Friday, July 24, 2015

Answering Paul Manata's Objections (continued)

Answering More Paul Manata’s Objections

Manata offers the following rebuttal:
4) It doesn’t seem that the New Testament writers understood Jeremiah’s prophecy to be saying that only regenerate people are in the New Covenant. This is simply seen in the apostasy passages. The New Testament writers seem to imply that one can apostatize from the New Covenant. Heb. 3:12-14 (along with other warning passages in Hebrews) is emphatically clear that we might ultimately fall away, and so thus we need to daily encourage one another to continue in belief. Paul calls this the “good fight of faith” in 1 Tim. 6:12 and exhorts Timothy to “take hold of the eternal life” (6:12) and to “hold faith” (1:19), because some had already “made shipwreck of their faith” (1:20), and some have “abandoned their former faith” (5:12), and others have “swerved from the faith” (6:21). This is why he exhorts Timothy to “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (4:16) This is 18 why so often Paul and other Scriptural authors do not boldly assure their readers of their personal sharing in Christ, rather they hold out before them their duty to persevere. See all the conditional statements in the following statements: Col. 1:23–”if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast,” 1 Cor. 15:2–”by which [the gospel] you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain”; Heb. 3:6–”and we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope”; Heb. 3:14–”we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end”; John 8:31–”if you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples”; Mark 13:13–”the one who endures to the end will be saved”; 2 Tim. 2:12–”if we endure, we will also reign with him”; Rom. 8:13–”if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live”; Gal. 6:9–”in due season we will reap [eternal life (see 6:8)], if we do not give up”; Heb. 12:14–”holiness without which no one will see the Lord”; James 2:26 (with 14)–”faith apart from works is dead” and “can that faith save him?”

Some baptists say that these are merely a “means” God uses to keep his elect in the covenant. Well, this is not the universal position because reformed baptists like Roger Nicole, and Wayne Grudem, among others, disagree with it. But, even if these passages are a means of perseverance for the elect, and thus hypothetical warnings for them, since it is read to the entire church, and since there are some non-elect in these churches, what purpose do these warnings serve for them? Indeed, even though non-elect cannot repent and believe the gospel, the gospel call is still a sincere and well-meant offer for them. Are these warnings real warnings for everyone they are read to? Furthermore, why would we take these warnings seriously if we viewed ourselves as regenerate? Since it is impossible for a regenerate to apostatize, why should he take the warnings seriously? I mean, since it is possible that fire could shoot out of our eyes, how serious would we take someone who told us to watch out (!) and make sure we didn’t burn our house down? How much less serious should we take a warning about something that is impossible for us to do? We wouldn’t take serious a warning sign in the middle of the Sahara Dessert, which read “Keep off the Grass!” would we?

Is Manata denying the security of the believer? Is he denying the perseverance of the saints? Is he advocating covenantal nomism, aka, Federal Vision? Do we enter the Covenant of Grace by grace alone only to have our continuation in that Covenant conditioned upon law-keeping? Or is Manata just another inconsistent Paedobaptist? I hope it is the latter and not the former. It should not escape your notice that not a single passage that Manata quotes actually asserts what he says they do. To remind the reader, John said they went from us because they were never really of us. The writers to the Hebrews informs us that the death of Christ has perfected forever those who are sanctified. Jesus said He will not lose even one of His sheep. If the being in the audience ipso fact means that you can actually commit apostasy, then no one’s salvation is actually secure.

The NT was written to believers, members in the New Covenant. Since this language was directed to those with genuine faith, and Manata believes the warnings should be taken in a wooden, literal manner without consulting other clear texts of Scripture, we are left with Pelagianism or with a contradictory Scripture. Neither of these are acceptable. The gospel of Jesus Christ is to be proclaimed to everyone even though God’s elect was forever settled from eternity past. We take the warnings seriously because they come from the pen of the Holy Spirit. We understand we are responsible for how we conduct our lives. Additionally, Manata should recognize that the writings of the NT were to the Church. It is the Church that is the pillar and support of the truth. The preaching of the gospel goes in precisely the opposite direction. It is a general call to repent and believe sent out to all. The writings of the New Testament are directed specifically to the Church, those who believe. Is Manata actually suggesting that the NT writers had unbelievers, false converts in mind when they penned the letters? The letters were address to the Church, to those who were called by God, chosen from the beginning for salvation to eternal life in Christ. The salutations clearly indicate this fact. Ephesus calls the recipients saints, the faithful ones in Christ. Romans says they are called as saints, beloved of God. Corinthians calls refers to them as those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus. I could go on and on. It seems clear to me that Manata’s rebuttal in this instance is not the product of sound exegesis, but rather the product of his own theological scheme.

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