Archive for September, 2014

24
Sep
14

Test Your Knowledge of Calvinistic Doctrine.

True or False
1. That Calvinists believe in limited atonement means they believe there are people in the world whom God would not justify based on the death of Christ even if they accounted God faithful to fulfil his promise to save all who call on him. That is, even if they believed the gospel, God would not save them.
2. Since Calvinists believe in limited atonement, it is disingenuous for them to tell sinners God will save them if they believe.
3. The Apostles and other gospel preachers whose messages are recorded in the New Testament Scriptures all told their audiences, “Jesus died for you,” when they preached the gospel.
4. If Calvinists are right, there is no need to proclaim the gospel since all God’s elect will be saved whether they hear the gospel or not.
5. That Calvinists believe in irresistible grace means that sinners have no choice in the matter of salvation. God simply forces some people to believe whether they want to or not.
6. That Calvinists believe in total depravity means all sinners act as sinfully as they are capable of acting.
7. That Calvinists believe in total depravity means they don’t believe sinners have any awareness of God or any conscience concerning right or wrong.
8. That Calvinists believe in total depravity means they don’t believe sinners in a state of sinful nature are able to perform acts that most everyone would consider good and helpful to their fellow man.
9. That Calvinists believe in election means they believe there are some people who truly want to be saved but God won’t let them because he hasn’t chosen them.
10. That Calvinists believe in the perseverance of the saints means they believe once a person makes a profession of faith, he is saved for eternity even if he should later stop believing.
11. That Calvinists believe in the perseverance of the saints means a person can’t know if he/she is saved until the judgment.
12. The Calvinist’s doctrine of election does not mean a believer has been chosen to eternal life. It simply means he has been chosen to run the race. His eternal status depends completely on his faithfulness in running the race. They think if a believer is unfaithful in running the race he will be lost.
13. Calvinist doctrine so closely parallels the doctrine of the Gnostics that Calvinists could rightly be called Gnostics.
14. Calvinists deny the doctrine of the Trinity since they teach that Jesus Christ is the full expression of the good, true, and beautiful while representing the other members of the Trinity as lesser forms.
15. Calvinists believe that justification is progressive.
16. Since Calvinists believe all justifying righteousness is outside a believer, it is clear they don’t think God produces any righteousness in believers in the works of regeneration and sanctification.
17. Calvinists confuse and conflate God’s works of justification and sanctification.
18. Calvinists believe sinners are like stocks and stones that have no will and cannot make choices freely.
19. The real issue in whether Jesus’ redeeming work was limited or not concerns its sufficiency to save all sinners.
20. A real Calvinist is a person who believes everything Calvin ever wrote. They actually place Calvin’s writings above the Scriptures.

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There is not a single statement that is true. The answer to every one should be FALSE. It is interesting that I copied and pasted many of the statements from blogs dedicated to the overthrow of Calvinism. If the above statements were true, I would join them in the fight to rid the world of these teachings. I would be delighted to discuss in detail any of the above statements you might think are true and show you why, according to Calvinistic doctrine, they are not.

Please read the rules for commenting before you opine.

Remember, to those who lack the will to know the truth, nothing is as mysterious as the obvious.

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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. I am not arguing for philosophical determinism. That is not a view with which I would agree. The view I would argue for is in line with Chapter Three # 1 of The Westminster Confessionof Faith,

God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

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.