Monday, February 16, 2015

Trent's Most Dangerous Doctrine

Christ promised that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  In John 10:28, He puts it in such strong terms, it's as if Christ is jumping up and down and shouting "THEY WILL NEVER EVER EVER PERISH".1 The biggest problem I have with Catholicism is their doctrine that true believers sometimes perish and do not have eternal life.

I don't know why this problem doesn't receive that much attention from Protestants.  Perhaps it's because many Protestants teach salvation cannot be lost.  Calvin 's response to the Catholic teaching on unformed faith was to insist that faith cannot be separated from love.2   True enough, but Luther's reaction was stronger: "In this manner they completely transfer justification from faith and attribute it solely to love". 3  Could the difference in these responses be due to Calvin's saying temporary faith is false faith whereas Luther said temporary faith is true faith?

Catholics teach baptismal justification and that Christians can fall from grace and they merge justification with sanctification. While these are real problems they are not as serious as the problem I am referring to. To get at the real issue, lets grant them all for the sake of argument.  Let's say salvation can be lost. What causes the loss of salvation.  Most Lutherans and Arminians would say a loss of faith.4  Some would even say that sins can lead to a loss of faith and thereby cause a loss of salvation.  But Catholics say you can sin mortally while remaining a true believer and thereby lose your salvation.  By sinning mortally they don't mean that the sin kills your faith but rather kills your spiritual life.  Thus Catholics deny the necessary connection between faith and eternal life and thus they deny Christ's promise to believers.
Let's walk through the Council of Trent, session 6, chapter 15 and the related cannons 27-29 step by step.     
CHAPTER XV.  That, by every mortal sin, grace is lost, but not faith.
In opposition also to the subtle wits of certain men, who, by pleasing speeches and good words, seduce the hearts of the innocent, it is to be maintained, that the received grace of Justification is lost, not only by infidelity whereby even faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin whatever, though faith be not lost; thus defending the doctrine of the divine law, which excludes from the kingdom of God not only the unbelieving, but the faithful also (who are) fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, liers with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, railers, extortioners, and all others who commit deadly sins; from which, with the help of divine grace, they can refrain, and on account of which they are separated from the grace of Christ.

Paul says if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  (Romans 10:9-12) Trent says, one can have this sort of faith and through this faith be justified.  So Trent is talking about true believers, not false faith or a mere outward profession.   Yet this person can retain this true faith and still be separated from the grace of Christ through mortal sin.   This assumes that true faith can coexist with mortal sin and as a consequence, denies the certainty that believers will be saved.    

CANON XXVII.-If any one saith, that there is no mortal sin but that of infidelity; or, that grace once received is not lost by any other sin, however grievous and enormous, save by that of infidelity ; let him be anathema.

Paul describes apostasy as making shipwreck of faith (1 Timothy 1:19, see also Colossians 1:21-23 and Romans 11:20 and Hebrews 3:12-14). Minimally, cannon 27 is saying loss of faith is not the only type of apostasy or the only cause of loss of salvation.  This one sets the stage for the big one, cannon 28:

CANON XXVIII.-If any one saith, that, grace being lost through sin, faith also is always lost with it; or, that the faith which remains, though it be not a lively faith, is not a true faith; or, that he, who has faith without charity, is not a Christian; let him be anathema.

Canon 28 plainly teaches people can have true faith (a faith through which they were previously justified) and still perish. It implies we cannot trust Christ's promise to save believers.  It's the most dangerous doctrine I've seen from Rome as it counters the heart of the gospel.

This canon locks Catholics into some miss-understandings of James 2 and 1 Corinthians 13:2 and Galatians 5:6.  Catholics must understand James to be talking about true faith, but James says: 1) can "that" faith save him? as distinct from real faith and 2)  "But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds" using the lack of deeds as evidence that the person did not have true faith, and 3) "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder", thus defining the faith he is discussing as naked monotheism (i.e. that of Judaism) without trust in Christ.  Demons do not believe Christ died for their sins.  If Trent had limited it's mistake on James 2 to "infused justification" I would be far more sympathetic, but to say James is talking about true faith is to put James hopelessly against Paul and Christ Himself.

1 Corinthians 13:2 is talking about the faith that works miracles. In 1 Corinthians 12:9, Paul is talking about a special sort of faith, not the faith all Christians must have to be saved. That’s why his teaching here doesn’t contradict his earlier teaching that we are justified by faith.
In Galatians 5:6, Paul isn't saying faith justifies through love, as if without love faith would not justify.  Rather Paul is saying faith works or performs good deeds through love.

Trent imposes misunderstandings of God's word on Catholics without resolving the conflicts they create.  

CANON XXIX.-If any one saith, that he, who has fallen after baptism, is not able by the grace of God to rise again; or, that he is able indeed to recover the justice which he has lost, but by faith alone without the sacrament of Penance, contrary to what the holy Roman and universal Church-instructed by Christ and his Apostles-has hitherto professed, observed, and taugh; let him be anathema. (link to Trent Session 6)

Canon 29 follows from 28: if true believers can be lost, then faith alone cannot be the means of restoration.  In the process it anathematize the view of many Arminians (based on Hebrews 6:4-6) that apostasy is without remedy.

I'm not saying we can live like the devil and go to heaven or that true faith can be without love. I am saying we can trust Christ's promise that believers shall not perish.  I'm going with Christ over Trent.


1 Dan Wallace calls the construction Emphatic Negation Subjunctive.  "Empatic negation is indicated by on me plus the aorist subjunctive or, less frequently, on me plus the future indicative (e.g. Matt 26:35; Mark 13:31; John 4:14; 6:35).  This is the strongest way to negate something in Greek.  One might hink the neagative witht eh subjunctive cound not be as strong as the negative with the indicitive.  However, while on + the indicative denies a certainty, on me + the subjunctive denies a potentiality.  The negative is not weaker; rather, the affirmation that is being negatived is less firm with the subjunctive.  On me rules out even the idea as being a possibility: "on me is the most decisive way of negativing something in the future. (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament By Daniel B. Wallace, page 468)

2 8. But before I proceed farther, it will be necessary to make some preliminary observations for the purpose of removing difficulties which might otherwise obstruct the reader. And first, I must refute the nugatory distinction of the Schoolmen as to formed and unformed faith. For they imagine that persons who have no fear of God, and no sense of piety, may believe all that is necessary to be known for salvation; as if the Holy Spirit were not the witness of our adoption by enlightening our hearts unto faith. Still, however, though the whole Scripture is against them, they dogmatically give the name of faith to a persuasion devoid of the fear of God. It is unnecessary to go farther in refuting their definition, than simply to state the nature of faith as declared in the word of God. From this it will clearly appear how unskillfully and absurdly they babble, rather than discourse, on this subject. I have already done this in part, and will afterwards add the remainder in its proper place. At present, I say that nothing can be imagined more absurd than their fiction. They insist that faith is an assent with which any despiser of God may receive what is delivered by Scripture. But we must first see whether any one can by his own strength acquire faith, or whether the Holy Spirit, by means of it, becomes the witness of adoption. Hence it is childish trifling in them to inquire whether the faith formed by the supervening quality of love be the same, or a different and new faith. By talking in this style, they show plainly that they have never thought of the special gift of the Spirit; since one of the first elements of faith is reconciliation implied in man’s drawing near to God. Did they duly ponder the saying of Paul, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness,” (Rom. 10:10), they would cease to dream of that frigid quality. There is one consideration which ought at once to put an end to the debate—viz. that assent itself (as I have already observed, and will afterwards more fully illustrate) is more a matter of the heart than the head, of the affection than the intellect. For this reason, it is termed “the obedience of faith,” (Rom. 1:5), which the Lord prefers to all other service, and justly, since nothing is more precious to him than his truth, which, as John Baptist declares, is in a manner signed and sealed by believers (John 3:33). As there can be no doubt on the matter, we in one word conclude, that they talk absurdly when they maintain that faith is formed by the addition of pious affection as an accessory to assent, since assent itself, such at least as the Scriptures describe, consists in pious affection. But we are furnished with a still clearer argument. Since faith embraces Christ as he is offered by the Father, and he is offered not only for justification, for forgiveness of sins and peace, but also for sanctification, as the fountain of living waters, it is certain that no man will ever know him aright without at the same time receiving the sanctification of the Spirit; or, to express the matter more plainly, faith consists in the knowledge of Christ; Christ cannot be known without the sanctification of his Spirit: therefore faith cannot possibly be disjoined from pious affection. (Calvin's Institutes.  Book 3.  Chapter 2 Section 8  See also Sections 9-11) 

3 The sophists apply this passages (Galatians 5:6) in support of their doctrine that we are justified by love or by works.  For they say that even when faith has been divinely infused - and I am not even speaking of faith that is merely acquired - it does not justify unless it has been formed by love.  They call love "the grace that makes one acceptable", namely, that justifies, to use our term, or rather Paul's; and they say that love is acquired by our merit of congruity, etc. In fact, they even declare that an infused faith can coexist with mortal sin.  In this manner they completely transfer justification from faith and attribute it solely to love as thus defined.  And they claim that this is proved by St. Paul in the passage - "faith working through love" - as though Paul wanted to say: "You see, faith does not justify; in fact, it is nothing unless love the worker is added, which forms faith.  (Works of Martin Luther.  Lectures on Galatians 5:6, volume 27, page 28)

4 However, since salvation and justification are by faith and not works, and faith yields obedience (Rom 1:5; 14:23; 16:26; Gal 5:6; 1 Thes 1:3; 2 The 1:11; Heb 11; James 2:14-26), these types of passages should not be taken to indicate that sinning in itself results in the forfeiture of salvation (though some Arminians believe this), whether by any sin whatsoever or certain egregious sins. Rather, ongoing refusal to repent of sin by one who has been a believer and continues to profess to be a believer reflects that the person is no longer truly trusting in Christ as Lord and Savior, and it is the forsaking of genuine faith that actually leads to practical rejection of Christ’s lordship and the loss of salvation, even if the person still professes faith in Christ.  (From the Society of Evangelical Arminians FACTS writeup).

Friday, September 19, 2014

A New Flower in the Calvinism/Arminianism Debate

Francisco Marín-Sola advances an innovative alternative in the free will/determinism debate in the book, Do Not Resist the Spirit's Call: Francisco Marín-Sola on Sufficient Grace.  He claims his view is Thomism, and I certainly don’t deny that it could be a type of Thomism, though other Thomists like Lagrange are far more determinist than Marín-Sola.  In the spectrum, I would place it here:

Since many theological systems have a flower acronym (TULIP, ROSES, DAISY, POINSETTIA…) I figured I would give Marín-Sola’s system the LOTUS.


Laps of Man Foreknown but not Caused by God.  God foreknows the fall, but He does not cause it.  Man is the first cause of all sins. -  While all but Open Theists would agree the fall was foreknown, likely Calvinists and Thomists would object to the idea that man is the first cause of sin or anything else for that matter.

Only by Grace.  God provides sufficient grace for all, which is a physical pre-motion always directed to good and that produces good if not resisted.  This sufficient grace not only enables good acts, but starts them, though it does not actually complete them or produce final perseverance.  So this fallible decree is God's will antecedent to man's resistance or non-resistance, and it's the first cause of all good.  – Open Theists, Arminians and Molinists would likely object to the idea that sufficient grace stops short of final perseverance or that it doesn’t see people all the way through to heaven.  Thomists and Calvinist on the other hand, would object to the idea that given the same grace, one man would resist and another not resist.  Likewise they would object to fallible decrees.  Also Calvinists would object to the idea of the non-elect being brought to true repentance and saving faith. 

Timeless knowledge of who would and wouldn't resist.  God, the eternal now, foreknows if man would freely resist or not resist this sufficient grace.  – All but Molinists would object to this idea, though Thomists and Calvinists might grant it, but not if man is the first cause of resistance and not if the knowledge is prior to God’s decree. 

Unconditional Election.  God unconditionally elects some sinners to glory.  -  All Open Theists and Arminians would reject this, while all Calvinists and Thomists would accept it.  Molinists would be split, with Congruists accepting it and others rejecting it. 

Securing of the Elect.  Via a consequent will, God infallibly decrees to provide efficient grace for the elect to remove resistance, which secures final perseverance.  – While many others could agree with the ethos behind this statement, this view is unique to Marín-Sola, given the way he has configured the other elements.  Calvinists and Thomists would object to the idea that God could find in us a resistance for which we are the first cause.  Molinists would object that were God to remove such resistance, He would destroy the freedom He gave us.

While I enjoyed reading Marin-Sola’s views, and I really like his point on non-resistance, I’m not sure I’m ready to sign up.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Response to Nathanael Taylor on Molinism

Nathanael P. Taylor is posting a series on Molinism (link) Here’s his description of Molinism.

In Molinism, it’s been true through all eternity past that if I were in a circumstance C, then I would have faith in Christ. Logically, this means that it was true prior to God choosing to create this actual world. However, this just happens to be true—it is a contingent truth. In other words, something different could have been true from all eternity past. The counterfactual that if I were in a circumstance then I would have faith in Christ could have either been truth or false.

Suppose this counterfactual statement turned out true—you might ask, “What makes this counterfactual true or false?” And the answer is that nothing makes it true. The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are just true from all eternity past and, oddly, nothing makes them true. God can’t make them true because that would mean God has control over the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, resembling Calvinism. Creatures can’t make them true because they were true before creatures existed. So nothing makes them true; they are just brute facts.

Molinists are not committed to saying “counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are just true and nothing makes them true”. We need not be committed to any specific view of grounding or if any grounding is required. We are however committed to denying any form of grounding that implies causal determinism. Take the classical text on Ezekiel’s mission (Ezekiel 3:6-7). God’s statement that foreigners would repent is true because, if they were in that circumstance, that’s what they would do. So we are committed to saying that, supposing God created a parallel universe in which He sends Ezekiel to say India, they would freely repent.

There’s a difference between grounding questions and grounding objections. It’s fine to say “I don’t know” if someone asks how counterfactuals are grounded. But if someone advances from the question to the objection that 1) nothing grounds counterfactuals of freedom and 2) counterfactuals of freedom need to be grounded in some existing thing, we need to examine their presuppositions that led them to this position. In Natanael’s case, he seems to be presupposing that only causal determinism could ground counterfactuals of freedom, which is to presuppose that there can be no counterfactuals of freedom. Indeed, he seems to hold this as a brute fact. It just is.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Molinism and God's Infallible Plan

Turretinfan recently posted on Dr. Anderson’s argument that on Molinism God’s decrees are fallible, because we can choose otherwise than God decrees. (link to Turretinfan’s post; link to Dr. Anderson’s post).  But Dr. Craig pointed out that if the person would have chosen otherwise, God’s decrees would have been different.  Dr. Anderson then called this solution a “special pleading” and argued Molinists should not be allowed to exclude God’s decree.  His supporting reasons were 1) God’s decree implies we will not do otherwise (he called this a relative logical necessity) and 2) God’s decree has causal consequences.  Turretinfan accepts Dr. Anderson’s arguments and adds that sometimes prophesies are self-fulfilling (i.e. a prophesied victory motivates troops to fight).    

This is a complex business but fortunately the answer is simple.  Here’s a chart explaining Molinism:

Dr. Anderson asks us to explain middle knowledge in light of God’s decree.  In doing so, he redraws the chart moving the Divine Creative Decree above moment 2. No, middle knowledge explains God’s decree not the other way around.  Nor was Molinism invented to evade Dr. Anderson’s arguments against Molinism.

The remaining arguments say how important God’s decree is: 1) it implies the event will happen, 2) it has causal influences, 3) it leads to self-fulfilling prophesies.  But we do not exclude God’s power to do all these things from God’s middle knowledge, or our analysis of man’s free will.[note 1]  Nor do we deny that such factors logically imply that the event will happen.  What we deny is that God’s decree, causal influence or the causal influence of self-fulfilling prophesies causally determine the event.  That is to say, given the causal influence of such factors, and indeed, given all proceeding causal influences, the person retains a twofold causal ability, such that he can choose A or ~A.  Dr. Anderson seems to recognize this when he says:

“It isn’t a causal determinism, but it’s still determinism in the sense that God’s decree that S will do A (which is fixed prior to any of S’s choices) guarantees that S will do A. Given that God has decreed that S will do A, S cannot do otherwise than A.”

While I would have worded the conclusion as “it cannot be, that S will do otherwise than A” rather than “S cannot do otherwise than A”, I agree with the substance of Dr. Anderson’s comments – on Molinism, God’s decree does not lead to causal determinism but it does imply the decreed events will happen.  So, Molinists explain God’s infallibility through infallible knowledge and inescapable logical implications rather than causal determinism.  


Note 1 - While the decree itself follows middle knowledge, the possibility of the decree and the causal influence of the decree (and self fulfilling prophecies) are a part of God's natural knowledge.  Again, Dr. Anderson and Turretinfan redraw the chart to push moment 1 under moment 2.  No, God’s power to decree, and the causal influences His decree can have and the influence self-fulfilling prophesies can have are all part of God’s natural knowledge and therefore helps explain middle knowledge and man's free will.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Friday, October 18, 2013

James Anderson on Calvinism and the First Sin

James Anderson was kind enough to share a chapter of an upcoming book he’s working on.  (link)  The chapter is titled Calvinism and the First Sin and the book will be titled Calvinism and the Problem of Evil.  Dr. Anderson will remove the online version once the book is published, so read it while you can.

Dr. Anderson addresses the challenges unique to Calvinism regarding the problem of evil including: 1) God’s determining the first sin makes Him the author of sin, 2) Calvinists must be compatiblists and there are some fairly strong arguments against compatibilism, and 3) and given Adam’s good nature, there’s no causal explanation for the first sin. 

To his credit, Dr. Anderson openly embraces the idea that Calvinism is indeed divine determinism.  Now in true Van Tillian fashion, he spends a great deal of time explaining what this does not mean without elaborating on what it does mean.  Dr. Anderson argues that Calvinists need not be causal determinists.  Curiously, his reason is that God can cause events directly (i.e. miracles).    Dr. Anderson then argues that God’s causal activity in the world is absolutely unique – and this becomes the foundation for his primary response to the three arguments against theological determinism.  Put another way, the differences between God and man on causation are essential (not just accidental) to causation itself, such that we run the risk of equivocating when we speak of God and man’s causation.  Thus we should not expect responsibility to work the same in divine verses human causation.  Dr. Anderson explains God’s causation via the analogy of an author of a book and while he acknowledges this supports the idea that God is the author of sin, he argues that since we don’t blame authors who write in crimes for their characters, we shouldn’t blame God for writing sin into His plan.  However, I don’t think this response works, because when an author writes a crime into a book, nothing bad has happened – so of course we don’t blame the author.  A closer analogy would be someone writing a screen play for a pornography.  In cases like that we should blame the author.

One minor pet peeve.  Dr. Anderson separates Molinism, Arminianism and Open Theism as the three primary alternative accounts. I would have preferred the categories Molinism, Simple Foreknowledge and Open Theism, to leave room for the fact that many Arminians are Molinists.  Overall it was a pleasant read and very clear, and I would recommend folks read it and consider the issues.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

Pope says "Who am I to judge Gays?"

Thought this was coming, but it was quicker than I would have guessed.  This will of course lead to corruption in society, but also to the purification of Christ's Church, as many will now see their choice is between their Pope and God's word.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Review - Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace by Keith Stanglin and Thomas McCall

The book begins with a brief but helpful account of the life and times of Jacob Arminius, but points readers to Bangs work for a more detailed biography (Bangs, Carl.  Arminius – A Study in the Dutch Reformation.  Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1998).  Then it dives into the foundation of Arminius’ theology - his explanations of God’s attributes.  On the simplicity of God, Aquinas taught God’s attributes are distinct only in the way we think about them, but are really united in God, but Arminius disagreed and rather followed John Dun Scottus who taught God’s attributes really are distinct in God even though they are absolutely inseparable.   On omniscience, Arminius followed Luis De Molina in affirming middle knowledge – and this book is the first I have seen to acknowledge that Arminius’ view of predestination is based on God’s middle knowledge of faith rather than so called simple foreknowledge.  Then in a rare low point in the book - Arminius is accused of denying Christ aseity (i.e. denying passages like John 8:58), but the accusation is based on what the authors see as the implications of Arminius beliefs even though Arminius denies the implication.   The chapter closes with Arminius’ view of creation; which Arminius sees as God’s freely communicating His goodness to whatever He creates.  Thus the idea that God creates people for hellfire troubles Arminius.

Arminius sees God’s providence as meticulous.  God provides for what He created through preservation, concurrence and governance of all that happens.  God permits rather than causes sin – Arminius is concerned with making God the author of evil.  Arminius holds to what we call libertarian free will and offers a free will defense similar to Plantinga’s account (Plantinga, Alvin. God, Freedom and Evil.  Eerdmans Publishing, 1974); using middle knowledge to reconcile God’s plan with man’s freedom.

On predestination, Arminius’ main opponents (Gomorus & Perkins) said that election logically precedes the fall (i.e. supra-lapsarian Calvinism).  Arminius is concerned that this doctrine wasn’t taught by the Church Fathers or in the early councils.  Arminius sees supralapsarianism as contrary to God’s justice, wisdom and love, since God subjects the innocent to hell.  This also removes man’s free will and makes God’s offer in the gospel insincere.  Rebellion against God isn’t really rebellion if God wants it to happen and acts to make it necessary.  Grace is resistible and it restores man’s nature in a way suitable to accomplish God’s purpose in creation: for us to know and love God.  Supralapsarianism subordinates Christ’s election to ours – making Him just the means rather than the foundation of election.  It implies Christ didn’t die for all, which is unbiblical.  Arminius sees Jacob and Esau in Romans 9 as types for justification by faith and pursuing righteousness through works.  Arminius sees predestination as Christocentric and conditional on foreknowledge. This harmonizes with God’s love us His own justice and His love of us and it wards off overconfidence and despair.

Arminius held that God permitted the fall and Adam was able to avoid sinning.  He understood Adam to be the recipient of grace, which God removes after the fall.  All of mankind received all the penalties Adam received, leaving us unable to think will or do anything truly good, including believe.  Without grace we are free from external and internal necessity, but not from our slavery to sin. God must take the initiative through prevenient grace, and if we don’t resist, through subsequent grace.  God’s grace is sufficient meaning He gives us everything we need to be able to respond.  Romans 7 describes a pre-regenerate state.  Both justification and sanctification are by grace through faith.  Final apostasy is possible but Arminius denied teaching that it ever actually happens.  Arminius disagreed with Calvin that assurance is part of the definition of faith.  Arminius had pastoral concerns that Calvinism leads to overconfidence and despair.  

Overall, I really enjoyed the book.  The authors made good decisions on what to include and provide a wealth of footnotes and references for further study.   It joins Bang’s bibliography, Stanglin’s first book on Arminius and Assurance and Muller’s God, Creation and Providence in the thought of Jacob Arminius as one of the premier accounts of Arminius and his theology.  

Friday, July 5, 2013

James Arminius on the Aseity of the Son

I recently was reading a book that accused James Arminius of a Trinitarian heresy:  denying Christ’s aseity (self existence).  This relates to the “auto-theos” controversy in which Arminius denied a specific sense in which Christ is God “from Himself”.  (Works of James Arminius.  Apology Article 21)  That is to say, Arminius defended the doctrine in the Nicene creed: ”And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds , Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father”. In short, Arminius defended the Father’s eternal generation of the Son.  In this post, I will briefly provide the biblical basis for eternal generation and then defend it from a specific charge: that affirming the eternal generation of the Son implicitly denies the aseity of the Son.

1 John 5:18 says “ We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.”

The “he who was born of God” is Christ.  The Son truly is a Son in relation to the Father, in that in some sense the Son is born of the Father.  This is not to say the Father/Son relationship is in every respect like a human Father/Son relationship since they are Divine and perfect and we are not.   So the Son was eternally generated – there was never a time when He was not. 

Likewise, John 6:57 says “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.

Since the Father eternally generated the Son, the Son lives because of the Father. 

We also have passages saying the Father is the Son’s God: John 20:17, Revelation 3:12, Ephesians 1:3, Ephesians 1:17, Colossians 1:3.  This is a non-reciprocal relationship.  The bible never says the Father was born of or lives because of the Son or the Son is the Father’s God.

Arminius strongly establish this is how the Early Church Father explained the scriptures by quoting Basil The Great, Gregory Nazianzen, Ambrose, Augustine, and  Hilary in his letter to Hippolytus (Works of James Arminius.  Volume 2.  Letter to Hyppolytus).

Now none of this detracts from the ideas that Christ is God and one with the Father (Matthew 1:23, John 1:1, John 5:17-18, John 10:30-33, John 14:9-11, John 20:28, Philippians 2:5-7, 1 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 1:8-9).  And this is because the Son eternally receives the Father’s divine essence.  This is what the Nicene creed means by “being of one substance with the Father”.

More to our purpose, the Son’s divine nature has aseity, as He claims explicitly:

John 8:58 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

This is so because the Son’s divine nature is not derived from anything outside itself.  This was Arminius assertion of the Son’s aseity as well, when he said: "Because the essence of the Father and of the Son is one, and because it has its origin from no one, therefore, in this respect, the Son is correctly denominated Autoqeon that is, God from himself."  (Works of James Arminius.  Volume 2.  Letter to Hyppolytus).  Mysterious as it may be; God is one in nature and three in persons.  Indeed, were we to deny this and affirm three divine natures each with their own aseity, we have arrived at tri-theism. 

In the end, I fear Arminius was collateral damage in the battle for feminism.  Some deny eternal generation, because they believe submission in roles implies inferiority in nature.  The Son had to be able to choose not to submit to the Father, so wives can choose not to submit to their husbands.  But the argument is completely unsound - eternal generation is the very basis of the Son’s aseity rather than being contrary to it.  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Obama on Faith and Reason

Obama argues we should keep Christ out of politics in the ironically titled The Audacity of Hope.  The following is a block quote from chapter 6 on faith, interspersed with my responses.

What our deliberative, pluralistic democracy demands is that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals must be subject to argument and amenable to reason.

This is ambiguous.  Is Obama saying democracy demands Christians drop our values in politics or just drop them to be more persuasive?  On the one hand, the government does not demand that we drop our values - it grants freedom of religion.   (Notwithstanding the fire religious freedoms comes under from time to time, like the US government's seeking to deport a German family on the grounds that homeschooling is not a religious freedom (link) - generally the government grants religious freedom).  So I doubt Obama means the government is demanding Christians to drop our values.

On the other hand, if quoting scripture is simply unpersuasive, why doesn't Obama just let us continue with our unpersuasive tactic?  It's hard to believe Obama is just offering some friendly advice on how Christians can better defeat his policies on abortion and homosexuality.  That would make his statement a sort of  cry for help – “please stop me”. 

More likely he just wants us to put down our weapon that's been giving him so much trouble.  Christianity is not just amenable to reason – God Himself is the foundation of reason. It's painful all-around to be reminded that your opposing God.

If I am opposed to abortion for religious reasons and seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or invoke God's will and expect that argument to carry the day. If I want others to listen to me, then I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

This assumes Christianity is unreasonable – that God’s commands are not a valid and persuasive point about what’s right and wrong.  But God's word is powerful.  Abortion is immoral because it violates God’s law of “thou shalt not kill” and unless someone completely hardens their heart, they know or can know abortion is wrong. Romans 9:11 calls Jacob and Esau children while in Rebecca’s womb - so unless you like the killing of kids, vote against abortion. If you don't like that answer, take it up with Him.

The problem isn't access to God's laws, but rather accepting them and submitting to them.  Wisdom calls out loud and clear, but if we refuse to listen, she will abandon us even when we seek her.  (Proverbs 1:20-30) Now I am not saying we can think up the Trinity through natural theology alone, but I think we can figure out we are not suppose to kill kids.    

For those who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do, such rules of engagement may seem just one more example of the tyranny of the secular and material worlds over the sacred and eternal. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Almost by definition, faith and reason operate in different domains and involve different paths to discerning truth.

Different domains?  Both faith and reason tell us murder is wrong, so they are on in different domains.  My faith and my reason are under the dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ.  How can Obama say the world is sovereign and tyrannical over Christ?  He made the world and He came to save the world.  If you believe the world popped into existence out of nothing, you might as well live for nothing and have the audacity to hope you return to it when you die.

Scripture calls those without faith both wicked and unreasonable. (2 Thessalonians 3:2).  It’s unreasonable not to believe God exists and that He created and upholds the world and has given us His commands and has revealed Himself to us in Scripture.  There’s no other way to account for the origin of the world, the basis of morality, or scriptures unified message about who God is.  

Reason—and science—involves the accumulation of knowledge based on realities that we can all apprehend. Religion, by contrast, is based on truths that are not provable through ordinary human understanding—the “belief in things not seen.”  When science teachers insist on keeping creationism or intelligent design out of their classrooms, they are not asserting that scientific knowledge is superior to religious insight. They are simply insisting that each path to knowledge involves different rules and that those rules are not interchangeable.

Evolution is not science; it’s bad theology.  No one observers one species evolving to another or the world popping into being.  Those are examples of science trying to pry into theology.  But theology alone explains origins.  That’s why it’s the prince of the sciences.   Scripture says atheists are fools and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Descartes, after reasoning "I think therefore I am", says His knowledge of God is more certain than his observations, because God must have created him and put the idea of God in him.  (Descartes.  Meditation 3) Indeed, scientific observation alone (watching apples fall) cannot ascend to a general principle (gravity) without first believing in a God who holds things together.  Without knowing God is the origin of gravity, you are left post hoc fallacy of deriving causation from correlation. 

In a pluralistic democracy, the same distinctions apply. Politics, like science, depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. Moreover, politics (unlike science) involves compromise, the art of the possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It insists on the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime; to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.

Obama equivocates between moral and logical impossibility.  There's nothing absurd or self-contradictory about God's standards, even if we can't be morally perfect in this life.  Obama says God's laws are dangerous; he knows better than God what is good for people. But of course, the real danger is ignoring rather than obeying God's laws.

Science doesn't depend on our ability to persuade each other. It's an organization of what we learn through repeatable observations.  Science describes objective reality; whether others are persuaded to believe it's claims or not.  Evolution is spread through persuasion rather than observation, showing yet again that it's not science.  

The story of Abraham and Isaac offers a simple but powerful example. According to the world’s three great monotheistic religions, Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his "only son, Isaac, whom you love," as a burnt offering. Without argument, Abraham takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded. Of course, we know the happy ending—God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute. Abraham has passed God's test of devotion. He becomes a model of fidelity to God, and his great faith is rewarded through future generations. And yet it is fair to say that if any of us saw a 21st century Abraham raising the knife on the roof of his apartment building, we would call the police; we would wrestle him down; even if we saw him lower the knife at the last minute, we would expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away and charge Abraham with child abuse. We would do so because God doesn't reveal Himself or His angels to all of us in a single moment. We do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that are possible for all of us to know, understanding that a part of what we know to be true—as individuals or communities of faith—will be true for us alone.

Islam says Ishmael, not Isaac, was placed on the alter.

God tested Abraham.   We do hear what Abraham heard, because it's recorded in scripture.  There's no reason to believe that anyone within earshot of Abraham wouldn't also have heard God's voice or have seen the angel.  God ensured that everyone who need to hear the message did hear it. It's true and billions know it's true; it's not true for Abraham alone.  It's surprising to hear Abraham as grounds for denying absolute truth and for moral relativism - where's the connection? 

It's true some receive more revelation from God than others. But this is generally true of Christian doctrine rather than morality.  We all have a God given conscience; everyone knows it's wrong to kill, steal or lie.  

As for child abuse, according to Josephus, Isaac was 25 years old.  (Antiquity of the Jews Book 1, Chapter 13)  So we need not think of Isaac as an impressionable 4 year old - scarred for life dispute being rescued in the end. While it's true we shouldn't legislate God's tests, that's because tests are not normative, not because moral relativism is true (or false or true-false or whatever nonsensical truth status moral relativists assign to moral relativism).  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The New Living Translation and Calvinism

The New Living Translation (the most popular English version of the bible) has numerous translation errors that favor Calvinism and oppose standard Arminian or Traditional Baptist interpretation of the texts.  For example, Ephesians 4:30 in the ESV states “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”  However the New Living Translation has “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.”  There's no basis in the Greek for the NLT's additions and it appears to be more of a commentary than a translation.  The attached study documents these errors.

The New Living Translation and Calvinism

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

You Do Not Believe Because You Are Not of My Sheep

In John 10:26 Christ says “you do not believe because you are not of my sheep”.  A good friend of mine said this was the clincher for him; the reason he became a Calvinist.  Calvinist argue that Christ’s sheep are the unconditionally elect and the reason some don’t believe is because they are not unconditionally elect.  But there’s good reason to think this is not what the passage means.  In this post I will argue that Christ's statement should be understood as providing reasons to know the Jews have rejected Him rather than stating reprobation causes unbelief.  

John 10:24 says: Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

About two months had passed since Christ’s Good Shepard discourse in John 10:1-19.  Now the Jews try to trap Jesus by asking if He was the Christ. The NKJV translates “τὴν ψυχὴν ἡμῶν αἴρεις” as “keep us in doubt”.  The ESV renders it: “keep us in suspense”.  Literally the phrase is hold up our souls.  As John Gill puts it:

and said unto him, how long dost thou make us doubt? or as the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions literally render it, "how long dost thou take away our soul?" that is, deprive us of the knowledge of thee; Nonnus renders it, "wherefore dost thou steal away our minds with words?" so Jacob when he went away privately, without the knowledge of Laban, is said to steal away the heart of Laban, as it is in the Hebrew text, in Genesis 31:20. In like manner the Jews charge Christ with taking away their soul, or stealing away their heart, or hiding himself from them; not telling them plainly (see Gill on John 10:24)

Now perhaps this is overstated a bit, and the phrase is just a manor of speaking, but non-the-less, I think the point stands that the Jews statement was a bit sharp and accusatory. They are saying Christ is doing something wrong; hiding who He really is.  The NKJV captures this sense well by “keep us in doubt”; in that the Jews were blaming their unbelief on Christ.  παῤῥησίᾳ has been translated “plainly”, or “boldly” or “openly”.  The idea is that Christ has been hiding who He is and He should clearly and confidently tell the truth about Himself. 

Now let’s look at how Christ answers this charge: John 10:25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 

Twice Christ says He already explained this and twice He says they don't believe.  The repetition seems to be for emphasis.  The Jews are saying "speak boldly" and Christ is saying "I already did".  He also cites the evidence backing up His assertion: the miracles He does in the Father's name.  Not only has He already spoken boldly, but He has provided evidence.  So He is not to blame for hiding the truth; they are to blame for not believing it.

But how does Christ back up His claim that they do not believe?  They say Christ is holding them in suspense - but Christ says no, you have already rejected me by not believing.  He says you do not believe because you are not of my sheep.  For some reason the NIV drops the ek (of or among).  Contrast the ESV's "you are not among my sheep" withe the NIV's "you are not my sheep".  The ESV is clearly correct given the Greek is ek ton probaton. This point is bolstered by verse 16 "other sheep I have which are not of [ek] this fold".  The ek makes it clear that the idea is not simply one of individual identity, but also identification with the group.  So the idea in verse 26 is they were not among or with Christ's sheep.  Anyone could see they were not following Christ.

The Jews are not in some neutral territory between accepting or rejecting Christ; no they have rejected Him in the face of bold claims and strong evidence.  Their accusation that Christ is keeping them in suspense or making them doubt is false; they have rejected Christ's words and the Father's witness.  Christ's sheep hear His voice and follow Him.  The fact that the Jews don't follow Christ is evidence that they don't believe and they are not on neutral ground.

The gar translated "because" or sometimes "for" often is used to settle questions, provide evidence or explanatory material like when people say I know there's a fire because I see the smoke. For example, in Mark 14:70, when Peter is called out “Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it”, the "for you are a Galilean" is evidence the statement is correct, not an assertion of causality.  See also (Matthew 2:20, 3:9, 4:18, 6:31-32, Romans 13:11, 14:10, 16:17-18, John 4:45, Luke 6:32, 1 Corinthians 9:10, Mark 2:15 and in many other places).  And the contexts presses for this usage of gar, since Christ is denying and refuting the Jews accusation that He is making them doubt or holding them in suspense.  No, they are lying about being in suspense; they have already rejected Christ, otherwise they would be among His sheep and following Him.

And we can see this understanding is better than thinking of Christ's sheep as the elect and all others as reprobate.  First, if the passage is about reprobation, then Christ isn't answering the Jews.  He's wouldn't be giving a reason why He is right in disagreeing the the Jews claim that Christ is making them doubt.  Second, if sheep are the unconditionally elect, then it's not true the sheep are following Christ. They will eventually, but they are not currently.  Before the elect convert they don't hear Christ's voice and follow Him and they are not among Christ's flock.  Third, Christ's statements shame the Jews, but there is no shame in not being unconditionally chosen.  Finally, Christ is inviting the Jews to believe, especially in verse 38 "but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him." But nothing could slam the door in the Jews face greater than being told by God they are reprobate.  

Now let's head off a possible objection to this interpretation.  Suppose someone grants Christ is giving reasons to think the Jews are unbelievers, but continues pressing the causal relationship.  After all, fire causes smoke so the reason we know there is fire is because we see smoke.  So while it's true Christ provides reasons to reject the Jews claim He keeps them in doubt, He does so by providing a causal connection between reprobation and unbelief.  However, what such an objection would miss is that following Christ is a "condition of" not a "condition for" salvation.  We do not earn or cause our salvation by following Christ - that would be works salvation.  Christ makes this distinction in verse 9 between entering the door and going in and out for pasture in verse 9:

I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

Likewise, when Christ speaks of hearing Christ's voice and leading and not following strangers in John 10:3-5,  He's talking about Christian walk.  Christians do these things, but they don't become Christians by doing them.

So the idea is not that being sheep causes faith, but rather we can know they are unbelievers because they are not following Christ, since believers follow Christ.

One final argument that Calvinist bring up is based on John 10:16 "other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd."  Calvinists argue that the other sheep are elect Gentiles who God will convert at a later time.  Frankly there's little to go on here.  Mormons claim they are the other sheep.  People tend to find their pet theology in ambiguous statements.  To me, it's far more likely that Christ is talking about others who were saved under the Old Testament system but hadn't yet heard about Christ because they were geographically remote.  But I won't be dogmatic about that, because Christ doesn't get into the details.  

Friday, May 31, 2013

Matthew 11:21-23 - why were the People of Sodom Lost?

Steve recently asked: "I've been thinking about Matthew 11:21-23 as a non-Calvinist. If God knew the people in Tyre and Sidon (or other places) would repent under certain circumstances, why did not God bring about those circumstances? E.g. do the mighty works there."

The passage states: 21 Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

Christ is rebuking Bethsaida and Chorazin for their stubborn unrepentance in light of His mighty works and witness among them.  So the question amounts to, why did the Father send Christ to the Jews knowing the people of Sodom would have repented had Christ been sent there?  One of my professors once said  he thought God sent Christ when He did because the Roman roads and Koine Greek helped quickly spread the gospel.  I don't know; if He waited until now, it could have been posted on youtube.  In any event, the point is we shouldn't just look at Capernaum vs. Sodom but rather Christ's whole ministry vs. what it would have been like at an earlier time.  And while we will not know the full reason in this life, we can trust God's reasons were good.

More generally, God gives everyone sufficient grace for salvation but that doesn't mean He gives all people the same amount of grace.  Consider Arminius' claim that God doesn't use all means possible to save:  The form of vocation is placed in the very administration of the word and of the Holy Spirit. God hath instituted this administration so, as He knows to be suitable and becoming to himself, and to his justice tempered with mercy in Christ; always reserving to himself the full and free power of not employing, for the conversion of men, all the methods which are possible to himself according to the treasures of his wisdom and power, and of bestowing unequal grace on those who are [in every respect,] equals, and equal grace on those who are unequal, nay, of employing greater grace on those who are more wicked. (Romans 9:21-26; 10:17-21; 11:25, 29-33; Ezekiel 3:6; Matthew 11:21, 23) (Public Disputation 16.7)

Consider also, God sometimes lets the horrendously wicked live long lives and end up repenting, while the less wicked die young and unrepentant.  Some unbelievers live all their lives in Churches while others are born in Muslim or other countries with little to no access to the Gospel).  Despite what some might have you believe, Arminians don't believe God is a Care Bear sitting on a cloud in the sky.  Grace is not a given - it truly is amazing.  

Some try to avoid the force of this verse by saying Christ was exaggerating.  They say it's not that the people of Sodom  really would have repented; Christ is just saying how bad the people of Capernaum were.  Unfortunately, some folks who I respect a lot, William Lane Craig and Max Andrews (link), take this approach, and it just so happens to support their theory of trans-world damnation. I disagree because unintentional exaggerations seems like careless mistakes and intentional exaggeration seems like lies. Neither seem worthy of our Lord to me.  No, the rebuke only works if the charge is true: the people of Sodom would have repented and the people of Capernaum did not. 

Other Molinists like Thomas Flint hold to unconditionally elects or something like it. (see Flint. Divine Providence.  Especially Chapter 5, the section on the Principle of Predilection starting on page 117)  Max Andrews seems to think any Molinist that takes Matthew 11 at face value ends up stuck with this view.  But there's a huge difference between God wanting to save everyone but still choosing when and where to send Christ while knowing who would and wouldn't be saved and God choosing not to save everyone.  If the Father had sent Christ to Sodom, it's true they would have repented; but probably others would have been lost.  If unconditional election is true, God could have elected both the people of Sodom and the people of Capernaum and simply didn't want to save them.

God still loved the people of Sodom and He wanted them to repent and enabled them to do so.  They rejected and resisted His grace.  That's why they are lost. So one can agree with all four of Max's points and still take Matthew 11 at face value.

Max says: "( 1) God genuinely desires that all men come to repentance and be saved (Ez. 33.10-11, 1 Tim. 2.3-4; 2 Pt. 3.9), 2) God judges based on revelation (Rom. 1-2), 3) God determines the time and place of man so they may seek God (Acts 17.26-28), and 4) that humans are damned because of their sin)" 

Sure God loved and wanted to save the people of Sodom as He loves and wants to save all men.  Lack of love is not why the Father sent Christ when and where He did.  Sure God judges the people of Sodom based on revelation and He set the time and place for them to seek the Lord.  He gave them sufficient grace and revelation for salvation.  They chose to reject Him and the grace and revelation He gave them and that's why they are damned.  They are not damned because God didn't love them, want to save them, send His Son to die for them, reveal Himself to them, provide sufficient grace for them or the like.   

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Misrepresenting Calvinism

I was recently told that I was misrepresenting Calvinism when I said they interpret Romans 9 to mean God hated Esau before he was born or did anything evil.  However, this is exactly what Calvin said:

11. We come now to the reprobate, to whom the Apostle at the same time refers (Rom. 9:13). For as Jacob, who as yet had merited nothing by good works, is assumed into favor; so Esau, while as yet unpolluted by any crime, is hated. If we turn our view to works, we do injustice to the Apostle, as if he had failed to see the very thing which is clear to us. Moreover, there is complete proof of his not having seen it, since he expressly insists that when as yet they had done neither good nor evil, the one was elected, the other rejected, in order to prove that the foundation of divine predestination is not in works. Then after starting the objection, Is God unjust? instead of employing what would have been the surest and plainest defense of his justice—viz. that God had recompensed Esau according to his wickedness, he is contented with a different solution—viz. that the reprobate are expressly raised up, in order that the glory of God may thereby be displayed. At last, he concludes that God has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth (Rom. 9:18). You see how he refers both to the mere pleasure of God. Therefore, if we cannot assign any reason for his bestowing mercy on his people, but just that it so pleases him, neither can we have any reason for his reprobating others but his will. When God is said to visit in mercy or harden whom he will, men are reminded that they are not to seek for any cause beyond his will.  (Calvin's Institutes 3.23.11)

Further, it's taught in contemporary Calvinism as well:

God’s passing some by was not conditioned by their unbelief.  God did not foresee which ones by their own will would not accept Christ, and on that basis reject them.  Just as election is unconditional (God did not choose anybody because he foresaw that they would believe in Jesus), so also is preterition unconditional.  It is no more based on God’s foreknowledge of what an independent human being would do with Jesus than is election.  As the reason for election is found in God alone – and never in man – so also is the reason for preterition found in God alone and not in man.

The only reason given for the election of Jacob and the passing by of Esau is: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Romans 9:13).  The reason was in God and not in the foreknowledge of the good or bad that either one would do. Edwin H. Palmer.  Five Points of Calvinism, The: A Study Guide.  Baker Books, Apr 1, 2010 page 129

Now this charge of misrepresentation is not limited to "internet Calvinists".  Take for example, James White's accusing Norm Geisler of misrepresentation:

James White: On page 83 [of Geisler's Chosen but Free] an endnote appears that challenges Piper on the issue of the rejection of Esau. It is a classic example of out-of-context citation that should not appear in a work by a scholar of the rank of Norman Geisler. Here is what it says:

Geisler Quoted by White: John Piper, widely held by extreme Calvinists to have the best treatment on Romans 9, makes this mistake. Piper claims that “the divine decision to ‘hate’ Esau was made ‘before they were born or had done anything good or evil (9:11).’ But, as shown on the previous page, the reference here is not to something said in Genesis about the individuals Jacob and Esau before they were born.

James White: One might thing that this is being taken from the section of Piper’s work specifically on the topic of Jacob and Esau. It is not. Instead, this short snippet is a partial sentence from a summary of a completely different topic, as we will show by providing the full (and useful) quotation:

James White Quoting John Piper: In sum then I have tried to demonstrate with three arguments that the phrase, “whom He wills he hardens”, describes God’s freedom to choose the recipients of his hardening apart from any ground in their willing or acting. First, the parallel between 18a and 18b shows that the freedom of God to harden is parallel to his freedom to show mercy, which according to 9:16 has no ground in a person’s willing or running. Second, the correspondence between the pairs, mercy/hardening (9:18) and love/hate (9:13), shows that Paul does not intend for us to view the hardening as a “divine reaction” to sin, since the divine decision to “hate” Esau was made ‘before they were born or had done anything good or evil (9:11).’ Third, Paul’s selection and adaption of Ex 9:16, which summarizes the theme of Ex 4-14, shows that he understands God’s activity to be grounded in his own purposes, not in the plans or actions of men.

James White: Does CBF attempt to respond to the actual argumentation Piper provides regarding 9:13? No. Does it attempt to respond to even this summary of Piper’s argument which, if true, is utterly devastating to Geisler’s entire thesis? No. Unfortunately, Piper is misrepresented yet again within just a few pages…(James White. The Potter's Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and the Rebuttal of Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free. (2nd edition) Calvary Chapel Press. 2007. page 218)

James White claims Geisler misrepresented Piper and took him out of context, but Geisler quotes Piper accurately and conveys his idea correctly.  One searches in vain to find the out of context quotation.

My guess is that Calvinist simply do not like it when non-Calvinists point out God's treatment of the non-elect and it's easier to cry misrepresentation than face the distasteful parts of Calvinism.

Friday, May 24, 2013

I pray the Pope will not meet Atheists there!

Pope Francis recently said:  “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the blood of Christ. All of us, not just Catholics. Everyone!” he declared. “‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the blood of Christ has redeemed us all!”

“And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace,” Francis continued. “If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter. We need that so much.”

“We must meet one another doing good,” the Pope asserted. “‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good. We will meet one another there.”

The Pope is of course equivocating two vital terms ("Sons of God" and "meeting there") to teach universalism or at least an extremely wide inclusivism.  The Bible names us God's sons in at least two ways: 1) via creation and 2) via adoption (contrast Acts 17:28-30 with Romans 8:14).  Likewise, the Pope's saying "meeting there" at one point means agreement about charitable works and at another point it means heaven.  (In this posts' title, I am using there in a third way - I mean hell.)  So by a play on words, conservative Catholics can take the Pope's words to mean Christ died for everyone, God created everyone and we can work along side atheists for good and liberal Catholics can take the Pope's words to teach all paths lead to heaven.

For James White to link the Pope's comments here with Arminianism is basically to teach it's OK to take Arminianism out of context.  (link)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Discussion of Texts used to support Unconditional Election

Last night I discussed unconditional election with a few friendly Calvinists.  For the most part, they picked the texts we discussed in their making a case for unconditional election (i.e. we didn’t discuss 1 Timothy 2:4-6 or the like).

While rehashing the whole discussion isn’t possible I wanted to at least summarize the major points of disagreement on each text we discussed at length.

Matthew 11:20-30
20 Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent:21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.” 25 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. 26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. 27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
  • On verses 21-23, I argued that given Christ’s work, the people of Tyre and Sidon really could have repented, so the grace given was sufficient to enable repentance. They disagreed arguing that Christ was exaggerating in verses 21 to 23. 
  • On verse 25, the Calvinists argued the Father’s hiding the Gospel explained why the Jews had been rejecting Christ (and John the Baptist) in the past. I disagreed, arguing that the hiding of the Gospel was a punishment for their past rejections and God was removing the light He previously gave them. More generally, Christ was repurposing His ministry away from the Jewish leadership that was rejecting Him and towards those struggling under the law (verse 28). 
  • On verse 26, we disagreed that “or so it seemed good in Your sight” refers to a condition for God’s choice (i.e. God choosing to do something because He saw something good about what He was choosing). 
  • On verse 28, I argued laboring and being heavy laden (i.e. struggling under the law) is a preparatory step to receiving the Gospel and those who do will not have the Gospel hidden from them. The Calvinists disagreed.

Acts 13:48
46 Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us:
‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles,
That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’
48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
  • On verse 48, I argued that the appointing was God arranging the hearts of the people right there on the spot. They disagreed arguing that the appointing is related to predestination from eternity past. 
  • I argued that if appoint refers to predestination, then all elect persons were saved right then and there and anyone who didn’t believe on the spot never would because they are not among the predestined. They disagreed arguing there is an implied “as many as had been appointed to eternal life [for that time] believed. 
  • I argued that verse 46 parallels verse 48, and that’s evidence that the appointing happened on the spot rather than in eternity past. They disagreed.

Romans 8:28-30
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

  • On verse 28, I argued that loving God is a condition for God’s promise that all things will work for your good. They disagreed, arguing that loving God is a condition of the people for who all things work out for good.
  • On verse 29, they argued that foreknew means chose. I disagreed arguing it means foreknowledge and that foreknowledge is within the semantic range of the term. 
  • I argued that if foreknow means chose, then this passage and 1 Peter 1:2 have the redundancy of “whom He predestined, He predestined” or “chosen according to the choice of God”. They disagreed arguing that since in 1 Peter 1:2, proginōskō is in a noun form rather than a verb form, we shouldn’t draw a parallel between the two and Romans 8:29 is saying those whom God chose He predestined.

Romans 9 10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.”
  • The Calvinists argued God’s election of Jacob was unconditional. I disagreed, arguing God chose Jacob because he was younger and didn’t have the natural birthright and to use Jacob/Esau as an object lesson that salvation is based on God’s grace rather than works or nationality.
  • The Calvinist argued that grace must be unconditional. I argued that grace may be conditional, only it must be unmerited.
  • I argued that faith does not merit salvation and even believers would end up in hell, were it not for God’s choice to have mercy on the believer. The Calvinists disagreed, saying faith merits salvation but it’s OK that it does, since God gives us faith. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Some thoughts on Mental Illness and Regeneration

Rick Warren has been heavily criticized over his son’s suicide.  I agree that only jerks would use this tragedy as a chance to attack the Warrens, but I would also like to address the reasons why the complaints are invalid, not just rude.  One specific complaint I would like to address is the idea that since Christians are supposed to be different, how can this happen in a Christian home?

When God regenerates a sinner, he does change their lives resulting in great moral reform.  So how is it that a regenerate person can suffer from chronic mental illness?  Science tells us that those with mental disorders have differences in their brains:

Regeneration takes place in the person’s soul, not their body or brain.  Sure, Christ healed the sick in the past and he could heal a person’s brain.  But just as regeneration does not normally result in removing physical blindness, so also it does not normally resolve mental disorders.  So when a person with mental disorder dies, their disorder brain will remain in the grave while their soul lives on. 

To be sure, when God created Adam from the ground and breathed life into him, Adam couldn’t have had a mental disorder.  What God created was very good.  Likewise, in the resurrection, none will have mental disorders.  But because of the fall and until Christ makes all things new, mental illness exists.

Now I am sure that God has a stunning array of good reasons for not healing all mental disorders, but I would like to explore one.  The suffering mental disorders causes can be a suffering for Christ.  1 Peter 2:20 says But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.  Even if your struggle is with your own mental illness, if you are fighting to live the Christian life and suffering for it, God will reward you.