Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Just How New is the New Perspective on Paul?

Martin Luther was well aware that 1st century Judaism had aspects of grace and forgiveness in their theology.

Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22).  This is a most important addition, and is directed against the rebellious mind of arrogant objectors who say: "Very well, then, we know of ourselves that we are unrighteous; we also know that we are inclined to evil and that inwardly we are enemies of God.  We believe therefore that we must be justified before God, but this we desire to achieve by our prayers, repentance and confession.  We do not want Christ, for God can give us His righteousness even without Christ."  To this the Apostle replies: Such a wicked demand God neither will nor can fulfill, for Christ is God; righteousness for justification is given us only through faith in Jesus Christ.  So God has willed it, and so God is pleased to do, and this He will never change.  And who is there to resist His will?  Now, however, if that is true then there is no greater arrogance than not to desire to be justified by faith in Christ.  (Martin Luther.  Commentary on Romans.  Zondervan 1954.  p77)

So perhaps Luther was the father of the New Perspective on Paul?  But then again, he didn't take the Jews side in their dispute with Paul, but rather he realized they were still legalistic.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Paul's Familiarity with Christ's Life and Teachings

Brian Flemming's independent documentary, the God who wasn't there, was recently added to Netflix's instant viewing, so I watched it to see what atheists are up to these days. The movie is filled to the brim with blaspemous lies, so I wouldn't recommend it to anyone exept perhaps mature Christians who know their bibles well and are interested in defending their faith.

One of the many lies that caught my attention was that Paul did not know the historical details about Christ's life, and he doesn't even view Christ as a human being. This is absurd, given Saul dedicated his life to killing Christians, and Paul knew the apostles, traveled with Mark and even met Christ. And while his letters are not focused on giving a historical account of Christ's life, Paul does show he knows many of the details of Christ life.

Paul knew Christ was the descendant of Abraham and David (2 Timothy 2:8, Romans 1:3, Galatians 3:16). Cross reference Matthew 1:1.

Paul knew about John the Baptist's ministry of the baptism of repentance and his saying he was unworthy to untie Christ's sandals:

Of this man's offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie. (Acts 13:23-25; also see Acts 19:4) Cross reference Mark 1:1-8.

Paul knew Christ had siblings (1 Corinthians 9:5, also see Galatians 1:19). Cross reference Mark 6:3 and John 2:12.

Paul knew Christ's teaching on marriage and divorce:

To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (1 Corinthians 7:10; also see 1 Corinthians 7:25). Cross reference Mathew 19:1-12).

Paul knew about Christ's teaching that the laborer is worthy of his hire and more importantly by the time Paul wrote 1 Timothy, he was aware this saying of Christ's was written in scripture:

Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:14) and For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:18) Cross reference Luke 10:7 and Matthew 10:10.

Paul knew about Christ's end times prophecies:

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:15-17) Cross reference Matthew 24.

Paul knew about Christ's teaching on the Lord's Supper:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the samenight in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said,“Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25) Cross reference Mark 14:22-25.

Paul knew about Christ's trial by the Jews, their bringing Him to Pilate and Christ's death, burial and Resurrection and of the witnesses to the resurrected Lord:

For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. (Acts 13:27-30) Cross reference Luke chapters 22-24.

Paul even knew about events and teachings from the life of Christ that are not recorded (or at least not obviously recorded) in the four Gospels.

I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)

After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:6)

Descent from Abraham and David, meeting with John the Baptist, siblings, teachings, prophesies, instituting the last supper, trial by the Jews and by Pilate, and His death, burial, resurrection and post resurrection witnesses -  how much more would we reasonably expect Paul to write about Christ?  Should we assume great Aristotelian philosophers, like Thomas Aquinas or Francisco Suarez didn't believe Aristotle was human, given they don't give copious historical accounts of Aristotle's life?

Flemming probably rejects the biblical witness that Paul knew about Christ but then his argument boils down to that he rejects the bible because he rejects the bible.  We already knew that, but that's not a reason or an argument for rejecting the bible.   

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ezekiel 18 and Original Sin

Summary of the Passage

The passage comes at a time when Judah has lost it's freedom and possession of the promised land; Ezekiel himself being among the Babylonian exiles1.  This presents a new question for God's people; why don't we have the land?   2 Kings 23:25-26 and 2 Kings 24:3-4 attribute Judah's suffering at the hands of the Babylonians several generations back to the heinous sins of King Manasseh.

God's judgement should have lead the Jews to look to their own sins but instead, they blamed their parents using the saying "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge".2  This complains of sons suffering for their fathers sins and may even refer back to Adam and Eve's eating the forbidden fruit, with it's consequences on mankind. God rejects the notion that blame can be shifted to parents, claiming His rule (all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine)  and individual responsibility (the soul who sins shall die).  (Ezekiel 18:1-4)3

God then describes three generations: 1) a righteous grandfather who will live (Ezekiel 18:5-9), 2) an unrighteous father who will die (Ezekiel 18:10-13), and 3) an righteous son who will live (Ezekiel 18:14-19).  Oddly, on hearing that sons will not die for the sins of their fathers, the Jews press the matter further by asking: why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father? (Ezekiel 18:19) This question exposes the Jew's blame-shifting to their parents.  It's always easier to blame someone else, rather than ask "what do I bring to the situation?"  God responds to the question by again focusing on individual responsibility: "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son." (Ezekiel 18:20)

God then provides two more cases: the repentant sinner who will live and the apostate saint who will die. (Ezekiel  18:21-24) In discussing these cases, God discloses the underlying reason He does not hold the past sins of the repentant against them: Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

This principle of individual responsibility turns the tables on Israel.  God proves his equity by holding people individually responsible, but the Jews are hiding from their individual responsibility by blaming their parents. (Ezekiel 18:25) God again emphasizes personal responsibility by again recounting the cases of the repentant sinner and apostate saint.  (Ezekiel 18:26-29)

The chapter closes with God's calling for the Jews to repent, turn from their sin and make themselves a new heart; all in light of God's desire for them to repent and live (Ezekiel 18:32)
Does the Passage Teach Works Salvation?

The question of original sin becomes easier to answer once we understand just what this passage is teaching on salvation.  The case of the righteous grandfather, viewed in isolation, looks like works righteousness, since there is no mention of past sins.  The case of the righteous son is about the same, though it does mention he considers his father's sins and does not copy them.  

Other passages of scripture make it crystal clear that we cannot earn forgiveness (Romans 4:1-5, Ephesians 2:8-9).  So up until verse 20, the passage could be taken one of two ways.  It could be describing someone living a perfect, sinless life and therefore not needing forgiveness or it could be describing someone living a relatively good (but not perfect) life, who's sins are being forgiven.  However, if both of these options seem open up to verse 20, the case of the repentant sinner in verses 21-29 makes it clear that God is talking about mercifully giving life rather than awarding life to those who earn it.

Does the Passage Contradict Original Sin?
Only by mistakenly taking Ezekiel 18 to teach sinless perfection, can we get it to conflict with original sin.  Original sin does not imply that God damns all who die in infancy,  though it does imply that any infants in heaven are their due to God's mercy and not because they do not require mercy.

We must be careful not to confuse the way God could deal with us in strictness of justice, to what He chooses to actually deal with us in His mercy.  The passage says God will not hold the repentant and those who live holy lives responsible for their parents sins.  It does not say if they don't repent; God still will not punish them both for their own sins as well as their parents.

Corporate responsibly comes from a corporate covenant.  The blessings for Adam were not just for him, but for his prosperity, so when he fell it impacted us all.  The national blessing of the land of Israel   benefited all Israelites and it's loss impacted all as Ezekiel just described in chapter 16.  Imagine if one of Akin's family members had turned him in.  Do you think that person would still have been stoned?  No way!  In the same way, Josiah's righteousness postponed the exile of Judah for the sins of Josiah's grandfather  Manasseh.  (2 Kings 23:25-26).  In the same way, Ezekiel here teaches the Isrealites in Babylonian captivity who turned from their sins, would not die for their parent's sins.  Likewise, those who repent, will not suffer the eternal death Adam's sin brings.

1  See 2 Kings 24:8-17, Ezekiel 1:1-3 and Flavius /Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews Book X, 6.3.98, who states "Now, a little time afterwards, the king of Babylon made an expedition against Jehoiakim, .... king Jehoiakim, whom he commanded to be thrown before the walls, without any burial; and made his son Jehoiachin king of the country, and of the city: he also took the principal persons in dignity for captives, three thousand in number, and led them away to Babylon; among which was the prophet Ezekiel, who was then but young.  (link)

2 Quoted also in Jeremiah 31:29-30

3 Probably building on an allusion to Deut 24:16.  

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Spread of Gay Marriage

Homosexuality is sin and supporting gay marriage leads to it's spread throughout the world.  This week we saw this first hand with the influence of other nations on President Obama and next will be the influence of his support of gay marriage on the state governments and public opinion. 

This spread reminds me of Proverbs 4:14-19, especially the part about not sleeping until someone else joins in their ways and not knowing over what they stumble. Do not enter the path of the wicked And do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; Turn away from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; And they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble.  For they eat the bread of wickedness And drink the wine of violence.   But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day.  The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know over what they stumble.   

As Christians, we may be disappointed with Obama's decisions, but we must not hate him or forget our duty to pray for him ( 1 Timothy 2:1-2).  Nor should we forget that even though President Obama is among the most powerful men on earth, he still answers to God.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Richard Watson answers Justice Objection to Original Sin

Many Christians object to the idea that we are condemned in Adam.  But the same objectors often hold we receive a sin nature from Adam and that due to the fall we will physically die.  Richard Watson highlights the logical inconsistency with this objection:  

The justice of this is objected to, a point which will be immediately considered; but it is now sufficient to say, that in the making the descendants of Adam liable to eternal death, because of his offence, be unjust, the infliction of temporal death is so also; the duration of the punishment making no difference in the simple question of justice. If punishment, 'whether of loss or of pain, be unjust, its measure and duration may be a greater or a less injustice; but it is unjust in every degree. If, then, we only confine the hurt we have received from Adam to bodily death; if this legal result of his transgression only be imputed to us, and we are so constituted sinners as to become liable to it, we are in precisely the same difficulty, as to the equity of the proceeding, as when that legal result is extended farther. (link)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Christ’s Ichor? - Dr. DeHaan’s Unusual and Unorthodox Teaching

I was recently pointed to Dr. DeHaan’s teaching on Christ’s blood.  (link)  Laced into his views of original sin, the virgin birth and the incarnation are the ideas that human blood is sinful and Christ’s blood was not human.

Dr. DeHaan states:   While all men from Adam to this day are born with Adam’s sinful nature, and, therefore, are subject to the curse and eternal death, the Man Jesus was without sin and, therefore, DEATHLESS until He took the sin of others upon Himself and died THEIR death. Now while Jesus was of Adam's race according to the flesh yet He did not inherit Adam's nature. This alone will prove that sin is not transmitted through the flesh. It is transmitted through the blood and not the flesh, and even though Jesus was of the "Seed of David according to the flesh" this could not make him a sinner.

Jesus Christ died.  He died others death in the sense of the death they deserved, not in the sense of their physical death.  Further, sin is not physical, so it’s not physically transmitted, through flesh or through blood.   It’s not as if through dissection or gene therapy, one could get rid of original sin.  It’s spiritual rather than physical.

Dr. DeHaan continues:  Sinful heredity is transmitted through the blood and not through the flesh. Even though Jesus, therefore, received His flesh, His body from a sinful race, He could still be sinless as long as not a drop [of] blood of this sinful race entered His veins. God must find a way whereby Jesus could be perfectly human according to the flesh and yet not have the blood of sinful humanity. That was the problem solved by the virgin birth.

It’s interesting the Dr. DeHaan sees flesh as fine but blood as sinful.  But of course, physical items are not sinful.  Sin is disobeying God’s law (1 John 3:4).   

Dr. DeHaan continues:  Since there is no life in the egg until the male sperm unites with it, and the life is in the blood, it follows that the male sperm is the source of the blood, the seed of life. Think it through... From the time of conception to the time of birth of the infant not ONE SINGLE DROP OF BLOOD ever passes from mother to child... The mother contributes no blood at all.

While males are a source of blood, we are not the only source.  While neither men nor woman directly contribute their blood to babies, both male and female genes contribute to forming blood.  So if blood is sinful, removing Adam doesn’t remove the problem.  Dr. DeHaan needs Mary to have the “Immaculate Transfusion”.   

Dr. DeHaan continues:  Since Adam was the federal head of the race, it is HIS BLOOD which transmits Adam's Sin. In order to produce a sinless man and yet be the son of Adam, God must provide a way whereby that man would have a human body derived from Adam but have not a drop of Adam's sinful blood. Right here is the scientific biological reason for the sinlessness of the Man Christ Jesus.

Again, blood is not sinful and sin is not biologically transmitted. Dr. DeHaan's errors are similar to the old errors of the Gnostics and Manicheans. 

Dr. DeHaan turns to a scriptural objection:  Not only is this a scientific fact, but it is plainly taught in Scripture that Jesus partook of human flesh without Adam's blood. In Hebrews 2:14 we read,  "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood. He also himself likewise took part of the same -- "  You will notice that the children, that is the human children, are said to be partakers of FLESH and BLOOD, and then speaking of Jesus it says that He "himself likewise took part of the same." The Word “took part” as applying to Christ is an entirely different word then “partakers” as applied to the children. In the margin of my Bible, I read the word translated “took part” implies “taking part in something outside one’s self.” The Greek word for partakers is "KOYNONEHO" and means “to share fully,” so that all of Adam’s children share fully in Adam’s flesh and blood. When we read that Jesus “took part of the same” the word is "METECHO" which means to take "part" but not all. The Children take both flesh and blood of Adam but Christ took only part, that is the flesh part, while the blood was the result of supernatural conception.

None of the lexicons I reviewed say koynoneho means “to share fully” and even if that’s what it means, clearly no child has all of their father’s blood (though some fathers do pass out during child birth).  Rather, if there is an extensive aspect to partaking, it’s the impact on the child rather than what is drawn from.  To give an illustration, it’s not taking a part vs. the whole paint can, but rather spreading the paint over one’s whole body rather than just one’s legs.  So the best Dr. DeHaan can hope for here is that only some of Christ (his legs?) has our blood (not that Christ has only some of our blood or has our flesh but not our blood).

Three exegetical observations move against Dr. DeHaan's understanding of Hebrews 2:14.  First, the author of Hebrews uses metecho in Hebrews 5:13 for babies living on milk and in Hebrews 7:13 for belonging to a tribe.  The sense is not that the babies drink some aspects of the milk but not others or that a person belongs to some aspects of a tribe, but not others.  So metecho does not mean taking some part but leaving other parts as Dr. DeHaan suggests.  Rather, metecho means to participate in.

Second, Hebrews 2:14 is in an ABAB parallel symmetric style emphasizing the unity, not the disunity of the sense of Christ's participation in our flesh and blood.

A Therefore, since the children 
B share in flesh and blood, 
A He Himself likewise also 
B partook of the same. 

Third, the outbound context Hebrews 2:17 states Christ had to be made like us in all things.  There's no trace of the exclusion or limitation in Christ's participation in humanity; the point of the passage is the very opposite.

In short, the passage is teaching something Dr. DeHaan denies, that Christ participated in human flesh and blood; Christ became man to redeem men. 

Back to Dr. Dehaan: Adam’s body was made from the dust of the earth, but God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Since life is in the blood, this act resulted in the formation of blood in Adam’s body, but the first Adam’s blood was corrupted and sin transmitted through it to all mankind. In the last Adam and the second man, new and divine and sinless blood was produced in a body that was the seed of Adam and by this resulted in the production of — DIVINE BLOOD. Conception by the Holy Ghost then was the only way the Virgin Birth could be accomplished. Mary contributed the body of Jesus and He became the "seed of David according to the flesh." The Holy Spirit contributed the Blood of Jesus. It was sinless blood. It was Divine blood. It is Precious Blood for there has never been any other like it...  He became like unto us in all things — SIN only excepted. Like unto us with ONE EXCEPTION  and that exception was that instead of a human father He was conceived by a DIVINE FATHER. As a result biologically, He had DIVINE BLOOD, SINLESS BLOOD. 

The bible speaks of Christ's blood being innocent and precious, but never as being divine blood or ichor as if it were biologically different than human blood.  One wonders if it was Dr. Dehaan's belief in ichor that lead to his belief that human blood is physically sinful or the other way around?  But in any case, in a way Dr. Dehaan is denying Christ's full humanity.  

Sin made human blood corruptible. Soon after death, decay sets in, and it begins in the blood. That is why meat must be drained well of its blood. That is why embalmers place the embalming fluid in the blood. David said that Jesus’ body should "see no corruption." Though He was dead three days and three nights, His body did not corrupt. Because He was sinless they could not put Him to death but instead He "laid down His life voluntarily that He might take it up again." He arose by His own power because death had no claim in HIM except the claim of others’ sin, and when that was paid —

"Death cannot keep his prey, Jesus, my Saviour,
He tore the bars away, Jesus, My Lord.
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o'er His foes."

Christ's body was human and could die.  His life could not be forcibly taken, not because of the internal properties of his body, but because of Christ's power and control of His external circumstances.

Dr. DeHaan's view mixes Christ's divine and human nature: human body, divine blood.  But the distinction between Christ's divine and human nature is crystal clear on the cross.  His humanity died; His divine nature could not die.  So Dr. DeHaan is trapped in an awkward position.  Did Christ's body died while His blood remained alive?  But the life is in the blood, so did God die or did Christ not really die?  What a mess Dr. DeHaan has made!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

James White on 2 Peter 3:9

In James White’s book, The Potter’s Freedom1, he objects to Norman Geisler’s use of 2 Peter 3:9 in his book Chosen But Free2. Here's the passage.

1 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, 3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

James White points out that the book of 2 Peter, as well as chapter 3 specifically, is address to the church. He then sums up the point that the “you” in 2 Peter 3:9 is those who are already saved.3

Dr. White states:
Peter writes to a specific group, not to all of mankind. “To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours.” This not only refers to faith as a gift, as we will see in a later chapter, but it surely limits the context to the saved, for they have received this faith “by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ”. (PF 147)

Notice James Whites use of the past tense in “had received” and “saved”. This does tie in with the inbound context of 2 Peter 3:9, but it also implies that the individuals spoke of have repented in the past. But this leads to the obvious problem in 2 Peter 3:9 of God waiting for something that already happened (i.e. awaiting the repentances of the repentant). As Norman Geisler points out “the ‘all’ who need to repent cannot mean the “beloved”, (vv 1, 8), since they were already saved and in no need of repenting.” (CBF 208)

James White responds by seemingly contradicting his earlier assertion that they “have received this faith” (i.e. that this relates to the Church who had already repented in the past). He says:

CBF misses the point when it asserts that this cannot be the “beloved” because they have already repented. The point of the passage is that God will bring the elect to repentance throughout the time period prior to the parousia, the coming of Christ. At the point of Peter’s writing, the repentance of every single individual reading this book was yet future. (PF 149)

Dr. White’s argument suspends on Peter’s audience. So is the repentance of those addressed past or future? James White suggests both, leaving us perplexed as to what his view of the passage amounts to. Norman Geisler points out an exegetical problem and James White doesn’t solve it.

Perhaps Peter is addressing a mixed audience as beloved – in the visible church, some had repented and some had not. But Peter speaks to his audience as if they had repented, so this doesn’t help because the inbound context of 2 Peter 3:9 address those who had repented and 2 Peter 3:9b speaks of those who had not. Worse, referring to a mixed audience confuses the elect who had not yet repented with not the non-elect pretenders in the visible Church.

The source of Dr. White’s mistake within the text seems to be confusing Peter’s audience with his subject matter. Yes, 2 Peter was written to the church, but Peter doesn’t limit his topic to the church. In chapter 3, Peter discusses the promised return of Christ and destruction of the world. Yes, the promise is to the church, but of course this impacts more than just believers – it impacts everyone. So while the audience is the church, the topic is universal. Peter addresses the “beloved” with the topic of the coming destruction of the world being suspended on God’s patient desire for all to repent. Seeing this audience/subject matter distinction avoids the problem of waiting for a past event.

Another reason we can see the universal scope is that most likely, Peter is drawing from Sirach 18:8-14: 8 The number of the days of men at the most are a hundred years: as a drop of water of the sea are they esteemed: and as a pebble of the sand, so are a few years compared to eternity. 9 Therefore God is patient in them, and poureth forth his mercy upon them. 10 He hath seen the presumption of their heart that it is wicked, and hath known their end that it is evil. 11 Therefore hath he filled up his mercy in their favour, and hath shewn them the way of justice. 12 The compassion of man is toward his neighbour: but the mercy of God is upon all flesh. 13 He hath mercy, and teacheth, and correcteth, as a shepherd doth his flock. 14 He hath mercy on him that receiveth the discipline of mercy, and that maketh haste in his judgments.

The parallels between Sirach and 2 Peter are clear and Sirach’s comparison between man’s compassion on “his neighbor” and God’s compassion on “all flesh” shows the topic to be universal.

So why is God patient in fulfilling His promise to the church of Christ’s return and the coming judgment which will destroy the whole world? Because this destruction will close off the opportunity to repent for those who have not yet repented and God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.


1James 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.

2Norman Geisler. Chosen but Free. Bethany House; 2 edition (September 1, 2001)

3 The NKJV has “us” rather than the “you” found in most modern translation. This is based on a variant within Greek Manuscripts. The Majority Text (a.k.a the Byzantine) has “you” but most of the older texts and early translations have “us”. This variant has little impact on explaining this text. Us would simply include Peter alongside his audience as the receipting of the promise.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Church Fathers on Libertarian Free Will

Clement of Rome: (Knew Peter and Paul personally. He was the third or fourth bishop of Rome. Tradition has identified him with the Clement who is mentioned in Philippians 4:3) "For no other reason does God punish the sinner either in the present or future world, except because He knows that the sinner was able to conquer but neglected to gain the victory." Recognitions of Clement of Rome. 111. 23, V. 8, IX. 30. 

Clement of Alexandria: (153-217 AD) "Neither praise nor condemnation, neither rewards nor punishments, are right if the soul does not have the power of choice and avoidance, if evil is involuntary." Miscellanies bk. 1, chap. 17 
To these prophecy says, If you be willing and hear me, you shall eat the good things of the land; Isaiah 1:19 proving that choice or refusal depends on ourselves. The Stromata (Clement of Alexandria) 1.18 (link)
Epiphanius: (310-403) ‘if ye be willing and obedient’; “whence, it is plainly manifest and indubitable, that God had granted to man free-will, so that it is in his power to do the good, or choose the evil. For if it be predestined that one man be good and another man evil, then the first is not deserving of praise or the other to be blamed. Against Heresies 16 Isaiah
Justin: (100-165) Unless humans have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions-whatever they may be... For neither would a man be worthy of reward or praise if he did not of himself choose the good, but was merely created for that end. Likewise, if a man were evil, he would not deserve punishment, since he was not evil of himself, being unable to do anything else than what he was made for." (First Apology chap. 43) 
Tertullian: (207 AD) I find, then, that man was constituted free by God. He was master of his own will and power….Man is free, with a will either for obedience or resistance.(Against Marcon.  Book II, Chapter 5)  
Tertullian: (207 AD) because, if he were wanting in this prerogative of self-mastery, so as to perform even good by necessity and not will, he would, in the helplessness of his servitude, become subject to the usurpation of evil, a slave as much to evil as to good. Entire freedom of will, therefore, was conferred upon him in both tendencies; so that, as master of himself, he might constantly encounter good by spontaneous observance of it, and evil by its spontaneous avoidance; because, were man even otherwise circumstanced, it was yet his bounden duty, in the judgment of God, to do justice according to the motions of his will regarded, of course, as free. But the reward neither of good nor of evil could be paid to the man who should be found to have been either good or evil through necessity and not choice. (Against Marcion, Bk. II, ch. vi) 
Tertullian: (207 AD) "God put the question [to Adam - "where art thou"] with an appearance of uncertainty, in order that even here He might prove man to be the subject of a free will in the alternative of either a denial or a confession, and give to him the opportunity of freely acknowledging his transgression, and, so far, of lightening it. In like manner He inquires of Cain where his brother was, just as if He had not yet heard the blood of Abel crying from the ground, in order that he too might have the opportunity from the same power of the will of spontaneously denying, and to this degree aggravating, his crime; and that thus there might be supplied to us examples of confessing sins rather than of denying them: so that even then was initiated the evangelic doctrine, “By thy words thou shall be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Against Marcion, Bk. II, xxv) 
Hippolytus: (225 AD) For if man did not possess the power to will and not to will, why should a law be established? …And that by Himself in person He might prove that God made nothing evil, and that man possesses the capacity of self-determination, inasmuch as he is able to will and not to will, and is endued with power to do both. Against all Heresies Book 10, Chapter 29 (link)

Eusebius of Caesarea: (263-339) For the Creator of all implanted in every soul this natural law as a helper and defender in its actions; and while by His law He showed it the right way, by the self-determined freedom bestowed on it He declared the choice of the better course to be deserving of praise and approbation, and of greater honours and rewards for its good deeds, because it performed them not under compulsion but by its own independent decision, though it had the power of choosing the opposite: so that, on the other hand, that soul which chose the worst acts was deserving of blame and punishment, as having 'proprio motu' transgressed the law of nature, and given birth to a source and fount of wickedness, and used itself basely not from any external necessity but of free determination and judgement. 'The chooser then is answerable, God is not to blame.'  For God made neither nature nor yet the substance of the soul evil: since a good Being may not create anything but what is good. Everything, then, that is according to nature is good: and every rational soul possesses by nature the good gift of free-will, which has been given for choosing what is good.  But when it acts wickedly, it is not nature that should be blamed: since evil comes to it not by nature but against nature, being a matter of choice but not an effect of nature. For when one who had power to choose the good, instead of choosing this, voluntarily rejected the better part and claimed the worse, what room for excuse could be left to him after becoming the cause of his own disease, and disregarding the innate law which was, as it were, his preserver and healer?  Praeparatio Evangelica.  Book 6, Chapter 6 (link)
ATHENAGORAS: (177 AD) "Just as with men, who have freedom of choice as to both virtue and vice, so it is among the angels...Some free agents, you will observe, such as they were created by God, continued in those things for which God had made and over which he had ordained them; but some outraged both the constitution of their nature and the government entrusted to them." - A Plea for the Christians 24. 
Novatian:  (200-258) So that he might receive as a consequence both worthy rewards and a deserved punishment, having in his own power that which he might choose to do, by the tendency of his mind in either direction: whence, therefore, by envy, mortality comes back upon him; seeing that, although he might escape it by obedience, he rushes into it by hurrying to be God under the influence of perverse counsel." (Trinity, ch. I) 
Cyprian: (250 AD) The liberty of believing or not believing is placed in free choice. In Deuteronomy, it says, ‘Look! I have set before your face life and death, good and evil. Choose for yourself life, that you may live.’”(Three Books of Testimonies against the Jews.  Book III, Chapter 52 (link) )
Methodius: (290 AD) Man was made with a free will…on account of his capacity of obeying or disobeying God. For this was the meaning of the gift of free will.(On Free Will (link) )
Irenaeus: (c. 175) God therefore has given that which is good, as the apostle tells us in this Epistle, and they who work it shall receive glory and honor, because they have done that which is good when they had it in their power not to do it; but those who do it not shall receive the just judgment of God, because they did not work good when they had it in their power so to do. "But if some had been made by nature bad, and others good, these latter would not be deserving of praise for being good, for such were they created; nor would the former be reprehensible, for thus they were made [originally]. But since all men are of the same nature, able both to hold fast and to do what is good; and, on the other hand, having also the power to cast it from them and not to do it, — (Against Heresies, Bk. IV, 37) 
Archelaus: (320) "This account also indicates that rational creatures have been entrusted with free-will, in virtue of which they also admit of conversions." ... "For all the creatures that God made, He made very good; and He gave to every individual the sense of free-will, in accordance with which standard He also instituted the law of judgment. To sin is ours, and that we sin not is God’s gift, as our will is constituted to choose either to sin or not to sin. ... The judges said: He has given demonstration enough of the origin of the devil. And as both sides admit that there will be a judgment, it is necessarily involved in that admission that every individual is shown to have free-will; and since this is brought clearly out, there can be no doubt that every individual, in the exercise of his own proper power of will, may shape his course in whatever direction he pleases." (The Acts of the Disputation With Manes 32, 33 ) 
Basil the Great: (329-379) Why in short was it receptive to evil? Because it was endowed with free will, which is expecially appropriate for a nature endowed with reason. So the soul is freed of all constraints, and obtains from the Creator a life at its own discretion; and because it was made in God’s image, it understood the good and knows its joys, and has the possibility and power of maintaining its natural life by continuing to gaze on the good and to enjoy the life of the spirit. But it has also the possibility on occasion of abandoning the good. -  God is not the author of Evil (Homily 9)