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.

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.

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