were discussing at the dinner table.

My little girl was listening to the couple of sentences we said - wherein we gave no opinion and did not pontificate about the statement "God controls everything," - but were just reporting that someone else said it. She then said with conviction:

"God doesn't control everything ... or else we would always do what we're supposed to."

In other words, she was saying that if God was all-controlling, then she would always lean over her plate, never hit her brother, never lie or steal ... and always finish her dinner.

What would you say to her if she were your daughter (or if she were a child under YOUR tutelage)?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Isn't Any Other View of God's Working in Salvation an Anthropocentric Gospel?

Here are a couple of words that are bandied about quite a bit: anthropocentric and theocentric.

Anthropocentric = man-centered
Theocentric = God-centered

Some say that if we discuss man’s responsibility to receive Christ and the work that He alone accomplished on Calvary, then the gospel we teach is anthropocentric. They say that the insistence that people can respond to this gospel ... having been drawn by the Holy Spirit, before regeneration ... is an anthropocentric idea and not true Grace. Only the "Doctrines of Grace" truly present the theocentric view of salvation.

Let me illustrate the absurdity of this charge against the non-Calvinist by showing you a conversation:

Louie says:
“Calvinism = the gospel.”

Now, I just think that is a very bad statement to make. It elevates a theological system above its proper realm. I think Spurgeon originally said this. Too bad.

Sam quotes Dr. Daniel Akin (a four point Calvinist ):
"Calvinism is not the Gospel. The Gospel is the Gospel. The Gospel is the death, the burial, the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the perfect atonement for the forgiveness of sins. You might argue that the basic system of Calvinism is consistent with the Gospel, but Calvinism is not the Gospel."

Sam repeats the statement of Dr. Akin in his own words, thus:
The Gospel is the death, the burial, the resurrection of Jesus Christ as a perfect atonement for the forgiveness of sins.

Amen; only because of this truth of the gospel can one of Adam's lost race have the life of God within him and live forever with the Father.

Now, Randy (who really likes to use this word theocentric to puff up his Calvinistic stance) says this to Sam about Sam's gospel statement (in the blue):
You have omitted "for whom." I suggest to you that the object of the work of Christ is equally essential as the work and the worker. Christ did not do some abstract work: Christ did something in particular for "us" (cf. 1Cor 15:3).

Now, while I don't disagree with the statement itself, Randy is using it to buttress the focus on the idea of the "unconditionally elect." He is saying that to say "Christ died for sinners" is not enough; we must be more specific to say that Christ died for the elect, or that is not the gospel. This conversation reveals a telling fact.

Who is teaching the anthropocentric message here? Since Calvinism is all about the “elect” and turns men’s thoughts to who those elect are ... and when and why did God choose them, etc… could it not be said that this is the anthropocentric gospel?

I believe such speculation about the "elect" is an unhealthy endeavor. We should keep our eyes on Jesus and the work that He has done and not consider the "limits" that some would like to place on it - it is much too anthropocentric!

There is nothing anthropocentric about a gospel presentation that does not include the doctrines of "election." The fact that whosoever believes into Christ has eternal life and that we are to spread the gospel to every man, telling them that this grace is available from Christ for them is not any more anthropocentric than the alternative. Telling men of this "particular redemption" of TULIP (see my sidebar if you don't know what I am talking about), and causing them to wonder if they are one of the particular ones for who Christ died is a much quicker way to get the focus off of God. In fact, I would say that the concept of "particular redemption" is quite a bit more man-focused.

If Faith is not a Gift, Isn't there Room for Boasting?

It seems from the Calvinist point of view, if one says that everyone can believe or have faith in the gospel message, but some do not, then those who do, can boast. In other words, the “doctrines of grace” (Calvinism) teach that no one can believe in the gospel unless God regenerates the heart first, then they see the truth, believe and receive, and are saved. This all happens because God chose them before the foundation of the world. The only way we believe and receive is if we are chosen. Therefore we cannot boast that we have faith, because we only have faith because we are chosen. If we don’t believe in this theology, then we set ourselves up for boasting because we were wise enough or insightful enough to believe the message, and therefore we must be better than the unsaved person ... so says the Calvinist.

I decided to do a search on the word boast. I found a lot!

… he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. (Romans 3:26-28)
Paul is, as usual, contrasting faith and law or works. If we are saved by faith, what have we to be proud of? We cannot say we have worked our way to heaven. We can only cast ourselves on God’s mercy when we have faith that He will save, that He can save. Does Paul think that we can boast of our “faith” in Christ as being some special insight we have in and of ourselves? I think not.

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:1-3)
Paul again sites “believing God” as being nothing to boast about.

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 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. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 1: 20-31)
In that passage, Paul says we should and can boast – in the Lord! He chose the weak, lowly and despised so that there is no boasting. The gospel message is for the weak. It is not for him who thinks himself to be alright and righteous. The preaching of the gospel does not appeal to our pride ... quite the opposite. We can only boast of all that God has done by reconciling us to Himself through Christ, not by any work that we have done to gain favor. I don’t see the passage saying that if we believe the gospel, we have something to boast about. It says quite the opposite.

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. 1For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
This is probably the verse that the Calvinist would point to most of all to make his assertion that we could boast of our faith if the faith is not a gift given only to the chosen. I have read where they say that the verse speaks of faith as the gift. Taking the verse apart, I don’t see how that can be. What do you think? It seems to me that salvation by grace is the gift spoken of. We see two phrases, “it is the gift of God” and “not by works” – these two phrases are both describing the same thing. If so, can we say that “not by works” could describe faith? Nowhere is the concept of gaining faith by work found in the NT. However, the concept of gaining salvation by work is a concept refuted everywhere in the NT, as it is here. Salvation by grace is the “gift of God” and “not by works.” Read the verse again.

I don't get this constant reference to boasting. If I believed in Calvinism, couldn't I boast because obviously God loved me more than those who won't be saved? Couldn't I say that it was ME ME ME ME that God chose?
We can twist it around so the other side is presenting cause for boasting from their theology, but it isn't helpful toward defining the message that we can present to a lost and dying world. I believe the message that I can tell anyone is this: "You are a sinner. Jesus Christ loves you and He died for your sin ... yes, He died for YOU! Believe this gospel and receive Christ and you will be reconciled to God and have eternal life."

This is available to “the whole world.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Heartfelt Post

A really interesting post on one of the first blogs I ever read.
Dr. MacArthur's Theodicity

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Why Does One Believe and Another Doesn't?

(from the series: Questions Calvinists Ask)

Why doesn’t everyone believe and receive when they hear the gospel? Certain people like to say that the reason lies with God’s sovereignty. His answer is very simple: because God doesn't give them faith ... because He has not elected them. God does not choose the person to have faith and therefore he does not believe. These have tried to stump others who don’t believe this way by asking the question, “Why does one believe and another doesn’t?”

This question comes up a lot! If a non-Calvinist doesn't have an answer to this question, then it is implied that we have had our legs cut out from under us. Well, I have an answer: There are many reasons and I don't know them all. What a concept!

I say the reasons are as complex and various as the snowflakes. Each person is made up many experiences, many passions, many sins, different family backgrounds, etc… To understand why one responds to the gospel and another doesn’t, you would have to be able to analyze a person’s whole life and soul. I believe it is just that complex. When a lost person won’t receive Christ, the “Doctrines of Grace” advocate likes to simplify it and blame it on God. He has just one reason … but … there are many reasons. To be able to answer this question, I would have to be God Himself!

Here are some other thoughts on this question:
Matthew says:
Why do some people choose to keep to the speed limit and others do not?Why are some men faithful to their wives and others not?Why are some people willing to listen to the opinions of others and others preferring to be ignorant and obstinate?I think we can safely put the question of why some believe along with those questions.There are many factors at work that result in some people choosing certain actions over others. There are many reasons why a person may become open to the message of the Gospel (dissatisfaction with life, uncertainty about death, guilt over behaviour, breakdown of relationships etc).
KC says:
We agree the scripture is the only authoritative source for finding our answer and that our understanding is invalid if it fails to satisfy the scripture but unfortunately it is philosophy that frames both our approach and our interpretation. A prime example is in the approach we each use to answer this question. Presupposing that God determines all things you would search to see what God would add in a man that he might believe. My presupposition being that, though God has established our boundaries, He created each of us in accordance with His will that all men be saved having all we would need to obey His command and that it is not God who adds rebellion in a man but man himself. While God most surely created the vessel, He did not ordain that it be filled with wrath and fit for destruction. I would then find that it is not a thing God adds that allows a man to believe, but a thing a man adds that would cause him to reject the truth, namely pride in its various forms. Does God move that we might be saved? Absolutely ... and it is He alone who can save us, but as you already pointed out, there is no record where He saved anyone who rejected His Christ, His salvation.

So Why Does One Believe and Another Doesn't? The reasons are various, but they lie within each person. God searches the hearts and minds, He knows. I don't need to know. It is OK not to know.

A New Series of Posts

I think I am going to start a new series. Maybe I will call it "Issues Calvinists Raise" ...or... "Questions Calvinists Ask" ...or... "Talking Points of the Calvinist."

These will just be dealt with and added to the series as I am so inspired.

There are many of these. In the comments of one of the posts below, Gayla brought up the idea that if faith is not a gift, then we can boast if we have faith. I assured her that this is a very popular thing to say. I even heard it from my own pastor via the pulpit some months back. Jonathan Moorhead has said it a few times. I have seen it all over the blogosphere and I know it is an idea in much Calvinist literature. However, I don't think it is a biblical thing to say. As I said to Gayla, I think it is taking a biblical idea against boasting in works and applying it to faith in an awkward, deformed way that is never done in the Bible regarding saving faith in the gospel. I wrote a whole post on that here and I am going to edit it a little bit and add it to my new series - maybe prominently in my sidebar.

Below you will find another post that is going to be a part of the new series.

Please feel free to add your ideas to the mix!
Some more titles to come for this series (which may or may not be re-postings of things already published)
  • Isn't Any Other View of God's Working in Salvation an Anthropocentric Gospel?
  • How can a DEAD Person Respond to God?
In addition to these already Mentioned:
  • Why Does One Person Believe and Another Doesn't?
  • If Faith is not a Gift, Isn't there Room for Boasting?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Is God Obliged to Save?

I ranted a little in the article below about some of my problems with the idea the "faith is a gift." My friend Colin (goodnightsafehome) asked me a question in the comments. (Well, actually, he asked me several questions, but one really caught my attention.) Update: Daniel also asked it after I began this post yesterday!

Is God *obliged* to anything to save a guilty sinner? If so, then it ceases to be grace, but debt. If He is not obliged to save any, then is He obliged to save all?

He was asking this in response to my wondering about there being an excuse for those who weren't "gifted" with the ability to believe in the salvation that He has provided. My answer to the question ...

Is God obliged to save any man? Well, if asked that way, the answer I suppose would be "no." But ... I would say that this is the wrong question for this discussion. Let me move away from this question for a moment and then I will drift back over to it. The question is rather, "Is God obliged to give any man faith?" Which, is a question that might seem absurd to some based on the answer to the underlying question, "What is faith?" I would say that faith is not faith if it is something that is gifted to you. The Bible says that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Does this sound like something God did to Abraham's mind - opened it up, gifted him with "faith" so that he KNEW what God was saying was true? Or ... does it sound like Abraham allowed his mind to be convinced that God was true. He did not harden his heart and turn off his mind to the light that was given to him, but rather embraced the LORD. Abraham believed God. It was credited to him. Would some have us believe that God gifted Abraham with "faith" and then credited him for it?

Some take this desire to claim no credit a bit too far. The Bible speaks of faith as a non-work, so we can't boast in works. There is no credit. Granted, some will boast in faith, but in biblical terms, faith is belief and is not worthy of boasting. This is something found in your heart and mind after the hearing the gospel. Anyone who hears the gospel can incline their ear to the reasoning therein ... or ... they can turn away with disinterest. Belief is not placed in us by God or it is ceases to be belief, it becomes knowledge ... just as grace is not grace if it is owed, but becomes debt. (God does not owe anyone salvation based on their works - this is what the Bible teaches. )

... which takes me back to the original question. Is God obliged to save a guilty sinner?

I would say "obliged" is the wrong word. Unless you would see Him as obliged by His own Word, for he has promised in that Word, to receive any guilty sinner who will believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life.

... and you can take that to the bank!

Oh, and one more thing!
Was God obliged to keep his promise to Abraham? Call it "oblige" if you like, but below is a good example where the Scripture makes it clear that the LORD does make promises He won't break. This is His sovereign choice to do so!
Hebrews 6
13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.”15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. 16 For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. 17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie ...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Why Do I Have a Problem?

Ya know, I have a real problem with the statement "faith is a gift." As I have said in other posts in the past (some of which are in my sidebar) ... if one means that the capacity for faith is a gift just in the same sense that the capacity for taking a breath is a gift ... then ... no problem. Everything we do or think is only allowable as a gift from God. But ... when I hear people, people that I love in my church ... ladies ... saying things like, "Even the faith that we have to believe in Him is a gift from Him." or ... "We don't believe ... it is all of God, He gives us the belief, He decides who has the faith." ... I get really bothered.

Why? Why does it bother me so much? Is it because I want to rob God of His power? Is it because I don't want God to get all the credit He is due? Is it because I think man deserves some credit? The answer is absolutely NO! I believe in the omniscient, all powerful God, just like other Bible believers.

My problem with the statement that faith is a gift is twofold.

Firstly, I don't find it in the Bible. As was demonstrated in this post, the most common Scripture reference for the idea that faith is a gift ... is not saying that faith is a gift. At best, one could say that some men, some reputable teachers believe that Ephesians 2:8-9 is saying that faith is a gift, but an equal number of greek-savvy expositors say that Ephesians 2:8-9 is not saying that, but it is saying that salvation is a gift. So ... at best ... this view of Ephesians 2:8-9 is debatable. Check out my diagram.

My second reason springs off the first. While it is sweet to say that God gave me my faith and it had nothing to do with me ... while this gives Him all the credit for my entering into the salvation that He has provided ... it is a two edged sword. Why do I say it is a two-edged sword? Because this also makes God responsible for unbelief. Slice it and dice it any way you want, but if God gifts some with faith, He witholds faith from others, determining hell for them. Therefore, they have an excuse. This is unbiblical. God says that those who enter hell are "without excuse."

If the "faith is a gift" philosophy is right, I imagine someday at the white throne judgement all the people who will say, "But God, you witheld faith from me. I see now that your Word says that the gospel is the power of salvation for everyone who believes. Well, faith is a gift and you never gave it to me, so it is your fault that I did not believe am not saved. I heard the gospel plenty, but I couldn't believe, because I wasn't able. Why didn't you give me faith? I had no hope at all."

While that is a rather comical presentation and I know some Calvinist will slice it and dice it, there is a truth there which can't be avoided.

This philosophy that beleif is provided by God ... that faith is a gift, while well-intentioned, really lays blame at God's feet ... and He is above it. I find that unacceptable and unbiblical.

Friday, March 09, 2007

How Many Seeds?

A friend of mine has been sending me some rather intense emails. He doesn't read my blog, but if he does, then I am sure he will be glad that I don't list his name here. He was trying to tell me about this new Theology he has found - New Covenant Theology. He was saying things like this in the email:

At this point, I’ve come to understand that Covenantalism is an abhorrence and classical Dispensationalism is an abomination. Seriously … you’d see it for yourself if you’d merely be willing to look!

I wondered where this extreme language was coming from. I couldn't help but feel like his attitude was a little condescending, to say the least. Then, another friend gave us a book - one of two books that these two guys are studying together. Now I think I understand. Does anyone else have any thoughts on the spirit, attitude and content on the back cover of this book as posted below?

Abraham's Four Seeds by John G. Reisinger (from back cover)

Abraham's Four Seeds is a biblical examination of the presuppositions of Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism. Pastor, evenagelist, and author John G. Reisinger demonstrates how a correct understanding of Abraham's seeds is key to harmonizing Scripture. He writes:

The following statement, if correctly inderstood, will help to clear up a lot of confusion: The nation of Israel was not the 'Body of Christ,' even though the Body of Christ is indeed the true 'Israel of God.'

Covenant Theology cannot accept the first part of that staement and Dispensationalism cannot accept the second part. The basic presuppositions of Covenant Theology make it mandatory that Israel be the church and be under the same covenant as the church, and the one thing a Dispensationalist must maintain is the church's present and future distinction from Israel whcih makes it mandatory that Israel and the church can never be under the same covenant or inherit the same blessings. What is essential to one system is anahtema to the other system.

Dispensationalism cannot get Israel and the church together in any sense whatever, and Covenant Theology cannot get them apart. Dispensationalism cannot see that the church is the true Israel of God and the fulfillment of the promises that God made to Abraham and the fathers, and Covenant Theology insists that Israel and the Body of Christ are equally the "same redeemed church under the same 'covenant of grace' and governed by the same identical 'canon of conduct.'"

Dispensationalism drives a wedge between the OT and the NT and never the twain shall meet as specific PROMISE (OT) and identical FULFILLMENT (NT); and Covenant Theology flattens the whole Bible out into one covenant where there is no real and vital distinction between either the Old and New Covenants or Israel and the church.

The Old Covenant proved one's guilt and forbade one to draw near without a prefect righteousness or an acceptable sacrifice. The New Covenant declares a believer to be both righteous and acceptable in God's sight, and it bids him come boldly without fear into the very Most Holy place that was totally closed off to all but Aaron under the Old Covenant.

The law as a legal covenant ended when the veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom, and the law as a pedagogue over the conscience was dismissed on the day of Pentecost when the 'promise of the Father' took up his abode in every believer as the personal Vicar of the ascended Lord. The giving of the Spirit is the proof of the accepted work of Christ in the heavenly tabernacle, and the 'given Spirit' INDWELLING the believer is the indelible assurance of our eternal acceptance by the Father.

It is the author's desire that this book would be of benefit to those who desire to understand "What does the Scripture say?" May the watchword SOLA SCRIPTURA have real meaning in the church!


The book is available here.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Lurking in the Darkness?

6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:6-8)

What is walking in the Light? I need to look at e-sword to see if I can figure out the nuances of that phrase, but I have always thought from past readings that it meant something like “to be out in the open.” I think of “walking in the light” as being able to be seennot hiding. Walking in the light is just being what you are and not pretending to be someone who you are not. It is being honest about your sins and your struggles.

If I am correct about this, then the next part of the passage makes a lot of sense to me. “… we have fellowship with one another…” How can you have fellowship with anyone if you are hiding who you are? If you are keeping a secret sin from your spouse, for example, how do you ever expect to have intimacy? Or … If you have friends at church who know you as a reasonable, kind and loving Christian person … but when you go to work you act like a butthead and treat your employees like you think they are dog meat, you are not walking in the light. You are living a double life. Be more genuine and level that off a bit. Why not just be who you are in both places? Think about what you learned in the Bible when you are at work – it applies there! And on the other hand … Go to church and say what you really think, even if you sound like a jerk. Your godly friends might try to convince you of the ways of Christ, help you see the light and the Word of God can change your mind and actions. This could be fellowship! Hiding who you are is not helpful to you or anyone else in the body of Christ. It is like having a hidden cancer in one of your organs. A disease can’t be treated if no one is aware that it is there. This isn’t fair to the body of Christ … and in the earlier example of the husband and wife, this is not fair to your family. If there is something that you feel you just can't do "out in the open" ... then you probably shouldn't do it! Duh.

Phonies can’t have true fellowship. When two people are sitting face to face and one of them is being a phony, then the other person is having a conversation with an imaginary person. What an unfortunate event for both people. The deceiver is missing out on the friendship while he carries on the hoax ... and the unsuspecting friend is missing out on truly knowing the person whom he is investing time with. Honesty and truth is the springboard for love and intimacy. Deception is the seed of isolation. Both the deceiver and the deceived are wasting precious time that could be spent in fellowship.

“…and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” This is the part of the verse that brings the solution to a head for our sins and struggles. Walking in the light and being honest about who you are … having real fellowship with others as they see who you are … this all allows for the cleansing, practical living out of the justification that Christ has purchased. Turn that rock over and let the blood of Christ wash off the slime. This needs to be done out in the light. When I hear of people trying to get past some of these sinful habits without telling anyone … keeping them a secret, I know they are traveling up a steep and slippery hill. We can’t do this in a dark cave. We aren’t meant to be alone. We have to come out into the light. The true fellowship will happen with those who really love you in the Lord … and the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse you.

6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:6-8)
If you don’t believe this, then why say you believe the Bible? This is not a pious platitude; this is where the rubber meets the road.

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