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

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