Archive for January, 2015

30
Jan
15

Prevenient Grace

Many have posited what they call the doctrine of prevenient grace which, according to their view, grants the power of “libertarian free will” universally. Most seem clueless about how they are using that term. The more intelligent of them will actually attempt to define what they mean by free will. They define it as “a person’s ability to choose other than he has chosen.” If I choose to eat chicken, I have equal ability to choose to eat steak. I have no issue with the idea that God has granted people the freedom of choice. Even the vilest sinner is free to choose to leave his sins and follow Christ if he wishes. If he should choose that option, he would do so because he had chosen to do so freely and apart from external constraint. By that, I do not mean that the human will is autonomous and acts apart from any influence whatsoever. We chose what we wish because we are what we are. God sets life and death before sinners and calls on them to choose between these two options. The question of the sinner’s ability to choose anything he wants is not at issue here. Everyone agrees on that point. What is at issue is whether a sinner possesses either the innate ability or the ability granted by prevenient but ineffectual grace to choose that for which he absolutely no desire and to which everything in his being is absolutely averse. If I am able to choose to eat steak, does that mean I have equal ability to choose to dine at the local sewage treatment plant? I am free to choose it, but I am not free to want it. The issue is not whether we are free to choose what we want. The issue is whether we have the ability to desire what we ought to desire. Can we choose what we abhor?

Those who tout prevenient grace are quick to resort to “mystery” when anyone begins to press them on the particulars of that doctrine. For example, if we should ask them why the Scriptures never say a word about an ineffectual preceding grace, they will tell us it must be drawn from inference. Apparently they reason that if God has expressed his sincere desire for the salvation of sinners, he must give everyone a chance. How and when all this happens is a “mystery.” That is their way of saying they do not have a clue and we should be ashamed of ourselves for being so bold as to actually ask them to defend their indefensible view. With the understanding that those who believe in salvific monergism also believe in prevenient grace, I would like to pose a few “philosophical” questions about their position though I am not arguing for philosophical determinism versus free will. Since their position is a philosophical and not a biblical one, I should be permitted to ask what they call “philosophical questions.”

1. If the will is free to choose other than it has chosen, would that not suggest that it is as inclined to choose what it does not want as it is to choose what it does want? Would that not suggest that, according to this view, the sinner is in a state of absolute neutrality?

2. Unless some sinners have virtues others lack, if God grants prevenient grace equally and universally, what is it that for some tips the scale toward God and leaves others in their state of neutrality? If sinners are all born in the same state of depravity and prevenient grace elevates all of them to the same state of neutrality or “libertarian free will,” it seems to me there are only two choices: 1. Some sinners must naturally possess a virtue or purpose of heart that others do not possess, or 2. There must be some external influence in addition to prevenient grace that tips the scale one way or the other. Clearly such an influence could not come from God without violating the sanctity of the human will.

2. Since those who believe in ineffectual* prevenient grace, affirm with the monergists that sinners are born in a state of sinful depravity or inability, when, in their view, is this power of free will granted?

3. If prevenient grace is granted at birth, why are the wicked described as going astray as soon as they are born? If you should answer that this passage is not speaking about every person but only about “the wicked,” are you not arguing that some are born in a state of total depravity and others are born in a less depraved state or that some receive a greater measure of prevenient grace than others? Or perhaps you are arguing that as soon as they are born they consciously choose to be wicked.

If prevenient grace is granted in God’s universal revelation of himself as he is clearly seen in his works of creation, why is it that the apostle Paul does not say, “some sinners suppress the truth about God they see in creation, while others freely receive it, rejoice in it, thank God for it, and glorify him because of it?”

If prevenient grace that grants “free will” to sinners is conferred in God’s universal grants of benevolence to his creatures, why did Paul describe the hearts of those who had received the benefits of God’s goodness as “hard and impenitent?” (see Rom. 2: 5). That doesn’t quite sound like neutrality does it?

Perhaps you would argue that prevenient grace is universally granted through the preaching of the gospel. Would that not mean that those who do not hear the gospel do not receive this grace? Additionally, why is it that even those who have been confronted with the clear light of the gospel are not neutral about it. John tells us in regard to the clearest revelation God has ever given of himself, “This is the condemnation that light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. And everyone who does wicked things hates the light, and does not come to the light lest his works should be exposed”(John 3:19-20). That some come to the light is not at issue here. Of course some come to the light and embrace Christ in faith. The question is not if some believe but why some believe. The New Testament Scriptures make it clear that those who have heard the gospel clearly and faithfully proclaimed in its fullness continue to regard that message as foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18). It doesn’t appear that gospel preaching is in and of itself accompanied by prevenient grace?

Perhaps you will suggest that God grants prevenient grace in Holy Spirit “conviction.” The problem is that the reproving work of the Spirit seems to be integrally related to the preaching of the gospel. It is not that he presses on sinners who have never heard the gospel, the sin of rejecting Christ as he is offered in the gospel and only in the gospel. If that is true, prevenient grace could not be granted universally in the Spirit’s work of reproof unless the gospel is proclaimed universally. If the gospel is not preached to every individual on earth, the prevenient grace of the Spirit’s reproof could not be universal. Additionally, their proof-text in Acts 7:51 does not merely tell us that sinners resist [the word means to fall against or to hurl oneself against] the Holy Spirit as he presses the evidence of the gospel against them. It tells us they ALWAYS resist.

Wesley wrote concerning prevenient grace,

Yet this is no excuse for those who continue in sin, and lay the blame upon their Maker, by saying, ‘It is God only that must quicken us; for we cannot quicken our own souls.’ For allowing that all the souls of men are dead in sin by nature, this excuses none, seeing there is no man that is in a state of mere nature; there is no man, unless he has quenched the Spirit, that is wholly void of the grace of God. No man living is entirely destitute of what is vulgarly called natural conscience. But this is not natural; It is more properly termed, preventing grace.”(Wesley, 1986, 6:512) He continues saying, “Every one has some measure of that light, some faint glimmering ray, which, sooner or later, more or less, enlightens every man that cometh into the world. And every one, unless he be one of the small number whose conscience is seared as with a hot iron, feels more or less uneasy when he acts contrary to the light of his own conscience. So that no man sins because he has not grace, but because he does not use the grace which he hath. Therefore, inasmuch as God works in you, you are now able to work out your own salvation. (Wesley. 1986, 6:512).

There are several insights we can gain from Wesley’s statement. First, it is clear that he is concerned that no one blame his sin on the fact that God has not granted him enabling grace. This grows out of the classic Arminian presupposition that responsibility implies ability. It is the belief that God cannot hold a person responsible unless he also gives that person ability. We can show this to be false by appealing to Romans 8:7. God clearly holds sinners responsible for obeying his law, but Paul tells us that those who are in the flesh CANNOT do so. Wesley tries to answer his inability/responsibility dilemna by saying that every man has some measure of the grace of God. The monergist would argue that every sinner is responsible for his own sin whether he has been given grace or not. That God who gives grace is to be praised when he restrains us from sin, relieves us of none of the blame if he does not restrain us. The sin is ours alone.

Second, what Wesley called “prevenient grace,” we would call “common grace,” which at times is restraining grace. It seems another difference between our beliefs is that he used the word “grace” more in the sense of enabling whereas we would use the term more in the sense of “unmerited favor to those who merited God wrath.” The consistent witness of Scripture is that in spite of God’s common grace and restraining mercy, sinners continue to presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead them to repentance. But in spite of all this kindness, the hearts of sinners remain hard and impenitent. All God’s patience apart from his effectual grace does nothing to soften his hard heart and produce repentance.

Third, even he did not seem to see this “prevenient grace” as having been granted equally to all since he wrote, “. . .which sooner or later, more or less (italics mine) enlightens every man that cometh into the world.” Additionally, he apparently believed some sinners had escaped the benefits of prevenient grace since he wrote, “And every one, unless he be one of the small number whose conscience is seared as with a hot iron (Italics mine), feels more or less uneasy when he acts contrary to the light of his own conscience.” One would have thought that prevenient grace would have granted free will to these as well.

One would think that if God loves every sinner equally and in the same way, he would have granted this grace equally to all. It seems likely that John, in 1:9 of his gospel, had in mind the enlightenment of people from every nation through the proclamation of the gospel of Christ as opposed to the enlightenment of every individual who has ever been born whether he has heard the gospel or not. Whatever the meaning of that verse, there is not the slightest hint that John had in mind that this enlightenment restored free will to the sinner. That concept must be read into the text; it cannot be drawn out of it. It is important to remember that sinners need more than light; we must have sight. This God’s common grace does not grant. What Wesley called “prevenient grace” only gives light. What monergists call prevenient grace gives both light and sight.

Fourth, this statement of Wesley’s implies that God has given to every sinner sufficient grace to enable him to avoid sin. He offers this as the reason why there “is no excuse for those who continue in sin, and lay the blame upon their Maker.” His clear implication is that if God had not granted this prevenient grace to all, his creatures could rightly blame him if they continued in sin. One wonders why one needs the grace of regeneration if prevenient grace has enabled all to put away their sins and rest on Christ. It would seem logical if sinners have been enabled by prevenient grace to obey one command of God, they should be able by prevenient grace to obey every command of God. Where is the evidence that all the universal blessings of God’s common grace put together have caused one sinner to put away his hostility toward God and rest on God’s promise of mercy? The effect of a mind controlled by the flesh is hostility toward God (see Romans 8:7), and our minds continue to be controlled by the flesh until he by his free grace replaces our stony hearts with hearts of flesh.

4. It is biblically impossible to argue that God has granted equal revelation of himself to all. Even common sense should tell us that that a blind man does not enjoy the same revelation of God’s glory in the night sky as a sighted individual does. Some are born into Christian homes and hear the gospel taught regularly; others are born into an environment of pagan darkness. It seems incontrovertible that he grants greater grace and privilege to some than he does to others (see for example Matt. 11:20-24). If God loves everyone equally and in the same way, why does he not grant to everyone the same light and opportunity? Is this inequality in God’s dealings with different individuals a random occurrence or has he previously determined to grant greater light to some than he does to others? We are often told that God would be unfair if he called and enabled some to believe according to his purpose and not others. Why does this charge not equally apply to the fact that he has granted greater revelation and privilege to some than to others?

5. It is often suggested as a proof of ineffectual prevenient grace that there are those in the Gospels and in the book of Acts who showed evidence of a desire to know God in a saving way prior to coming to faith in Christ. If only they had improved on this grace and used their freed will properly. We do not deny that there are those who show interest in the kingdom and may even come to a temporary faith and receive the gospel with joy, but this is no evidence of any more than a self-serving desire to enjoy God’s blessings in one’s own way. Those who showed evidence of a desire to be right with God on his terms and not on theirs ultimately came to genuine and lasting faith in Christ. We do not deny that God’s Spirit awakens sinners to their need and to the glories of the gospel prior to the consummating act of effectual calling. He may woo some for an extended period of time before he at last converts them. Additionally, we do not deny that some may feel their guilt and fear their condemnation as the Spirit presses the evidence of their sin and doom on them. These may or may not come to conversion. Still, this is no evidence that prevenient grace has granted them the power of free will.

*[I use the term ineffectual prevenient grace to distinguish it from that preceding grace that actually unites sinners to Christ].

John Wesley, Wesley’s Works, Working Out Our Own Salvation (Peabody MA:Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.) 1986.

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20
Jan
15

Calvin and Calvinists

I recently listened to a series of interviews by Paul Dohse Sr. in which he posed the following seven questions to several groups of young adults:

1. Do we keep ourselves saved by preaching the gospel to ourselves every day?

2. Do sins committed in the Christian life separate us from our salvation?

3. Do we need to be reconciled to God daily in a saving way?

4. Are Christians totally depraved?

5. Are Christians still under the law for Justification?

6. Do pastors have the authority to forgive your sins?

7. Do you believe that the New Testament Christian life is the Old Testament Sabbath; i.e., if we do works in our Christian life we will die spiritually?

Mr. Dohse’s clear intention was to show that people who call themselves “Calvinists” don’t really believe what Calvin believed.

As it turns out, there were actually nine questions. He first asked each group if they would consider the speakers at the conference “Calvinists.” Then he asked them if they would consider themselves “Calvinists.”

My response to both those questions would have been, “What do you mean by that?” If Mr. Dohse’s accusations about what Calvinists believe were true, I would clearly not be a Calvinist. Usually what Calvinists believe and what non-Calvinists think we believe is vastly different.

Though the young adults he interviewed articulated their views relatively well, their answers did not necessarily reflect what most Calvinists believe. I found it interesting that he did not interview any of the speakers at the conference who no doubt would have given more articulate answers to these questions. Since Mr. Dohse is so brave and bold, one wonders why he wasn’t brave enough to confront the speakers at the conference.

I would like to make a few observations about what I saw and heard.

1. Whether modern “Calvinists” believe or would endorse what Calvin wrote is irrelevant. Being a Calvinist does not mean a person is a follower of John Calvin. One young man who was interviewed stated it well when he said, “We are followers of Jesus Christ, not followers of John Calvin.” “Calvinism” is merely a theological label used to identify those who believe salvation is a monergistic work of God rather than a synergistic or cooperative effort between God and the sinner.

I know of no Calvinist who believes in the infallibility of John Calvin or the inerrancy of his writings.

2. Paul wanted “yes” or “no” answers, but he did not ask “yes” or “no” questions. Usually when a person gives him other than a “yes” or “no” answer, he accuses them of “double-speak.”  For example, I would answer question number one (Do we keep ourselves saved by preaching the gospel to ourselves every day?) in the same way I believe Calvin would have answered it. I believe Calvin would have said that we are not the keepers; God is. Commenting on 1 Peter 1:5 Calvin wrote,

And, indeed, we see that under the Papacy a diabolical opinion prevails, that we ought to doubt our final perseverance, because we are uncertain whether we shall be tomorrow in the same state of grace. But Peter did not thus leave us in suspense; for he testifies that we stand by the power of God, lest any doubt arising from a consciousness of our own infirmity, should disquiet us. How weak soever we may then be, yet our salvation is not uncertain, because it is sustained by God’s power. As, then, we are begotten by faith, so faith itself receives its stability from God’s power. Hence is its security, not only for the present, but also for the future (Calvin’s Commentaries).

In addition to that, Calvin would have said that God keeps us through sustaining our faith. In Mr. Dohse’s theological [and I use that term very loosely] world, faith is a one-time act. We make a decision, and it is behind us. Everything after that is “learn and do.” Any good Calvinists would say that God uses the good news of grace in the redemptive work of Christ to sustain that faith. If that were not the case, why would the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews exhort his reader to “look to Jesus” and “consider him who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself lest they be wearied and faint in their minds?” Why would the apostle Paul so often repeat the glorious verities of the gospel to his Christian readers? Mr. Dohse likes to say “the Law [though one never knows what he means by “law”] informs our sanctification. If by that he means the Scriptures of the New Testament, I would agree. In reality, it is not the law of God that sanctifies; it is the salvation bringing grace of God that sanctifies us (see Titus 2:11-14). In Mr. Dohse’s world, that is “double-speak.”

3. We need to remember that Calvin was often arguing against a different group of antagonists and answering different questions than we would normally encounter. As in seeking to understand any body of literature, we must always consider the historical and literary contexts. We should not assume that theologians who lived five hundred years ago were necessarily concerned with the precise theological issues that concern us. If we could resurrect John Calvin and ask him to answer our questions in a modern context and against modern heresies, his answers might be different from what we read in The Institutes or in his commentaries.

4. In my view, there is no question but that the rest we enjoy in Christ is a fulfillment of the Old Covenant Sabbath. If we rest in our works to any degree, we are not fully resting in Christ. My understanding of Calvin’s position is that he believed even “good works” performed by believers have no merit before God. The issue is not whether God is pleased with his children’s obedience, but whether a time ever comes when a believer’s obedience becomes meritorious.

5. Though we do not regard John Calvin or any other writer as our master, we can appreciate the theological understand God gave them. As we “stand on their shoulders” God may give us understanding of his truth that they may have missed. We should not despise the truth he made known to them because it may have been mingled with error.

08
Jan
15

Debate Challenge

In his latest post, Paul Dohse Sr. has challenged “anyone out there” to debate him on the issue of Calvin’s doctrine of total depravity. I have invited him to debate many times and he knows it. My suggestion has been that we could debate via Skype or some other such medium, and he could video tape the exchange to post on his blog. If there is anyone out there who is still able to contact him, please inform him I have accepted his challenge. He has forbidden me to post on his blog or contact him by e-mail.
The reason he does not wish to debate me is that I suggested that we follow certain rules for such a debate. They are as follows:

1. Each person must define the terms he is using in his arguments. There is no sense wasting time talking past each other in a debate because we are using the same terms differently.

2. Each person must support his contentions about what a third party has written or said by actual quotations from that person in the context in which it was written or said.

3. Each person must be able to state his opponent’s position to his satisfaction before attempting to answer it.

4. Only one issue may be discussed at a time unless other issues can be shown to be relevant to the main issue being discussed.

Those suggestions seemed reasonable to me, though I am aware they are completely contrary to Paul’s M.O. He thrives on misrepresentation [That is a euphemism for lying]. It is time for him to “put his money where his mouth is.”

08
Jan
15

Uses of the Word Nomos [Law] in Scripture

The subject of the new covenant believer’s relationship to the law is an intricate one indeed that must be handled with thoughtful care. We should never engage in a discussion of the law without first identifying in which sense we are using the term. For example, if you should ask me whether I think believers continue to be bound by the law, my answer would be absolutely and absolutely not. Are we under the law as covenant? Absolutely not! Do we continue under the perpetual and universal law of God as expressed in natural law and the law of Christ? Absolutely! Are the Old Testament Scriptures profitable for us? Of course they are.

I want to list a number of different ways in which the terms “law” (nomos) is used in the Bible. It is my view that a large part of the difficulty surrounding this issue [and every issue for that matter] results from a lack of accurate definition of terms. I believe it will become clear as we proceed that “law” cannot simply be used as a synonym for the 10 commandments.

1. God’s universal and perpetual standard of righteousness–The word “law” may be used of God’s universal and perpetual righteous standard that exists by virtue of the righteous character of the creator and governor of the universe. It is this overarching righteous standard that provides the foundation for every other expression of law.

2. Natural law–God’s universal law is expressed in what some might call “natural law.” Human kind possesses an innate understanding that certain actions and attitudes are right and others are wrong. Even those who proclaim their autonomy and freedom from moral constraints the most vociferously still suffer from guilt for having violated universally accepted norms. Paul wrote concerning gentiles who do not have the law [Mosaic law], “. . .they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law [Mosaic]” (Rom. 2:14). We should not understand “a law unto themselves” according to common usage. Generally, when we say a person is “a law unto himself,” we mean he is lawless and acts as though there is no law. He simply does as he pleases. Instead, what Paul seems to mean here is that though they do not have the Mosaic law, they, through their innate knowledge of God’s righteous norm, perform the function of the law for themselves. When he says they “do what the law requires” he does not mean they live in complete conformity to the law, but that they practices certain righteous requirements of the law. His point is that these people obey certain aspects of the law, not because it comes to them in codified form but because they possess an innate sense that certain actions are right and others wrong.

3. Law as Covenant or Mosaic Law—It is important to understand that when the New Testament writers refer to the old covenant, their reference is to the Mosaic law, specifically, to the Decalogue or Ten Commandments. Whenever we find the phrase “hupo nomon” (under law) in the New Testament Scriptures the reference is always to law as covenant. The contrast between being “under law” and “under grace” is not an existential contrast, but a covenantal contrast.

Moses wrote, “and he wrote on the tablets [the two tables of stone] the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments [or ten words]” (Ex. 34:28). The Ten Commandments are the words of the covenant. This was the document that officially constituted Israel as a nation. It is clear, or should be clear, this law was neither perpetual nor universal. Paul makes it clear that “it was added” 430 years after God granted the promises to Abraham. This indicates it came into being long after the creation. Additionally, he stated that it was to endure only “until the Seed [Christ] should come to whom the promise was made” (Gal. 3:19).

The law as covenant was a conditional covenant of works that promised the continuation of life in the land of promise to all who observed its commandments. It foreshadowed the eternal life and everlasting rest of all those on whose behalf its rigid demands were met. Additionally, it provided the stage on which the drama of redemptive history would be played out. It is interesting that in Romans 5:20 Paul wrote, “WHERE sin increased or overflowed, grace overflowed all the more.” It was in the very place, “under law,” WHERE sin took on this intensified character, namely, “trespass” or “transgression” that grace entered and super-abounded in establishing the reign of grace in Christ

God’s intention in giving the law/covenant was to give sin an intensified character. There are several phrases in the Pauline corpus that lead to this conclusion. For example, he wrote in Romans 5:20, “but the Law came in alongside (presumably alongside the imputation of the Adamic transgression) so that the offense might overflow or be multiplied. Jesus won our redemption on a stage where sin had been defined and transgression had been honed to a fine point. It was not in the nebulous atmosphere of natural law but in the intensified milieu of codified covenant that Jesus wrought the work of redemption. No one, having read the law, could ever have a question about the kind of behavior God loved and the kind of behavior he hated. In Galatians 3:19, Paul stated that the purpose of the law was to give sin the character of transgression. Many of our translations render his words “because of transgressions” as though the law was given so that transgressions that were already in existence might be curbed. But this cannot be Paul’s meaning. Paul writes in Romans 4:15, “For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.” Transgression is a deliberate overstepping of a clearly defined boundary. Such an overstepping cannot occur in this case apart from codified law. It is better to understand Galatians 3:19 to mean that the law was added for the sake of transgression, i.e., to more clearly define sin and righteousness and give sin the character of transgression—deliberate rebellion against God.

It is altogether likely that God intended Israel’s experience “under law” to be paradigmatic of the entire race in Adam. That is to say, Israel stood as a microcosm or representative sample of all humanity. Thus, Israel’s failure under that covenant mirrors the failure of all. Because of this failure, every mouth is stopped and all the world becomes guilty before God.

Apart from the emotional attachment people have to the Ten Commandments and the belief that apart from the Ten Commandments believers would “be left without a moral compass” [perhaps someone should put in a good word for the Holy Spirit and the New Testament Scriptures here], it should be obvious to any thinking person that God never intended the Ten Commandments to be a universal and perpetual document. It would require extreme prejudice in favor of the perpetuity of the Ten Commandments/old covenant to produce sufficient blindness to ignore Paul’s clear teaching in 2 Cor. 3:3-1). It is beyond the scope of this article to give a full exposition of that passage, but I wish to point out one facet that is pertinent to our point here. Paul contrasts that which is permanent, the new covenant/gospel, with “that which is being brought to an end,” the old covenant/law, and identifies that covenant as “the ministry of death, CARVED IN LETTERS ON STONE.” What part of the law was “carved in letters on stone?” Clearly, it was the “ten words.” If the Ten Words have perpetuity, how can it be that they are “being brought to an end?” It is not merely the civil and ceremonial commandments necessary for the implementation of the covenant that have been fulfilled brought to an end. The covenant itself [the Law as a covenant in Ten Commandments] has been fulfilled and replaced with a new covenant.

Of course, there will be those Reformed folks who will have a knee-jerk reaction to what I have just written and accuse me of Antinomianism, but nothing I have written should give the slightest impression that I am against the law or that I believe Christians should live as libertines. I honestly believe some of these folks are more concerned with being faithful to their confessional standards than they are with being faithful to the Scriptures.

4. Law as Torah—At times “nomos” refers to Moses’ writings– E.g., John 1:45—“we have found him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote.”

5. Law as Old Testament Scriptures—E.g., Psalms 19:7—“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul. . . .” “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Ps. 119:18).see also Ps. 119:70, 72, 92, 97, 113, 174.

6. Law as the Law of Christ—Paul wrote that he was “to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God, but under the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21).

7. Law as a principle or rule of operation—At times, “law” refers to the way things work. Paul wrote, “I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me” (Romans 7:21). “What then becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law [principle or rule of operation]? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith” (Rom3:27).

In any discussion of biblical law, one must insist that those involved in the discussion clearly state in which sense they are using the term “Law.”

06
Jan
15

Thoughts on “Calvinists:Going to Hell and Proud of it,” by Paul Dohse

I thought it might be interesting to post a few thoughts about Paul’ s Dohse’s latest post,“Calvinists: Going to Hell and Proud of it” and invite my readers to discuss these ideas here. I am not going to go into great detail; the brief observations I will make will no doubt be expanded in answer to the comments you make.
Paul wrote his article in answer to a blogger named Frank who posted an excellent summary of the gospel in response to one of Paul’s videos.
One issue on which Paul and I are in full agreement is that we are proclaiming two distinctively different messages, only one of which is the biblical gospel. The other message stands under condemnation and the one proclaiming it is cursed by God (see-Galatians 1:8). This is a matter of extreme importance.
I would invite you to read Paul’s article at http://www.paulspassingthoughts.com before commenting here. Since I do not wish to misrepresent his views in any way, I would like you to see them in context before you comment.
The following are my observations:
1. He builds much of his argument on a Dispensational view of the Scriptures that makes distinctions between things that do not differ. The better manuscripts of Rom. 14:10 state that we must all stand before God’s judgment seat. The passage is cited from Isaiah 45, a salvific context, in which Jehovah declares that every knee shall bow to him and every tongue shall swear allegiance.
2. As usual, Paul confuses justification, sanctification and regeneration. Although I have heard some Lutherans give the impression that sanctification is unimportant, Calvinists generally agree that those whom God has justified are in the process of being sanctified and that their obedience gives evidence of the reality of their faith. When we deny that we have any righteousness of our own, we are speaking of justifying righteousness.
3. He continues to argue that the Calvinist’s believe in Christ’s active obedience means Christ continues to obey for us as long as we resolve to do nothing in sanctification.
4. He argues that we advocate returning to the gospel to keep ourselves saved. In reality, what we advocate is that once a person has trusted in Christ alone for justification he will never trust anyone or anything else for his justification. Faith is not a one-time act but an ongoing reliance on Christ. We don’t keep ourselves saved. God maintains the work he has begun and enables us to continue to rely on Christ alone.
5. He speaks of our belief that the judgment is determinative. In reality, what we believe is that the judgment will be declarative. The destiny of those who stand in the judgment has already been determined.
6. He sets a redemptive historical approach to Scripture over against a literal grammatical historical approach to Scripture. These approaches are not contradictory.
7. He advocates justification based on a believer’s personal righteousness, not on an alien, imputed righteousness. He writes, “Believers, who are already deemed righteous because they are in fact righteous (Italics mine), will be judged for rewards. . . .” This accords with the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification. The Scriptures teach us that God justifies the ungodly (see Romans 4:5).
8. He views the standard of justification as a righteousness that is less than perfect, unless, of course, he believes in the sinless perfection of believers. He believes we are accepted by God, not because we are acceptable but because Jesus has simply removed the law.
9. He fails to understand that “hupo nomon” [under law] is a covenantal distinction, not an existential distinction. Gentiles were never “under law” yet we were still condemned. It is not that prior to faith we were under law but now we are not under law. Rather, it is that the time of promise and type has ended and the fulfillment has come. As John states it, “the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth [reality or fulfillment] came by Jesus Christ.
10. He fails to understand that believers are not under the law because we are united to Christ who has fulfilled the law. He is the one to whom the law pointed [the end or goal] for righteousness. People should not look to the law for righteousness. We must look to Christ for righteousness.

There are several other false and misleading statements in Paul’s article, but these should be sufficient to provoke a meaningful discussion. I encourage your comments, but please read the rules for commenting before you opine.

02
Jan
15

More of Dohse’s Delusions

I have never encountered an individual who wished to be called an evangelical Christian who was more confused and confusing than Paul Dohse. I have followed his posts for better than three years now and observed that he has gone from bad to worse. Some time ago, I gave up on my efforts to coax him into telling the truth about his theological opponents. As I have stated before, perhaps he is so biblically and theologically inept that he can’t comprehend truth. It could be he has been so blinded by his bitterness over perceived injustices he has suffered at the hands of Calvinists that he can’t reason clearly. To me it seems more likely that he is deliberately distorting other’s views in an effort to turn his readers against them.

A new-found internet friend has recently sent me a few comments from his blog, Paul’s Passing Thoughts. Prior to receiving those quotations I had not visited his blog for months. Today, I visited his blog again and read his latest article. It quickly became apparent that not much had changed. He was still beating the same outworn drum he has been beating for years.
As I read his article I noted several reasons for his confusion and thought it might be helpful to share them here. The following are a few of them:

1. He refuses to accept people’s statements of their beliefs. In his infinite wisdom, he is always able to discern what they really meant as opposed to what they stated. Example: “Protestants say that, [that justification is finished] but that’s not how we function. . . ; the doctrine is really about a justification that is not finished.” At that point he continues to blather about his warped perception of protestant doctrine. In Paul’s world, a person never believes what he claims; he only believes what Paul thinks he believes.

2. He fails to understand the difference between redemption accomplished and redemption applied. Another way to state this is that he fails to understand the two-fold work of Jesus, our Great Priest. The Westminster Shorter Catechism states that Jesus fulfills the office of priest “by his once offering himself as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God and in his making continual intercession for us. His intercession for us corresponds to the high priest’s appearance in the holiest of all to sprinkle the blood of the slain sacrifice on the mercy seat. Jesus’ appearance for believer’s in God’s presence adds nothing to the efficacy of his once for all, finished sacrifice. Paul D. wrote as a supposed representation of what Calvinists believe, “They say justification is a finished work but. . .Jesus’ work is really not finished , He must keep working to KEEP us in that position where we are covered by Hs righteousness.” His implication is that we believe Jesus must keep working to secure our justification. What we really believe is that Jesus’ perpetually presents the efficacy of his once for all sacrifice on behalf of his people. He is able to save us completely because he ever lives to make intercession for us (See Heb. 7:25). This in no way implies that our justification is not complete or that Jesus must continue to do something more in terms of accomplishment to keep us justified. We do believe that once for all accomplishment has fresh application to our souls daily. If any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ , the righteous one, and he is [not was] the propitiation for our sins. Believers are never more righteous in God’s sight than they are the moment we first believe the gospel. We believe in perpetual justification but not in progressive justification.

3. He seems to impute to Calvinists a belief in a three-fold justification—positional justification, practical justification and final justification. Since he does not actually cite a Calvinist who holds such a view, I must confess I don’t know what he is talking about. Justification is positional and only positional in the sense that God makes no believer actually righteous in justification. He accounts believers to be just before the law by imputing to them an alien righteousness. Perhaps by “practical justification” he means that in progressive sanctification God brings believers into greater conformity to his righteous standard, but to my knowledge the Scriptures never refer to this divine work as practical justification. The concern of justification is a righteous standing before God; The concern of sanctification is the holiness of a believer’s state in the world.

4. He distorts the Calvinists’ teaching about the active and passive obedience of Christ. He states that Calvinists believe Jesus died [passive obedience] for our justification and lived a perfect life [active obedience] for our sanctification. This is an absolute perversion of the Calvinistic position. Both the active or perceptive obedience and the passive or penal obedience of Christ were for our justification. It is the believer’s union with Christ in his death and resurrection that effects sanctification. The believer is finished with the reign of death and sin because he has died with Christ.

5. He fails to understand and distinguish properly the different uses of the word nomos [law] in Scripture. Additionally, he fails to distinguish between “sin” and “transgression.” When God established the covenant of Sinai with the people of Israel, sin took on the character of transgression. He believes he can no longer sin because he is a believer and is not under the law. He fails to understand that people sinned before God made the law covenant at Sinai. Hupo nomon [under law] in the Bible always refers to the covenant relationship between God and the Israelites under the Mosaic law. Gentiles were never Hupo nomon, yet they still sinned. Paul thinks of under law or not under law as an existential distinction concerning a person prior to conversion and after. Biblically speaking, it is a covenantal distinction.
Additionally, he fails to recognize that there is a perpetual, universal standard of righteousness that exists simply because God exists. God’s highest demand on which every other righteous demand depends is that we love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. How that love is to be expressed depends on the rules that are prescribed under a given covenant. A husband who fails to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her is no less a sinner than the man who committed adultery in violation of the Old Covenant. Both have demonstrated a failure to love God.

Would Paul D. have us think that believers are no longer under this perpetual universal, standard of righteousness? This would clearly contradict the apostle Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor. 9. He tells us he is not without law to God, but en nomos to Christ.
6. He denies that God’s law is the standard of righteousness [justification]. He argues that the law cannot justify no matter who keeps it. There are many passages one could cite to show that he is in error but one should suffice. In Luke 10, a legal expert asked Jesus what he needed to do to obtain eternal life and Jesus referred him to the law. Read it for yourself.

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:25-28).

If law is not God’s standard of justification, what is the standard? How are we to define righteousness apart from the law? If guilt is defined in terms of law, and guilt (condemnation) is the opposite of justification or righteousness, must we not define righteousness in terms of law as well? Paul Dohse offers no answer to these questions.

When we read about the law’s inability to justify sinners, we must not understand this to mean it cannot declare behavior that conforms to it to be righteous. Paul clearly stated that “the doers of the law will be justified” (Rom. 2: 13).

7. Finally, he fails to understand that the believer is free from the condemnation of the law not because God’s righteous demands have ceased to exist, but because Jesus has answered and fulfilled those demands completely. When the apostle Paul wrote “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. . .” he is writing about the purpose of the old covenant [law] finding its fulfillment in Christ. The word translated “end” [telos] means goal in the sense that Jesus is the one to whom the law pointed and in whom it found its fulfillment. It is true that he brought the law as covenant to an end, but he did so by fulfilling it.
There are far too many errors in Paul Dohse’s twisted reasoning on which to comment in a brief article, but perhaps these comments will help you navigate the treacherous waters of Dohse’s world.