21
Sep
14

Trials

In times of trial God’s trusting child may say,

First, He brought me here, it is by His will I am in this strait place: in that fact I will rest.

Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child.

Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.

Last, in His good time He can bring me out again – how and when He knows.

Let me say I am here,

(1) By God’s appointment,
(2) In His keeping,
(3) Under His training,
(4) For His time.

Andrew Murray

19
Sep
14

A Deterministic God

From time to time, people who believe in the almighty “free will” of the fallen sinner have accused me of believing in a “deterministic God.” I want to go on record here and confess that I indeed hold to such a belief. By that I do not mean that God causes and is responsible for all my actions. God is not the great puppeteer, and I am not a sock puppet. He does not need to cause me to sin since I continue to do such a good job of sinning by myself, but in his infinite wisdom he has taken even my rebellion into account and governs it so that it will ultimately bring glory to him and eternal and spiritual good to me.

The wise man wrote in Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” This verse does not mean God causes all the evil machinations of the king. Like water, the evil designs of wicked men seek their own level. The wicked act freely, deliberately and culpably in perpetrating their evil designs, but not one of their acts falls outside God’s control. Surely Nebuchadnezzar was right when, having had his reason restored to him, he spoke these words,

Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done” (Dan. 4:34-35)?

In the following chapter, Daniel reminds Belshazzar, whose knees were knocking together because he had seen the handwriting on the wall, of what had happened to his father, Nebuchadnezzar, because of the arrogance of his heart. He does not tell him that his father had simply lost his throne and his reason while God looked on passively. God dethroned him and left him in a miserable state until he was sufficiently humbled. In Daniel’s words,

. . . until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored (Dan. 5:21-23).

After Joseph’s brothers had perpetrated their wickedness in faking his death and selling him into Egyptian slavery, God, in his sovereign providence, raised him to a place of prominence and power in the Egyptian government. The day came when they stood before him begging for food. They feared that he would hate them and seek revenge. Instead, we read these words,

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:19-20). He did not say God merely permitted your evil actions, but “God meant it [the evil you intended to do to me]” for good.

You intended evil and you are guilty. God will judge you for your intentions and your actions, but he intended and is bringing to pass something different from what you had in mind.

Hear Job’s words. After having experienced what was perhaps the worst day of his life, looking past all the second causes such as Satan, the Sabeans, the fire, the Chaldeans, and the great wind, he said, “‘The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.’ In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:21-22). Though God employed second causes to accomplish his will for his servant, it was he who was the prime mover. Job acknowledges that God was the giver of all these blessings and that he had the right to take them away.

It should be clear, even to a casual observer, that these men believed God was no passive observer who occasionally intervenes to change the course of history. Jesus said, “not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from your Father” (see Matt. 10:29). God’s providence extends to the minutest details.

In Romans 9:20-24, Paul has described God as the sovereign potter who has the right to dispose of his creatures as he will. Just as the potter has the right to make of a lump of clay anything he wishes, so God has the right to do with us as he wills.

In Romans 11:36 Paul writes, “For from him, and through him, and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.”
These passages are only a small sampling of those we could have cited to show that “the LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalms 103:19).

CREEDAL STATEMENTS

Though creedal statements are not authoritative, it might be helpful to read what some who have gone before us have written on this subject.

Belgic Confession-Article 13

We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement.
Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly.
We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.
This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground20 without the will of our Father.
In this thought we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will.

For that reason we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God involves himself in nothing and leaves everything to chance.

Philadelphia Confession of Faith

Chapter 3 Of God’s Decree

1. God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken way, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.
(Isa. 46:10; Eph. 1:11; Heb. 6:17; Rom. 9:15, 18; James 1:13; 1 John 1:5; Acts 4:27, 28; John 19:11; Num. 23:19; Eph. 1:3-5)
2. Although God knoweth whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.

Chapter 5–of God’s Providence

God the good Creator of all things, in his infinite power and wisdom doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, to the end for the which they were created, according unto his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will; to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy.
(Heb. 1:3; Job 38:11; Isa. 46:10, 11; Ps. 135:6; Matt. 10:29-31; Eph. 1;11)

2. Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly; so that there is not anything befalls any by chance, or without his providence; yet by the same providence he ordereth them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.
(Acts 2:23; Prov. 16:33; Gen. 8:22)

3. God, in his ordinary providence maketh use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them at his pleasure.
(Acts 27:31, 44; Isa. 55:10, 11; Hosea 1:7; Rom. 4:19-21; Dan. 3:27)

4. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that his determinate counsel extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, which also he most wisely and powerfully boundeth, and otherwise ordereth and governeth, in a manifold dispensation to his most holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness of their acts proceedeth only from the creatures, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

London Baptist Confession 1644

III. That God hath decreed in himself from everlasting touching all things, effectually to work and dispose them according to the counsel of his own will, to the glory of his Name; in which decree appeareth his wisdom, constancy, truth, and faithfulness; Wisdom is that whereby he contrives all things; Constancy is that whereby the decree of God remains always immutable; Truth is that whereby he declares that alone which he hath decreed, and though his sayings may seem to sound sometimes another thing, yet the sense of them doth always agree with the decree; Faithfulness is that whereby he effects that he hath decreed, as he hath decreed. And touching his creature man, God had in Christ before the foundation of the world, according to the good pleasure of his will, foreordained some men to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of his grace, leaving the rest in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of his Justice.

God’s Sovereignty or Human Autonomy

God’s sovereignty and human free agency are not incompatible. There is no dispute about the fact that people are able to freely choose what they wish. The issue of free will is another matter. I recently heard a well-known Pastor say, “Most of the time when people talk about free will, what they really mean is human autonomy.” I believe he was right.
To deny the doctrine of God’s sovereign control over all his creatures in favor of human automomy is not only a serious theological error but an act of arrogant treason against the king.

A.W. Pink wrote,

. . .there is no doctrine more hated by worldings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on this throne. They will allow Him to be in His workshop to fashion worlds and make stars. They will allow him to be in his almonry to dispense his alms and bestow his bounties. They will allow him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean; but when God ascends his throne, His creatures gnash their teeth, . . .for God on His throne is not the God they love (Pink, The Attributes of God, p. 33).

James wrote,

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:13-17).

The attitude James describes here is an arrogant insistence on human autonomy. It describes intentions that are honorable in themselves. Hard work with a profit motive is not a bad thing. The problem is a failure to acknowledge that whether we live or die, succeed or fail is dependent on God’s will, not ours. “The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts” (1 Sam. 2:7).

We cannot even guarantee that we will live until tomorrow, much less continue a year. We should say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live.” Our lives are like a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes. If memory serves, it was Matthew Henry who wrote, “Man proposes; God disposes.” There is nothing wrong with making plans, but we must be ever aware that our plans are subject to God’s plan. We should say, “If the Lord wills, we shall. . .do this or that.”

James tells us that failure to acknowledge God’s sovereign control in all things is arrogant boasting and all such boasting is evil. If we know to thus acknowledge him as the sovereign potter but do not do it, for us it is sin.

As I have read these verses in James about this arrogant denial of God’s control over all things, it has brought to mind the famous poem by Wm. Henley titled “Invictus (Unconquerable).” Perhaps motivated by his bitterness over having lost a leg due to tuberculosis, he wrote the following,

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Early in the 20th century, a little known poet named Dorothea Day, wrote a poem titled, “Conquered.” This is the confession that should be echoed by every child of God.

Out of the light that dazzles me,
Bright as the sun from pole to pole,
I thank the God I know to be,
For Christ – the Conqueror of my soul.

Since His the sway of circumstance,
I would not wince nor cry aloud.
Under the rule which men call chance,
My head, with joy, is humbly bowed.

Beyond this place of sin and tears,
That Life with Him and His the Aid,
That, spite the menace of the years,
Keeps, and will keep me unafraid.

I have no fear though straight the gate:
He cleared from punishment the scroll.
Christ is the Master of my fate!
Christ is the Captain of my soul!

09
Sep
14

Free Choice vs. “Free Will”

Regrettably, it has been necessary for me to delete one of the comments of a person who visits my blog from time to time. Not only does he fail to follow the rules; he has stated that he does not intend to do so. I will not allow any comments that are demeaning and degrading.

I will comment on the issue he addressed since it is an important one. It concerns the comment Born4battle made yesterday concerning the distinction between free choice and free will. The commenter has accused us of making a distinction where no difference exists.

If all he means by “free will” is that people have the ability to make choices, we would be in full agreement with him. We believe people choose freely apart from external constraint. A person who bows to Christ’s sovereign Lordship does so because he truly wants to. A person who chooses to reject Christ and the gospel does so because he truly wants to. God does not drag anyone into the kingdom kicking and screaming and rebelling against the gospel. Instead, he, by sovereign grace, makes sinners willing to do his will. This idea is expressed well in the promises of Ezek. 26:25-27

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

This describes what theologically speaking is called “regeneration.” This work of God does not force people to obey contrary to their desires. If God causes people to walk in his statutes, does this not indicate they would not do so otherwise? Yet, those who obey God’s rules do so because they genuinely choose to do so.

Every person who comes to genuine faith in Christ does so because he freely chooses to do so. Every person who chooses to reject Christ and continue in his sins does so because he genuinely desires and freely chooses to do so.
The issue in the discussion of “free will” is completely different. It concerns whether the will, unlike the other elements of human personality, is autonomous [self-governing] or not. Does the will act independently of nature or does the nature of a person determine his choices. In a sense, the discussion brings us back to a very basic question. Are we sinners because we sin, or do we sin because we are sinners? This question expresses the decisive difference between Pelagianism and Calvinism. We Calvinists believe we think what we think, feel what we feel, choose what we choose, because we are what we are. If this is not the case, it doesn’t matter whether regeneration causes faith or faith causes regeneration. Such a work of God would be superfluous. If sinners are able to obey any command of God [the command to repent and believe], we are able to obey every command of God and don’t need God tinkering around with our hearts.

The biblical writers represent sinners as hostile toward God, his law, and his gospel. Additionally, they assign the reason for this recalcitrance and obduracy to sinful nature. People don’t come to Christ because they don’t want to come to Christ. All we are saying is that a person in a state of sinful nature will not and therefore cannot choose that for which he has no desire and to which he is absolutely averse. His will is held captive by his nature.

08
Sep
14

Where Have All The Thinkers Gone?

I have known a few Southern Baptist pastors who have had their heads screwed on properly in regard to sound theology. Thanks to the efforts of Ernie Reisinger, Tom Ascol et.al. their tribe is increasing. Still, there are those in the SBC who call themselves “traditionalists” who imagine they have found a middle road between Calvinism and Arminianism, semi-Pelagianism, or Pelagianism.

According to their own statement, if they are not actually Pelagians, they would at least fall on the Pelagian side of Arminianism. Even the original Arminians did not believe sinners are born with a “free will.” They agreed with the Calvinists that sinners are born in a state of total depravity. They did believe God gives prevenient grace to all without exception, enabling all to accept Christ or reject him. I have yet to hear anyone venture a guess as to when God grants this supposed ability. There are a number of mysteries that surround this teaching that no one seems to wish to address. I would like to pose several questions that need to be answered before the discussion between Calvinists and Traditionals (hereafter referred to as TSB’s) can progress to a meaningful conclusion. The following are a few of them:

1. How do TSB’s define “free will?” Do they merely mean that sinners act freely in making their choices, or to they mean a person is able to choose that for which he has absolutely no desire and to which he is thoroughly averse? Do they mean a person’s nature has no bearing on his choices? If a will is to be truly free, it cannot be affected by anything, even nature.

2. If “prevenient [preceding] grace” cancels the effects of inherited depravity, does it essentially place the sinner in a state of neutrality? If so, are the recipient’s desire’s equally balanced between an affinity toward sin and hostility toward God and an affinity toward righteousness and love toward God? If so, what tips the balance? How can one ever make a decisive choice if his desires are absolutely contradictory but equally balanced?

3. In receiving this divine favor, has the sinner already received all the enabling God intends to give him? If he is left in such a state, could his condition be described as anything other than a dissociative disorder?

4. These people believe “Fallen man inherits a sinful nature.” This is part of the “O” in their acrostic “POINSETTIA.” When does that nature cease to be sinful and begin to be neutral? At what point is “free will” granted to the sinner? If it is granted at birth, why do biblical writers describe the unregenerate as rebels against God? If it is granted when a person hears the gospel, how can it be universal since all do not hear the gospel?

5. If God is not totally without control in his universe, could he not have caused that all would hear the gospel? In Acts 16:6-10, we learn that Paul and his companions tried to go into Bithynia to preach the gospel, but the Spirit did not allow them to go, sending them to Macedonia instead. Given the assumptions of the TBS’s, one would have to assume a God of love would see to it that every creature under heaven would hear the gospel? If he could have assured a universal proclamation of the gospel and didn’t, is he not being unfair? I speak as a fool.

6. If a sinner has the ability to love God, choose to obey his commandments, believe the gospel etc., why does he need to be regenerated at all?

The TSB’s have made a list of statements they with which they seem to assume Calvinists would disagree. Indeed, we would disagree with many of them, but much of their propensity to get their panties in a wad is based on their misunderstanding or misrepresentation of our beliefs.

Such people as Norman Geisler should be intelligent enough and careful enough to avoid the making brain dead statements. Yet, much of what he and others say in regard to this controversy has little to do with the real issues. He states that Jesus died for all sinners. Does he mean Jesus death is of sufficient value to save any and all who will believe? Does he mean we are warranted to proclaim the good news that Jesus died for sinners to every sinner with which we come in contact? Does he mean it was God’s intention in sending his Son to save sinners who had already perished in unbelief before Jesus died? He should be informed well enough to understand that the issue in the controversy over the atonement is not whether any sinner who believed would be saved by Christ’s death. It is whether Jesus’ death was effective in redeeming all God had intended to save.

The truth is that his problem is not with limited atonement, but with the sovereignty of God in salvation. The issue is whether salvation is all of God and all of grace or a cooperative effort between God and the sinner.

All he says is a misrepresentation of our beliefs. For him to claim Calvinists do not believe in the eternal security of the believer betrays one of two things about him. Either his scholarship is not to be trusted since he clearly has not investigated our beliefs adequately, or after having investigated our views, he has deliberately misrepresented what we believe.

Of course, we believe in the eternal security of the true believer in Christ. What we do not believe is the eternal security of everyone who has made a profession of faith. We believe “once saved, always saved,” but one must be once saved to be always saved.

I challenge some of these people to engage in a discussion of these issues. Please attempt an answer to some of these questions? Learn the real issues, and then confront them. Don’t spend your time burning straw men.

18
Jun
14

Some Were Tortured–Hebrews 11:35b-38

In Hebrews 11:35b-38 we read,  

Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated-of whom the world was not worthy-wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

It is easy to talk about faith in ways that betray a profound misunderstanding of the biblical concept. One often gets the impression that people of faith will enjoy a safe, healthy and trouble free existence. We are led to believe that if we have sufficient faith, we will never be sick or suffer deprivation. Some would have us believe that God wants us to have our best life now, and if we have sufficient faith to visualize it, we can make it happen. This is contrary to the biblical teaching about faith, and these verses are evidence of this fact.

In the verse that follows these words (v. 39), the writer tells us “ALL THESE” were commended for their faith. Included in “all these” are not only those whom God used to accomplish valiant victories and those he delivered from death and suffering but those who were tortured and killed. Those who have lived in kings’ palaces were no greater men and women of faith than those who were destitute, afflicted, deprived, and mistreated.

Faith is not a matter of believing God will always deliver us from sickness and suffering and give us everything we can visualize or request. Faith is trusting God to be faithful to fulfill his promises even though it seems from all the sensory evidence available to us that he has turned against us.

We must never forget that many of God’s most favored people were, nevertheless, suffering people. Some were tortured and refused to accept release because they knew that to do so would have required their infidelity to God. They understood that genuine faith is an overcoming faith. They knew that to cling to this life by acting in unbelief and infidelity to God would involve forfeiting a better life to come.

Others were mocked and subjected to brutality, flogged and imprisoned. Some were stoned to death. Stoning was a typically a Jewish form of execution. Jesus referred to official Jerusalem as those who stoned those messengers that God had sent to it (Matt. 23:37). This was likely the manner in which Jeremiah was executed. Others were sawn in two. Tradition tells us that Isaiah was put to death in this manner. Others suffered death at the point of a sword. The writer’s intent was to show that men and women of faith are not exempt from suffering and death at the hands of wicked men. We must never be led to think that men and women of faith will have their best life now or that suffering, sickness and trials indicate our lack of faith. We should consider faithful pastor of a small and struggling rural church no less a man of faith than those who minister the Word to thousands. We must regard those who are perpetually plagued with illness as no less people of faith than those who are never ill.

We must always remember that those men and women of faith who were little known and soon forgotten were no less men and women of faith than those whose noble exploits were celebrated in this grand roster of the faithful. The writer tells us the world that took little note of them was not worthy of them. These were not the wealthy and powerful who are so often lauded as examples of success, but heaven acknowledged them as men and women of faith. Though not adorned with fine clothing or housed in mansions and though destitute, despised and forsaken by the world, they appear here as those whose faithfulness is acknowledged in heaven.

The sentiments of the faithful are well expressed in the words of Henry F. Lyte who wrote,

Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow thee;
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shall be:
Perish every fond ambition,
All I sought, or hoped, or known:
Yet how rich is my condition;
God and heav’n are still my own.

Man may trouble and distress me,
’Twill but drive me to thy breast;
Life with trials hard may press me,
Heav’n will bring me sweeter rest:
O ’tis not in grief to harm me
While thy love is left to me;
O ’twere not in joy to charm me,
Were that joy unmixed with thee.

 

11
Apr
14

Comments on Dohse’s Delusions–Part Two

Paul Dohse Sr. and his ilk provide us with wonderful negative examples regarding biblical interpretation. Perhaps blinded by his bitterness over perceived wrongs done to him, he regularly violates accepted canons of interpretation in his campaign to topple Calvinism, his perceived enemy. In reality, he is his own worst enemy since he continues to write such ludicrous articles that prevent any intelligent student of Scripture taking him seriously. He regularly accuses me of believing he and his fawning followers are biblically ignorant–a charge to which I must plead guilty. My concern is not for the intelligent and well-informed student of the Scriptures but for the average bench warmer who may stumble on his blog and be influenced by it. He must feel terribly insecure about his views since he regularly censors opposing opinions.

Additionally, if he provides any documentation at all, he quotes people out of context to make it appear they intended something other than their actual teaching.

Yesterday, he posted an article titled “Predestination is Not True: 2Peter 3:1-13.” 2 Peter 3:9 was the sole passage on which he based this pontification as if there are no other passages in the Scriptures that bear on this issue. He proceeded to accuse the ESV translators of theological bias since they translated “toward you” instead of the AV “to us ward” [granted "usward" is a term we all use everyday, NOT!]. A little investigation would have revealed that the difference is not translational but textual. The translators were not controlled by theological bias, but by the text they saw before them.

In this article, he has violated several accepted hermeneutical canons. Unless you are one of his followers who scoffs at biblical inerrancy, you will follow the rule that Scripture does not contradict itself. A hortatory passage will not contradict a theological passage. We must seek harmonization between clear theological passages and those passages that seem to contradict the clear teaching of the rest of Scripture.

One of the first questions one must ask when approaching any passage concerns the writer’s purpose in writing it. Peter’s concern was clearly not to answer the question whether predestination is true or not, but to explain why the Lord’s return has, in the view of deliberate sinners and lustful scoffers, been so long in coming. The passage is not intended to teach the sinner’s autonomy [if God is not the sovereign planner and controller of all events, that is where we are left] and God’s ineffectual wish to save sinners who just won’t let him, but to teach that God is merciful and long-suffering, giving the most hardened sinner opportunity to repent. It is God’s expressed will that sinners repent. Since he is holy, he cannot but wish that all his creatures be holy as well. This says nothing about whether he has decreed the salvation of some and not others. That is a totally separate issue.

09
Apr
14

Comments on Dohse’s Delusions

I never cease to be amazed by the abysmal ignorance of many who fancy themselves fountains of all wisdom and knowledge. Paul Dohse Sr. recently posted an article that he titled “the Foul Points of Calvinism.” It brings to light once again the startling fact that those who, in their arrogance, argue against these doctrines are, in reality, mind numbingly ignorant. Mr. Dohse’s article reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from C.H. Spurgeon. In a sermon titled, “How to Meet the Doctrine of Election,” he said,

The doctrine of election has been made into a great bugbear by its unscrupulous opponents and its injudicious friends. I have read some very wonderful sermons against this doctrine in which the first thing that was evident was that the person speaking was totally ignorant of his subject. The usual way of composing a sermon against the doctrine of grace is this: first exaggerate and belie the doctrine, and then argue against it. If you state the sublime truth as it is found in the Bible, why, you cannot say much against it. But if you collect a number of silly expressions from hot-headed partisans and denounce these, then your task will be easier. Nobody ever believed the doctrine of election as I have heard it stated by Arminian controversialists. I venture to say that nobody out of Bedlam ever did believe that which has been imputed to us. Is it surprising that we are as eager to denounce the dogmas imputed to us as ever our opponents can be? Why do they earnestly set themselves to confute what no one defends? Our friends abhor the doctrine as it is stated by themselves, and we are much of their mind, though the doctrine itself, as we would state it, is dear to us as life itself.

I would like to reproduce the text of Mr. Dohse’s remarks and intersperse comments of my own about what he has written. My comments will appear in bold font.

Mr. Dohse wrote:

1. Total Depravity

As written about often here at PPT, the Calvinist view of total depravity also pertains to the saints. However, total depravity isn’t even true in regard to the unregenerate. All born into the world have the works of the law written on their hearts with a conscience that either accuses or excuses their behavior. Romans 6:20 states that unbelievers are free in regard to righteousness. Total depravity posits the idea that mankind cannot do any work that falls short of condemnation. Works for justification are not the issue entirely; if man can do any good work, one of those good works could be choosing God which Calvinism rejects. Hence, the doctrine of total depravity is essential for them.

In my view, Pastor Tchividijan should simply have used the term “remaining sin.” I have written about this matter on my blog. I believe he is correct in stating that every facet of the human personality continues to be affected by sin. If that is all a person means by the term “total depravity,” I would have to agree that believers continue to be totally depraved. If defined as I have done in the following definition, then it is inaccurate to refer to believers as “totally depraved.”

Perhaps I can best define what I mean by total depravity by first stating the negative.
By “total depravity” I do not mean:

1. Sinners act as badly as they are capable of acting.
2. Sinners are incapable of deeds that are good in the sight of other people.
3. Sinners are incapable of rational thought.
4. Sinners are incapable of recognizing the logical relationship between cause and effect and design and designer.
5. Sinners have no consciousness of the existence of God and their guilt before him.
6. Sinners have no ability to understand the facts of the gospel and give mental assent to it.
7. Sin has totally destroyed God’s image in the unregenerate.
8. Sinners are incapable of acting morally. Not every unregenerate sinner is perverted and degenerate.
9. Sinners have no ability to make choices.
10. Sinners do not have a knowledge of right and wrong, based on God’s law written on their hearts.
11. Sinners are not completely free to choose anything they wish. If they wish to choose to leave their sins and follow Christ, they are completely free to do so.

By “total depravity” I mean:

1. The nature of every person, in Adam, has been radically affected by the fall so that every person is, at heart, equal to every other person in estrangement from God. If one sinner acts better than another it is due to God’s common, restraining grace alone.

2. Sinful nature has radically affected every facet of the sinner’s personality. The result is that he does not think rightly about God and the gospel; he does not feel right emotions toward God and the gospel; and he does not make right choices with reference to God and the gospel. Every facet of the sinner’s personality is controlled by sinful nature.

3. Though sinners are capable of understanding the facts of the gospel, they regard it as foolish and weak. They may know truth but do not welcome it (1 Cor. 2:14). They do not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved (2 Thess. 2:10).

4. Sinners are hostile toward God and the gospel. Whenever they are confronted with God’s self-revelation their response will always be to suppress it and turn from it. Sinners love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil and everyone who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light lest their deeds should be exposed (John 3: 19-20). A person will never choose that for which he has no desire and to which he is totally averse.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the way Calvinists have consistently defined “total depravity.” Accordingly, most Calvinists would not refer to believers as “totally depraved.” What I would agree with is the idea that believers in a regenerate state have no ability to progress in sanctification independently. If God’s Spirit does not continue to prompt our desire to obey God and enable us to do so, we can do nothing.

You will notice that nothing in my statement denies that sinners have God’s law written on their hearts. Nothing in it denies that unbelievers are free in regard to righteousness. Commenting on Romans 6:20, Douglas Moo made the following helpful comment,

. . .They are free from the power and influence of conduct that pleases God; they are deaf to God’s righteous demands and incapable of responding to them even if they were to hear and respect them. For Paul makes clear that those outside Christ, to varying degrees, can recognize right and wrong (Cf. Rom. 1:18-32; 2:14-15); but the power to do the right and turn from the wrong is not present (Moo, Romans, p. 422).

The real issue in regard to the “goodness” of the sinner’s works is not whether it is possible for unregenerate people to live in a moral and upright manner or whether they may perform deeds that are good and profitable in the sight of other people. No one disagrees that the unregenerate may be involved in eleemosynary projects that bring great acclaim to themselves and great benefit to mankind. Additionally, it is not an issue of whether it is better for sinners to live in a moral manner rather than in an immoral manner.

The issue is whether the unregenerate have any desire to please to God by submitting themselves to his method of justifying sinners. Additionally, the question of the “goodness” of the sinner’s works may not be determined in the court of public opinion but must be determined by the divine tribunal. God’s verdict is “there is none who does good, not even one.”

2. Unconditional Election

This is not exactly right either, though less egregious than the other four points. God does choose according to some conditions and for His purposes. One example is God’s choosing of the poor and un-noble so that he will get the credit for the power He displays through them (1Cor 1:26-29). His specific purpose for this is to shame the “wise” and the “strong.” He elected Israel because they are the smallest of nations (Due 7:7). The condition is smallness.

Most Calvinists do not believe God’s choice of certain sinners was made without reason. Still, the fact that God has chosen the poor and ignoble of the world does not mean poverty and meanness of life circumstances were the bases or conditions of God’s choice. If that were the case, there would be no rich or high-born believers. God did not choose Israel for its smallness but in spite of it.

When we talk about “unconditional” election, we mean that God’s choice of certain sinners was not conditioned on his foresight of our faith or final perseverance.

3. Limited Atonement

Christ clearly died for all people. The word used in John 3:16 is “kosmos.” “God so loved the world….” I believe this word was used deliberately to circumvent the idea that Christ died for “all kinds of men” and not ALL men

The real issue in respect to so-called “limited atonement” is not so much for whom Christ died as it is the effectual nature of Christ’s redemptive work. Here is the issue– If Jesus died for every single individual since the beginning of time, what did he accomplish for them? The issue was never sufficiency. Calvinists believe Christ’s death was of sufficient value to redeem everyone if they should believe the gospel. The issue is that Christ accomplished [actually secured] eternal redemption for all his chosen people.

To cite John 3:16 as a proof-text is just silly. Biblical writers seldom used the word “kosmos” to refer to every single individual on the face of the earth. In Romans 11, Paul used the word of the Gentiles in contrast to the people of Israel. In this particular case (John 3:16), it more than likely referred to believers from among the Gentiles as well as the Jews. The point is that Jesus did not come to redeem Israel and condemn the world, i.e., Gentiles. God loved the world–Jews and Gentiles alike. It is also likely John had in mind the evil and rebellious character of the objects of Gods love. In using the word “kosmos,” he meant to emphasize God’s inestimable condescension in setting his love on his enemies and demonstrating that love by sending his uniquely begotten to die for sinners.

Additionally, in this verse, the stated purpose for God’s sending his Son is that everyone who believes will have everlasting life. The text says absolutely nothing about God’s desire to save everyone without exception. God sent his Son to save believers. Robert Haldane wrote, “It is the good news that Jesus died for the most guilty sinner who will believe, not that he died for every sinner whether he will believe or not.”

My point is that it would require much more than the citation of a few proof-texts to demonstrate Mr. Dohse’s contention. One must answer the question, “What did Jesus accomplish for those for whom he died?”

4. Irresistible Grace

Man can resist the Holy Spirit. The Bible is clear on this: Acts 7:51, John 16:8, John 12:32.

No one questions whether the Holy Spirit can be resisted. The issue is that the Holy Spirit is ALWAYS resisted (See Acts 7:51) until God the Father calls sinners effectually and the Spirit grants them new life.

5. Perseverance of the Saints

Calvin taught a three-fold election: non-elect, temporary elect (those who lose their election, the “called”), and the final elect, or those who persevere to the end (chosen). In an effort to proof text this error, “perseverance” is always associated with salvation, and rewards are not considered. At any rate, it is clear that believers do not always persevere (1Cor 5:4,5).

The issue is not what Calvin taught or did not teach. There are several areas in which those who believe the doctrines of grace have departed from Calvin’s teachings and writings. The issue is what the Bible teaches. I can find no evidence of Mr. Dohse’s claim that Calvin taught “a three-fold election.” What Calvinists consistently teach is that those who fail to persevere in faith give evidence they were never true believers. One of Mr. Dohse’s errors seems to stem from his failure to understand the nature of saving faith.

For a fuller treatment of the topic of perseverance, I would refer you to my post, “The Calvinists’ Doctrine of Perseverance.”




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