Monday, September 21, 2009

Regarding the Love of God

Introduction

Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) The subject of the Love of God is as vast and daunting as just about any other single subject in Scripture. As such, there are a variety of different aspects concerning the Love of God that one could write about. This article is concerned with that aspect of the Love of God which is to find its expression in the lives of the believing community, the church. The one quality that serves to demonstrate to the world that we are Christ’s disciples is love. Alexander Strauch wrote, “The one quality, however, that should beautify every believer and every church, regardless of giftedness or personality, is love.”[1] Love is the key to selflessness. For God so loved the world that He gave. Christ loved the church and He gave Himself for her. Genuine service to others and to God begins with a selflessness that is borne in love. Without love, genuine selflessness is truly impossible to attain. This explains why “dying to self” and “loving God with all our being” is so indelibly connected. Strauch continues, “Love can grow cold while outward religious performance still appears to be acceptable – or even praiseworthy.”[2] There is a real danger that we all must guard against. That is the danger of a love that has grown cold. By this I do not mean a feeling. I mean the genuine practice of being truly concerned with the lives of other people. If we wait until we feel something, this indicates we are allowing the human heart to lead as opposed to willingly leading our heart to where God would have it to be.

Love of God in the Old Testament

The first example of love in the Old Testament is seen in God’s relation to Adam and Eve and His loving response to them in the Garden of Eden. Rather than eliminate them from His presence forever, He made provision for them in slaughtering the animal and providing them with a covering. Indeed the display of mercy was ostentatious. A second example is God’s love for Noah and his family. Instead of destroying all men from the earth, God directed His love and grace toward a man named Noah and made provision for him. In continuing to display His love, God looked down on Abram, and set His special love on him, calling him to Himself and making an everlasting covenant him. (Gen. 12:3; Deut. 10:15) God also set His affection on and directed His love toward Israel. From among all the nations, He chose Israel and loved them, calling them unto Himself. (Deut. 7:13)
And what is the impact of this love of God toward humans in the Old Testament? First, it is expected that man will love God with all His heart, soul, and might. (Deut. 6:5) And what does it look like to love God in this way? Is it that you feel something for God, or is it that you behave a certain way toward God? In our culture we equate love with a deep emotional feeling. But nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to “feel love” toward God. Loving God means,
1. God’s words are kept on our heart
2. We teach God’s words to our children
3. We talk about them when we sit down
4. We talk about them when we are on our way
5. We talk about them when we lay down
6. We talk about them when we rise up
7. We bind them to our foreheads
8. We hang them on our doorposts and over our gates

What is the point of all this? The point is that loving God means complete submission and surrender to His word. His command becomes the breath by which we live. We make no decisions or engage in any activities without consulting His word. It presides over our life like a prison guard presides over a prisoner. Paul viewed himself as a slave of Christ. Secondly, this love toward God was to work out in a love toward others. (Deut. 10:19) A love toward God was to translate into a love for our neighbor and especially the stranger. This love meant that certain provisions would be made for those who may have been experiencing special needs.

Love of God in the New Testament

Jesus was once asked by a clever lawyer what the greatest of all the commandments was. Jesus answered by telling this man that the greatest of all commandments was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. And then he added this fascinating second commandment; that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Matt. 22:37-39) Jesus was quoting Lev. 19:18 which says “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” In Jesus’ mind the second greatest commandment is for us to love our neighbor as ourselves. What does this look like? What does it mean to love your neighbor? In his sermon on “Love’s Commendation,” C.H. Spurgeon says, “If thou wouldest commend thyself to thy fellows, go and do – not go and say; if thou wouldest win honor from the excellent, talk not, but act; and if, before God thou wouldest show that thy faith is sincere, and thy love to him real, remember, it is no fawning words, uttered either in prayer or praise, but it is the pious deed, the holy act, which is the justification of thy faith, and the proof that it is the faith of God’s elect.” One hears James’ words of being a doer of the word and not a hearer only in Spurgeon’s sermon. We also feel I John 3:18 which commands us to love not only with word or tongue, but in deed and truth. He continues, “Let us imitate God, then, in this. If we would commend our religion to mankind, we can not do it by mere formalities, but by gracious acts of integrity, charity, and forgiveness, which are the proper discoveries of grace within.”[3] James Boice, in commenting on John 13:35 says, “In other words, if people come up to us and cast in our teeth the judgment that we are not Christians because we have not shown love toward other Christians, we must understand that they are only exercising a prerogative that Jesus gave them. If people say, ‘You don’t love other Christians,’ we must go home, get down on our knees, and ask God whether or not they are right. And if they are, then they have a right to have said what they said.”[4] Jesus, by saying that all men would know we are His disciples by the love we have for each other has placed the world in a position to assess the genuineness of our personal claims to be such. And the world is certainly watching. All too often what they see is Christians gossiping about each other, hating each other, judging and criticizing each other, cheating on each other, divorcing each other, and filing to be there for each other when the situation merits. This behavior, and a host of other unacceptable behaviors for which we are soundly without excuse, is unbecoming for those claiming to be Christ’s. Where is the love of God in this kind of behavior? I do not think this is what the New Testament Scripture provides us in painting the picture of what the church, the body of Christ, should look like.
What has happened to us? What is happening to us? Where is the loving, caring Christian community that Christ describes in John 13? In Matthew 24:12 Jesus said, “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” Two elements in this verse must be understood and then the evident connection between them must be considered. First, what does Jesus mean when He says “lawlessness is increased?” In our day we have especially witnessed a rapid increase in antinomianism. Antinomianism means without law or a standard of morality. Even in conservative churches today, the number of Christians who have displaced the law of Christ in how they live their lives has experienced a remarkable increase. The number of Christians who think abortion is acceptable, who think homosexuality is a viable alternative lifestyle, and who dismiss the Bible when making the most fundamental or moral decisions is staggering. Leon Morris writes, “But real love is impossible for the lawless person. By definition the lawless person is motivated by personal, selfish concerns, not by any regard for others or for the rules that govern our intercourse with one another. So with the upsurge of lawlessness there is a cooling off of love. The one necessarily involves the other.”[5] For a believer, the governor of our intercourse with one another is God’s word. In it God describes for us how we are to relate to one another. And the first word that comes to mind for each and every believer in terms of how we are to relate to each other must be love. The idea of love growing cold is compared to a fire. We should not think Christ intended to talk about the warmness of a loving feeling. Such a view would be reading western ideas back into the text. The point is that just like a fire is extinguished, so love too will be extinguished when we abandon a whole-hearted commitment to the law of Christ.

Maintaining an Amazing Love

Jonathan Edwards wrote, “A Christian should at all times keep a strong guard against everything that tends to overthrow or corrupt or undermine a spirit of love. That which hinders love to men, will hinder the exercise of love to God…If love is the sum of Christianity, surely those things which overthrow love are exceedingly unbecoming [to] Christians.”[6] Strauch writes, “Because it is easy to talk the language of love without living the reality of love, the apostles had to continually remind and exhort believers to practice the love they professed. We must do the same today.[7] Let each of us remind ourselves and each other, what it means, fundamentally, to be a Christian. The sinful nature is selfish, and the human heart deceitfully wicked above all else. We cannot walk by feelings or follow our heart. Nor can we trust our heart. We must place our faith firmly in Christ and do what we know is right regardless of how it feels to us. In attempting to do this, I will admit I have failed miserably. But I fight the good fight of faith as Paul said, striving to put my body under daily. When we err, and God reveals it to us, let us respond with repentance and a renewed vigor to obey Christ and to love and forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us. Wherever Christianity does not translate into love within the believing community, then in that community, Christianity is dead. Love is an essential component of genuine Christianity. John said we cannot possibly love God while hating our brother. (I John 4:20) May God grant each of us the grace and strength to love one another as God has loved each of us.

People LIVE what they believe; EVERYTHING else is just noise!


[1] Strauch, Alexander. Love or Die. Pg. 11.
[2] Strauch, Alexander. Love or Die. Pg. 19.
[3] C.H. Spurgeon. Spurgeon’s Sermons, Vol. II, pg. 410-411.
[4] Boice, James M. Commentary on John.
[5] Morris, Leon. Commentary on Matthew. Pg. 601.
[6] Edwards, Jonathan. Charity and It’s Fruit. Pg 23.
[7] Strauch, Alexander. Love or Die. Pg. 65.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Loving Husbands - Ephesians 5:25

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her..."

First it should be pointed out that the Greek word AGAPATE is in the imperative mood signifying that it is indeed a commandment. In other words, the husband is commanded by God to love His wife. What does this mean? It means that outside of God, the wife of the Christian Husband is the sole object of his affection. She becomes, again, outside of God, the center of his attention. He longs to see her, to hear her, to be the man by her side. It is his hand he wants in her hand and no other. She is at the very top of his list of VIP and no one else is even close. He is dedicated and devoted to protecting her, cherishing her, romancing her, and being all he needs her to be as her man. He longs to be her knight in shinning armor, the one who will protect and defend her against all enemies. He protects her from the cold, from the hunger, from the dangers of the uncertainties that life naturally brings all of us. Loving your wife like Christ loves the church means placing your wants, needs, and desires, aside so that you may be able to focus on her wants, needs, and desires. It means that if your need clashes with her need, her need subjugates your own. You place her before you and you become willing to make the greatest of sacrifices for her. Outside of God, your world revolves around serving her and making her feel secure, safe, and cherished. James Boice says, "Loving husbands, happy wives." Indeed he is absolutely correct. Calvin says, "If they are honoured to bear his image, and to be, in some measure, his representatives, they ought to resemble him also in the discharge of duty." We are to mirror Christ not only in all other aspects of daily living, we are to do so especially in this aspect of daily life. Hoehner writes, "Thus in this context husbands are to love their wives even when they may seem inderserving and unloving, in other words, unconditionally." How many of us actually obey this command of Christ. I will admit that I have fallen very short of this standard. In fact, I have argued that one cannot really obey this commandment because no one could love their wife as much as Christ loves the church. While that statement may be true, it has a fundamental flaw attached it and I did not realize it until very recently. And that is the second aspect of this article, the first being our command to love our wives along with how that behavior manifests itself in our attitude and in life.

What is the nature of this love we are to have for our wives. That is to say, is Paul speaking here in a qualitative sence, or a quantitative sense? As one examines the sentence once more, we find our answer. The answer lies in the Greek word KATHOS, which is rendered "just as" in many English translations. The word is a conjunction, adverbial, comparitive. This means when we think of how we are to love our wives, we are to compare it to how Christ loves the Church. Since the meaning here is one of comparison, it is safe to say that "love" here is in the qualitative sense and not the quantitative sense. Paul is not commanding us to love our wives as much as Christ loves the church. Such a task is indeed impossible because Christ's love for the church is infinite. What Paul is telling us is to love our wives in the same way Christ loves the church. And how did Christ love the church. He loved her sacrificially, despite her imperfections, her flaws, her sins, her short-comings. 1 Peter 3:7 says, "You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered." MacArthur writes, "A Christian husband needs to subordinate his needs to hers." A Christian husband must be humble and always, always show great sensitivity to his wife. Of her fears, anxieties, and concerns he must constantly be aware and doing all he can to offset them with his strong loving leadership and protection. As Boice said earlier, loving husbands, happy wives.

I will be the first to admit that this article is much easier to write than it is to live. In fact, I have failed at this task most miserably. I have placed my desires and needs above those of my wife on countless occassions for all sorts of reasons, selfishness being the most common. When she needed me to listen, I was too busy speaking. Oftentimes, when she needed my strength, she received my absence. And when she needed my reassurance, what she got instead was silence and uncertainty. God has a way of getting our attention and pointing out our sinfulness and I must admit He has managed to do the same with me. Some of us are more hard-headed than others and we have to learn the hard way. Christian husband, I emplore you to wrap your arms around that wife of yours as often as you can, look her dead in the eyes, and from the very center of your heart, with every fiber of your being, remind her often that she is the center of your universe and should you be called to die for her this hour, your love for her would move you to that end without flenching.

Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.


People LIVE what they believe, EVERYTHING else is just noise!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Question of the Carnal Corinthian

Here is the question in the comments section: Hi Ed, I am new to your blog site. My question is what about the church at Corinth, were they not carnal? I am a pre-mill Baptist.

This is a good question and I am happy to answer it. Much has been made by Non-Lordship Salvation proponents of 1 Cor. 3:1-4. In fact, Lewis Sperry Chafer argues for three categories of people based on this text and others like it: 1. Spiritual Christians; 2. Non-Christians; and 3. Non-Spiritual Christians. An elaborate system is put together to argue for the idea that there can exist "carnal Christians" in the Non-Lordship sense of the concept.
First, this reflects a gross exaggeration of what was taking place at Corinth. There was a shallow problem there to be sure and it's source was pride. The sectarian sin had overtaken them. No one who reads their Bible believes that true Christians cannot be overtaken by sin. Read Galatians 5:1 and you will discover that they can. It is one thing to be caught in carnal behavior and to be rebuked by the Apostle for being carnal, and it is quite a different story to attempt to accept Christ as your Savior all the while rejecting Him as your Lord.
In 1 Cor. 5 Paul criticizes Corinth for failure to excommunicate a couple who are practicing gross immorality. In the very next chapter, 1 Cor. 6:9 Paul contends that people who practice a sinful lifestyle will NOT inherit the Kingdom of God.
The Non-Lordship view allows for the idea that a person can take Christ as Savior and Reject Him as Lord. It is contrary to biblical teaching on the subject. It reduces genuine faith and repentance to mere intellectual assent. And finally, it ignores Matt. 7 where Jesus clearly teaches that those who reject Him as Lord by not doing what He says will experience the wrath of God in judgment.
To deal with isolated incidents in the lives of believers who fall into sin, or even a sinful practice for a short period is not the same as the outright denial on the part of professing Christians who live a lifestyle that clearly rejects any notion of godly living or of submitting their will to God's will and dying to self. It is, in the final analysis, apples and oranges to compare Corinth to the modern Non-Lordship person who lives a life of sheer sin and leans on the goodness of God as if He is a buffoon and doesn't realize people are abusing grace. To put it more succinctly, true believers do not practice the abuse of grace.


People LIVE what they believe, EVERYTHING else is just noise!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Debate Continues: A Lordless Salvation

The Professor Comments

"Both men preach the gospel of Christ." Both men preach (very different) gospels of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is very obvious or are have you not read JM's book/s??? and heard him?? my my.. does not take much.. they are different gospels.. like night and day!!! I was at DTS in the 80's when much of this happened.. Two very different gospels and you better understand that... most students of the Word of God do!!!!... I teach the very 'free gift'.... and He is the 'eternal Son'... both essential doctrine!!!! I teach the literal blood!!!! and still do!!!...one of these two does not??? guess who???? sad day!!!! but God said this would happen.... signing out ...



Background

There are at least two fundamental issues at play here. First is the popular, modern view known as OSAS (Once Saved, Always Saved). This view is a modification of the biblical doctrine of the perseverance of the saints as I will show later. The second issue is the derogatory remarks about John MacArthur (JM). Previously I asked the professor to restrain from making such remarks about Dr. MacArthur (my favorite pastor), and he simply ignored my pleas and launch into a full frontal assault, choosing MacArthur's view of Lordship Salvation for his target.



My Response

The attack against MacArthur had nothing whatsoever to do with the discussion. The professor insisted on keeping it in the discussion because he had an agenda, a motive. He wanted to see if I am a Lordship Salvation adherent. He found out that I am.

To accuse Dr. John MacArthur of preaching a different gospel is, without question, a sin. This is a learned professor who has a number of earned degrees and he is intelligent enough to know that John MacArthur is not guilty of preaching a false gospel. After all, this is a very serious accusation. Not only this, but the professor goes back almost 30 years and brings up a view once entertained by MacArthur, that he has since repented of, and still wants to charge him for. Everyone who knows JM knows that he does not preach a works-based salvation. To argue that he does indicates you are either ignorant of MacArthur's views or you are being intellectually dishonest.

Secondly, I am not sure what the professor means when he says he believes that the "literal blood" is what washes away our sins versus the blood of Christ in death. The suggestion that John MacArthur denies the efficacy of the blood of Christ is nothing more than deceitful malevolence. This controversy erupted in 1986 at Bob Jones University who eventually ended up retreating from the controversy in embarrassment. Yet this professor, who should have full knowledge of this, insists on pinning this non-sense on MacArthur still. Utter foolishness, irresponsibility, and unfair. There is no excuse for a professor who has been around as long as this man has to engage in this kind of malevolent treatment of men like John MacArthur.

To assert that John MacArthur denies the eternality of the Son of God is imply not true and this professor knows it. I wonder how he would feel if someone drug up old sins from his past and even though he repented of them long ago, still wanted to pin them on him? John MacArthur long ago repented of this idea and the good professor knows it. Now, on to the other fundamental issue, Lordship Salvation.



Can a Christian cease bearing fruit and remain in Christ?

The thesis of OSAS is that a believer can cease to bear fruit and still be saved. More extreme forms of this doctrine assert that faith and works are completely unrelated to one another and it is quite possible for a person to have faith without any accompanying works. How do these views accord with what is taught in Scripture?

First, John 15:16 says, "You did not choose me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain..." It is very interesting that those anyone could claim that genuine faith may not produce abiding fruit when Jesus clearly says in this instance that it will. He says that you will bear fruit and that this fruit will remain. This was His purpose for choosing them! This nullifies both views that a genuine Christian may stop producing any fruit or that they may not produce any fruit at all. John 15:6 could not be clearer, "If anyone does not abide (remain) in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned." Of course the OSAS view interprets this to mean that disobedient Christians will be disciplined and potentially lose rewards. Of course something seems quite odd about viewing this as simple lose of reward. When one examines the harshness of the language and then examines the concept of being thrown into fire and burned, the image of loss of reward isn't in the forefront of most people's minds. But it is easy to see how this parallels with being tossed into the lake of fire. It should be pointed out that the Greek MENO (remain) and PHERO (bears) are both in the present tense which indicates on-going action. Therefore in John 15:5 is literally indicating, he who is [continually] abiding in me and I in him, he [continues] bearing much fruit.

The answer then seems to be no! A Christian who ceases to bear fruit seems to actually be proving that they were never really saved to begin with.



Is genuine faith always accompanied by Christian works?

First, those who are hearers of the word and not doers are described as self-deceived by James (James 1:22). There are numerous professing Christians out there who claim to know Christ, but outright reject His commands. For example, take a practicing homosexual: There are millions of homosexuals who believe they are genuinely saved because they have mentally assented to the gospel of Christ. To the OSAS proponents I would ask, "are they?" 1 Corinthians 6:9 says that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God! How is it that OSAS proponents claim that they could if they ever professed Christ, and in some cases bore a little fruit and in other cases, not even that. So a 12 year old kid can profess Christ, attend Sunday School, graduate high school, head off the college, discover his is gay, live the gay lifestyle for 30 years, die of aids while remaining in his gay lifestyle and enter the kingdom as one of God's children?

Second, James says 2:14-26 asserts that genuine faith is faith that is accompanied by works. In fact, James says that faith which is not accompanied by works is dead faith. Dead faith is not genuine faith. Genuine faith is a living faith. It changes hearts, lives, and attitudes.

Paul said that he was crucified with Christ, that he no longer lived of himself, but that Christ lived in him and the life that he now lives, he lives by the faith of the Son of God who loved him and gave Himself for him (Gal.2:20).

John said that the one who claims to have come to know God and does not keep God's commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:4). This seems to stop the mouths of those who would assert that indeed a person can violate all the commandments and still know God.

Finally John said, No one who is born of God practices sin (1 John 3:9)! I am not sure how a OSAS proponent reconciles these texts with their thesis. But it seems very clear that Scripture itself denies such a view in unequivocal language.

To be sure, the idea that one cannot lose their salvation is absolutely biblical. The two schools vying for truth in this are known as the perseverance of the saints or the view known as once saved always saved (OSAS). In reviewing this verses, it seems inconspicuous to me the Bible teaches that the saints will indeed bear fruit, that genuine faith is always accompanied by good works, and those who love God will indeed progress in their Christian growth and sanctification. Finally 1 John 2:19 says, "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they were not of us." John clearly indicates that those who go out from the Christian community indicate that they were never really part of it in the first place.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Debate Continues

I apologize for that brief distraction, but I saw the commentor's remarks as a nice opportunity to discuss the faulty reasoning involved in his/her comments.

Professor's Second Assertion
God loves Adolph H., Judas, me, my mom identically!!! for all these and more He loved and died!!! I can preach that... JM cannot... God loves the sinner... and I am thankful He took me to missions all over the world...

My Response
The good Professor asserts that God loves all men without exception. At it's foundation, there are two competing views relating to God's love for His creation. Before I expound on this idea, I must state that there is indeed a real sense in which God loves His creation. This is undeniable. God loves all of His creation, and this includes mankind. However, it is one thing to say that God loves all of creation and it is quite another to say that He loves all creation equally and without exception. The second view is that God loves all of His creation without distinction, but not without exception. Those who are well read in this know this. Anyone who pretends otherwise is being intellectual dishonest.

The first distinction is that of the fallen angels. Obviously God has made a distinction between fallen man and fallen angels. After all, He determined to redeem the former and not the latter. It is true that God is love. Indeed Scripture is clear about this. Nevertheless, if a loving God can make a distinction between fallen man and fallen angels, deciding to redeem one and not the other, and this act does not impugne his loving character, then it would naturally follow that God can make the same distinction between fallen men without impugning his loving character. Therefore, to argue that God must love all creation equally in order to avoid impugning his loving character is an assertion that is wrought with obvious inconsistencies. The distinction between fallen angels and fallen men in redeemption demonstrates this fact.

The second distinction is that of Israel. God, from all the nations and peoples of the earth, chose the tiny nation of Isreal to display His love and glory. He did not choose all of mankind without exception. He made a very, very distinct choice in election Israel as His people. He could have chosen everyone, or numerous nations to represent Him in the earth. But He did not. He chose Israel (Ezek. 20:5). From among all the other people groups, He chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jocob. For His king, He chose David. He left the rest of the nations to their own sinful devices. How could anyone assert, in light of this evidence, that God loves all men equally without exception? It demonstrates that God loves men without distinction, but not without exception.

A third distinction by which God's love is demonstrated is seen in those He freely chooses to send the gospel to and those to whom He withholds the gospel from. God is sovereign over all creation and over all the affairs of men. Judas, whom the professor says God loved just as much as He loves us, or say Peter for instance, is a perfect example. Jesus said that it was better if Judas had not been born. Judas did what God had determined he would do (Acts 4:27-28). The fact is that millions and millions of people have been brought into this world by God's decree, but who leave with world, by God's decree, without ever hearing the gospel. More about this later.

God made a distinction between Pharoah and Moses. God determined, before Moses worked the first miracle in front of Pharoah, to harden Pharaoh so that Pharaoh would not listen (Ex. 4:21). God raised Pharaoh up so that He could harden Him in order to demonstrate His power and that His named would be proclaimed thoughout the whole world. If God did this, and it was His plan, then how couuld He find fault with Pharoah. See Romans 9:20 for the answer this question.

God made a distinction between Esau and Jacob. Before Jacob or Esau had a chance to do anything good or bad, God loved Jacob and hated Esau (Rom. 9:10-11). Now many will ascribe God's choice to His foreknowledge. But this example explodes that idea so effectively that it must be abandoned entirely. Otherwise, Paul's point becomes absurd. The whole idea is that God's election and His conscious distinction which He has made among men and angels from before the beginning of creation is based in Himself, not the actions or quality, or status, or birthright of men. If God chose men based on His knowledge of how they are going to respond to His revelation, then the basis of election is located in men, and more specifically, the actions of men. Never is this concept ever taught or conveyed even implicitly in Scripture. The election of men by God has always been viewed as the gracious act of a sovereign God who is acting for His own glory and executing His divine plan in accordance with His will and good pleasure (Eph. 1:11). To be sure these actions are actions of a loving God, but not of a God who acts capriciously in any way whatever. There is nothing capricious or arbitrary in God, or His actions.

What kind of God do we serve? First, it must be admitted that men, millions of men, hundreds of millions of men, have died without hearing or seeing the gospel of salvation from God. In fact, hundreds of millions of men have died without ever hearing of the person, Jesus Christ. They have never heard the gospel message. These men died hopelessly and have entered eternity under the divine wrath of God our Father. While it is true that men may have hope in Christ outside of the visible church, it is not true that they can have hope of eternal life outside of Christ. Outside of Christ there is death and judgement. Unless men believe that Jesus is the Christ, they will die in their sins. I realize that many theologians, scholars, and pastors have argued that salvation can exist outside Christ, but that is a discussion for another time. It would fall under the catagory of apostasy. Since the gospel is necessary to spare men from hell, then one would reasonably think that God, if He loves everyone without exception, would get everyone that one thing that they need in order to escape hell. But this is absolutely NOT the case. Millions of men and women have slipped into eternal damnation without ever hearing the gospel. So how can one assert that God loved them the same as He loves those whom He gives the gospel? Here is the argument:
God is omipotent and is powerful enough to give them the gospel.
God is omniscient and is intelligent enough to give them the gospel.
God loves all men equally without exception.
God has not, in fact, given them the gospel.

Choices for extraction from this delimma:
1. God is not powerful enough to give them the gospel. He needs man's cooperation to give them the gospel. Hence this makes their salvation dependent on cooperative, sinful men.
2. God is not intelligent enough to send them the gospel.
3. God loves all creation, but directs a special love to His elect whom He has chosen to redeem, and passes by the rest of sinful men who will be held morally culpable for not responding appropriately to His revelation in nature. God has no obligation to send anyone the gospel.
4. Men must respond to God's revelation in nature in order to have God send them the gospel.

Option 1 is heresy. Option 2 is heresy. Option 4 destroys the gospel by grace. It places God under a moral obligation to send the gospel to everyone who responds to natural revelation positively. While I stop short of calling it heresy, I will call it heterodoxy. Heterodoxy is the often the last step before one reaches outright heresy. Some men stop here and allow the tension to exist in their theology. Others push forward into full blown Pelagianism, Open Theism, Process Theology, Universalism, and an abandonment of the exclusivity of salvation in Christ. Option 3 is the most desireable conclusion. The second minor premise in the argument is the one that is the most vulnerable and I believe, it is in fact, false.

The good professor with whom I debate is a decent man and a staunch conservative. I consider him a brother in Christ even though I take serious exception to this view and even more so to some of the other exchanges we had during this debate. I will share those exchanges in an attempt, not only to demonstrate what I believe is serious error, but also to provide an example for how we should and should not engage one another in Christian debate and discussion. In all things, charity!

For those who wish to enage in a more robust discussion of any of the topics on this blog, please send me an email.

People LIVE what they believe, EVERYTHING else is just noise. -Ed Dingess

An Example of Absurdity

If you read this blog you notice that on occasion, there are comments posted. Now I don't mind comments, but I do mind insulting comments. So, instead of meeting insult with insult, lets pretend we are in class and someone actually says what this "unnamed" commentator said:

Your Reformed theological training and thinking suggests that of a seminary student. That is why I asked where you attended seminary. Your latest blog demonstrates your belief in 5 point Calvinism. In other words, you right and everyone else is wrong.

First of all, there is no indication in my latest blog that I am a 5 point Calvinist. This may or it may not be true. I merely argued that the Bible does not support the thesis that God will not send additional revelation unless men respond properly to natural revelation. One does not have to be a five-point Calvinist to see the serious error in the opposing view.

Second, how is that one equates five-point Calvinism as being the same thing as believing I am right and everyone else is wrong. This is a non-sequitur if ever there was one. Not only this, it is an insulting remark which does not belong on a Christian blog. Of course in a time when we have pastors using vulgar language from the pulpit, I guess we think anything goes. Anything might go for apostates, but anything certainly doesn't go for those who claim t0 be Spirit-filled and captive to Christ.

Finally, this comment reveals a position that is quite absurd. Before you get worked up, the word absurd is NOT insulting unless you choose to take it that way. Absurd simply means preposterous or incongruent. It means something is clearly untrue so much so that it is laughable. Why do I classify this statement as absurd. Because I have never met anyone who holds to a position with the conviction that it is true, and at the same time does not also think anyone and everyone who opposes him is wrong. Let's take this person's apparent contempt for five-point Calvinism as an example. This person likely does not hold to this particular theological system. And by taking that position, this person would hold that all Calvinists are wrong in their theological viewpoint. Which is another way of saying that in regards to Calvinism, this person thinks he/she is right and everyone else is wrong. Therefore, the same assertion that is made about five-point Calvinist directly, and about me by inference, can also be made about this person. The difference is that I accept the fact that this person believes they are right about what they believe their right about and everyone else who disagrees with them is wrong. Why? Because this is logic 101. I have no problem with this principle because it is logically sound.
On the contrary, if the commentor really does hold to convicted positions that he thinks are wrong and everyone is actually or even probably right, perhaps he/she should reconsider why he/she holds to an erroneous position in the first place. You see, it is absurb.

I hope this more detailed response to the commentor serves to help the individual slow down and give a greater amount of focus and attention to the art and skill of critical thinking. I suggest Norman Geisler's book "Come, Let Us Reason Together." It is an excellent resource for the study of logic.

People LIVE what they believe, EVERYTHING else is just noise. -Ed Dingess

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Debating The Professor - The Professor Knows Best?

For the next several p0sts I will share a debate that took place between a former professor and myself. I am committed to allowing the Prof. to speak for himself. Therefore I will post his remarks verbatim and if necessary, explain his point. After his remarks are posted and clarified, I will provide a rebuttal.

The first topic for discussion centers around the design and nature of the atonement. Concerning it's nature, one must study the meaning of the word atone which is KPR in the Hebrew of the OT, and HILASMOS in the Greek language of the NT.

This blog will not follow a chronological progression of the debate, but rather will select certain key views and expound on the critical propositions.

Professor: Proposition Concerning Natural Revelation
He [God] will not send more revelation when they reject what they are given!! Scripture is very clear on this...

My Response
I find it fascinating that, while the good professor asserts "Scripture is very clear on this," he never offers one single text to demonstrate this clarity. The professor refers to J. Vernon McGee and L. S. Chafer as excellent resources on this topic. Of course I would have preferred something by Paul, or Peter, maybe John perhaps.
Moreover, since the professor uses the names of McGee and Chafer in support of his view, it seems reasonable that he would have at least provided a specific reference from one of these theologians. But he does not. I should mention that this method is typical for this professor. According to him, Scripture is very clear, but he offers no Scripture. McGee and Chafer are excellent resources, but he offers no quotes. It should be kept in mind that we are not talking about the ability of unregenerate men at this point. We are simply talking about God responding to the "response" of unregenerate men to "natural revelation." The Professor is asserting that God will not provide additional revelation when men reject the revelation they are given in nature.
Now lets examine the claim on it's own merits. Does the Scripture teach that God will not provide additional revelation unless men respond to the revelation they already possess. Paul argues in Romans 1:19 that that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. Paul is addressing the revelation of God in nature to fallen man. Unless the Professor is prepared to argue a non-universal aspect in Paul's comments, this text places his view in serious doubt. How do fallen men respond to this revelation in nature? Paul says that "even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God (Rom. 1:21). Here Paul presents the argument that God is revealed to all men in nature and that all men respond negatively to that revelation. Now, if the Professor is right, God should not provide men with additional revelation given their refusal to respond favorably.
The reason men respond in this manner to the revelation of God in nature is because they, by nature, are enemies of God and unable to respond favorably to God. You see, it would be pleasing to God for men to respond to Him favorably. Romans 8:6-8 says that the fleshly mind is hostile toward God. This is clear. Jesus said the world hated Him and it will hate us because we are not of the world. So the condition of the fallen mind is hostility toward God. Second, the fallen mind does not submit itself to the law of God. So we see the nature of the fallen mind as being hostile to God. Now we see the activity of the fallen mind as rebelling against the law of God. Finally, the ability of the fallen mind is one that is not able to be other than what it is. The fallen mind is not even able to subject itself to the law of God. This law is written on the conscience on every fallen human (Rom. 2:15). Again Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:15 that a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God. Why? For they are foolishness to him AND he cannot understand them. The ability of fallen man is far overstated by this Arminian position not to mention the disposition of the fallen mind as well as the activities that fallen man engage in Vis-a-vis God and His revelation.

Summary
The assertions made by the professor that Scripture is "very clear" on this topic seem at odds with the views expressed by Paul in Romans 1 & 8, 2 Cor. 2, and by Jesus in the Gospels. Not to mention that the good professor failed to point us to one single text of Scripture, which it supposedly is very clear about.
Secondly, while the professor again points us to men like McGee and Chafer, he fails to provide a single quote from these men indicating they actually share his view. The truth is that this view is not the same as is taught by many Arminian theologians. While they focus more on unregenerate man's ability to respond to natural revelation, they do not always tie this ability to God's response to how they react to natural revelation. This is a more dangerous view as I will show in my final remarks.
Third, Scripture indicates that all men have received the revelation of God in nature and are, as a result, morally culpable for their response. But Scripture also states clearly that fallen man, by the nature of his fallen condition, has a built in natural hostility to God. Scripture also clearly denies that the fallen mind submits itself God's law. In fact, Scripture says that the fallen mind does not have the ability to respond positively to God's revelation in nature.
If this is true, then we should not have the revelation of God in the law of Moses, nor should we have it in Christ, or in Scripture. If all men respond the same way to God's natural revelation, then the professor is left without an answer as to how it is that we now have the amazing revelation of God we see in Scripture. God, in His mercy and grace, even though fallen man rejected God universally, still provides us with the miracle of special revelation. This is seen in the OT; it is seen in the person of Christ; and it is seen in all of Scripture.

The Danger of this View
The professor may not realize it, but his view endangers the idea of grace in the gospel. While he does not say so directly, at a minimum it could be inferred that special revelation is kind of reward for how fallen men respond to natural revelation. If you respond correctly to what God shows you in nature, He will reward you with the gospel. But any time an ear hears the gospel, it is a direct result of grace and grace alone. Fallen man can do nothing to deserve special revelation. While the professor stops short of this inference, it is by no means a stretch to get from there to here. The context of this debate has to do with the professors position of a universal aspect in the atonement and the idea that God loves every individual human exactly the same. And this will be the topic of my next post. It is not possible that God is absolutely sovereign and equally loves every individual human exactly without exception. Something must give. Either God is sovereign or He is not. I will warn you now that grappling with this next argument may very well change your life. It changed mine.

The Bully Pulpit and a Culture of Intimidation

On the one side, we have the Christian community, and on the other side, we have the pagan community. The Christian community is made...