Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Recap of debate with Turretinfan on God’s freewill

Here’s a recap of some highlights from my debate with Turretinfan on God’s freewill. (Fair warning, I am being selective and I am summarizing things in my own words!!! The debate was massive, so I am picking the parts I thought most important. I am however providing links to all the posts of the debate.)

TF: Libertarian Freewill (LFW) seems illogical. We either have no reason for our choices or our choices are determined.

Me: If LFW is illogical, God doesn’t have LFW. But Genesis 1:1 teaches God has LFW, because causal forces couldn’t have preceded God’s first act.

TF: Although there was no action before Creation, nevertheless God's nature and counsel, being eternal, preceded the first action. ...Thus, there is a cause and explanation for Creation: the Triune God.

Me: Good! That’s agent causation and it’s half the battle. Now the other half. It rained this afternoon. Given whatever existed before the first act, was it absolutely impossible for God to create a world which didn’t include rain on May 31, 2008 in the afternoon?

TF: "absolutely impossible" needs to be clarified

Me: Considering either a logical or temporal sequence and either creation or whatever you think God’s first act was, did God have to make it rain considering everything that existed before that first act?

TF: There is no reason to hold to a view that God has ever been inactive, such that there was a "first act" of God. Also, “had to” implies God was forced.

Me: Doesn’t that contradict your statement above that there was no action before creation? Also, an infinite regression of actions seems inconsistent with A) God’s nature causing His actions which you asserted above and B) any explanation as to the source of action. As to “had to”, before creation there wasn’t anyone around to force God’s actions. Rather, it’s a question of God’s intrinsic abilities.

TF: Creation is the first act in time.

Me: Doesn’t matter. Something must be first in both logical and temporal sequences. You have asserted creation is first in time and God’s nature is first in the logical sequence. In neither case could there be an infinite regression of action. Supposing there is one removes the possibility of explaining action: the very problem you lay at the feet of LFW at the outset.
I can answer my question above very simply. Yes, God could have created a world in which it didn’t rain. But it’s a tough question for TF, because he’s a determinist.

TF: The actions I am talking about have nothing to do with either a logical or temporal sequence.

In response to Dan’s question: if one is speaking of God's power in isolation from the other attributes of God (the remainder of his nature), yes. That’s the natural way to answer the question.

Here’s my take on the order:
1. God exists;2. God has a nature/attributes;3. God acts based on his nature/attributes;4. Among God's timeless acts, God decrees to create; 5. God, logically subsequent to the decree to act, knows that (and what) he will create; and6. Among God's acts, and as the first temporal act, and logically subsequent to the decree and knowledge, God creates.

Me: You altered the question. I asked “Given whatever existed before the first act…” You responded “if one is speaking of God's power in isolation from the other attributes of God”. Perhaps I can clarify the question further by appealing to reformed literature. Francis Turretin distinguishes between the divided and compound sense, Jonathan Edwards distinguishes between the will and the body, contemporary Calvinists speak of the freedom to choose, if we had wanted to. I am speaking in a compound sense (not a divided sense) about the will (not the body) and about an actual ability (not a hypothetical one). Hopefully that further clarifies what I am getting at.

TF: I have two questions. 1) Given the order I provide above, what’s the reference point you have in mind about absolute impossibility? 2) is God loving himself and/or his creation an action of God's in terms of the question you ask?

Me: 1) I would merge points 3 & 4, calling God’s decree His first act in a logical sequence. So the reference point is between God’s nature and His decree. 2) With respect to God’s love of Himself, no that’s not the kind of action I am talking about. I am talking about an act that’s part of a cause/effect relationship. The Father’s love of the Son doesn’t cause a change in the Son, so that’s not the type of action I am looking for.

TF: In response to your question, I am not sure, but I don’t think God, considering everything before His decree, could have decreed to create a world in which it didn’t rain on May 31. God does what’s best, which seems to suggest the alternatives were worse. It would be contrary to God’s nature to unwisely do what’s worse.

Me: It’s not enough to say God’s able to do X if He chooses to, but He’s unable to choose X. That’s a slight to omnipotence. God necessarily wills what’s best as an end, but He freely chooses among many means of getting there. God’s power isn’t a passive potency, unable to act without a cause. His power is the source of all possibilities (i.e. the variety of means of getting there).

I am not sure if TF plans on responding, but if he does I will let him have the last word. Turretinfan, God bless you for your efforts in this edifying debate.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Does God fail if we Resist?

Hodge’s first argument1 against resistible grace is:

P1: God, being infinite, cannot fail in any of His “serious intentions”
P2: God ordains all things according to His purpose
P3: If God wants His grace to convert us, and we resist and stay unconverted, God fails
C1: so grace is irresistible

P1 & P2 are true but equivocal. P3 is false, so the conclusion does not follow.

If by fail, we mean God intends for Himself to do something and it’s not done, God cannot fail (Daniel 4:35). But God intends for us to do things that we don’t do. (Luke 13:34, Luke 19:41-42) In fact, God hates sin (Psalm 5:4) and sin is contrary to His will (Mark 3:35). So is God failing every time someone sins? It’s really a question of what God’s intending. Hodge supposes grace to be irresistible, meaning grace is a sufficient cause of conversion. If this were so, if God means to causally necessitate conversion (such that choosing otherwise is impossible), then anything short of conversion is indeed failure. But this is not what God wishes to do.

In the case of Christians, God intends to enable obedience (1 Corinthians 10:13). Does He fail? No. We are enabled to avoid sin. God further intends for Christians to avoid sin (1 Thessalonians 4:3-6). So God enables us to avoid sin, and wills for us to avoid sin. So then, if we sin, God failed, right? At first it appears the answer is yes. We can distinguish cases in which God wants Himself to do something, from cases where God wants us to do something. But in the latter case it does seem like God fails in getting us to do what He wants us to do. But before we answer, let’s look at P2.

P2 is true (Ephesians 1:11). God has an overall plan for everything. But God’s plan includes cases where we sin. How can this be? God’s permission. God can prevent sin, by removing the option (Genesis 20:6, Psalm 19:13, Hosea 2:6). But when God chooses to not prevent sin, He permits it (2 Chronicles 32:31). This permission doesn’t mean that God approves of the sin, but rather that He wants us to choose between right and wrong options. Hodge also appeals to divine permission2, but this is unhelpful to the matter at hand, because he denies we can choose either good or evil3 and explains that the difference between permissive and efficient decrees is only the means God uses to render events certain.

If God permits us to sin and we do in fact sin, we still can’t say God failed, because God isn’t done yet. However we choose (good or evil), God can use our choice to accomplish His purpose. If we sin, God can either prevent us from accomplishing our sinful intentions (2 Kings 1:9-12) or He can bring a greater good out of our sinful choice (Psalm 76:10, Isaiah 10:5, Acts 4:27-28). Thus, God’s permitting sin, in order to bring about a greater good (which includes free choice), is part of His plan. And it’s in this bigger aim that God does not fail, even though He wanted us to avoid sin and we did not. P3 is false, because it misses this big picture aim of God.

Hodge also thinks God permits sin to bring about a greater good2. But his view of the greater good doesn’t include a world with creatures who are able to choose either good or evil.3 This leaves him with some unresolved problems.

1. God appears to be the author of sin
2. Without LFW, how is sin even a possibility?
3. A contradiction in God’s will (i.e. God’s wills and does not will sin)
4. God’s grace given to the reprobate is unsuited to their conversion
5. God’s calling is insincere


1 Hodge’s actual statements:
1. It proceeds on the assumption that events in time do not correspond to the purpose of God. This is not only inconsistent with the divine perfection, but contrary to the express declarations of Scripture, which teaches that God works all things according to the counsel of his own will. He foreordains whatever comes to pass.
2. It supposes either that God has no purpose as to the futurition of events, or that his “serious intentions” may fail of being accomplished. This is obviously incompatible with the nature of an infinite Being.
3. It not only assumes that the purpose of God may fail, but also that it may be effectually resisted; that events may occur which it is his purpose or intention should not occur. How then can it be said that God governs the world; or, that He does his pleasure in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth? (link)

2Sin, therefore, according the Scriptures, is permitted, that the justice of God may be known in its punishment, and his grace in its forgiveness. (link)

3This doctrine that God cannot effectually control the acts of free agents without destroying their liberty, is so contrary to the Scriptures, that it has never been adopted by any organized portion of the Christian Church. Some theologians avail themselves of it for an emergency, when treating of this subject [i.e. the existence of evil], although it is utterly at variance with their general scheme. …[the idea that] without destroying liberty, God cannot prevent its abuse. If this be so, then God cannot govern free agents. He cannot secure the accomplishment of his purposes, or the fulfilment of his promises. There is no security for the triumph of good in the universe. (link)

4The decrees of God are certainly efficacious, that is, they render certain the occurrence of what He decrees. Whatever God foreordains, must certainly come to pass. The distinction between the efficient (or efficacious) and the permissive decrees of God, although important, has no relation to the certainty of events. All events embraced in the purpose of God are equally certain, whether He has determined to bring them to pass by his own power, or simply to permit their occurrence through the agency of his creatures. It was no less certain from eternity that Satan would tempt our first parents, and that they would fall, than that God would send his Son to die for sinners. The distinction in question has reference only to the relation which events bear to the efficiency of God. Some things He purposes to do, others He decrees to permit to be done. He effects good, He permits evil. He is the author of the one, but not of the other. With this explanation, the proposition that the decrees of God are certainly efficacious, or render certain all events to which they refer, stands good. (link)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Weekly Wesley - The New Birth

Godismyjudge notes: The first one was good, but this one blew me away. They just don't preach like this anymore. I am not a big fan of infant baptism or baptismal regeneration, but once I got past that the sermon was great.

"Ye must be born again." John 3:7

1. If any doctrines within the whole compass of Christianity may be properly termed fundamental, they are doubtless these two, -- the doctrine of justification, and that of the new birth: The former relating to that great work which God does for us, in forgiving our sins; the latter, to the great work which God does in us, in renewing our fallen nature. In order of time, neither of these is before the other: in the moment we are justified by the grace of God, through the redemption that is in Jesus, we are also "born of the Spirit;" but in order of thinking, as it is termed, justification precedes the new birth. We first conceive his wrath to be turned away, and then his Spirit to work in our hearts.

2. How great importance then must it be of, to every child of man, throughly to understand these fundamental doctrines! From a full conviction of this, many excellent men have wrote very largely concerning justification, explaining every point relating thereto, and opening the Scriptures which treat upon it. Many likewise have wrote on the new birth: And some of them largely enough; but yet not so clearly as might have been desired, nor so deeply and accurately; having either given a dark, abstruse account of it, or a slight and superficial one. Therefore a full, and at the same time a clear, account of the new birth, seems to be wanting still; such as may enable us to give a satisfactory answer to these three questions: First, Why must we be born again? What is the foundation of this doctrine of the new birth? Secondly, How must we be born again? What is the nature of the new birth? And, Thirdly, Wherefore must we be born again? To what end is it necessary? These questions, by the assistance of God, I shall briefly and plainly answer; and then subjoin a few inferences which will naturally follow.

I. 1. And, First, Why must we be born again? What is the foundation of this doctrine? The foundation of it lies near as deep as the creation of the world; in the scriptural account whereof we read, "And God," the three-one God, "said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him:" (Gen. 1:26, 27:) -- Not barely in his natural image, a picture of his own immortality; a spiritual being, endued with understanding, freedom of will, and various affections; -- nor merely in his political image, the governor of this lower world, having "dominion over the fishes of the sea, and over all the earth;" -- but chiefly in his moral image; which, according to the Apostle, is "righteousness and true holiness." (Eph. 4:24.) in this image of God was man made. "God is love:" Accordingly, man at his creation was full of love; which was the sole principle of all his tempers, thoughts, words, and actions. God is full of justice, mercy, and truth; so was man as he came from the hands of his Creator. God is spotless purity; and so man was in the beginning pure from every sinful blot; otherwise God could not have pronounced him, as well as all the other work of his hands, "very good" (Gen. 1:31.) This he could not have been, had he not been pure from sin, and filled with righteousness and true holiness. For there is no medium: If we suppose and intelligent creature not to love God, not to be righteous and holy, we necessarily suppose him not to be good at all; much less to be "very good."

2. But, although man was made in the image of God, yet he was not made immutable. This would have been inconsistent with the state of trial in which God was pleased to place him. He was therefore created able to stand, and yet liable to fall. And this God himself apprized him of, and gave him a solemn warning against it. Nevertheless, man did not abide in honour: He fell from his high estate. He "ate of the tree whereof the Lord had commanded him, Thou shalt not eat thereof." By this wilful act of disobedience to his Creator, this flat rebellion against his Sovereign, he openly declared that he would no longer have God to rule over him; That he would be governed by his own will, and not the will of Him that created him; and that he would not seek his happiness in God, but in the world, in the works of his hands. Now, God had told him before, "In the day that thou eatest" of that fruit, "thou shalt surely die." And the word of the Lord cannot be broken. Accordingly, in that day he did die: He died to God, -- the most dreadful of all deaths. He lost the life of God: He was separated from Him, in union with whom his spiritual life consisted. The body dies when it is separated from the soul; the soul, when it is separated from God. But this separation from God, Adam sustained in the day, the hour, he ate of the forbidden fruit. And of this he gave immediate proof; presently showing by his behaviour, that the love of God was extinguished in his soul, which was now "alienated from the life of God." Instead of this, he was now under the power of servile fear, so that he fled from the presence of the Lord. Yea, so little did he retain even of the knowledge of Him who filleth heaven and earth, that he endeavored to "hide himself from the Lord God among the trees of the garden:" (Gen. 3:8:) So had he lost both the knowledge and the love of God, without which the image of God could not subsist. Of this, therefore, he was deprived at the same time, and became unholy as well as unhappy. In the room of this, he had sunk into pride and self-will, the very image of the devil; and into sensual appetites and desires, the image of the beasts that perish.

3. If it be said, "Nay, but that threatening, ' In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die,' refers to temporal death, and that alone, to the death of the body only;" the answer is plain: To affirm this is flatly and palpably to make God a liar; to aver that the God of truth positively affirmed a thing contrary to truth. For it is evident, Adam did not die in this sense, "in the day that he ate thereof." He lived, in the sense opposite to this death, above nine hundred years after. So that this cannot possibly be understood of the death of the body, without impeaching the veracity of God. It must therefore be understood of spiritual death, the loss of the life and image of God.

4. And in Adam all died, all human kind, all the children of men who were then in Adam's loins. The natural consequence of this is, that every one descended from him comes into the world spiritually dead, dead to God, wholly dead in sin; entirely void of the life of God; void of the image of God, of all that righteousness and holiness wherein Adam was created. Instead of this, every man born into the world now bears the image of the devil in pride and self-will; the image of the beast, in sensual appetites and desires. This, then, is the foundation of the new birth, -- the entire corruption of our nature. Hence it is, that, being born in sin, we must be "born again." Hence every one that is born of a woman must be born of the Spirit of God.

II. 1. But how must a man be born again? What is the nature of the new birth? This is the Second question. And a question it is of the highest moment that can be conceived. We ought not, therefore, in so weighty a concern, to be content with a slight inquiry; but to examine it with all possible care, and to ponder it in our hearts, till we fully understand this important point, and clearly see how we are to be born again.

2. Not that we are to expect any minute, philosophical account of the manner how this is done. Our Lord sufficiently guards us against any such expectation, by the words immediately following the text; wherein he reminds Nicodemus of as indisputable a fact as any in the whole compass of nature, which, notwithstanding, the wisest man under the sun is not able fully to explain. "The wind bloweth where it listeth," -- not by thy power or wisdom; "and thou hearest the sound thereof;" -- thou art absolutely assured, beyond all doubt, that it doth blow; "but thou canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth;" -- the precise manner how it begins and ends, rises and falls, no man can tell. "So is every one that is born of the Spirit:" -- Thou mayest be as absolutely assured of the fact, as of the blowing of the wind; but the precise manner how it is done, how the Holy Spirit works this in the soul, neither thou nor the wisest of the children of men is able to explain.

3. However, it suffices for every rational and Christian purpose, that, without descending into curious, critical inquiries, we can give a plain scriptural account of the nature of the new birth. This will satisfy every reasonable man, who desires only the salvation of his soul. The expression, "being born again," was not first used by our Lord in his conversation with Nicodemus: It was well known before that time, and was in common use among the Jews when our Saviour appeared among them. When an adult Heathen was convinced that the Jewish religion was of God, and desired to join therein, it was the custom to baptize him first, before he was admitted to circumcision. And when he was baptized, he was said to be born again; by which they meant, that he who was before a child of the devil was now adopted into the family of God, and accounted one of his children. This expression, therefore, which Nicodemus, being "a Teacher in Israel," ought to have understood well, our Lord uses in conversing with him; only in a stronger sense than he was accustomed to. And this might be the reason of his asking, "How can these things be?" They cannot be literally: -- A man cannot "enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born:" -- But they may spiritually: A man may be born from above, born of God, born of the Spirit, in a manner which bears a very near analogy to the natural birth.

4. Before a child is born into the world he has eyes, but sees not; he has ears, but does not hear. He has a very imperfect use of any other sense. He has no knowledge of any of the things of the world, or any natural understanding. To that manner of existence which he then has, we do not even give the name of life. It is then only when a man is born, that we say he begins to live. For as soon as he is born, be begins to see the light, and the various objects with which he is encompassed. His ears are then opened, and he hears the sounds which successively strike upon them. At the same time, all the other organs of sense begin to be exercised upon their proper objects. He likewise breathes, and lives in a manner wholly different from what he did before. How exactly doth the parallel hold in all these instances! While a man is in a mere natural state, before he is born of God, he has, in a spiritual sense, eyes and sees not; a thick impenetrable veil lies upon them; he has ears, but hears not; he is utterly deaf to what he is most of all concerned to hear. His other spiritual senses are all locked up: He is in the same condition as if he had them not. Hence he has no knowledge of God; no intercourse with him; he is not at all acquainted with him. He has no true knowledge of the things of God, either of spiritual or eternal things; therefore, though he is a living man, he is a dead Christian. But as soon as he is born of God, there is a total change in all these particulars. The "eyes of his understanding are opened;" (such is the language of the great Apostle;) and, He who of old "commanded light to shine out of darkness shining on his heart, he sees the light of the glory of God," his glorious love, "in the face of Jesus Christ." His ears being opened, he is now capable of hearing the inward voice of God, saying, "Be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee;" "go and sin no more." This is the purport of what God speaks to his heart; although perhaps not in these very words. He is now ready to hear whatsoever "He that teacheth man knowledge" is pleased, from time to time, to reveal to him. He "feels in his heart," to use the language of our Church, "the mighty working of the Spirit of God;" not in a gross, carnal sense as the men of the world stupidly and wilfully misunderstand the expression; though they have been told again and again, we mean thereby neither more nor less than this: He feels, is inwardly sensible of, the graces which the Spirit of god works in his heart. He feels, he is conscious of, a "peace which passeth all understanding." He many times feels such a joy in God as is "unspeakable, and full of glory." He feels "the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto him;" and all his spiritual senses are then exercised to discern spiritual good and evil. By the use of these, he is daily increasing in the knowledge of God, of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent and to all the things pertaining to his inward kingdom. And now he may be properly said to live: God having quickened him by his Spirit, he is alive to God through Jesus Christ. He lives a life which the world knoweth not of, a "life which is hid with Christ in God." God is continually breathing, as it were, upon the soul; and his soul is breathing unto God. Grace is descending into his heart; and prayer and praise ascending to heaven: And by this intercourse between God and man, this fellowship with the Father and the Son, as by a kind of spiritual respiration, the life of God in the soul is sustained; and the child of God grows up, till he comes to the "full measure of the stature of Christ."

5. From hence it manifestly appears, what is the nature of the new birth. It is that great change which God works in the soul when he brings it into life; when he raises it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. It is the change wrought in the whole soul by the almighty Spirit of God when it is "created anew in Christ Jesus;" when it is "renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness;" when the love of the world is changed into the love of God; pride into humility; passion into meekness; hatred, envy, malice, into a sincere, tender, disinterested love for all mankind. In a word, it is that change whereby the earthly, sensual, devilish mind is turned into the "mind which was in Christ Jesus." This is the nature of the new birth: "So is every one that is born of the Spirit."

III. 1. It is not difficult for any who has considered these things, to see the necessity of the new birth, and to answer the Third question, Wherefore, to what end, is it necessary that we should be born again? It is very easily discerned, that this is necessary, First, in order to holiness. For what is holiness according to the oracles of God? Not a bare external religion, a round of outward duties, how many soever they be, and how exactly soever performed. No: Gospel holiness is no less than the image of God stamped upon the heart; it is no other than the whole mind which was in Christ Jesus; it consists of all heavenly affections and tempers mingled together in one. It implies such a continual, thankful love to Him who hath not withheld from us his Son, his only son, as makes it natural, and in a manner necessary to us, to love every child of man; as fills us "with bowels of mercies, kindness, gentleness, long-suffering:" It is such a love of God as teaches us to be blameless in all manner of conversation; as enables us to present our souls and bodies, all we are and all we have, all our thoughts, words, and actions, a continual sacrifice to God, acceptable through Christ Jesus. Now, this holiness can have no existence till we are renewed in the image of our mind. It cannot commence in the soul till that change be wrought; till, by the power of the Highest overshadowing us, we are "brought from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God;" that is, till we are born again; which, therefore, is absolutely necessary in order to holiness.

2. But "without holiness no man shall see the Lord," shall see the face of God in glory. Of consequence, the new birth is absolutely necessary in order to eternal salvation. Men may indeed flatter themselves (so desperately wicked and so deceitful is the heart of man!) that they may live in their sins till they come to the last gasp, and yet afterwards live with God; and thousands do really believe, that they have found a broad way which leadeth not to destruction. "What danger," say they, "can a woman be in that is so harmless and so virtuous? What fear is there that so honest a man, one of so strict morality, should miss of heaven; especially if, over and above all this, they constantly attend on church and sacrament?" One of these will ask with all assurance, "What! Shall not I do as well as my neighbours?" Yes as well as your unholy neighbours; as well as your neighbours that die in their sins! For you will all drop into the pit together, into the nethermost hell! You will all lie together in the lake of fire; "the lake of fire burning with brimstone." Then, at length, you will see (but God grant you may see it before!) the necessity of holiness in order to glory; and, consequently, of the new birth, since none can be holy, except he be born again.

3. For the same reason, except he be born again, none can be happy even in this world. For it is not possible, in the nature of things, that a man should be happy who is not holy. Even the poor, ungodly poet could tell us, Nemo malus felix: "no wicked man is happy." The reason is plain: All unholy tempers are uneasy tempers: Not only malice, hatred, envy jealousy, revenge, create a present hell in the breast; but even the softer passions, if not kept within due bounds, give a thousand times more pain than pleasure. Even "hope," when "deferred," (and how often must this be the case!) "maketh the heart sick;" and every desire which is not according to the will of God is liable to "pierce" us "through with many sorrows:" And all those general sources of sin -- pride, self-will, and idolatry -- are, in the same proportion as they prevail, general sources of misery. Therefore, as long as these reign in any soul, happiness has no place there. But they must reign till the bent of our nature is changed, that is, till we are born again; consequently, the new birth is absolutely necessary in order to happiness in this world, as well as in the world to come.

IV. I proposed in the Last place to subjoin a few inferences, which naturally follow from the preceding observations.

1. And, First, it follows, that baptism is not the new birth: They are not one and the same thing. Many indeed seem to imagine that they are just the same; at least, they speak as if they thought so; but I do not know that this opinion is publicly avowed by any denomination of Christians whatever. Certainly it is not by any within these kingdoms, whether of the established Church, or dissenting from it. The judgment of the latter is clearly declared in the large Catechism: [Q. 163, 165. -- Ed.] -- Q. "What are the parts of a sacrament? A. The parts of a sacrament are two: The one an outward and sensible sign; the other, and inward and spiritual grace, thereby signified. -- Q. What is baptism? A. Baptism is a sacrament, wherein Christ hath ordained the washing with water, to be a sign and seal of regeneration by his Spirit." Here it is manifest, baptism, the sign, is spoken of as distinct from regeneration, the thing signified.
In the Church Catechism likewise, the judgment of our Church is declared with the utmost clearness: "What meanest thou by this word, sacrament? A. I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Q. What is the outward part or form in baptism? A. Water, wherein the person is baptized, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Q. What is the inward part, or thing signified? A. A death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness." Nothing, therefore, is plainer than that, according to the Church of England, baptism is not the new birth.
But indeed the reason of the thing is so clear and evident, as not to need any other authority. For what can be more plain, than the one is a visible, the and invisible thing, and therefore wholly different from each other? -- the one being an act of man, purifying the body; the other a change wrought by God in the soul: So that the former is just as distinguishable from the latter, as the soul from the body, or water from the Holy Ghost.

2. From the preceding reflections we may, Secondly, observe, that as the new birth is not the same thing with baptism, so it does not always accompany baptism: They do not constantly go together. A man my possibly be "born of water," and yet not be "born of the Spirit." There may sometimes be the outward sign, where there is not the inward grace. I do not now speak with regard to infants: It is certain our Church supposes that all who are baptized in their infancy are at the same time born again; and it is allowed that the whole Office for the Baptism of Infants proceeds upon this supposition. Nor is it an objection of any weight against this, that we cannot comprehend how this work can be wrought I infants. For neither can we comprehend how it is wrought in a person of riper years. But whatever be the case with infants, it is sure all of riper years who are baptized are not at the same time born again. "The tree is known by its fruits:" And hereby it appears too plain to be denied, that divers of those who were children of the devil before they were baptized continue the same after baptism: "for the works of their father they do:" They continue servants of sin, without any pretence either to inward or outward holiness.

3. A Third inference which we may draw from what has been observed, is, that the new birth is not the same with sanctification. This is indeed taken for granted by many; particularly by an eminent writer, in his late treatise on "The Nature and Grounds of Christian Regeneration." To wave several other weighty objections which might be made to that tract, this is a palpable one: It all along speaks of regeneration as a progressive work, carried on in the soul by slow degrees, from the time of our first turning to God. This is undeniably true of sanctification; but of regeneration, the new birth, it is not true. This is a part of sanctification, not the whole; it is the gate to it, the entrance into it. When we are born again, then our sanctification, our inward and outward holiness, begins; and thenceforward we are gradually to "grow up in Him who is our Head." This expression of the Apostle admirably illustrates the difference between one and the other, and farther points out the exact analogy there is between natural and spiritual things. A child is born of a woman in a moment, or at least in a very short time: Afterward he gradually and slowly grows, till he attains to the stature of a man. In like manner, a child is born of God in a short time, if not in a moment. But it is by slow degrees that he afterward grows up to the measure of the full stature of Christ. The same relation, therefore, which there is between our natural birth and our growth, there is also between our new birth and our sanctification.

4. One point more we may learn from the preceding observations. But it is a point of so great importance, as my excuse the considering it the more carefully, and prosecuting it at some length. What must one who loves the souls of men, and is grieved that any of them should perish, say to one whom he sees living in sabbath-breaking, drunkenness, or any other wilful sin? What can he say, if the foregoing observations are true, but, "You must be born again?" "No," says a zealous man, "that cannot be. How can you talk so uncharitably to the man? Has he not been baptized already? He cannot be born again now." Can he not be born again? Do you affirm this? Then he cannot be saved. Though he be as old as Nicodemus was, yet "except he be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Therefore in saying, "He cannot be born again," you in effect deliver him over to damnation. And where lies the uncharitableness now? -- on my side, or on yours? I say, he may be born again, and so become an heir of salvation. You say, "He cannot be born again:" And if so, he must inevitably perish! So you utterly block up his way to salvation, and send him to hell, out of mere charity!


Thursday, July 24, 2008

URL Change

My URL changed from to

I think the old URL will forward to the new one for a while.

God be with you,

The Key Issue: Resistible vs. Irresistible Grace

The key issue is not:
  1. Is man totally depraved? Arminians agree with Calvinsts that man is totally depraved and in need of grace.1
  2. Does God grant prevenient grace? Many Calvinists agree with Arminians that God does give prevenient grace. 2
  3. Is God's call to the reprobate external only? Many Calvinists agree with Arminians that God's call to the reprobate isn't just external.3
  4. Does regeneration precede faith? Calvinists and Arminians often disagree on this issue. Calvinists say regeneration comes first and Arminians say faith comes first. But it's not key to the resistible/irresistible debate. I plan on posting on this subject later.
  5. Is regeneration monergistic or synergistic? Arminians agree with Calvinists that man doesn't regenerate himself.4
  6. Is faith a choice? Calvinists generally agree with Arminians that faith is a choice.5
  7. Are we responsible for our choices? Calvinists agree with Arminians that we are responsible for our choices.6
  8. Is faith a work? Arminians agree with Calvinists that faith, defined in the way Paul defines it, is not a work.7
  9. Is faith a gift? Arminians agree with Calvinists that faith is a gift.8

The key issue is: can a man experiencing God's grace leading toward conversion choose not to believe? Arminians say yes, Calvinsts say no. Stated another way: is grace a sufficient cause9 of faith? Arminians say no, Calvinists say yes.

Evidence that Grace is Resistible

  1. Freewill - The bible says man has a will and makes choices. (1 Corinthians 7:37, Joshua 24:15) Choices relate to alternatives. So if by grace we can choose to believe, we can also choose to not believe. If on the other hand we must believe and choosing to not believe is impossible, we are not choosing. This issue was the focus of the Edwards book review.
  2. God's will to save - Scripture teaches that God wants to save all men and that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, John 3:16-17, Ezekiel 18: 32) More on this subject of God's will to save here. Supporting this idea point is the fact that Christ died for all men and that the offer of the universal offer of Gospel is sincere. (link)
  3. Scriptural statements about resistance - Many passages say God's grace is resisted such as: Luke 13:34, Luke 7:30, Hebrews 6:4, Psalms 81:13, Matthew 11:21and Isaiah 5:4.


1 Hodge said: The Arminians admit that the fall of our race has rendered all men utterly unable, of themselves, to do anything truly acceptable in the sight of God. But they hold that this inability, arising out of the present state of human nature, is removed by the influence of the Spirit given to all. This is called “gracious ability”; that is, an ability due to the grace, or the supernatural influence of the Spirit granted to all men. On both these points the language of the Remonstrant Declaration or Confession is explicit. It is there said, “Man has not saving faith from himself, neither is he regenerated or converted by the force of his own free will; since, in the state of sin, he is not able of and by himself to think, will, or do any good thing, any good thing that is saving in its nature, particularly conversion and saving faith. But it is necessary that he be regenerated, and wholly renewed by God in Christ, through the truth of the gospel and the added energy of the Holy Spirit, — in intellect, affections, will, and all his faculties, — so that he may be able rightly to perceive, meditate upon, will, and accomplish that which is a saving good.” (link)

2 Hodge argues based on Genesis 6:3, Acts 7:53, Romans 1:25-28 and Hebrews 6:4 that "the Influences of the Spirit granted to all Man." He goes on to list: virtue, fear of God, religious experiences, conviction of truth, temporary faith based on the moral evidence of the truth, and reformation of life as effects of the influence of the Spirit on all men. (link)

3On the one hand D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones seems to indicate that God's call to the reprobate is external only when he says: What, then, is the difference between the external call and this call which has become effectual? And the answer must be that this call is an internal, a spiritual call. It is not merely something that comes to a person from the outside — it does that, of course, but in addition to that external call which comes to all, there is an internal call which comes to those who are going to be Christians, and it is an effectual call. The contrast, therefore, is between external, and internal and spiritual. (link) But on the the other hand, Hodge states "the Spirit of God is present with every human mind, restraining from evil and exciting to good; and that to his presence and influence we are indebted for all the order, decorum, and virtue, as well as the regard for religion and its ordinances, which exist in the world" and he also said "To the Spirit are also referred conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment; the resistance and rebuke of evil in the heart; strivings and warnings; illumination of the conscience; conviction of the truth; powerful restraints; and temporary faith founded on moral convictions" (link)

4Wesley states [the new birth is] that great change which God works in the soul when he brings it into life; when he raises it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness" (link) I quote Wesley, because Arminius at times indicated regeneration comes before faith.

5Hodge states: “The Protestants did not deny that men cooperate in their own conversion, taking that word in the sense in which the Romanists used the term (and the still broader term justificatio), as including the whole work of turning unto God. No one denies that the man in the synagogue cooperated in stretching out his withered arm or that the impotent one at the pool was active in obeying the command of Christ, “Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.” But the question is, Did they cooperate in the communication of vital power to their impotent limbs? So Protestants do not deny that the soul is active in conversion, that the “arbitrium a Deo motum” freely assents” (link) The Canons of Dort say: “all those in whose hearts God works in this marvelous way are certainly, unfailingly, and effectively reborn and do actually believe. And then the will, now renewed, is not only activated and motivated by God but in being activated by God is also itself active.”(link) RC Sproul states: “When God regenerates a human soul, when He makes us spiritually alive, we make choices. We believe. We have faith. God does not believe for us. Faith is not monergistic.” Chosen by God p 118.

6Hodge states: “man is a free agent, in such a sense as to be responsible for his character and acts.” (link)

7Robert Picirilli denies that faith is a work and argues that 1) salvation is by God’s grace, not man’s works, 2) “by faith” and “by works” are logically and scripturally mutually exclusive, 3) scripture links “by grace” and “by faith” especially in Romans 4:16, 4) since faith is receiving a gift and not the instrument of justification, but rather the apprehension of Christ, we get no credit for faith and 5) we, not God, believe. – Grace, Faith and Freewill p 161-162.

8Arminius states: Faith is the effect of God illuminating the mind and sealing the heart, and it is his mere gift. (link)

9X is sufficient cause of Y, if given X, Y always happens. (more info on sufficient causes)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Calvinist view of 1 John 2:1-2 (response to Mitch)

Mitch and I have been discussing 1 John 2:1-2. Some of the mistakes Mitch makes are common ones I see in Calvinists circles, so I thought I would address them.

The Text

1Jo 2:1-2 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

Mitch’s View

1. The whole world = meaning all Christians throughout who ever were, are or will be
2. “you” = the Jews
3. propitiation and advocation and are inseparable and co-extensive
4. Propitiation means “has propitiated”

My View

1. The whole world = everyone
2. Christ is the propitiation for everyone, but only advocates for believers
3. Propitiation is the only basis for advocation, but they are not inseparable or co-extensive
4. Since Christ is the propitiation for everyone, He can cleanse everyone
5. I am not sure who “you” is, but whoever they are, they are believers

Mitch’s problems with my view

1. He thinks my distinction between advocation and propitiation is unjustified
2. “can cleanse” makes cleansing possible rather than actual
3. My view leads to universalism

My Problem with Mitch’s view

I have three issues with Mitch’s interpretation of the text.

1. His use of “world” is a special pleading
2. Changing “Christ is the propitiation” to Christ “has propitiated” switches noun to verb and present to past
3. The context teaches the conditional application of Christ’s blood (1 John 1:7-9)

These three issues lead to three systematic theology issues withing Mitch's view.

1. Conflating the two aspects of Christ’s work by deny the provisional aspect of the atonement
2. Implicitly denying justification by faith
3. Denying that Christ died for all

My Response to Mitch’s Problems with my view.

The distinction between propitiation and advocation is clear. Christ is the propitiation (i.e. the atoning sacrifice) for sins. This harkens back to the Levitical sacrifice system where the animal was slain and offered to God. Advocation is Christ's pleading with the Father for us. Sacrifice and pleading are two different concepts. On the other hand, they are related. Christ advocates on the basis of His being the atoning sacrifice.

The idea of a provisional or possible aspect of Christ’s work is well founded in scripture. Christ’s work is in two phases: the shedding of His blood and the application of His blood to the believer. Just as the Passover lamb in the OT had to be slain and his blood had to be applied to the door post, so to, Christ died and his blood is applied to believers. This is the difference between Christ’s death and justification. Christ both died and He also intercedes for us. His work is in two parts. The first part is provisional, the second part is effectual.

My view doesn’t lead to universalism, because Christ doesn’t advocate for all, He only advocates for believers. Both aspects of Christ’s work are necessary for salvation.

Explanation of my Problems with Mitch’s View

1. Let’s pretend I said “I am going to rob a bank”, the bank gets robbed and I find myself in court. I am told your statement is incriminating. If I responded, by "rob" I meant “invest my money”, do you think that would fly? They would responded, no dictionary defines “rob” that way and no one uses the term that way, and I would be stuck. My definition would be a special pleading.

In the same way, Mitch’s definition of” world” is a special pleading. Setting passages that speak of Christ’s death for the world aside, no passage in the NT use world that way. The definition pops up, just to get Calvinists off the hook.

2. The switch from “Christ is the propitiation” to Christ has propitiated” is an obvious change from noun to verb (i.e. what Christ is to what Christ does) and a change from the present to the past. This change is unjustified. This move is an attempt to conflate the two aspects of Christ’s work (i.e. His death with His advocation). But it’s contrary to the text.

3. The inbound context makes it very clear that cleansing is conditional.

1Jo 1:7-9 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The Systematic Theology Issues

Christ both died and He intercedes. If His death without intercession or the application of Christ’s blood saved, then intercession and applying His blood is completely irrelevant. Christ’s death is the only foundation of salvation and the application of His blood actually saves.

If Christ saved all the elect on 33 AD, then I was born justified. Before I repented and believed, I could have gone to God and demanded access to heaven. If I never had converted, it wouldn’t have mattered, I would still be saved. But scripture teaches we are justified by faith.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Charles Hodge - Resistible vs. Irresistible Grace

God willing, I plan on blogging through the topic of Resistible vs. Irresistible Grace. To define and defend the Calvinist position, I plan on using the Systematic Theology of Charles Hodge. Many Calvinists highly recommend Hodges' Systematic Theology for good reason - Hodge's scholarship was first rate. But his treatment of irresistible grace doesn't carry the same weight as "a definitive and irrefutable work" in the same way Calvinists describe Jonathan Edwards' book on the will and John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. But Calvinists don't have a single work they point to like they do for the atonement and the will.

Still, Hodge seems appropriate on this topic. Before selecting him, I read Grudem's The Gospel Call and Effective Call, Paul Helm's The Call that Generates a Response, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones' Effectual Calling and Regeneration and Francis Turretin's Effectual Calling. Unfortunately, Turretin's work was highly abridged and the rest of his work on the subject is unavailable online. Otherwise he might have been stronger than Hodge. Of all these articles, Hodges was the most extensive and detailed, so I went with him. Of the rest, the one that I would recommend the most would be Paul Helm's article, as I thought it was quite good.

The topic itself is of vital importance. In my experience, Calvinist's biggest objection to Arminianism is that it's a man centered theology and gives man a reason to boast. In contrast, they view Calvinism as the "doctrines of grace". This topic deserves attention.

Here's a little about Hodge, taken from both wikipedia and Christian Classics Ethereal Library. The basic picture is a man who spent most of his life studying, teaching and defending Calvinism.

Hodge was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the 28th of December 1797. He graduated at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) in 1815, and in 1819 at the Princeton Theological seminary, where he became an instructor in 1820, and the first professor of Oriental and Biblical literature in 1822. Meanwhile, in 1821, he had been ordained as a Presbyterian minister. From 1826 to 1828 he studied under de Sacy in Paris, under Gesenius and Tholuck in Halle, and under Hengstenberg, Neander and Humboldt in Berlin. In 1840 he was transferred to the chair of exegetical and didactic theology, to which subjects that of polemic theology was added in 1854, and this office he held until his death.

In 1825 he established the quarterly Biblical Repertory, the title of which became the Princeton Review in 1877. He secured for it the position of theological organ of the Old School division of the Presbyterian Church, and continued its principal editor and contributor until 1868, when the Rev. Lyman H. Atwater became his colleague.

He was conservative by nature, and his life was spent in defending the Reformed theology as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Westminster Shorter Catechisms. He was fond of saying that Princeton had never originated a new idea; but this meant no more than that Princeton was the advocate of historical Calvinism in opposition to the modified and provincial Calvinism of a later day. And it is true that Hodge must be classed among the great defenders of the faith, rather than among the great constructive minds of the Church. He had no ambition to be epoch-making by marking the era of a new departure. But he earned a higher title to fame in that he was the champion of his Church's faith during a long and active life, her trusted leader in time of trial, and for more than half a century the most conspicuous teacher of her ministry. Hodges' understanding of the Christian faith and of historical Protestantism is given in his Systematic Theology.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Weekly Wesley - On Mourning For The Dead



"Now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." 2 Sam. 12:23.

The resolution of a wise and good man, just recovering the use of his reason and virtue, after the bitterness of soul he had tasted from the hourly expectation of the death of a beloved son, is comprised in these few but strong words. He had fasted and wept, and lay all night upon the earth, and refused not only comfort, but even needful sustenance, whilst the child was still alive, in hopes that God would be gracious, as well in that as in other instances, and reverse the just sentence he had pronounced. When it was put in execution, in the death of the child, he arose and changed his apparel, having first paid his devotions to his great Master, acknowledging, no doubt, the mildness of his severity, and owning, with gratitude and humility, the obligation laid upon him, in that he was not consumed, as well as chastened, by his heavy hand; he then came into his house, and behaved with his usual composure and cheerfulness. The reason of this strange alteration in his proceedings, as it appeared to those who were ignorant of the principles upon which he acted, he here explains, with great brevity, but in the most beautiful language, strength of thought, and energy of expression: "Now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."

"To what end," saith the resigned mourner, "should I fast, now the child is dead? Why should I add grief to grief; which, being a volunteer, increases the affliction I already sustain? Would it not be equally useless to him and me? Have my tears or complaints the power to refix his soul in her decayed and forsaken mansion? Or, indeed, would he wish to change, though the power were in his hands, the happy regions of which lie is now possessed, for this land of care, pain, and misery? O vain thought! Never can he, never will he, return to me: Be it my comfort, my constant comfort, when my sorrows bear hard upon me, that I shall shortly, very shortly, go to him! that I shall soon awake from this tedious dream of life, which will soon be at an end; and then shall I gaze upon him; then shall I behold him again, and behold him with that perfect love, that sincere and elevated affection, to which even the heart of a parent is here a stranger! when the Lord God shall wipe away all tears from my eyes; and the least part of my happiness shall be that the sorrow of absence shall flee away!"

The unprofitable and bad consequences, the sinful nature, of profuse sorrowing for the dead, are easily deduced from the former part of this reflection; in the latter, we have the strongest motives to enforce our striving against it, -- a remedy exactly suited to the disease, -- a consideration which, duly applied, will not fail, either to prevent this sorrow, or rescue us from this real misfortune.

Grief, in general, is the parent of so much evil, and the occasion of so little good to mankind, that it may be justly wondered how it found a place in our nature. It was, indeed, of man's own, not of God's creation; who may permit, but never was the author of, evil. The same hour gave birth to grief and sin, as the same moment will deliver us from both. For neither did exist before human nature was corrupted, nor will it continue when that is restored to its ancient perfection.

Indeed, in this present state of things, that wise Being, who knows well how to extract good out of evil, has shown us one way of making this universal frailty highly conducive both to our virtue and happiness. Even grief, if it lead us to repentance, and proceed from a serious sense of our faults, is not to be repented of; since those who thus sow in tears shall reap in joy. If we confine it to this particular occasion, it does not impair, but greatly assist, our imperfect reason; pain, either of body or mind, acting quicker than reflection, and fixing more deeply in the memory any circumstance it attends.

From the very nature of grief; which is an uneasiness in the mind on the apprehension of some present evil, it appears, that its arising in us, on any other occasion than that of sin, is entirely owing to our want of judgment. Are any of those accidents, in the language of men termed misfortunes, such as reproach, poverty, loss of life, or even of friends, real evils? So far from it, that, if we dare believe our Creator, they are often positive blessings. They all work together for our good. And our Lord accordingly commands us, even when the severest loss, that of our reputation, befals us, if it is in a good cause, as it must be our own fault if it be not, to "rejoice, and be exceeding glad."

But what fully proves the utter absurdity of almost all our grief; except that for our own failings, is, that the occasion of it is always past before it begins. To recal what has already been, is utterly impossible, and beyond the reach of Omnipotence itself. Let those who are fond of misery, if any such there be, indulge their minds in this fruitless inquietude. They who desire happiness will have a care how they cherish such a passion, as is neither desirable in itself; nor serves to any good purpose, present or future.

If any species of this unprofitable passion be more particularly useless than the rest, it is that which we feel when we sorrow for the dead. We destroy the health of our body, and impair the strength of our minds, and take no price for those invaluable blessings; we give up our present, without any prospect of future, advantage; without any probability of either recalling them hither, or profiting them where they are.

As it is an indifferent proof of our wisdom, it is still a worse of our affection for the dead. It is the property of envy, not of love, to repine at another's happiness; to weep, because all tears are wiped from their eyes. Shall it disturb us, who call ourselves his friends, that a weary wanderer has at length come to his wished-for home? Nay, weep we rather for ourselves, who still want that happiness; even to whom that rest appeareth yet in prospect.

Gracious is our God and merciful, who, knowing what is in man, that passion, when it has conquered reason, always takes the appearance of it, lest we should be misled by this appearance, adds the sanction of his unerring commands to the natural dictates of our own understanding. The judgment, perhaps, might be so clouded by passion, as to think it reasonable to be profuse in our sorrow at parting from a beloved object; but Revelation tells us, that all occurrences of life must be borne with patience and moderation, -- otherwise we lay a greater weight on our own souls than external accidents can do without our concurrence, with humility, -- because from the offended justice of God we might well have expected he would have inflicted much worse, and with resignation, -- because we know, whatsoever happens is for our good; and although it were not, we are not able to contend with, and should not therefore provoke, Him that is stronger than we.

Against this fault, which is inconsistent with those virtues, and, therefore, tacitly forbidden in the precepts that enjoin them, St. Paul warns us in express words: "I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also who sleep in Jesus will God bring with him: -- Wherefore, comfort one another with these words." (1 Thess. 4:13, 14, 18.) And these, indeed, are the only words which can give lasting comfort to a spirit whom such an occasion hath wounded. Why should I be so unreasonable, so unkind, as to desire the return of a soul now in happiness to me, -- to this habitation of sin and misery; since I know that the time will come, yea, is now at hand, when, in spite of the great gulf fixed between us, I shall shake off these chains and go to him?

What he was, I am both unable to paint in suitable colours, and unwilling to attempt it. Although the chief; at least the most common, argument for those laboured encomiums on the dead, which for many years have so much prevailed among us, is, that there can be no suspicion of flattery; yet we all know, that the pulpit, on those occasions, has been so frequently prostituted to those servile ends, that it is now no longer capable of serving them. Men take it for granted, that what is there said are words of course; that the business of the speaker is to describe the beauty, not the likeness, of the picture; and, so it be only well drawn, he cares not whom it resembles: In a word, that his business is to show his own wit, not the generosity of his friend, by giving him all the virtues he can think on.

This, indeed, is an end that is visibly served in those ill-timed commendations; of what other use they are, it is hard to say. It is of no service to the dead to celebrate his actions; since he has the applause of God and his holy angels, and also that of his own conscience. And it is of very little use to the living; since he who desires a pattern may find enough proposed as such in the sacred writings. What! must one be raised from the dead to instruct him, whilst Moses, the Prophets, and the blessed Jesus are still presented to his view in those everlasting tables? Certain it is, that he who will not imitate these, would not be converted, though one literally rose from the dead.
Let it suffice to have paid my last duty to him, (whether he is now hovering over these lower regions, or retired already to the mansions of eternal glory,) by saying, in a few plain words, such as were his own, and were always agreeable to him, that he was to his parents an affectionate, dutiful son; to his acquaintance, an ingenuous, cheerful, good-natured companion; and to me, a well-tried, sincere friend.

At such a loss, if considered without the alleviating circumstances, who can blame him that drops a tear? The tender meltings of a heart dissolved with fondness, when it reflects on the several agreeable moments which have now taken their flight never to return, give an authority to some degree of sorrow. Nor will human frailty permit an ordinary acquaintance to take his last leave of them without it. Who then can conceive, much less describe, the strong emotion, the secret workings of soul which a parent feels on such an occasion? None, surely, but those who are parents themselves; unless those few who have experienced the power of friendship; than which human nature, on this side of the grave, knows no closer, no softer, no stronger tie!

At the tearing asunder of these sacred bands, well may we allow, without blame, some parting pangs; but the difficulty is, to put as speedy a period to them as reason and religion command us. What can give us sufficient ease after that rupture, which has left such an aching void in our breasts? What, indeed, but the reflection already mentioned, which can never be inculcated too often, -- that we are hastening to him ourselves; that, pass but a few years, perhaps hours, which will soon be over, and not only this, but all other desires will be satisfied; when we shall exchange the gaudy shadow of pleasure we have enjoyed, for sincere, substantial, untransitory happiness?

With this consideration well imprinted in our minds, it is far better, as Solomon observes, to go to the house of mourning, than to the house of feasting The one embraces the soul, disarms our resolution, and lays us open to an attack: The other cautions us to recollect our reason, and stand upon our guard and infuses that noble steadiness, and seriousness of temper, which it is not in the power of an ordinary stroke to discompose. Such objects naturally induce us to lay it to heart, that the next summons may be our own; and that since death is the end of all men without exception, it is high time for the living to lay it to heart.

If we are, at any time, in danger of being overcome by dwelling too long on the gloomy side of this prospect, to the giving us pain, the making us unfit for the duties and offices of life, impairing our faculties of body or mind, -- which proceedings, as has been already shown, are both absurd, unprofitable, and sinful; let us immediately recur to the bright side, and reflect, with gratitude as well as humility, that our time passeth away like a shadow; and that, when we awake from this momentary dream, we shall then have a clearer view of that latter day in which our Redeemer shall stand upon the earth; when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall be clothed with immortality; and when we shall sing, with the united choirs of men and angels, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"


Weekly Wesley

I am staring a series called “Weekly Wesley”. Basically, I am going to post a sermon or excerpt from Wesley’s notes on the scriptures or other writings or a hymn from Charles Wesley each week. I always wanted to know more about Wesley. In the past, I have read far more Arminius than Wesley. From what I know of the two men, Arminius was a great theologian, Wesley was a great preacher. I have always enjoyed Wesley’s sermons and the devotional aspects of his notes, so I figured this would be a good way for me to give myself (and anyone else who’s interested) the opportunity to learn more.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Agent Causation, Divided Sense of Freedom and God does what's Best

Here's my response to Turretinfan's latest post.

Gabcast! Dan's blog #10

I also wanted to extend Turretinfan the offer once again to join me in a conference call.

God be with you,

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Public Disputation 4 in the Works of James Arminius

I wanted to respond to Turretinfan's question about Arminius here. I am still thinking about TF's lattest post in our ongoing discussion. God willing, I will respond latter this week.

Gabcast! Dan's blog #9

God be with you,

Monday, July 14, 2008

John Owen - Death of Death in the Death of Christ

For those who may have suffered through my review of John Owen's classic work the Death of Death in the Death of Christ, I have wonderful news. You get to do it all over again!!! I compiled it into 5 articles available here.

I also added a link on the left side of my blog. I also now have a left side of my blog. :-)

God be with you,


Sunday, July 13, 2008

God's self-love and first act

This post is part of Turretinfan's and my ongoing debate regarding God's freewill, with responses to TF's questions here. Hopefully, TF will agree to a chat.

Gabcast! Dan's blog #8

Here's the links I talk about (link) and (link).

God be with you,

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Response to Turretinfan

This post is in response to Turretinfan's post here. I used gabcast only to cover ground more quickly. Sorry about the "ums" and I recommend turning the volume up.

Gabcast! Dan's blog #5

God be with you,

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Clarification of the clarification for Turretinfan

Why this post? Here’s the preceding ones: (TF), (Me), (TF), (Me), (TF), (Me), (TF). As you can see, TF started it. :-)

Dear Turretinfan,

In your last post you said:

Given that we are Trinitarians, there is no reason to hold to a view that God has ever been inactive, such that there was a "first act" of God. (link)

But previously you had said:

Although there was no action before Creation, nevertheless God's nature and counsel, being eternal, preceded the first action. (link)

Before you seemed to be denying action regressed infinitely, and affirming a first act. Now you seem to be asserting an infinite regression of actions, and denying a first act. This is an important point to clarify as your comments above shaped my question. How do you reconcile these two statements?

The idea that God’s nature causes His action (an idea that I previously understood you to assert) seems inconsistent with the idea of an infinite regression of actions. This seems circular.
Since we are talking about a logical order (I assume that’s what you mean) an infinite regression seems like a denial of a logical foundation. For my part, since God is one and simple, His nature logically precedes His actions. The persons in the Trinity and their actions are logically subsequent to God’s essence. The opposite opinion seems in opposition to God’s aseity and simplicity.

This answer effects how I should respond to what you said about a cause of the first act and foreknowledge.

Perhaps I can clarify one point. You said: The "had to" vs. "did" is falsely dichotomous at least in connotation. We would not say that God "had to," because that would seem to suggest something external to God forcing God to do the thing.

Within the context of “before God’s first act” no one else exists to force God’s actions. “Had to” in the context of before God’s first act is a question of God’s intrinsic abilities. Either God was unable to do anything else (i.e. He had to what He did), or He was able to do other things. But again, this point may be moot, if God doesn’t have a first act.

Sure is hard for Calvinists and Arminians to find some common ground to hold a discussion on, so I appreciate your effort. If you wish, we can go back to proof texting out of context at each other. I’ll start. Christ says “ye do error, not knowing the scriptures or the power of God”. With statements this obvious, how then to you stick to Calvinism?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Wrap Up of Edwards Book Review

I wanted to wrap up this review of Edwards by discussing the roles of philosophy and scripture. Reviewing John Owen’s book lead me to dive into scripture. This book review was philosophical in nature, as was Edwards’ book. Although I enjoyed this book review, I miss digging into scripture. For the most part, Edwards makes his arguments either without appealing to scripture or only based on a cursory review of a passage. In fairness to Edwards he goes into scripture on two topics that we didn’t get into because I agree with him: divine foreknowledge and impeccability. But other than that Edwards barely touches scripture.

But since Edwards is dealing with the broad topic of the will, his book impacts the way we interpret thousands of passages of scripture. Either Calvinists or Arminians are making a categorical mistake when it comes to the will. As I said in the beginning, if CFW is incoherent, LFW is biblical, and vice versa.

Philosophy is useful for defining terms, clarifying issues and parsing assumption from fact. The danger of philosophy is bringing a bias to scripture rather than developing one from scripture. My philosophical bias is simple: I accept whatever philosophical ideas best help me harmonize scripture. Statements about God’ sovereignty and man’s choice leads me to Molinism. Statements about original sin and depravity lead me to my ideas of choice and responsibility. But forcing an idea on scripture (let’s say moral relativism) is bad guy stuff. But I don’t think that’s what Edwards is doing. I just think he’s mistaken and inconsistent in his philosophy, which leads to his categorical mistake in understanding scripture.

Necessity of the Divine Will – Arguments against the Arminian basis of LFW

Everything is about God in one way shape or form. So my biggest problem with Edwards’ arguments regards the nature of God.

Outline of Edwards' Arguments About the Necessity of the God's Will - Part IV.VII

  1. Arminians say that if God doesn’t have LFW, God is stuck in fate.

  2. The Arminian argument is based on the idea that LFW is a good thing, but acting according to nature is not disadvantageous – especially in God’s case where His nature is perfect.

  3. The sovereignty of God is in His ability and authority to do as He pleases. His power is infinite and His authority supreme.

  4. His will is not dependent on anything outside Himself, but it is determined by His infinite wisdom.

  5. God’s wisdom determines His will to what is most wise. Otherwise God is unwise, which is unworthy of God.

  6. Arminians themselves say God cannot choose contrary to the fitness of things due to His wisdom.

  7. If the fitness of things necessitating God’s actions doesn’t detract from His glory, neither does it detract from His freedom.

My Repsonse

#6 doesn't mean God doesn't have LFW, but rather that He can choose between good options, as has been discussed here. #5 has a similar resolution - God's options are equivalant (none of them being best), so He can choose between them.

The Real Problem

Here Calvinism may diverge from “Edwardsianism”. Edwardsianism contends that since LFW is illogical, God doesn’t have LFW. Calvinists could simply say LFW is logical, and God has it, but man does not. But if LFW is logical, most of Edwards’ arguments fall.

Denying God’s LFW conflicts with His Omnipotence, sovereignty and goodness.


If Edwards is right, God can’t choose anything other than what He will choose. But scripture says God is able to make children of Abraham out of stones (which God didn’t do) and that Christ was able to ask the Father for angels (which He didn’t do). These are positive statements about God’s abilities, not just denials of man’s ability to stop God. Scripture further declares that with God all things are possible. If Edwarsianism is true, God cannot do these things.


Edwardsians speak of God’s sovereignty in terms of unconditional election and God’s predetermination of all things. They also use scriptural language, stating God predestines us and governs the world. Is this consistent with Edwards’ notation that “the fitness of things” necessitates God’s actions, such that God is unable to choose otherwise? No. Edwardsians speak inconstantly about sovereignty. If “the fitness of things” precedes (both logically and temporally) God’s actions and necessitates all things including God’s actions, such that God cannot do anything about it, God is not sovereign in either the scriptural or Edwardsian sense.

Since "the fitness of things" is not God, and they determine God's actions, this undermines God's aseity as well. But to give Edwards the benefit of the doubt, we will assume for him that the fitness of things arises from God's nature, which leads to the next problem.


Scripture declares God is good, not just in His actions, but also in His nature. But if His nature makes evil necessary, and He is unable to avoid evil, what does that say about His nature?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fatalism - Arminian Grounds for LFW

Edwards' Arguments
In part IV.V and IV.VI Edwards discusses fatalism. He states that because Calvinists affirm the connection between means and the end, they are not fatalists. Further, Edwards has not studied Stoic philosophers, let alone craft his views to mirror theirs.

My Reponses
I admit fatalism is not one of my favorite arguments against Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinists do ignor means and get into trouble on this (i.e. not evangelizing), but not Calvinists. Perhaps there is something to it, but many arguments I see mix assumptions (i.e. a major premise from a Calvinist standpoint and then a minor from an Arminian standpoint).

There is one semi-fatalistic argument that does make some sense to me. It‘s not about means, but rather commencement. If I am seated, I have to tell myself to stand up. The means/end in this case is telling myself to stand/standing. But if I thought I had to be acted upon in order to do so, I would just wait until I was acted upon. If my brain started telling me: “you have to tell yourself to stand”, I would reprehend my brain for deceiving me.