Saturday, November 17, 2007

Does Religion Matter?

Is it underhanded to point out that a political candidate is member of a cult? According to the candidate, yes (link). Oh, and apparently we need to be able to figure out who has been pointing that out, and make the stop. Apparently, his "freedom of religion" should be bigger than their "freedom of speech."

Religion matters.

The Gospel matters.

There is no God besides the Triune God, and J. Smith was no prophet of God.


Excellent and Brief Response on a Textual Critical Issue

Here's a link to an article that may of interest to folks who are worried that no one is answering the higher critics and their ... what's the best word ... ridiculous opinions (link).

To summarize: yes, Matthew knows how to count to fourteen - so, no, he didn't mess up, and there still is no "Q".


Response to McBee on John 3:16


With respect, I think that Mr. McBee (aka “SDM”) seems to have misidentified the point I was trying to make. Perhaps this is because I was too brief. I certainly do not believe, and do not wish to suggest, that Mr. McBee intentionally misrepresented me. On the other hand, each time Mr. McBee wrote “Turretinfan’s position is,” I think he missed the position. Allow me to elaborate.

The Point Restated
Christ died for the express purpose of saving the elect. The point of citing John 3:16 was to point out the third phrase, “ινα πας ο πιστευων εις αυτον μη αποληται,” that is in Latin “ut omnis qui credit in eum non pereat” fairly literally rendered “so-that-would all the believing-ones (in him) not perish,” more casually “so that all who believe in him would not perish” or as the KJV so memorably translates it “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish.”

The rest, the question of what does the word kosmos mean, and so forth is all secondary. It is important, but it is secondary. The first thing to understand from the phrase is that God is explaining purpose. The phrase is a so-called “hina” phrase, called because it is introduced by “ινα” (typically pronounced “hina”) as can be seen above.

In this case, the hina phrase is connected to and is explained by the preceding phrase. The preceding phrase is “ωστε τον υιον αυτου τον μονογενη εδωκεν” in Latin “ut Filium suum unigenitum daret” fairly literally rendered “so (the-[one-who-is]) son his (the-[one-who-is]) onlybegotton he-gave” or more casually “so he gave up his onlybegotten son,” or as the KJV so memorably translates it “that he gave his only begotten Son.”

In other words, grammatically, the feature of all the believers being saved is linked to the feature of God giving His only begotten Son. From the structure of the sentence we can see that the reason why God gave his Son, was to save all the believers.

Finally, of course, the “hoste” (ωστε) similarly connects to the phrase that goes before it. The phrase before it is “ουτως γαρ ηγαπησεν ο θεος τον κοσμον” which in Latin is “sic enim dilexit Deus mundum” and can be fairly literally translated “in-this-way for he-loved (the) God (the) world” or more casually “for God loved the world thus” or as the KJV so memorably translates it “For God so loved the world.”

This starts the thought, while showing that the thought is providing an illustration of the thought that precedes it. The “For … God loved the world” connects to the preceding thought, while the “thus” tells us that an explanation follows. As seen above, this explanation is two-fold. First, God gave his onlybegotten Son. And Second, God gave him for the purpose of saving all the believers.

It’s not particularly important to my argument to define the word “world.” Does it mean “the world of the elect” as some have said, or just “men” or perhaps “the natural/created order”? It doesn’t particularly matter for the argument that I’m making positively.

The point is that the verse makes the gift’s purpose clear: to save believers. My point is that this verse is evidence of the fact that such was Christ’s purpose. His purpose always to save the believers, all of the believers, and – while the verse does not say so explicitly – only the believers.

If we had only John 3:17’s comment: “but that the world through him might be saved,” the question would be open, and we’d have to really dig in to figure out what “world” means. Not so with verse 16. Verse 16 is specific. And we have verse 18 as well, which explains that the “believers-in-him” are not condemned, whereas the “unbelievers-in-him” are already condemned.

Now, I would not take the position “God so loved the world, that is, the elect of the world, that He sent His Son.” Why not? There are two reasons: (1) it uses the word “world” equivocally, and (2) the point of the verse is simply: God so loved the kosmos, that He sent His Son to save the elect.

Ok, but what does “Kosmos” mean?
SDM noted that kosmos has a variety of meaning. I would respectfully disagree with one of his claims. He cited Mark 16:15 as being a case of when kosmos means “all of humanity.” Mark 16:15 uses kosmos to mean the actual earth (geo-politically). In fact, with respect, I think SDM would be hard pressed in any of the about 150 verses (or about 180 uses) that use the word kosmos in the New Testament to come up with even one that clearly uses the word to mean all humanity, and not simply the actual world, or the natural/created (sometimes considered as fallen) order generally. Even if SDM could come up with a few such examples, I think SDM would have to admit that the dominant usage in the New Testament and in other ancient philosophical material is of the actual world or the created/natural order.

In other words, I would respectfully submit that using the word as SDM does is mostly based on a philosophical presupposition that SDM brings with him to the text, not based on something in the word itself.

I would expand on what SDM said. In Scripture, kosmos ordinarily is a broad term that conveys a sense of expansiveness. It ordinarily does not carry an exhaustive sense. We use “all” this way frequently (and “world” sometimes) in common parlance. It’s a form of hyperbole. The statement: “He has traveled through the whole world (or all over the world),” means he is a globe-trotter, not that there is no stone his soles have not touched. This too will be significant as we proceed.

SDM, however, wrote: “Turretinfan’s position is that this term, world or “kosmos”, means “elect”.” That’s not quite an accurate representation. I don’t take the position that the word means that, but I think that the word – in context – does refer primarily to the elect as a global group. In other words, the “world” contrasted with just the Jews like Nicodemeus the Pharisee to whom Jesus was speaking. We’ll see how this is true, as we proceed. But this misunderstanding (I assume it is not an intentional straw man), leads to most of SDM’s counter-arguments being irrelevant.

Unraveling SDM’s Counter-Presentation
SDM’s position is fairly clear: to SDM “the world” is composed of two groups: those who will believe and those who won’t. SDM states this position, but I think if we examine his explanation closely we’ll see he hasn’t actually establish this position with exegesis.

SDM indicates that in his view the verse starts by treating one group, each and every person, in the phrase “God so loved the world.” SDM claims that John then turns to another group “those believing will not perish.” SDM correctly notes that this term is implies that there is another group, the unbelievers who will perish. SDM then asserts that those two groups make up the original group of the world.

Based on those premises, SDM concludes that to make “the world” = “the elect” would create a problem, because some of the elect would be unbelievers that perish. The problem, of course, is not in the logic, but in the premises. Specifically, the problem is in assuming that “the believing ones who will not perish” i.e. the elect, is intended to be a sub-category of “world.”

From the grammatical/exegetical analysis we saw above, there is no particular need to make the believing ones a sub-category of the “world.” In fact, it would be more natural to assume that “the believing ones” is a more precise way of expressing the same thing as what is intended by “the world.” Alternatively, we may simply conclude that “world” is a reference to the Creation generally (the natural/created order), and that the phrase about God’s love for what he made is to be understood specifically by his expression of that love: giving his Son for the elect.

To borrow SDM’s Texas analogy, it would be a bit like saying: “I love Texas; so, I moved to Texas and married a lass from Galveston.” Such a comment would not suggest that the speaker plans to play the field with other Texan women, or that his love for Texan women generally is equal to that of his bride. Furthermore, if the same man said that “I didn’t come to Texas to visit, but to live there,” no one would suppose that the speaker meant that he was going to live in every town in Texas, or that he might not visit Dallas or Houston from time to time, but would understand that he lives in Texas by living in a particular town in Texas, and is wed to Texas by his marriage to the particular Galveston gal, not to every woman who lives there. We also wouldn’t assume from his “I love Texas,” that he necessarily likes the desert, the beach, the Rio Grande river, Dallas Fort-Worth airport, or Dr. Pepper, whether or not those are a part of Texas. We let people speak in general terms, and we should give Scripture the same flexibility.

Yes, but what about John 12:47?
SDM appeals to John 12:47, which – of course – is not part of the immediate context. Nevertheless, it uses some similar terms, so we should examine it, as well as the other corresponding Johanine passages.

John 12:47 has its own context, which I’ll show below:
John 12:46-50
46I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. 47And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. 49For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. 50And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

It seems to me that if “the world” just means the created order generally, and not all men exhaustively, then the passage makes more sense. Specifically, verse 46 would seem to be a bit odd, for it appears to refer to Christ’s incarnation: his coming into the world, not his coming into the hearts of each and every person.

On the other hand, if we view the word “world” the same way in verse 46 and verse 47, then Christ’s statement is easily understood: he’s here to save the created order not to judge it. That is to say, He’s here as a Savior, not a Judge. He immediately points out, though, that his words do judge those who reject them, because he speaks the words of the Father who sent him, namely the commandments of eternal life.

And John 12:47/John 3:17 is not the only place to find this concept. The same concept also can be found in the fist chapter of John:

John 1:9-14
9That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Now, unlike John 12, John 1 is the preceding context (even if somewhat removed) of John 3. A reader who is reading John’s gospel (or hearing it read) will have heard this by the time he gets to John 3. How does John 1 use the term “world.” It uses it in the sense of the created order, but it also uses it as a broader term to another group: “his own,” which the reader will soon discover are the Jews.

Indeed, we see this same theme in John 3:10-11, repeated just before the verses we are discussing:
John 3:10-11
10Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

Notice the switch in address from simply Nicodemus (thou … knowest not) to Israel generally or especially the Jewish leaders (ye receive not). “Thou” is singular, but “ye” is plural. Thus, as promised above, we can see that the use of the word “world” as a broad term to indicate more-than-just-Jewish-people is both supported by the precedent set in chapter 1, and the confirming context in verses 10-11.

It’s worth pointing out that Jesus makes similar claims to be the light of the world and the Savior of those who follow him (the light), several times before John 12:

John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

(the precipitates an argument with the Pharisees over whether this is just Jesus’ say-so, which Jesus denies, saying that the Father bears witness to the truth of his testimony, but then turns the tables on them, explaining why they do not understand and follow him, that is to say, why they do not see the light, compare Paul’s comments in 2 Corinthians 4:4)

Or again:

John 9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

(this context is pretty interesting, because Jesus demonstrates how people see the light by curing the blindness of the man born blind, which is a picture of our spiritual blindness before regeneration)

And again:

John 11:9 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.

(this context is interesting too, because Jesus immediately goes and raises Lazarus from the dead, which is another picture of our spiritual deadness before regeneration)

So also, even if we simply go beyond John 3:18, and get the further explanation in the subsequent verses, we see:

John 3:19-21
19And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

In other words, the light shining in the world condemns (demonstrates the guilt of) those who hide, but justifies (demonstrates the righteousness of) those who come. It’s an amazing light: first we see our sin, then we see our Savior, and then we come to God in our Savior’s righteousness.

Christ is that light. He came to open the eyes of the spiritually blind, to raise the spiritually dead, and to save them from their sins through faith in himself. He came to save them, he did not come to save the reprobate.

Yes, but what about the Brass Serpent?
The serpent is not quite the analogy that SDM was looking for. Let’s look quickly at the entire original account, since it is short:

Numbers 21:4-9
4And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. 5And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. 6And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. 7Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. 8And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 9And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

SDM claims that this is “a direct parallel … [if] you looked, you were saved, if you didn’t look, you died.” Actually, though, the original passage doesn’t make any mention of anyone not looking and dying. That’s not really the parallel at all.

The parallel is two-fold. First, like the serpent, Jesus will be crucified (“as Moses lifted up the serpent … so must the Son of man be lifted up” – see also John 8:28 and John 12:32-33). Second, the point is that in crucifixion, Christ will save those he is intended to save.

I think SDM misreads Numbers 21:8. That verse says: “every one that is bitten, when he looks on it, shall live.” And then the next verse explains, “If a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” Now, there clearly are some translational differences between SDM’s and mine, but the point of the passage is actually that God is providing salvation to the people who repented of their grumbling against God and prayed to Him. The sense is “everyone who is bitten will live, when he sees the brass serpent,” and “when anyone got bit by a serpent, he looked to the brass serpent, and lived.” There’s really nothing here about a foolish group of Israelites that refused to look at the brass serpent, and consequently died.

Instead, the point is that for those upon whom God had mercy, he provided a serpent, and they looked (everyone and “any man” “if a serpent had bitten” him) and lived.

There’s also no discussion about the serpent being a provision for anyone’s idolatry (after all, they were being punished for grumbling not idolatry), nor being a provision either generally for a particular category of sin, or for the specific sins of the people. Instead, the serpent pictured the punishment, not the crime. Even so, Christ died for our sins, on the cross. On the cross he was punished in our place. Our sins were nailed to the cross, and taken away. We can see from the rest of the law, that atonement was not simply made for categories of sins, but I fear that such a discussion will get us away from the text we are currently debating, and this post is long enough as it is.

Yes, but what about Calvin, Davenport, Ryle, and Dabney?
For now, I’m going to stick with what the text of Scripture says, not the meta-debate about whether Calvin (or the others) was a Calvinist as defined by Article 21 of Belgic Confession; the Second Main Pint of Doctrine of the Canons of Dordt; or Chapter 8, paragraph 8, of both the London Baptist Confession of 1689 and the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1646.

The point is that God provided salvation for his people: that is the gem of his love for the Creation. Thus, Christ is the savior of Creation, or to put it more specifically, the elect. That’s what Scripture says, and that’s what we believe.

N.B. I believe this post has already been published elsewhere as part of a debate that was, at the time, on-going with SDM. I have republished it here, simply for convenience.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Original Sin / Baptism / Free Will / Orthodoxy

The earliest, clearest statement (there also some less clear, earlier statements) on Original Sin among the patristics, as I hinted to Gene in the combox of another thread, naturally relates to the symbolism of baptism (addressed in this case, by the corresponding OT symbol circumcision):

Augustine, "City of God," Book XVI, Chapter 26
And thus, because circumcision was the sign of regeneration, and the infant, on account of the original sin by which God’s covenant was first broken, was not undeservedly to lose his generation unless delivered by regeneration, these divine words are to be understood as if it had been said, Whoever is not born again, that soul shall perish from his people, because he hath broken my covenant, since he also has sinned in Adam with all others. For had He said, Because he hath broken this my covenant, He would have compelled us to understand by it only this of circumcision; but since He has not expressly said what covenant the infant has broken, we are free to understand Him as speaking of that covenant of which the breach can be ascribed to an infant. Yet if any one contends that it is said of nothing else than circumcision, that in it the infant has broken the covenant of God because, he is not circumcised, he must seek some method of explanation by which it may be understood without absurdity (such as this) that he has broken the covenant, because it has been broken in him although not by him. Yet in this case also it is to be observed that the soul of the infant, being guilty of no sin of neglect against itself, would perish unjustly, unless original sin rendered it obnoxious to punishment.

While many "Orthodox" folks may deny the doctrine of original sin, most - if not all - baptize their infants, maintaining the doctrine cloaked in liturgy whose meaning they do not completely understand.

Furthermore, not all "Orthodox" folks deny the doctrine of original sin (link - not recommended for its doctrinal content, just provided as an example: especially this particular link confuses guilt ipse with the feeling or awareness of guilt), and the same "Orthodox" folks note that baptism (including infant baptism) is intended to remit sin, including original sin (link - again, not recommended for its doctrinal content, just provided as an example).

Finally, the underlying concept is locked into the traditional liturgical post-baptismal/chrismal prayer:
Blessed are You, O Lord God Almighty, Source of all good things, Sun of Righteousness, who did shed forth upon them that were in darkness the light of salvation, through the revelation of Your Only-begotten Son and our God; and who have given to us, unworthy though we be, blessed purification through hallowed water, and divine sanctification through life-creating Chrismation; who now, also have been graciously pleased to regenerate Your servant that has newly received Illumination, by water and the Spirit, and do grant unto him/her remission of sins, whether voluntary or involuntary. Do You, the same Master, compassionate King of kings, grant also unto him/her the seal of the gift of Your holy, and almighty, and adorable Spirit, and participation in the holy Body and precious Blood of Your Christ.

(source - similar caveats to the forgoing)

But, as I noted to Gene, although many doctrines may have been locked into the liturgy in various ways, some were locked in more openly or more obscurely than others. For example, note that the prayer asks for forgiveness of "involuntary" sins. Yet talking to a typical lay Orthodox person, especially a "convert" from an Arminian (and KoD will probably whack me over the head with a rubber mallet for using this term too broadly, so I add:) or quasi-Arminian background, you will likely hear the typical "free will" rhetoric as it relates to the nature of sin, and so forth. You especially see this in comments that object to inherited guilt of Adam's sin, which cannot possibly be said to be directly voluntary by any of his seed.

This post is not intended to endorse the sect of Orthodoxy, nor its particular Baptismal liturgy, nor to mock Orthodoxy or its liturgy either. The point is simply to note that there is a legitimate argument from tradition that parallels the argument from Scripture on the issue of Original Sin, as well as on the issue of free will. We could even go to the issue of Baptism, but we won't.


P.S. Lucian, as a self-professed "Orthodox" I realize you will be tempted to jump in immediately. Resist the urge. Wait 'till the end of the week, and then - if you like - explain the errors you believe my presentation has. If you do so respectfully and cogently, many may learn something!

Lucian - Temporary Ban

Lucian or whoever is posting in Lucian's name,

I'm tired of hitting "reject" on your invective-laced comments, and I'm not planning to turn off comment moderation.

Please take a break at least until the end of this week. If you want to make it a longer break, I'll be sorry you didn't come back.

While you are on a break, if you are looking for other ways to occupy your time, let me suggest reading Scripture, especially the major prophets.


UPDATE: I have now had to hit "reject" once more. In case the above was not clear, Lucian, "please take a break," means "don't comment on this blog until the end of the week." I appreciate the many positive and helpful comments that you have made, and I hope that the break will restore your previous tone.

Wait a Tick ... Pope head of Orthodoxy too?

According to this article, Orthodoxy is willing to conceded that the pope is its head (link).

Oh, and for certain naive folks, the following quotation from the article should be enlightening:

"The meeting was marred at the start when delegates from the Russian Orthodox Church walked out over a territorial dispute with a rival Orthodox church."

Meanwhile, Reformation theology continues to deny that the pope is the head of Christianity, and to question whether the pope's profession of faith is credible.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Christology 101

Since, apparently, at least one reader has become hopelessly confused by posts on Christ's headship, here's a little primer on some of the very basic Christological doctrines, drawn from the WLC:

Q. 36. Who is the mediator of the covenant of grace?

A. The only mediator of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal with the Father, in the fullness of time became man, and so was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct natures, and one person, forever.

Q. 37. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?

A. Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin.

Scripture says that (not in those words) and I believe that.


TJP - Calvinists Denounce Public Professions of Faith?

TJP has asserted that Calvinists refuse to let people publicly profess faith in Christ.

I would say that this has to be one of the most outlandish claims against Calvinists that TJP has made. The underlying rationale is that Calvinists (most of them anyway) do not engage in the practice of the "altar call."

On the other hand, however, Calvinist churches publicly receive members, and - for communicant members - either have the person themselves publicly profess faith, or publicly announce a profession of faith previously made to the session. For previously unbaptized communicant members, the profession of faith is ordinarily accompanied by a public baptism.

So, I was somewhat puzzled to see TJP's comment, and I really wonder whether TJP is actually unaware of the practice of Calvinist churches, or whether TJP has some agenda.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Resources on the Atonement has recently updated its page on the Atonement (link), which would seem to be providential coincidence rather than having any connection to the ongoing debate at Contend Earnestly.

May our Savior be praised,


All in Christ will be Quickened (a sur-response to Anonymous)

Apparently the same Anonymous commenter pointed out that the verse says "all" and stated:

"you don't beleive that "in Christ shall all be made alive" spiritually ... ."

Actually I do. Re-read the post, particularly the part that explains who "in Adam" and "in Christ" modify two different "all"s.

The "all in Adam" is the human race descending from him naturally, and the "all in Christ" are the elect.

You would understand that "all" was being modified if I said "all who have Christ as their savior," wouldn't you? or if I said "all in the Lamb's Book of Life"? I wonder why you have trouble understanding that here.

It's a simple Scriptural concept: if you died with Christ (i.e. if He represented you on the cross) then you will be raised with Christ.


Did Jesus Die in Adam? (A response to Anonymous)

Anonymous wrote:
In Adam all died, Jesus included. Thus you would have to admit ... to go along with your [position] of everyone dying in Adam. The fact is that Scripture does not teach that anyone died in Adam, not spiritually. Physically all die (future and present tense) in Adam per 1 Corinthians 15:22 "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." Spiritually, however, all may say with Paul "I was alive apart from the Law once, but when the commandment came sin sprang to life and I died" per Romans 7:9. All are born spiritually alive, yet only Jesus lived an entire adult life that way and died sinless.

I answer:

Let me go through this one line-by-line.

A: "In Adam all died, Jesus included."

I answer: No, Jesus was not "In Adam," and consequently Jesus did not die "in Adam." This is actually important to recognize, because it is Adam's sin that placed the entire human race in need of a Savior.

Because Jesus did not die in Adam, Jesus could die FOR Adam.

Moreover, just as surely as all those in Adam died in Adam, so also surely all those in Jesus (those for whom Jesus died) will be quickened in Jesus. This, of course, is important and relates back to the original atonement post.

A: "Thus you would have to admit ... to go along with your [position] of everyone dying in Adam."

I answer: "In Adam" qualifies "all," just as "in Christ" modifies the other "all." So, of course, no one would "have to admit" such a thing.

A: "The fact is that Scripture does not teach that anyone died in Adam, not spiritually."

I answer: Sure it does, as has already been established.

A: "Physically all die (future and present tense) in Adam per 1 Corinthians 15:22 "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.""

I answer: I Corinthians is speaking of both spiritual and physical death, but the primary emphasis is on spiritual death.

A: "Spiritually, however, all may say with Paul "I was alive apart from the Law once, but when the commandment came sin sprang to life and I died" per Romans 7:9."

I answer: Paul's comment is about his self-perception. When he did not understand the law, he thought he was alive. When he realized what the law required, he realized he was dead. The law did not "come" into existence in Paul's lifetime, but rather came into Paul's awareness in his lifetime. Thus Paul writes:

Romans 7:10And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.

A: "All are born spiritually alive, yet only Jesus lived an entire adult life that way and died sinless."

I answer: No, only Christ was born spiritually alive. See John 3.


Election Based on What?

Manuel Cullwell wrote:
Now for my answer... God does not elect men based on "nothing"but rather, he elects men based on their faith and obedience,yes he gives faith How through the preaching of the word and that is how they are elected
I answer:

Your position is directly contrary to Scripture.

Scripture says that, for example, Jacob was chosen over Esau without regard to works.

Thus, God does elect men based on nothing in the men themselves, but rather based on something (fore-love - His purpose - etc.) in God.

Men are elected before the foundation of the world, but are called through (outwardly) the preaching of the gospel and (inwardly) the effectual working in the heart, by the Holy Spirit.


Hats Off to King Juan Carlos

His royal majesty, King Juan Carlos of Spain, recently had the guts to tell Venezula's dictator, Hugo Chavez, to shut up. Considering Chavez is a powerful and well-connected man, such a comment took courage, even if it was born from frustration at Chavez' churlish behavior.

May God save the King!


UPDATE: Now Chavez wants an apology, while claiming that he didn't hear the comment, but if he had, he would have "stared him down like an Indian" (i.e. the way South American Indians stare people down). No seriously, read for yourself (link).

Love-Based Discipline - A Negative Perspective

From Thomas Watson, "The Comforting Rod," brought to my attention by Blueridge Baptist

"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." Revelation 3:19

God's afflicting rod has comfort in it--as it is a token of the special favor He bears towards us. We think that God cannot favor us--unless He pampers us in His lap. Yet He loves and favors us--when He gives us the bitter drink of affliction. God's chastening rod and God's love both stand together. The rod is a token of God's love. It is no love in God, to let men go on in sin--and never smite. Is it love to your child--to let him run into the water and drown? To be without the rod of God's discipline--is a sign of a bastard child, a mark of reprobation. "But if you are without chastisement, then you are bastards, and not sons." Hebrews 12:8. God's rod whips us to heaven!

If God will let any fall upon the rock of ruin, then He will allow them to go on in sin and not correct them. "I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom." Hosea 4:14. Take notice:God spares the rod--in anger! God's hand is heaviest--when it is lightest! God punishes most--when He does not punish!

But God smites His people--that He may save them, and is that not love? Let me feel God's smiting hand--so that I may have His loving heart.

The Lord comes down with a murdering axe to hew down His enemies--but He has only a rattling rod forHis children. This is all the hell they ever shall feel.1 Corinthians 11:32, "We are judged and disciplined by the Lord--that we should not be condemned with the world." Is not this comfort to know--that this is the worst we shall have? God lays upon us a light affliction--and saves us from wrath to come! What is the drop of sorrow which the godly taste--compared to the bottomless sea of wrath, which the damnedendure forever?

"Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty." Job 5:17

A Quick Response to TJP's "Infant Damnation" Series

T.J. Pennock has provided a series of posts aimed at (apparently) suggesting that Calvinists either:
1) all believe in "infant damnation"; or
2) tend to believe in such a doctrine.

A. W. Pink (a Reformed writer who clearly did not hold such a view) has already addressed this particular emotional criticism of Calvinism. Given the number of Reformed authors from which TJP quotes, one has to wonder whether TJP is aware of Pink's work.

But let's assume that TJP was right.

1. No one, not even a baby, deserves heaven.
2. Because of Original Sin, all deserve hell.
3. If God has mercy on even one baby, that is his perogative.
4. Scripture reveals no other way to heaven than by faith in Christ.
5. Scripture reveals that the ordinary way to faith is by hearing the preaching of the word.
6. That way seems largely unavailable to infants, but John the Baptist seems to supernaturally have had faith in his mother's womb.
7. If God chooses to save infants some other way, he has not explained that in Scripture.
8. God would be just to send every person, infant or not, to hell.
9. If God sends all or every infant who dies in infancy to hell, God is just.
10. If God sends even one infant who dise in infancy to heaven, God is gracious and merciful to that infant.
11. God decides whether an infant dies in infancy or not.
12. God decides whether such an infant goes to heaven.
13. God is the God who wrote (at least once himself personally in stone):
Exodus 20:5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
Exodus 34:7Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
Numbers 14:18The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
Deuteronomy 5:9Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,

And of course:
Psalm 137:9Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

Children are not "innocent." Their judgment - if they are judged - is just. If they escape judgment, it is only because God mercifully covers their guilt with Christ's righteousness.

That shocks TJP, or he thinks it will shock his readers.

But tell me what is more shocking:
1) That God justly punishes a person for inherited guilt; or
2) That God permits a truly innocent child to die a horrible and painful death.

If children are truly innocent, number 2 is true; if the law of Moses is true and just, then number 1 is true.

You decide whether to buy the emotional argument of TJP, or the exegetical argument of Reformed theology.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Response to Manuel Cullwell: Children born Innocent?

Manuel Cullwell wrote:
... babies are born innocent and are not depraved therefor born sheep, it
is then after they lose innocence by sin that they become goats or lost sheep

I answer:

In Adam all died, babies included. They are conceived in sin, and come forth out of the womb, speaking lies. No one is innocent, no one is righteous, save one: Christ Jesus.

The sheep are those depraved sinners on whom God has mercy. They were lost sheep before he called them and drew them to himself.

As the popular song goes, I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.


P.S. Of course, the metaphor of "sheep" can be used other ways, such as to contrast with goats, or to represent a relationship other than a saving relationship (such as a king being the shepherd and the citizens of his nation, the sheep).

Response to Anonymous: How does Jesus Sort the Sheep from Goats?

An Anonymous reader wrote:
The Calvinistic assumption, however, changes the argument altogether. How
does Jesus separate the sheep from the goats? The sheep clothed and fed on of
the least of these, the goats did not. He doesn't say they are rejected for not
being chosen but they are not chosen for what they didn't do. Calvinism cannot
intelligently deal with this.

I'll address this line-by-line.

A: "The Calvinistic assumption, however, changes the argument altogether."

I answer: This sentence makes little sense. It seems to be an attempt to call some aspect of Calvinism an "assumption." The aspect, however, is not identified. I welcome clarification on this from the anonymous reader. (incidentally, it would be helpful if anonymous readers used pseudonyms so that we could distinguish one from the other.

A: "How does Jesus separate the sheep from the goats?"

I answer: He knows the sheep, he never knew the goats. The sheep are in the book of life, the goats are not. I suppose we could go on and on.

A: "The sheep clothed and fed on of the least of these, the goats did not. "

I answer: I suspect the problem with that sentence is that the "on" is an erroneous insertion. The answer, though, is no: works are not what separate the goat from the sheep on the day of judgment.

A: "He doesn't say they are rejected for not being chosen but they are not chosen for what they didn't do."

I answer: On the day of judgment, the goats are rejected because they are unclean. It's that simple. From all eternity, some were chosen to be sheep, some to be goats, and consequently some live as sheep and some as goats. It's also that simple.

A: "Calvinism cannot intelligently deal with this."

I answer: With all due respect, I'm not persuaded that an intelligent objection has been raised here. However, the door is open for clarification of what was intended.


Response to Orthodox: Unfair if Man Unable (and misc.)

Orthodox wrote:

T: 1. God says: "Anyone who repents and believes will be saved."

O: He says more than that, he also says "repent and believe". Which remains
a false offer even if you think they can't do it.

Ro 1:20 says that the entirety of creation is designed so that men are
without excuse. To give men an excuse at the last minute of (a) they weren't
able to repent and (b) there was no atonement for them, would be quite a

And another thing: reformed folks think that there are people who repent
and believe but their faith was deficient in some way that it wasn't caused by
regeneration and was thus a false faith, even though in the mind of the actual
person was sincere.

So the promise is again made null, because these people who believed and
repented have no atonement. So reformed have to come up with this wholly
unbiblical category of people and just kind of wave their hands and say they
don't count.

T: 1. As to the syllogism, item (2) is a non-existent thing. In other
words, there is no hypothetical world in which a reprobate person would repent
and believe.

O: And here we are dependant on the reformed ordo-salutus which is again at
best something not explicitely taught in scripture.

I answer:

I'll take this one line-by-line:
"He says more than that, he also says "repent and believe". Which remains a false offer even if you think they can't do it."

A command is not an offer. The imperative command to repent and believe is consequently neither false, nor an offer. Furthermore, no one is able to be sinless, and yet the law does command that. The law is not a "false offer" because it commands what man cannot do.

An affirmation of man's ability to obey the commands is an affirmation of Pelagianism. If one recognizes that grace is necessary for man to obey, then one must realize that man's ability to obey commands has nothing to do with whether the commands are fair, reasonable, or the like. By rejecting Pelagianism, therefore, we reject this particular objection.

O: "Ro 1:20 says that the entirety of creation is designed so that men are without excuse. To give men an excuse at the last minute of (a) they weren't able to repent and (b) there was no atonement for them, would be quite a contradiction."

I answer:

a) Men are condemned for their sins. It would be no excuse if salvation were not offered, just as it is no excuse that not all have the gospel preached to them, or as well and as clearly to them, as others do. It is no excuse that they were unable to repent, because their inability is intrinsic to them. Man's depravity is an aggravating, not a mitigating, factor.

b) Men are condemned for their sins. Lack of atonement is simply the fact of the matter for those who are not "at one" with God. It's not an excuse, any more than lack of third party payment of debt is an excuse for a debtor.

O: "And another thing: reformed folks think that there are people who repent and believe but their faith was deficient in some way that it wasn't caused by regeneration and was thus a false faith, even though in the mind of the actual person was sincere."

I answer: That's not an accurate picture of Reformed theology. If anyone truly repents and believes, they will be saved. End of story.

O: "So the promise is again made null, because these people who believed and repented have no atonement."

I answer: People misunderstanding the offer to mean something it does not, does not change the offer. The offer is an objective reality. If you truly repent and truly believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved.

O: "So reformed have to come up with this wholly unbiblical category of people and just kind of wave their hands and say they don't count."

I answer: That's a misrepresentation of the Reformed position as well as of Scripture.
a) The categories of hypocrites, self-deceived, and wolves-in-sheep's-clothing are Biblical categories; and
b) The parable of the sower provides a great lesson in the distinction between false and true faith.

O: "T: 1. As to the syllogism, item (2) is a non-existent thing. In other words, there is no hypothetical world in which a reprobate person would repent and believe. O: And here we are dependant on the reformed ordo-salutus which is again at best something not explicitely taught in scripture.

I answer: It's really not dependent on any Reformed order of salvation, but even if it were, that would be fair game, given the nature of the counter-objection. In other words, Reformation theology must be criticized for what it is, not what is not. The former approach is a critique, the latter a straw man.


P.S. I wonder whether Mr. McBee would concede the relationship between the Reformed order of salvation and the counter-objection to the fairness objection.

Atonement Debate on Contend Earnestly

The Atonement Debate on Contend Earnestly is underway.

Here is the opening post (link).

And my opening (brief per the host's request) argument (link).

May God be glorified, and the people of God edified,


Response To Manuel Culwell - Sheep were Goats?

Manuel Culwell wrote:
the sheep were first Goats

I answer:

That's as ridiculous as it sounds. Goats becoming sheep? Ha.

Of course, God could miraculously transform goats into sheep, but that's not quite what MC has in mind.


Response to Magnus Limited Atonement / Fairness

Magnus wrote:

If I understand the Universal [Atonement] folks then they would say that it's a question of fairness. To them in order for the offer to be genuine then God had to have provided salvation for all or else it is a [hollow] offer. It would be like offering $1,000,000 from a bank account, but the $1,000,000 not being in the bank. It always goes to fairness with the ones I have spoken [to].

I answer:

I have heard something like this before.

The syllogism for this counter-objection to Limited Atonement seems to be:

1. God says: "Anyone who repents and believes will be saved."

2. If Limited Atonement is true, then (1) would not be true in a hypothetical world in which a person for whom Christ did not die repented and believed.

3. Therefore, the statement "anyone" is not genuine/sincere/well-meant/honest/etc.

The analogy to support this is something like the following:

A man builds an ice cream store and, to drum up business, puts a big sign outside that says: "one free scoop of Bubble Gum Ice Cream to anyone who comes in and asks for it." However, the man secretly has a list of people to whom the man plans to give ice cream, and he plans only to give it to those people, and to no one else.

Our intuition would seem to tell us that this offer is not particularly sincere. If a person on that list walks through the door, they get the scoop, but if a person not on the list walks through the door, they would not get the scoop. Thus, a priori (without considering who actually ends up walking through the door) the offer seems to have been presented in a dishonest fashion.

This is basically - I think - the same kind of analogy as the "free million to whoever asks" when in fact there are insufficient funds in the bank to cover the hypothetical situation of everyone asking.

Magnus wrote his comment as though he was not part of the "Universal [Atonement]" crowd, and I certainly am not part of that crowd either. Nevertheless, I hope that those who read will agree that I gave a fair presentation of the syllogism and analogy that is typically used for this counter-objection.

Now allow me to rebut:

1. As to the syllogism, item (2) is a non-existent thing. In other words, there is no hypothetical world in which a reprobate person would repent and believe. You see, the Holy Spirit decides who comes and who does not come. All that the Father gives to the Son are enabled and persuaded by the Holy Spirit to respond to the gospel call. All the others continue along the path to destruction. The only way (2) could occur would be if the Holy Spirit contradicted the Father and the Son, which is - of course - impossible.

2. As to the analogy, the flaw is similar. The ice cream man has no causal connection with people on his list coming through the door. For the ice cream man, the list is a filter, designed to cover the scenario where an unwanted customer asks for the freebie. Not so with the Lamb's Book of Life. The list of the elect is not a filter, to screen out those who are undesired, but a net to catch those who are desired! Those who God loved (in a particular, enormous way) before the foundation of the earth are on the list, not just to be given eternal life, but to be enabled and persauded to embrace the gospel. The analogy breaks down, because the Spirit does not just put the gospel "offer" out there, he changes hearts: making those who had no interest in repentance and faith, repent and believe!

The gospel has been designed in such a way that it is unappealling to natural man, yet powerfully and irresistably persuasive to the regenerated man. To the natural man what greater foolishness could there be than to sacrifice the life we know we have for hope of a future life that cannot be proven?! To the regenerate man, what greater foolishness could there be than to sacrifice eternal glory in favor of eternal punishment to enjoy the transient and ethereal pleasures of this life?!

You see, the offer is true/sincere/etc. Anyone who comes to God will not be cast out. On the other hand, that does not mean that God leaves it "up to man" to come. God calls and God draws. God offers and God brings. God ensures that the sheep hear the voice of the shepherd. No one could come who did not want to, no one would want to who was not drawn, and no one is drawn but those elected by the Father from all eternity to be the object of the Son's work on the cross, and the Spirit's work in the heart.

Praise be to our glorious God!


Excellent Thoughts on Death

From Sojourner. Summary: You're going to die. Live each day to the glory of God. Scorn death, but be cognizant of it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

McGrath's "In the Beginning"

The present author recently had the pleasure of reading Alister McGrath's "In the Beginning," subtitled, "The Story of the KING JAMES BIBLE and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture." (capitalization as on dust jacket)

The subtitle conveys the gist of the book well. The book presents many interesting nuggets of historical trivia about the KJV, and especially about its origins.

One particularly interesting point is that McGrath points out that "its" was just becoming used in English speech at the time the KJV was translated, (previously "his" served as the neuter singular possessive pronoun).

McGrath noted that the KJV translators found ways to avoid using "his" where "its" should be, but often did so with awkward constructions like "thereof." This suggests that a good new edition of the KJV could find some semantic improvement by the use of "its" in suitable places.

The one place "its" is found in the KJV is:

Leviticus 25:5 That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land.

Those opposed to interaction between church and state in America will have their noses tweaked by the closing portion of the book's historical account, which notes that the Continental Congress authorized the KJV after review by the two chaplains thereof.

Another interesting nugget of information was the fact that the KJV translators themselves used quotations from the Geneva Bible in the preface to the original printing of the KJV!

In general, the book is written in a popular style, and it is consequently sometimes difficult to discern well-documented historical fact from weakly-documented historical view from mere opinion or speculation. The few footnotes included are clustered in a short section where McGrath feels it necessary to explain the meaning of certain archaic or at least unfamiliar words.

Because McGrath is a popular historian, it would be worthwhile for any KJVO advocate to read the book, simply to see the perspective from the other side. McGrath is plainly not particularly fond of the KJV, but he is not a rabid anti-KJV critic.

On the whole, however, despite a lengthy appendix of works consulted (for the whole book, not divided even by chapter), the book is not particularly useful to a scholar attempting to verify McGrath's claims.