Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Potter's Fredom vs. Chosen But Free - Part 3

I am continuing my series of responses (part 1, part 2) to reviews of Chosen But Free, with a particular emphasis on how I think the students who prepared these reviews might benefit from the rebuttal provided in Dr. James White's book, "The Potter's Freedom." The numbering of the reviews picks up from the previous post.

20. ahrang

This review praises Geisler for holding a balanced view. With respect, I think the reviewer might gain a better perspective on Geisler's position by reading the rebuttal provided by Dr. James White's response, "The Potter's Freedom." Likewise, the reviewer indicated that he thought that the book gave him a better perspective on other people's views. Again, I think that if he read "The Potter's Freedom," he would realize that Geisler has presented a number of caricatures which, like the "robot" comment provided in the review, misrepresent the Calvinist position.

21. Theo 202

This review focuses on the issue of what the cause of sin is. The reviewer ultimately takes the position that man is responsible for his own sins. This is, of course, correct. I think the reviewer may be surprised to learn that the Arminian/Calvinist controversy (what the reviewer calls "theological unrest") is not about who has the moral responsibility for sin. Both agree that man is morally responsible for his own sins.

22. Dance My Dreams

This review starts off by suggesting that the whole Calvinism debate is a waste of time. Nevertheless, the reviewer raises a few objections:
God is omniscent, he knows everything and sees everything even when you get saved but you have to be willing to accept him on your own. He has foreknowledge, for example: he knows what our major is going to be before we do. He has a certain path that he wants us to take but it’s up to us to decide if we want to follow it. However our lives are not permanantly fixed. Things change according what road we take.
This objection is easily answered. Even if God only "fore-sees" the future, can God possibly be wrong? Couldn't God write down all the future that will be in stone tablets right now? And if God did so, would anyone be able to make God a liar? Of course not. Even if God only sees the future, the future is fixed. We can't change the future - we can live it out, and we can bring it into being by our actions, but we cannot change what God has already seen - what he might as well have written in stone.

The reviewer than argued:
I refer back to my point earlier on Christ gives us free will is given to all we choose to accept Christ, ourselves not God himself. Plus why do we witness to people then? Imean if Christians are elect then what’s the point of sharing Christ? I guess you would say it is poinless and a waste of time to try. We would eventually deny alot of scripture. Which is not biblical because God gave us scripture to share the gospel and learn from it ourselves. Do we have to belttle Christ’s words and gifts that much? T
But this too is readily answered. We don't change the future, but we do bring about the future. Our actions are the means to an end. We evangelize others because we love them. God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, as the Scripture says. Nevertheless, God uses us to bring that about, through evangelization.

But the question the reviewer might consider asking is "why do we pray for people to get saved?" Does God have any control over that? If God is powerless, why pray for the salvation of our friends? But I think the reviewer knows that God is not powerless to save people. Instead, God is able to change the very heart of man. God can transform someone from a god-hating atheist to a God-loving believer. All the glory and credit for that goes to the power of God, not to the free will of man.

23. Theo 202 blogs

This review particularly liked appendix five of Geisler's book, in which Geisler attempts to address certain passages of Scripture. I think this reviewer would really love The Potter's Freedom, because that book spends a very substantial amount of space in providing a detailed analysis of some of the central Biblical texts in the discussion.

24. In Christ Alone

This review focused on chapters three and four of Geisler's book, "Who's in Charge?" and "Why Blame Me?" I suspect that this reviewer would be happy to find that we agree with the points he took away, namely that God is in charge and that we are to blame when we sin.


This review was the first review to be sharply critical of Geisler's book. It recommend J. I. Packer's "Knowing God," as a better alternative. I bet the reviewer would find "The Potter's Freedom" to be a breath of fresh air in terms of tackling each of Geisler's points and demonstrating the mistakes, while explaining what the Scriptures have to say about the topic.

26. kristin5129

This review remarkably took the position that Geisler didn't take sides in the Calvinism/Arminianism debate. Still, the reviewer indicated an appreciation for the need to search the scriptures more diligently. Perhaps this reviewer would enjoy Dr. White's still more diligent searching of the Scriptures in "The Potter's Freedom."

27. Jordan's Blog

This review focused on chapter 4 (Why Blame Me?). The review boils down to an affirmation of the idea that men are to be blamed because they have "free will." The review seems to miss - at least to some extent - the fact that the real issue is the fact that men have a will, as opposed to the fact that it is, in some sense, "free." Jonathan Edwards' "Freedom of the Will," provides an excellent explanation of the difference.

28. Theology 202: The Debates

This review presented some agreement with Geisler's position, and in particular argued against "extreme Calvinism" on the basis of omnibenevolence:
I disagree with the extreme Calvinist view that God is not really all loving since I do believe that God loves the world. I do not define the word love by any official dictionary but I define the word love according to 1 Corinthians 13. I believe that He demonstrate His love for us by being patient, kind, justice, and forgiving to all of mankind. He provides a way for us to escape the punishment of sin for everyone that believes in His son.
Let's explore this argument. Is Hell real? Yes. Does God forgive those in hell? Clearly he does not, for they are in hell. Is he kind to them? Well, he's torturing them for eternity. Is he patient with them? He may have been patient with them previously, but his patience for them has run out. Now, they are in hell. Does he provide them with a way of escape? Maybe he did before they were in hell, but he does not now that they are in hell. Using the very criteria that this reviewer has selected, therefore, we can see that God is not strictly speaking omnibenevolent. Perhaps the reviewer will insist that God is still very benevolent, and I would agree with that. But without omnibenevolence, the reviewer's central objection to what Geisler has misleading labelled "extreme Calvinism" collapses.

29. Nora's Blog

This review focuses on the issue of limited atonement. The reviewer adopts Geisler's bad nomenclature of "Extreme Calvinist" to describe those who hold to this Calvinist position. The reviewer actually goes so far as to state that Calvinists reject substitionary atonement. The reviewer stated:
Calvinists go even further in their disagreement of limited atonement by rejecting substitutionary atonement. Substitutionary atonement teaches that Jesus died as a substitution for all humankind. Calvinists reject substitutionary atonement simply because it is in direct discord with their belief that Jesus did not die for all of human kind, but rather for His exclusive elect
This could hardly be farther from the truth. The substitutionary atonement is Jesus dying in the place of his people. Only those who hold to limited atonement can properly affirm this doctrine, since only those who hold to limited atonement can say that Christ actually substituted himself for his people. Those who hold to a universal atonement must make Christ's work non-substitutionary, at least with respect to those in hell. If you are suffering for your sins in hell, Christ has not suffered instead of you - at best according to those who hold to a universal atonement, Christ has suffered in addition to you.

30. Meredith Ann's Blog

This review was another favorable review of Geisler's book. The reviewer focused on issues related to forgiveness and the atonement. But the reviewer's comments seemed to be confused. For example, the reviewer wrote:
Finally, Geisler speaks about whether certain gifts, such as faith, is only given to elect people. (page 228-237) However, specifically speaking about forgiveness on page 232-233; Geisler notes that forgiveness is a gift. This is solely because Christ died on the cross. Because of His death and forgave us of all of our sins, which in my opinion is a pretty nice gift to receive. Geisler also mentions that the gift of forgiveness is not just for elect people. The gift of forgiveness is meant for all of believe; Acts 13:38-39. I completely agree with Geisler on this view point. Mainly because if forgiveness was only for elect people, then what would our faith really be based on? John 3:16 states that “For God so loved the WORLD…”, not “For God so loved the riches people in the nation.” It completely invalidates the claim that Christ came into this world to forgive us, but yet only a handful of people will actually be allowed to receive his forgiveness. This is why I approve of Geisler’s response to the concept of forgiveness.
Perhaps the reviewer should consider that if our sins our forgiven, there is no judgment. If God has forgiven us all of our sins, then we will not go to hell, because God cannot justly punish a sin that He has forgiven.

On the other hand, if God has not forgiven everyone their sins, then forgiveness is only for a subset of people. In fact, the very verse that the reviewer quoted proves this, for it does not stop at "For God so loved the world," but continues "that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." "Whosoever believeth" is not "everyone in the world" it is "everyone who believes." It is a subset. All are offered forgiveness, if they will repent of their sins and trust in Christ, but not everyone receives the forgiveness of sins.

(I will attempt to address some more reviews in a subsequent post.)


Friday, May 06, 2011

The Potter's Freedom (Cont'd)

Earlier, I posted a response to some reviews of one of Dr. Geisler's books.

It has come to my attention that there are even more reviews of Geisler's Chosen But Free, by a group of students who seem to be unaware of the rebuttal of this work in The Potter's Freedom.

8. The Lovely Insights of Stacey

This review deals with two topics: first the topic of the alleged consequences of "extreme Calvinism." The alleged consequences are not an accurate depiction of Calvinistic churches, as A. W. Pink has demonstrated. The second topic is the issue of perseverance. While I obviously agree with the conclusion that those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will never "lose their salvation," such a position is a little untenable for those who think they get salvation by a free will decision. If that is how you get salvation, then why can't you lose it that way too? The solution to the dilemma is the Biblical doctrine of monergism: that salvation from start to finish is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.

9. Reverie Reality

This review, it calls itself a review after all, doesn't address much of the substance of the work. It says Geisler takes a "balanced" approach. I think if the reviewer had read The Potter's Freedom (a response to Chosen But Free), he might get a more balanced perspective. At least, that way he would have heard both sides.

10. ABAIR1013

This review likewise claimed that Geisler takes a "balanced" approach. Like several of the other reviews, this review focused most intently on the "ideas have consequences" aspect. The review actually identified a few points:
Calvinism leads to a failure to accept responsibility because of the belief that all is decided in advance (Geisler 161).
Yet Calvinists don't fail to accept responsibility. This alleged consequence is actually a caricature.
Nothing is your fault because you were going to have done it anyway. This line of thinking also leads to blaming God for the evil in the world (Geisler 162).
Yet Calvinists do hold that things are your fault, and Calvinists place the blame for evil on man, especially on Adam.
If God planned every moment of history than evil had to be apart of his plan. Calvinism also lays the groundwork for universalism, in questioning why would God not plan for all to be saved (Geisler 164).
This sword has two sides. Affirming God's omnipotence is one necessary principle for universalism - but the other is universal saving desire. If you have both, you end up as a universalist. Calvinism doesn't end up in universalism, because Calvinism rightly recognizes that God creates some vessels of mercy and other vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction. That is the Potter's freedom.
A belief in a predestined life undermines a trust in the love of God and the motivation for salvation (Geisler 164).
Calvinists love God even more, because they realize that it was entirely the gift of God and that they were in every way undeserving. They can trust God for their salvation, because they know it is entirely in His hands: what He has begun, he will finish. The motivation for salvation? Isn't that an interesting way of putting it. I understand what the reviewer means, though: the motivation to "get saved." But the motivation is quite clear and doesn't depend on whether God determines your choices or not. The motivation is repent and believe or perish in your sins!
Calvinism also undermines the belief in a need for intercessorary prayer because how could our pleas change what God has already planned to happen (Geisler 165).
This is the most bizarre. Are you praying for God to change the future? I hope not! God sees what the future is. Are you asking God to change that? I don't know anyone who prays that way. You are asking God to take action, not change the future. But what about praying for people's salvation? Only Calvinists can consistently pray for that, because only Calvinists believe that God can save whom He wills.

11. Sarah Anne's Blog

This review focuses on the issue of eternal security. The reviewer expresses her appreciation for Geisler pointing out "the four views" on the issue: "extreme Calvinism," "moderate Calvinism," "Arminianism," and "John Wesley." I hope that the reviewer will consider reading The Potter's Freedom, so that she can see what an actual Calvinist teaches on the subject. We Calvinists, after all, don't buy into Geisler's labels (I'm not sure Wesleyan Arminians do, either).

12. KLTaverna

This review addressed a few points off the beaten path. The first issue noted by the reviewer was the discussion of the fact that God is even in control of the evil angels. The second issue was the issue of God's love. The reviewer found the following compelling: "if God loves only the elect, then He is not Omnibenevolent. God cannot be all-loving if He does not love all" But think about it: does God love those in hell and desire their salvation? Is Hell (eternal torture and suffering) an expression of God's love for men? Surely not. God is all good, but God does not love all mankind in the same way. Hell is real.

Finally, this reviewer touched on Geisler's "three drowning boys" example. At this point I really wished that the reviewer could have the opportunity to read the counter-example provided in The Potter's Freedom. In The Potter's Freedom, Dr. White provides a counter-example that is so much closer to the reality of the situation that it is really eye-opening. He points out that sinners are not like boys drowning while to engage in some harmless swimming fun. Instead, sinners are like arsonists inside a house that they themselves lit on fire.

13. Acceptance by Grace

This review is more of an expression of the reviewers thoughts on free will and predestination than a formal review of the book. While I would be happy to explain to her why I don't believe there is a conflict between the two (once free will is properly understood, as Jonathan Edwards so eloquently explained), I don't see much value in going line-by-line through her comments and responding to them in this context.

14. Herzy's Blog

This review presents some arguments as opposed to simply thoughts on the subject. Perhaps it makes sense to address them:
The Calvinists point is that because of certain verses in the Bible that Jesus among others point to the idea that there are certain people who have been chosen to go to Heaven even before they were born while others were eternally condemned to Hell. I find that hard to agree with because God did not choose only certain people to become members. One reason why is because Christ would not have come to Earth to die if He had already known that they would come to Heaven regardless of Jesus’ sacrifice. The fact that Jesus came to Earth and sacrificed Himself for the sake of sinners shows that He came to save all of His people. And when I say all people, I mean all the people that God created so everyone on Earth.
a) God did, however, choose only certain people to become members. This is what is known in Scripture as "election." It is God choosing.

b) The elect are saved by Christ's death, not "regardless of Christ's death." Calvinists are not fatalists, who believe that God simply ordains the ends and doesn't ordain the means. God sent his only begotten son that "whosever believeth on Him" (that group of all the believers is also known as the elect) should not perish but have everlasting life.

c) The reviewer was right when he said "all of His people." But the reviewer was wrong when he said "all the people that God created so everyone on Earth." Is Christ a failure? Surely not. Christ will save all those whom Christ came to save. That's not everyone - it's "whosoever believes."

15. A Little Bit About Life

This review indicates an appreciation for the fact that Geisler seeks to support his view from Scripture. With that in mind, I think the reviewer would really enjoy The Potter's Freedom. In this answer to Geisler's work, Dr. White provides an even more in-depth study of the relevant Scripture passages.

16. Theology 202

This blog is named for the class for which this review was written. In fact, many of the reviews are on blogs that are the same: blogs specifically created for the class, and which have posts that pretty much are limited to (apparently) the posts required by the class. This review, like some of the others, expresses grief that the of Calvinism vs. Arminianism is tearing the church apart. While I appreciate the reviewer's love of peace, the issues are important issues and they are not going away. The best approach, therefore, is for us to study the Scriptures. That study can be facilitated by comparing the study set forth in Geisler's work with that set forth in The Potter's Freedom.

17. Olinca

This review took the position that Geisler provides middle ground between two extremes. This impression, however, is somewhat mistaken, as Geisler provides mostly a down-the-line Arminian view of the matter, with the exception, perhaps of the issue of "eternal security." To obtain a balanced view, the reviewer should consider picking up the Calvinist answer to Chosen But Free, namely The Potter's Freedom.

18. Salvation in Laymans Terms

This review expresses an opinion shared by some of the other reviewers that the whole Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate is foolish. Nevertheless, the reviewer indicated his appreciation for the fact that Geisler used Scripture to establish his position. Given that appreciation, I would hope that the reviwer might be persuaded to pick up a The Potter's Freedom: Calvinist response to Chosen But Free. The response is chock full of Scripture, and explores those Scriptures in depth.

19. Theo 202 with Ergun Caner

This is another blog named for the class. The author identifies himself as a "three point Calvinist," but then goes on to describe the points in a way that seems to reflect a misunderstanding of them. In fact, this is one of the criticisms of Geisler's work: his presentation does not clearly explain the so-called five points of Calvinism to readers. One of the reviewer's comments seemed especially odd:
In his book, Geisler states that God cannot be totally in charge of knowing whether or not we will choose to follow Him or not. If He knew then He would receive no grace whatsoever whenever a person chose to become a Christian.
I trust that this is simply a misrepresentation of what Geisler wrote. But to answer the substance of the comment: God does receive glory when men are saved, because that is God giving the man a gift. God gives the man a new heart, so that the man loves God, and consequently believes on Jesus. Although the man is (you might say) "choosing Jesus," it is not because of something attributable to man, but instead it is the gift of God. So, yes, God is totally in control of who will follow Him, because He shows mercy "on whom he will show mercy," as Scripture teaches.

I see that there are some more reviews as well. I will attempt to address them shortly, if the Lord wills.


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Proof that Rome is a Sect of Islam

Steve provides an argument (from Bnonn, I think) that tries to prove that those in the Roman communion actually worship Allah. The argument hinges on a statement made by the Second Vatican Council and affirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The logic of the argument seems sound, but the conclusion is obviously absurd.

There are a few possible responses to such a reduction to absurdity. One is just to decry the conclusion is absurd and move on. This way is the way of someone who doesn't understand the significance of a reduction to absurdity. The point is not really to affirm the absurdity as truth, but to demonstrate an inconsistency. The first response is not legitimate at all.

A second way to respond to a reduction to absurdity is to challenge the reduction. Perhaps the argument doesn't really reduce to absurdity. After all, there is no need to accept an argument just because Steve Hays (or Bnonn or whoever) made it: even though he's a smart guy, we don't invest him with infallibility. This is a legitimate response, or at least it can be.

This particular case, however, may present us with a case where we should look at the third category of responses. When the conclusion is absurd, and the reasoning is sound, we need to acknowledge that there is an inconsistency or error. Why not just admit that Vatican II was fallible and wrong? That seems to be the most reasonable conclusion to draw.


Why Rome is not Chellis' Enemy

(I began this post a year-and-a-half ago. In God's providence, I never published it. Now, it appears that Mr. Chellis has taken the next step in his progression, as reported by Bryan Cross.)

William Chellis has written an article declaring his friendship for Rome. Chellis begins:
Some readers may be disturbed about the DRC [De Regno Christi - the name of the website] trend toward inclusion of Roman Catholics. I wish to say a word in response. I am not unfamiliar with the Reformed Confessions’ descriptions the Bishop of Rome as the anti-Christ. I am also perfectly aware that our theologians have often argued that the Mass as a form of idolatry. I understand that there are many conservative Protestant for which these statements are meaningful. While I understand these things, I cannot affirm them. In fact, the more I learn about Roman Catholic theology and church history, the more respect I have for our brothers and sisters in Christ within the Roman Catholic communion.

Chellis begins his article, as you can see, with a strange kind of false dichotomy. He contrasts having respect for our brothers and sisters in Christ within the Roman Catholic communion with viewing the Mass as idolatry and the pope as the Antichrist. To the extent that we have brethren in the Roman communion, our respect for them does not alter the theological or eschatological analysis of Scripture. Truth is objective: it's not a matter of being polite and respectful (as indeed we ought to be) or being rude and disrespectful.

Either Scriptural theology provides the conclusion that the mass is idolatrous or it does not. That question is not influenced by whether we are seeking to be respectful of others or not. Either the office of the papacy is "the Antichrist" or it is not: that question too is not influenced by whether we are trying to avoid disrespect.

Chellis attributes his "respect" (which he seems to equate with non-affirmation of the above two Reformation-era views) to "the more I learn about Roman Catholic theology and church history ... ." Again, this seems to be somewhat disconnected. To the extent that we have brethren in the Roman communion, our respect for them should be based on their union with Christ and not with information about the theology of their church or its history.

One still wonders, though, what Chellis is learning about Rome's theology and church history that is endearing her to him? My own experience has been just the opposite: the more I learn about Rome's theology and history, the more I realize what an un-Biblical and dangerous religion it is. In fact, my concern grows for those who are a part of that communion, just as my concern for the souls of Muslims grows as I learn more about Islam.

Chellis continues:
Of course, the primary focus of De Regno Christ[i] has always been the relationship between Christ and culture. Does Christendom have a better friend than Benedict XVI? Which communion did more to press the Kingship of Christ over the nations in the 20th Century? The Reformed Presbyterians, the Christian Reformed, the Presbyterian Church in America, or the Roman Catholics? To ask the question is to answer it. Therefore, does it no[t] behoove us to listen to the voices of Roman Catholic friends of liberty, tradition, and the West?
(same source)

Chellis asks the question: "Does Christendom have a better friend than Benedict XVI?" He asks it rhetorically, apparently thinking that the answer is "no." Yet from the perspective of the Reformation, the question is whether the Gospel has a worse enemy than Benedict XVI (B16), and the answer is "no." B16 attempts to usurp Christ's unique role as head of the church. B16 anathematizes the gospel of Scripture through his adherence to Trent. Worse of all, B16 promotes his own religion as though it were Christian, so as to (if it were possible) deceive the very elect.

Chellis asks: "Which communion did more to press the Kingship of Christ over the nations in the 20th Century? The Reformed Presbyterians, the Christian Reformed, the Presbyterian Church in America, or the Roman Catholics?" Chellis assumes the answer is that Roman Catholics did this, but one is left scratching one's head as to why Chellis thinks this. Christ's Kingship is tied to the gospel, but Rome has not been promoting the gospel either in the 20th century or the present century. Thus, the RPCNA and PCA (and even the CRC), who have all been promoting the gospel, have done more for the kingship of Christ than the church that has multiplied statues purporting to be of Christ and encouraged the worship of bread and wine as though it were very Christ.

Chellis' comment, "Therefore, does it no[t] behoove us to listen to the voices of Roman Catholic friends of liberty, tradition, and the West?" is also puzzling. They may be our friends (in some sense) for a variety of reasons, but when it comes to the gospel, they are (sadly) the enemies of the kingdom of heaven (as were once we).

Chellis concludes:
The cause of Christ’s Kingship has many enemies in the wor[l]d. Traditionalist defenders of Roman Catholicism are not among them.
(Same source)

Here at last we see what Chellis has been speaking of when he identifies his spiritual brethren. He means the traditionalist Roman Catholics as distinct (we assume) from the liberal Roman Catholics and the nominal Roman Catholics. These would be Roman Catholics who actually believe what Rome teaches. But what Rome teaches is not the gospel. If there are members of the Roman communion who are true believers in Christ, they are not following what Rome teaches. If there are those who have trusted in Christ but have not yet left Rome, they are not going to be able to stay "traditionalist" for long as the Spirit works in their lives.

[This is where I had ended my draft.]

I am sad to see that Chellis is now referring to himself as an "Augustinian Anglo-Papist," but I understand that it is because he never truly saw the horror of Rome's idolatry, and of the attempted usurpation of God's authority that is the papacy. May God be pleased to return Mr. Chellis to the church! Let us all, as much as we care about him, pray to that end.


A Quick Comment on the Fastigi Infallibility

The Fastigi vs. White debate took place a number of years ago. I was listening to it today and happened to notice the quotation that is described by Fastigi as the culmination of patristic quotations in favor of papal infallibility. And what was that quotation? It was Chalcedon's comment, which I have already fully explained, "Peter has spoken (to us) through Leo." (parenthetical in Fastigi's quotation) If that's the best that's out there, there really isn't much Rome has to offer by way of historical evidence to support its historical assertions.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Some Follow Up Regarding Rejoicing When the Wicked Perish

My objector, Mr. Landless, has provided a blog post in response to my previous entry.

He indicates he desires no blog war, so I'll try to hit a few points without going line-by-line through his response.

1) My pseudonym is TurretinFan or Tur8inFan, but not Turrentinfan or Turrintanfan.

2) Mr. Landless thinks we are largely in agreement, except over some semantic issues. I hope he's right, and I am glad if he is.

3) Mr. Landless argues that we should exemplify love not revenge. His argument is based on the way that Christ treated his enemies during his incarnation. His argument seems to be undermined by the way in which Christ is going to treat his enemies at his second coming. At that time he will come in vengeance, and his saints will praise him.

Revelation 19:1-2
And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: for true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.

We can praise God even now for his judgments. And we can even rejoice:

Revelation 18:20 Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.

When God answers the prayers of the martyrs:

Revelations 6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

I won't belabour the point.

Suffice that there is a harmonization. We can and should love our personal enemies. We, on the other hand, may rejoice when God triumphs over his enemies and our persecutors, whether God converts them (like Saul) or God slays them (like Osama).

4) Mr. Landless argues that "none of [what TurretinFan wrote] offsets the rather simple point that God does not delight in the death of wicked, unrepentant men." Sometimes the "simple point" is incorrect. The point being made in the passage is nuanced, as I already explained. It is not that God is unhappy about judging the people he judges, or that God is not pleased to punish those he punishes. The issue relates to the revealed will of God, and the relative moral good of repentance as opposed to undergoing destruction.

Mr. Landless even argues that Calvin himself says that God is grieved by the death of the wicked, providing links to passages of Calvin. But the first mentions grief apparently only in the mouth of an objector who Calvin immediately answers ("But the Prophets words are plain, for God testifies with grief that he willeth not the death of a mortal. I answer, that there is no absurdity, as we said before, in God’s undertaking a twofold character, not that he is two-faced himself, as those profane dogs blurt out against us, but because his counsels are incomprehensible by us." ) and the second doesn't mention grief at all. In both cases, Calvin refers the passage (as I did) to the revealed will of God: a revealed will in which all are called to salvation through repentance and faith.

5) Mr. Landless objects to my quotation of various passages to the effect that God will laugh at the destruction of the wicked. He makes a variety of objections. He first argues that the genre for the Psalms is poetic and that these are examples of anthropomorphic language. I agree - and yet it does not change the thrust of the passages. The point of the passages is to express God's attitude toward the destruction of the wicked. It is not an attitude of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, it is one of derisive laughter. Mr. Landless examines the context of each of the quotations (a very worthy approach) and attempts to distinguish each one. I'd be happy to provide a more detailed response, but I don't find his attempt to distinguish very compelling. They are:

When it speaks of God laughing, this is not a gleeful delight at the expense of dying, unrepentant men, but rather at nations and leaders gathering in arrogant rebellion against his anointed king; the very king whom he had placed on the throne to govern his chosen people Israel.

The psalm tells us that the "peoples" of the earth - the hostile nations - have wicked conspiratorial plans, and that they are so arrogant they seriously believe they can outmatch the Creator of all the world. But God, enthroned in heaven, laughs, and answers their challenge with a sovereign statement: "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill". He then says to the newly crowned king, "You are my Son, today I have become your Father".
I don't know why it needs to be "gleeful delight." It certainly is delight, delight at their destruction.

Once again, this psalm does not prove Turrentinfan's point. Even if we were to dismiss the allegorical nature of the text it still tells us only that God laughs at the wicked because he sees their impending comeuppance; he does not laugh because the wicked are perishing.
Their comeuppance is them perishing. So, I'm not sure how this is a distinction that makes a difference. Moreover, the fact that it is anthropomorphic is really beside the point, as explained above.

Here, once again, Turrentinfan seems not to distinguish between God's delight in seeing justice done and a delight in destroying men. The two are quite different. One's delight in justice, does not mean that one is happy when that same justice leads to death and misery. A judge can be glad that the victims of violence have been avenged and an evil man's wickedness brought to its termination, and yet be equally saddened by the effects of sin, the power of sin, and the unfortunate end of all sin.
Actually, this point is contrary to the point in Ezekiel. In Ezekiel, God is contrasting Justice and Mercy, not Justice and Judgment. Moreover, God does not distinguish between justice and judgment in the Psalms in question. In fact, God expresses his love of justice by expressing his love of judgment. Mr. Landless may rightly infer that the reason God loves judgment is because of God's justice, but God does not distinguish between the two, so as to affirm one and not the other.

This psalm is a plea for deliverance from enemy attack, quite probably written when Jerusalem was under siege. Again, a simple contextual reading demonstrates that God is not relishing the prospect of shunting these men out of daylight and into the burning chasm of hell. Rather, he holds in contempt the enemy nations gathered to destroy his chosen people, and also those who are in their pay and traitorously use their tongue as a weapon to sow discord among the defenders, apparently in the arrogant belief that no one could hear them.
He's not merely holding them in contempt (though he's doing that), he's laughing at them and their impending punishment, as the form of that particular psalm (Psalm 59) demonstrates.

6) Mr. Landless seems to think that Herod (referring to Herod the Great, apparently) was worse than Osama. I hadn't explored this much in the previous post, mostly because I didn't know which Herod Mr. Landless had in mind. Herod the Great's death occurred when Jesus was still an infant or toddler. The Scriptures record almost nothing about the reaction of the godly to the event, except that when it occurred, Joseph returned with his family from Egypt. There is no discussion of whether they celebrated, or whether the grieved at the death of that horrible man. As I previously noted, any argument from silence is dangerous. Whether Herod the Great was worse than Osama is a point that could reasonably be debated. I have no particular desire to do so, but the interested reader may peruse Mr. Landless' entry for a recitation of some of the atrocities attributed to him.


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

John Piper on Osama's Death

I don't agree with everything that John Piper says about this, but I found his comments thought-provoking and - more importantly - Biblically focused. His comments stand in remarkable contrast (in my mind at least) to the comments of Prof. Horton, which I discussed earlier today.

For example, I would disagree with Piper's claim that God has emotions, or that our emotional conflicts make us "God-like," but I found his following comment insightful:
My suggestion is that the death and misery of the unrepentant is in and of itself not a pleasure to God. God is not a sadist. He is not malicious or bloodthirsty. The death and suffering considered for itself alone is not his delight.

Rather, when a rebellious, wicked, unbelieving person is judged, what God has pleasure in is the exaltation of truth and righteousness, and the vindication of his own honor and glory.
- TurretinFan

An Example of the Exegetical Blunders of Horton's View of the Two Kingdoms

Prof. Michael Horton has an article entitled, "The Death of Osama bin Ladin: What Kind of Justice Has Been Done?" Horton takes the occasion of bin Ladin's death as a chance to attempt to propagate his unhistorical view of the two kingdoms. I don't mean to suggest that the idea of two kingdoms is not historical. What I am suggesting is that the view of the two kingdoms that one sees from Escondido today is a view contrary to that of all the original Reformed confessions (at least, all the major ones, and particularly the big two: the Belgic Confession and the Westminster Confession). More importantly, it is contrary to Scripture, Natural Law, and sound reason.

This attack on the historic Reformed faith is bolstered by extremely tenuous "exegesis" of Scripture. I am using quotation marks, because I think the label is generous to a fault. Perhaps a more accurate assessment would be "prooftexting." Here's Horton's argument:
Cultures are the most dangerous when they invoke holy texts for their defense of holy land through holy war. However, Christians have no biblical basis for doing this in the first place. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly abrogated the ceremonial and civil law that God had given uniquely to the nation of Israel. Now is the era of common grace and common land, obeying rulers—even pagan ones—and living under constitutions other than the one that God gave through Moses. As Paul reminds us in Romans 13, secular rulers are given the power of the temporal sword—finite justice—while the gospel conquers in the power of the Spirit through that Word "above all earthly pow'rs."
Notice the techniques that Horton uses. Horton makes an emotional appeal to a threat of danger. Yet the most dangerous cultures of the 20th century were Communist Russia and Communist China, neither of which invoked holy text for their defense of holy land through holy war. Israel, by contrast, in the same century invoked holy text for their defense of holy land through holy war. Whether one favors them or not, their six day war was one of the least bloody wars of the century (total causalities apparently less than 50,000).

Horton's next statement about Christians having no biblical basis for defending holy land through holy war on the basis of holy text is unclear. There are various things he could mean. If he simply means that there is no "promised land" for Christians in this world (instead, we wait for the next world), he is correct. If, on the other hand, he means that the Bible cannot justify the defense of Christian lands (lands occupied by Christians), he's mistaken.

Where Horton blunders is his next line: "In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly abrogated the ceremonial and civil law that God had given uniquely to the nation of Israel." I realize Horton threw his "clearly" in there as a way of pounding on the lectern at this particularly weak point in his article. Nevertheless, no - the Sermon on the Mount does not abrogate either the civil or the ceremonial law.

I am hesitant to paste all three chapters of the sermon here. Perhaps it suffices to illustrate the point to quote the following:

Matthew 5:17-18
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Does Horton think that Heaven and Earth had already passed at that time? Surely not. Even though the ceremonial law would later be abrogated, it was not yet abrogated at this time. How can we know? Well, in chapter 8 (immediately after the conclusion of the sermon) Jesus instructs an ex-leper to follow the ceremonial law:

Matthew 8:4 And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

Moreover we know that Jesus kept the passover.

Matthew 26:18 And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.

Need I go on?

The clean/unclean distinctions of the ceremonial law were abrogated by a vision given to Peter. Recall:

Acts 10:28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

It was not, therefore, abrogated in the sermon on the mount, as Horton alleged.

Moreover, the civil law of Israel continued to be in force until Jerusalem was destroyed. Jesus himself commanded his disciples that they should obey the Sanhedrin, justifying that command on the basis that they "sit in the seat of Moses," that is, they occupy the role of legislators.

So, neither was the civil law abrogated at the Sermon on the Mount nor even by the cross itself.

Indeed, we distinguish (in Reformed theology) between the abrogation of the ceremonial law (which was fulfilled in Christ), and the expiration of the civil law (which was appointed specifically for the nation of Israel, and which was, as a nation, destroyed though a remnant was spared). Moreover, unlike the ceremonial law, the general equity of the civil law endures. That is because Justice is one of God's attributes: and the laws of Israel were just laws given by a just God.

Horton continued his blunders this way: "Now is the era of common grace and common land, obeying rulers—even pagan ones—and living under constitutions other than the one that God gave through Moses." If we are to understand by "common grace" what has been always understood by that term, God sending the rain upon the just and the unjust, then every time period has been the era of common grace. If by "common land," Horton means that we Gentiles don't have a specific land grant from God, that too has always been the case. If Horton means that we today live with unbelievers amongst us, that too has always been the case.

Except where obeying pagan rulers involved disobeying God, the people of God have always obeyed pagan rulers when pagan rulers were over them. Recall Daniel and Jeremiah as examples of this in the Old Testament - or Jesus himself in the New Testament.

The law of Moses didn't actually constitute the civil kingdom of Israel. There were elders of Israel before Moses, there were elders during the time of Moses, and there continued to be elders even during the times of the kings.

Nevertheless, the law of Moses did order the civil laws of Israel in accordance with the principles of justice and equity. The laws of Moses had, in theory, supreme power like the U.S. Constitution is supposed to have. However, both before and after Christ the people of God have often found themselves under regimes in which the law of God was not honored by the monarchs, elders, or people. That is true both of regimes in which the law of God was honored with the lips of the rulers, and also in regimes in which it did not even receive lip service.

Horton concludes (this particular paragraph) with: "As Paul reminds us in Romans 13, secular rulers are given the power of the temporal sword—finite justice—while the gospel conquers in the power of the Spirit through that Word 'above all earthly pow'rs.'" Paul doesn't specify that the powers are "secular." Paul says

Romans 13:1-7
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Notice that Paul calls the powers that be "of God" and "ordained of God" and repeatedly calls the ruler "the minster of God" and "God's ministers." Their duties are not the duties of the ministers of the gospel, but they are still ministers of God. There remains an intimate connection between theology and the civil magistrate, therefore. Their laws are called the "ordinance of God," even their very unpleasant tax laws.

Is their power finite? Of course it is. None of God's ministers (neither ministers of justice nor ministers of the gospel) have infinite power. Yet both are - or ought to be - servants of the same God, aiding the people in a complementary way.

Horton goes on in the article (be sure to click through to page 2 - page 3 is just bio) to actually quote from Romans 13. Horton writes:
First, it means that we can rejoice that even in this present evil age, God's common grace and common justice are being displayed through secular authorities. "For [the ruler] is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. … Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed" (Rom. 13:4, 7). Yet the divine wrath that rulers execute is temporal and finite rather than eternal and infinite. Such justice is never so pure that it is unmingled with injustice, never so final that it satisfies God's eternal law.
There is, of course, no need to qualify God's justice as "common." We only qualify "common grace" that way to distinguish it from saving grace. God's justice is one of His eternal attributes, as Horton ought to know:

Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 4. What is God?
A. God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

Westminster Larger Catechism
Q. 7. What is God?
A. God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, every where present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.

Horton even has the temerity to quote from Calvin (whose view of the two kingdoms is incompatible with Horton's):
In view of the image of God stamped on every person, justice must always be tempered by love. Commenting on Genesis 9:6, John Calvin reminded us that we cannot hate even our most perverse enemies, because of the image of God in them. In one sense, the creation of every person in God's image provokes the temporal sword against murderers. Yet in another sense, it also restrains our lust for revenge. "Should any one object, that this divine image has been obliterated, the solution is easy; first, there yet exists some remnant of it, so that man is possessed of no small dignity; and, secondly, the Celestial Creator himself, however corrupted man may be, still keeps in view the end of his original creation; and according to his example, we ought to consider for what end he created men, and what excellence he has bestowed upon them above the rest of living beings."
Notice that this deals with issues related to our personal vindication. But for most of us, Osama was not our personal enemy. He did not burn down our houses, kill our loved ones, or even badmouth us on a blog. Instead, Osama was an enemy of Christian nations, of Christians, and of Christ. He was God's enemy. While I would have rejoiced even more to see Osama converted, I rightly rejoice in seeing God's justice meted out by the servants of God - the ministers of His wrath.

After a brief appeal to Ezekiel (which I have substantially answered already), Horton makes a comment that we ought urgently fulfill the mandate to preach the gospel. I agree! (For that matter, I agree with lots of things that Horton says. I just don't agree with his promotion of his two kingdoms view in contrast to Calvin's two kingdoms view. That doesn't mean I consider Horton a heretic, but rather a brother in Christ with whom I sharply disagree on a particular point.)

Horton concludes:
So as we take satisfaction in the honorable service of U.S. forces in bringing a terrorist to justice in the court of the temporal city, let us never dare to confuse this with "the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God" (Heb. 11:10). In our response, let us use this opportunity to display to our non-Christian neighbors the radical contrasts between the biblical view of God, humanity, redemption, and the last judgment, and the religious and secularist distortions—even those that profess to be Christian.
I have two issues with this. First, he's laying on the metaphors a little thick. The SEALs did bring this terrorist leader to justice. It is justice in God's eyes, for God declared:

Genesis 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

There is no need to qualify this justice in terms of "the temporal city," but we cannot really object to him saying that, for this life is indeed temporal. We must point out, however, that this justice is exactly the same in substance as the justice meted out by the law of Moses. Those who died for murder under the law of Moses may have died in a different mode (stoning rather than being shot in the head), but the punishment they received was the same: physical death.

This justice was not meted out in court. It was meted out in the field. Obviously, I think Horton meant that metaphorically. Nevertheless, in this kind of context, those metaphors can tend to have the effect of confusing rather than enlightening.

That confusion seems to be compounded by Horton's reference to the city whose builder and maker is God. That city is heaven. Surely Horton does not seriously worry that people will think that this present life is heaven. Instead, it appears that Horton is trying to position the city whose builder and maker is God as being a "here and now" thing that could be confused with the "secular" world. Yet Horton's position is undermined by the very text he quotes.

After all, Abraham is described this way:

Hebrew 11:9-10
By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Abraham was not looking for something "here and now" but something "not yet." Abraham was looking forward - on this point - to heaven itself. He was a pilgrim on the earth, as are we. There is a continuity, not a discontinuity, between us and Abraham on this point.

Indeed, Scripture itself declares:

Hebrews 11:16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

And Jesus testified:

John 14:2-3
In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Finally, let me touch on Horton's concluding sentence:
In our response, let us use this opportunity to display to our non-Christian neighbors the radical contrasts between the biblical view of God, humanity, redemption, and the last judgment, and the religious and secularist distortions—even those that profess to be Christian.
This statement is ambiguously worded, so that is not clear who it is Horton views as merely professing Christians. Horton's main opponents with respect to these points would seem to be Evangelicals, either modern (who perhaps have simply gotten caught up in the fever of patriotism) or historic (who reject on Biblical grounds Horton's view of the two kingdoms). If Horton is calling those groups merely professing Christian, this is quite troubling. If not, it is unclear who Horton thinks might be disagreeing with him.

Of course, ambiguity is not a crime. Nevertheless, it would be helpful if Horton could be more specific about who he doesn't view as his Christian brother. Despite my principled disagreement with his departure from the historic Reformed position, I still consider Horton a brother in Christ. I hope he feels the same way.


Answering Objections to Rejoicing when the Wicked Perish

My previous post about rejoicing at the death of Osama bin Ladin has sparked a little pushback.

My objector wrote:
I'm quite disappointed with the post. If we are to emulate the ways of God, then surely we should consider God's attitude:

(Ezekiel 33:11): "As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live."

Whilst this is applied to the House of Israel, by extension it applies to all humanity since God commands everyone to repent. (Although we know that only his elect will do so.) God does not delight in destroying sinful men.
This passages has been misunderstood by my objector. The proof that he has misunderstood it can be seen from the fact that God himself elsewhere explains:

Psalm 2:4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

Psalm 37:13 The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming.

Psalm 59:8 But thou, O LORD, shalt laugh at them; thou shalt have all the heathen in derision.

Proverbs 1:26-27
I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.

What then does God mean in the passage quoted? He is contrasting the way of repentance and the way of continued disobedience. God's pleasure in the passage in question refers to his revealed will: God's revealed will is not simply that sinners perish (though he does threaten punishment) but rather that sinners repent of their sins and seek mercy. Don't think you are doing God any favors by dying in your sins. Instead, repent, for God has commanded that!

Recall that Eliphaz had explained:

Job 22:3 Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?

The same principle is at work there: you shouldn't think you are doing God favors by simply being a little less wicked than your neighbors. The application is opposite (an application about pride) but the underlying principle of what is meant by "pleasure" is the same.

When we see God derisively laughing at the wicked being destroyed, we have to understand that God is not crying with tears of sorrow over their destruction.

Also, of course, there is a further fallacy involved in this objection. While we are to be like God, we are to be like God in holiness. We do not take on his sovereign prerogatives. While we do pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done - on earth as it is heaven," we nevertheless may pity our fellow men and wish well for them, despite our ignorance about whether God has made them to be vessels of wrath or vessels of mercy.

If someone is sad because they felt compassionate for Osama, I do not condemn them for their compassion. I do, however, firmly oppose a notion that the servants of God may not rejoice at the defeat of a prominent enemy of God.

My objector continued:
When the disciples wanted to call fire from heaven down upon his enemies, he responded thusly:

"But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village." (Luke 9:55)
Jesus earthly ministry at that time was one of mercy, not judgment. But is my objector unaware of what Christ will do upon his second coming? At that time, he will come in judgment.

Moreover, surely my objector has not forgotten about the times that God did send down fire from heaven to destroy men. Will he object that it was a different God? I would hope not, but what other interpretation fits my objector's objection?

He continued:
And, of course, the cardinal value of the Christian life is to "love our enemies" , to forgive those who abuse us - even those who wish to destroy us or put us on a cross. It seems Americans of all theological persuasions, both heretical and orthodox, want an escape hatch from this requirement and so they argue that there is a difference between personal enemies and enemies of the state. This to me is very feeble. Jesus was an enemy of the state, but he did not resist the Romans, neither did his disciples advocate rebellion against Rome or disobedience to law, even when the Romans were martyring them. This is not to gloss over justice, which is the natural God-ordained function of the state, but to establish love as the necessary hand-maiden of justice.
It may seem feeble to my objector, but Paul claims that those with the "power of the sword" are the ministers of God's wrath:

Romans 13:1-7
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Rulers have this responsibility from God not to turn the other cheek, but rather to execute the wrath of God against sin. Despite the seeming feebleness, the distinction between personal enemies and enemies of God and the State are an important distinction (and, of course, Osama was not only an enemy of God but of the Americans as well).

He continued:
We read of no rejoicing when Herod, a monster greater than Osama bin Laden, was eaten with maggots and died (Acts 12:23); we are taught that those who use the sword shall also die by it (Matthew 25:56). We are also taught to live at peace with all men as much as possible (Heb 12:14; Rom 12:18).
I question whether Herod was a greater monster than Osama bin Ladin. Nevertheless, what should we read into the silence of Scripture? Surely to read something into it is a dangerous technique. The passages about living by the sword and about being at peace with all men are, again, about one's personal duties in relations between fellow men. It is not about the duty of rulers, at least not in a direct way.

He continued:
I am perturbed by your identification of Osama Bin Laden as a prominent "enemy of God". We are ALL enemies of God and subject to sin and death in our natural estate. ALL minds are hostile to God by nature. We ALL abide under God's wrath by nature. God, by his own counsel chooses to remove the restraints from some men and allow them to behave freely according to the dictates of the sinful heart we all share. In this way, he raised up Pharaoh (Rom 9:17).

Osama Bin Laden merely displays the evil that is within us all, but which God in his mercy has delivered US. If it were not for God, we could be Osamas ourselves: "there but for the grace of God, go I" .
We are not all enemies of God. We all were enemies of God. However, we who believe have obtained the adoption of sons. We are no longer God's enemies, but his friends.

Moreover, Osama was not just any enemy of God. He was one who waged war specifically to promote his false and anti-Christian religion. He made his goals explicit in writing. This is an extraordinary level of opposition to Christ.

Is it only by the providence of God that we were not like that? Of course. The point is not to glorify us. Nevertheless, He set himself up against God in a unique way, waging war against Christ. Even today, those who considered him their ally or leader continue to set themselves against the gospel of Christ and make martyrs of Christians.

And those martyrs are calling out to God with a loud voice: "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" (Revelation 6:10)

He concluded:
I am afraid that many have been swept up by the godless rejoicing of a godless world! Beware the mingling of provincial patriotism with the everlasting gospel. I recognise that this is harder to avoid in the United States than elsewhere, due to the heightened patriotism of this age, but I believe it must always be resisted.
I don't think that the patriotism of this age is any greater than that of the first half of the 20th century. Nevertheless, it is possible for people to get swept up in patriotism without pausing to consider. As such, this warning is legitimate, and we should heed it. On the other hand, we must remember our catechism - the summary of Scripture teachings that we have taken care to learn:

Q. 26. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

Q. 45. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.

Praise be to our True and Living King!


Monday, May 02, 2011

The Potter's Freedom: a Response to Chosen But Free

I see that Ergun Caner has asked his Theology 202 class to provide on-line book reviews of Norman Geisler's "Chosen but Free." I've had a chance to read many of the reviews. Let me provide some thoughts in response. But before I do, let me say that I hope Dr. Caner has encouraged his student's to check out Dr. White's excellent rebuttal to that book: The Potter's Freedom.

1. Thoughts for a Bumpy Ride

This review reflects the misconception that Geisler is presenting a "balanced" view in contrast to Arminianism and Calvinism. While Geisler may characterize his position that way, Geisler has essentially presented the Arminian position that was condemned by the Synod of Dordt. Had this reviewer, who goes by SpeedBump, read Dr. James Whte's rebuttal to Geisler's work, he might have been able to more clearly see through Geisler's claim to be providing a position that is balanced between Calvinism and Arminianism.

2. thoughts:

This review, by "edare," seems to reflect a view that arguing about predestination is a waste of time. So much for Geisler's book! Nevertheless, the review goes on to reflect a belief that the future is not fixed but instead can be changed by the choices we make. This view must necessarily be wrong, since if God can see the future, it is absolutely certain to happen just as God has foreseen. That's true without getting into the mechanics of how God knows the future. Finally, the review argues that the commands for evangelism make no sense if predestination is true. This argument, however, is based on a failure to appreciate that God appoints not only the ends but the means. Calvinism (notwithstanding caricatures of it) is not fatalism. Scripture does not teach that God simply appoints the ends, but also the means to that end. God makes the preaching of the word an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, as both the Scriptures and the Reformers teach.

3. jorge0109

This review was quite interesting for me. In the midst of the review is the following quotation:
“Geisler engages in this redefinition not only with regard to the general term "Calvinism", but he also redefines the individual doctrines which are part and parcel of Calvinism. This is seen in his discussion of T-U-L-I-P”
This appears to be taken from James Harrison's review. James Harrison is right, of course, but it is not clear that jorge0109 has understood the material he quoted. jorge0109 concludes the review similarly to "edare," with a comment suggesting that predestination would render evangelism pointless.

4. Victoria's Blog

This review appeared to me to be more or less a review of the first chapter of Geisler's book - the chapter in which Geisler suggests that ideas have consequences. Dr. White's "The Potter's Freedom" has an answer, but an answer to this general line of argumentation was already set forth in A. W. Pink's "The Sovereignty of God." ( free download)

5. My Story

This review from "rkgirl214" highlights another aspect of the problem with Geisler's book. Geisler's book tries to argue that today's Calvinists and the original Calvin are out of line with one another. In the absence of a rebuttal like The Potter's Freedom, such a position may even seem reasonable. Moreover, this reviewer indicated that a favorite aspect of the book was Geisler's use of Scripture. The Potter's Freedom, however, provides an excellent demonstration of the shallowness of the use of the Scriptures in Geisler's book. For example, there are three main verses that get quoted in Geisler's book and The Potter's Freedom provides a fully analysis both of their use and abuse, as well as a sound exegesis of those texts.

6. Stephanie's blog

This review likewise seems to adopt Geisler's position that Calvinism as a distortion of Calvin's teachings. That issue, rebutted in The Potter's Freedom, is actually not the central issue. The central issue is whether the teachings are the teachings of Scripture. Once we understand that they are, the issue of whether they are also Calvin's teachings becomes an issue of very secondary concern. I'm not perfectly clear whether Stephanie understands that Calvinism is not so much about exegeting Calvin as it is about exegeting Scripture. In any case, I hope that this response to the review will encourage Stephanie to check out the rebuttal to Geisler's work, so that she can see what the Scriptures teach on these important issues.

7. Every Now and Then

This review stood out from the others, in that the author of the review appears not to have accepted everything that Geisler said. The reviewer, Autumn, comments that she is not sure about Geisler's view of eternal security. On the other hand, Autumn seems to find one of Geisler's analogies helpful. I present her take on it here:
I really liked his analogy of the man who can choose between two women to marry. One he knows will never say yes, no matter how hard he tries to persuade her, and the other he knows that eventually, with some persuading, she will fall in love with him and agree to marry him.
I wonder whether Autumn has considered that God is able to win anyone's heart. There's no heart that is too hard for God, just as there is no rock too big for God to lift.

Scriptures tell us "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will." (Proverbs 21:1) If the king's heart is in the Lord's hand, we can know that ours is as well. Consider Saul of Tarsus. Before God converted him, he was not just ambivalent and neutral - he hated and persecuted the church. He was the "chief of sinners." Yet God saved him.

Read the Scriptures. God stopped the mouths of the lions. Do you really think God can't change hearts? God claims that ability, after all:

Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:

Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

That is why, when we talk about being born again, we attribute this change completely to God:

John 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Notice that it says "nor of the will of man." Is that what you believe? Or do you believe that being born again is based on a decision you make?


400th Anniversary

As the Virginia Hugenot reported, May 2, 2011, is the 400th anniversary of the first printing of the King James or "Authorized" Version of the Bible. Whether or not you agree with my assessment that it is still the best widely-available English translation of the Bible or not, this is cause for celebration. Notwithstanding the motives the King who authorized its translation, the King James Version has proved to be a treasure for the last four centuries, and will doubtless continue to be in the next one.

When the Wicked Perish, There is Shouting!

When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting. (Proverbs 11:10)

The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. (Psalm 58:10)

"[Vatican] Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that ... Christians "do not rejoice" over a death ... ." (Reuters) (Vatican Information Service provides this as apparently the original of Lombardi's comment: "A Christian never takes pleasure from the fact of a man's death ... .")

Today this blog will be rejoicing over the defeat of one of God's prominent enemies.


Sunday, May 01, 2011

Three Mighty Men and Transubstantiation

There are probably a thousand great arguments against transubstantiation already. Here's one more for your repertoire. Sometimes folks in the Roman (or even in the Lutheran) communion make the argument that Jesus didn't say "this stands for my body," but rather "this is my body." It is true, of course, that he said one and not the other. Nevertheless, we have to allow him the use of metaphor. We can show his use of metaphor in the gospels, but here's another instance that's perhaps not so obvious.

2 Samuel 23:13-17
And three of the thirty chief went down, and came to David in the harvest time unto the cave of Adullam: and the troop of the Philistines pitched in the valley of Rephaim. And David was then in an hold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate! And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the LORD. And he said, "Be it far from me, O LORD, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives?" therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mighty men.

Will our Roman and Lutheran friends allow David this metaphor? Or will they insist that David thought that the water from the well at Bethlehem had been transubstantiated (or consubstantiated) into the blood of the three mighty men? Surely, they will allow David his metaphor. So why won't they allow the Son of David His metaphor?

Matthew 26:26-28
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Mark 14:22-24
And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

- TurretinFan