Posts Tagged ‘Anti-Calvinism

15
Oct
17

I Will Draw All To Me–John 12:32

 

 

It seems that anytime a person begins to expound John 6:36-45, those who believe the sinner’s free will is the final arbiter in determining who will be the recipients of salvation attempt to blunt the force of that passage by citing John 12:32.  In that verse, Jesus said “If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to me.” Their purpose in citing this verse is to show that everyone is “drawn”, but not in such a way that anyone is effectively united to Christ by the “drawing.” For them, this drawing is no more than a gentle persuasion that enables sinners to make a “free will” decision.

 

Usually, one is left to wonder what those who propound this view mean by “free will” since they are seldom willing or able to define the term. If by the term “free will” they mean that sinners have the ability to choose whatever they desire most at any given time, we would agree that sinners have free will, but that would raise another question.  Do not sinners have that ability apart from anything Jesus accomplished on the cross?

When Monergists deny that sinners have free will, what we are denying is that the will is self-governing and unaffected by the sinner’s nature. Our contention is that a person cannot choose that for which he has no desire and to which his entire being is totally averse.  Could he choose what he does not want if he wanted it? Of course he could, but his will cannot decide what his desires are going to be. It is the function of the will to choose what is most desired, not to determine what is most desired.

 

For me, their understanding of this verse would raise the following questions to which they seem to be unwilling or unable to provide satisfactory answers. I would ask you to consider these questions as we attempt to understand what Jesus was saying:

 

  1. What means does Jesus use to draw sinners to himself or does he draw sinners apart from any means whatsoever? Will Jesus draw any apart from exposure to the gospel in some form?
  2. If sinners cannot call on the Lord’s name without hearing “a word of Christ” (the gospel), would it not stand to reason that they cannot be drawn without “a word of Christ?”
  3. Are you willing to posit that every person without exception since the day of Jesus’ crucifixion will at some time in his or her life have been exposed to the gospel? Has there ever been any person in some remote tribe or nation who has died without hearing Jesus’ name even once?
  4. If sinners are drawn to Jesus only through the preaching of the gospel, and all without exception have not heard the gospel, how is it possible that Jesus has “drawn” all without exception to himself?
  5. Why would Jesus have used the word “draw,” a word that is used consistently in the Scriptures to describe an effectual action, (E,g., drawing a sword from its scabbard, drawing water from a well, dragging a net full of fish to the shore) to describe a sincere, gentle, but ineffectual action? Could he not have used another word that would have expressed that concept if that had been what he intended?
  6. How can a person who has never heard of Jesus and feels no inclination whatsoever to come to him in repentance and faith be considered “drawn” to him?
  7. Why did John introduce the account of “certain Greeks” who desired an audience with Jesus in this context and then never mention them again? What, if anything, does their request have to do with Jesus’ discourse that followed?
  8. Was it Jesus’ intention to “draw” to himself those Jews on whom he was about to pronounce final judgment by walking away and hiding himself (see vv. 36-40)?

 

The Context

 

There are several issues I would like you to consider regarding the context of the verse we are considering. First, I would like you to consider at what point in Jesus ministry he spoke these words. Second, I would like you to consider John’s account of the Greeks who were seeking an audience with Jesus and why he introduced that account here. Third, I would like you to consider Jesus’ discourse triggered by this request. All these factors are very important in gaining a proper understanding of John 12:32.

 

The Timing of This Statement

 

It is always important that we remember that John and the other evangelists were not merely historians reciting the facts of Jesus’ earthly ministry. They were reciting those facts in such a way as to make a theological point. Early on in his Gospel he wrote, “He came to his own creation and his own people did not receive him” (1:11). To this point John has been showing how Jesus had revealed himself to ever-widening circles of his own people who by and large had rejected him. He had spoken to them these condemning words in chapter six, verse thirty-six, “. . .you have seen me and still do not believe.” It is not as if they had not seen and known the truth, but that having known the truth, the light, they continued to prefer the darkness.

 

We find similar statements throughout the fourth Gospel.  The Jews had surrounded him in the temple complex at the Feast of the Dedication and said to him, “If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly” He replied, “I told you and you didn’t believe me. The works I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me, but you do not believe because you are not of my sheep, as I said to you” (10:25-26). It seems the more light they received, the more recalcitrant they became in their rejection of this one who had given more than abundant evidence that he was the promised Anointed One.

 

His act of raising Lazarus from the dead had brought the issue to a fevered pitch. The principal concern of the Jewish leadership was not their need to repent in light of the clear evidence Jesus had given but their political situation. John wrote,

 

Then the chief priests and Pharisees gathered a council and said, ‘What shall we do? For this man works many signs. If we let him alone like this, everyone will believe in him [Incidentally, does anyone really believe they expected that even they would believe in him? Yet, the text says “everyone will believe.”], and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.’ And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish?’ (John 11:47-50).

 

John’s editorial comment in verses 51-52 is a clear pointer to Jesus’ teaching in the passage we are considering. In that comment, he has provided for his readers perhaps the best definition of what he has intended by his use of the word “world” that we have anywhere in the Scriptures. Suggesting that Caiaphas has spoken better than he knew, he wrote, “Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that he would gather together in one the children of God that are scattered abroad.”

 

It seems John is playing out those words that he wrote in his prologue to this Gospel, “. . .His own people did not receive him, but to as many as received him. . .” (1:11-12). He introduces this narrative at a crucial point in Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus is about to pronounce judgement on the nation of Israel as a whole and illustrate that judgment by walking away and hiding himself from them (see 12:36). In many ways, what was occurring in this passage reflects what we read in Romans nine through eleven regarding the breaking off of the natural branches of the good olive tree and grafting Gentile believers into the tree contrary to nature.

 

Additionally, since John makes reference to Isaiah’s prophesy concerning that act of judgment (cf. John 12:37-40, Isaiah 53:1), we should focus on that entire context not only in regard to the elect remnant of Israel that is in view in chapter fifty-three, but also in regard to the expansion of God’s kingdom to the Gentile nations that is prophesied in chapter fifty-four. In many ways, Jesus’ words in this passage are parallel to what John has recorded in chapter six of his Gospel regarding God’s purpose for kingdom expansion prophesied in Isaiah 54.

 

Finally, it should not escape our notice that immediately prior to introducing the account of those Greeks who wanted to see Jesus, John has given us another pointer. In fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophesy [9:9], Jesus had presented himself as Israel’s King, lowly and riding on a donkey, and the common people hailed his coming. Immediately following that prophesy, the prophet had written, “He shall speak peace to the nations, His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zech. 9:10). Can it be merely coincidental that John has recorded the response of the Pharisees? This is what they said, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after him” (John 12:19).  [Again, one wonders if anyone truly believes the Pharisees thought they had gone after him as well. Would that not have to be the case if κόσμος  [world] means every person on the planet without exception?]. In the very next line, John wrote, “Now there were certain Greeks. . .saying sir, we wish to see Jesus” (vv. 20-21).

 

The Account of Greeks Seeking Jesus

 

Would not this narrative about Greeks seeking Jesus seem a bit abrupt if John has introduced it seemingly without reason and without resolution? If Jesus’ response in verses twenty-three through thirty-two, was not in response to that request, then that is clearly the case. Verses twenty through twenty-two would be nothing but filler that has no purpose at all. Jesus did not even appear to answer their request directly if there is no relationship between their request and his discourse that followed that request.

 

In reality, it would be impossible to understand the discourse that followed (vv 23ff) apart from the introduction of this account. Any understanding of John 12:32 that fails to take the introduction of this narrative into account must necessarily be flawed

 

It was the coincidence of the Jews’ rejection of the clear evidence and their consequent impending judgment and the Greeks’ desire to have an audience with Jesus that prompted his words in the passage we are considering.

 

Concerning this incident, D. A. Carson has written,

 

Whether or not their request was granted is not recorded. . .because even if they met with Jesus at this point, there is a sense in which they could not yet ‘see’ him, they could not yet belong to him, until the ‘hour’ is over and Jesus has been ‘lifted up from the earth’ (v. 32). That is what is necessary for the gospel to be fully operative, the gospel that encompasses Jew and Gentile alike and draws together a new covenant community whose locus is no longer constrained by the parameters of Sinai (Carson, 1991,438).

 

 

The Preceding Discourse

 

John 12:32 is not a stand-alone verse that can be understood apart from its context. It forms a part of a larger discourse in which Jesus is explaining certain redemptive accomplishments that must be realized before the request of these Greeks can be granted in the fullest sense of the word. The establishment of an assembly of redeemed sinners from every nation is not an afterthought; it is not God’s “plan B.” One almost shudders at the suggestion. But, God’s predestined and prophesied purpose to extend his saving activity to the Gentiles will not and cannot be realized apart from four conditions that must be fulfilled. It is these conditions about which Jesus speaks in this discourse. They are as follows:

 

  1. Jesus must die as the sacrifice for his people, and by means of the cross be enthroned [“lifted up”] in glory (vv. 24, 32).
  2. The Father must be glorified (v. 28)
  3. This world must be judged (v. 31).
  4. Satan, the prince of this world, must be cast out (v. 31).

 

Jesus must be lifted up

 

The request of these Greeks who desired an audience with Jesus had triggered in his mind the fact that his hour had now come, and had provoked in him a profound emotional response. He said, “Now my soul is troubled and what shall I say, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (v. 27). Given his true humanity, his natural and normal response was to recoil from the pain, suffering and shame that his impending crucifixion would bring and this understanding provoked within him a deep conflict, a conflict that would only be resolved by his overwhelming desire to fulfill his mission by glorifying his Father [“Father, glorify your name” (verse 28)].

 

Jesus [or John depending on who the speaker was in John 3:14] has already stated the absolute necessity of his death by crucifixion, “Even so, must the Son of Man be lifted up.” We must not overlook the connection between this verse and verse sixteen. If one understands the proper usage of the word “world” in John’s gospel, i.e., sinners from every nation, it will be easy for him to see the connection between this passage and the John twelve narrative. Jesus cannot and will not draw the world, apart from being “lifted up.” This is why he answers the request these Greeks had made by saying, “. . .unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it produces much grain” (v. 24).

 

Additionally, we must not ignore John’s use of deliberate ambiguity throughout his Gospel. For him, the term “lifted up” not only refers to the manner in which Jesus would die but also to the result of his being lifted on the cross, i.e, his exaltation [being lifted up] to the throne. Once we understand this, it becomes clear that Jesus’ words in verse thirty-two began to be fulfilled at the first feast of Pentecost following his resurrection and ascension. Peter’s overall argument in his Pentecost proclamation was that since the Spirit has been given, Jesus must have been glorified, and one of the prophesied results of his exaltation was the outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh (see Acts 2:17 cf. 39). It should be clear to any thoughtful reader that “all flesh” does not refer to every human being without exception. Instead, it refers to people from every nation, to all who are far off, even to as many as the Lord our God shall call. Having been lifted up, Jesus now draws all peoples to himself.

 

Lest anyone imagine that my interpretation of this passage has resulted from some unwarranted Calvinistic theological bias, please consider the following comment from the Arminian, Adam Clarke, on this verse. He wrote,

Verse 32. “I-will draw all men unto me.” – After I shall have died and risen again, by the preaching of my word and the influence of my Spirit, I shall attract and illuminate both Jews and Gentiles. It was one of the peculiar characteristics of the Messiah, that unto him should the gathering of the people be, Genesis xlix. 10. And probably our Lord refers to the prophesy, Isaiah xi. 10, which peculiarly belonged to the Gentiles: “There shall be a root of Jesse which shall stand for an ENSIGN of the people, to it shall the GENTILES  seek, and his rest shall be glorious.”

The Father Must Be Glorified

This and the other conditions that needed to be met before the Gentiles could be included in the outworking of God’s redemptive purposes, is subsumed under the first head. In being “lifted up” Jesus glorified the Father in the most resplendent manner possible. In the cross, “Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed” (Psalm 85:10). We must never forget that not only was Jesus’ redemptive work a glorious manifestation of redemptive love, mercy and grace but it was also an unrivaled manifestation of his holiness and righteousness.

We must not forget that Jesus’ primary mission was not to bring about the happiness of his elect people or even to procure our eternal salvation; his primary mission was to glorify his Father on the earth (see John 17:1-5). Apart from the completion of this mission, there could never have been an inclusion of Gentile believers in the gospel kingdom. Jesus’ glorification is clearly linked to his refusal to seek his own glory. Instead, he, as the spiritual seed of his people, was willing to “fall into the ground and die” so that he might produce an abundant spiritual harvest. Isaiah prophesied, “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5).

This World Must Be Judged

It is true that final judgment is reserved for the end of the age, but there is a sense in which “the world” sealed its doom in rejecting and crucifying the Lord’s Anointed One.  John had written, “this is the condemnation (κρίσις) that light has come into the world but men loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). The proud “world,” sinful society in insurrection against its Creator, imagined that it was passing judgment on Jesus, but in reality, in crucifying him, it was condemning itself.

There could be no greater or clearer display of the world’s antipathy toward God than the expression of its hostility toward his appointed agent. Their actions demonstrated that had they been able, they would have dragged God from his throne and trampled him under foot.

We see that judgment displayed against the unbelieving Jews in this very chapter. Jesus is about to shut the door and leave them outside forever. Having spoken to them about their responsibility to react properly to the light, “he departed and was hidden from them (v. 36). In what appears to have been an acted parable, Jesus passed judgment on them for their persistent unbelief.

There seems to be a clear sense in which Israel and its reaction to God’s self-revelation stood as a representative sample of the entire race.  In The Fullness of Time: A biblical-theological study of Galatians, I wrote,

 

It is obvious that Israel enjoyed privileges that the nations of the world knew nothing about. But, along with these privileges came great responsibility. Israel as the servant of Jehovah had as her task to reflect the light and glory of the Lord to the pagan nations around them. One of the ways in which Israel was to function in this witness bearing capacity was to be dealt with by God as a representative sample, a sort of microcosm, of the entire race. Thus, Israel’s failure under the covenant of Sinai mirrors the failure of all. Because of this failure, every mouth is stopped and all the world becomes guilty before God.

Douglas Moo seems to be sounding the same note when he writes, “Perhaps it is best to view Israel’s experience with the law as paradigmatic of all nations (Moo, 213, 1988).

 

Paul wrote, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19). Whenever we find the phrase translated “under the law” in the New Testament Scriptures, it always refers to Israel’s covenant relationship to God. The Gentiles nations were never “under the law” in that sense. For that reason, we should understand him to mean that their rebellious reaction to the law is a reflection of what our reaction would have been had we been under the same law. Thus, in judging and condemning Israel for their unbelief, Jesus was truly condemning the world as a whole

 

Satan, the Prince of This World Must Be Cast Out

 

During the entire Old Testament period, the nations of the world had been under the domination and deception of the wicked one. The prophet described them as “the people who walked in darkness . . . and dwelt in the land of the shadow of death” (Isa. 9:2). They had deliberately yielded to his power and deception and acknowledged him as their ruler.

 

Though Jesus’ crucifixion might have seemed like a triumph for Satan, in reality it demolished his kingdom. When Jesus was exalted to the throne by means of the cross, Satan was decisively dethroned. As a result, Jesus now freely draws his people from among all nations. He has visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name (see Acts 15:14).

 

Conclusion

 

Given the fact that the drawing Jesus was talking about does not occur apart from the proclamation of the gospel, unless it can be demonstrated that every individual who has ever lived has heard the gospel message, it is impossible that he could have been referring to drawing every person without exception.

 

Additionally, “drawing” is an effectual act that accomplishes its purpose. Does it not seem strange that if everyone is “drawn,” many feel absolutely no inclination to come to Jesus at all?

 

Immediately before the verse in question, Jesus had said, “Now is the judgment [condemnation] of this world.”  Are we to believe he intended to draw to himself those on whom he was about to pronounce a condemning sentence?

 

In light of the context in which John 12:32 occurs, it seems reasonable to conclude that Jesus intended his hearers to understand that once he had fulfilled certain necessary conditions, he would effectually draw sinners from every kindred, tribe, tongue and nation to himself through the preaching of the gospel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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26
Aug
13

God is Not a Respecter of Persons

Several times in Scripture we encounter the phrase, “God is not a respecter of persons” or “God does not show partiality.” On the basis of this phrase, some have argued that the doctrine of unconditional election could not be true since if he chose one and passed over another he would be showing favoritism. In considering this question, it is helpful to remember, first of all, what God has revealed about his actions in this regard. Then, it is important to consider this phrase in the contexts in which it occurs.

First, consider what the Bible reveals about God’s treatment of men and nations. In Deut. 7:6-8, God speaks about his choice of Israel as a nation and as a special people. This is what the text reveals,

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

The text clearly reveals that “God loved Israel and chose Israel to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples of the earth” simply because he loved them and was keeping the oath he swore to their fathers. He clearly treated this nation better than any other nation on earth. He showed favoritism toward them.

Additionally, contrary to the natural order, he loved Jacob and hated Esau. Though this applies to the nations that descended from these two individuals, it applies none the less to two unborn children. Paul wrote,

‘For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.’ And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls- she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’ (Rom. 9:9-13).

These verses reveal to us that God declared, while these two individuals were still unborn and before they had done anything good or evil, that he was going to treat them differently. According to the ordinary order, the younger would serve the older, but God reversed the order and promised to love and bless one above the other. In other words, God sovereignly determined that he would show greater favor to one child than he did to the other.

As the passage continues, it becomes clear that God chose to treat Moses better than he treated the Pharaoh. God answered Moses’ request to show him his glory, but he made it clear that the revelation of his glory was a matter of mercy and not of merit (Exo. 33:19). Moses did not deserve God’s blessing any more than the Pharaoh did. Both deserved the wrath and curse of God, yet God chose to treat Moses differently from the Pharaoh.

Consider Jesus’ rebuke of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum in Matthew 11:20-27:

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.’ At that time Jesus declared, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

He clearly tells them they had received a greater revelation from God than he had given Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom. If these others had received equal revelation from God, Jesus says they would have repented. What is clear is that God did not treat all these people equally. When Jesus addresses the reason behind this unequal treatment of these people groups, his answer is “yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

The Scriptures are filled with examples of God treating people unequally. He sends the gospel to some and forbids his messengers to preach the gospel to others. He heals some and passes by others, leaving them in their sickness. And we could go on and on. “God is no respecter of persons,” or “God does not show partiality” cannot mean God treats everyone equally, and it certainly cannot mean God has not chosen some and passed over others because it was his good pleasure to do so.

What, then, does this phrase mean in those contexts in which it occurs in the Scriptures? Let me just list some of the passages in which we encounter this phrase or words similar to it:

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe” (Deut.10:17).

“He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, and said to the judges, “Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the LORD. He is with you in giving judgment. Now then, let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the LORD our God, or partiality or taking bribes” (2 Chronicles 19:5-7).

“. . . who shows no partiality to princes, nor regards the rich more than the poor, for they are all the work of his hands”(Job 34:19)?

“So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts:10:34-35).

“And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us,and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:8-9).

“There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality” (Romans 2:9-11).

“And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)-those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me” (Gal. 2:6).

“. . .knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him”(Eph. 6:8-9).

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality”(Col. 3:23-25).

“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,. . . .”(1 Pet. 1:17).

Now, permit me to make several observations concerning these verses.

1. None of these verses occurs in a context in which the issue is remotely concerned with God’s purpose of grace. These contexts have absolutely nothing to do with whether God chose certain sinners and passed over others.

2. Most of these verses are concerned with judges and judgment. Judges are to judge justly and not take bribes because they are to pattern themselves after the Lord who is a righteous judge. The entire context in Romans concerns God’s righteous standard of judgment. God does not judge on the basis of race, religion, respectability, or ritual. His judgment is based on righteousness as defined by his law. “who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds” (1 Pet. 1:17).

3. Some of these verses have to do with God accepting Gentiles as well as Jews, e.g., Acts 10:34-35. “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

4. The point of all these passages is that God does not show partiality to any person based on race, rank (Gal. 2:6; Eph. 6:8-9), or riches. He will not give a pass to anyone based on any of these criteria.

The only conclusion we can draw is that “God does not show partiality,” has absolutely nothing to do with the issue of divine election.

27
Jul
13

Rabid Anti-Calvinists

I have been strolling around the blogosphere this morning reading the comments of rabid anti-Calvinists and would like to make a few observations.

Firstly, it appears to me these people are really angry at God. They are people who don’t love God. They clearly have a deep-seated love for the god they have created in their own image, but they don’t love the God who has revealed himself in the Scriptures. They unabashedly state they could not love a God who would choose some to be saved and pass over others, leaving them in their sins. If God is going to be a God they can love and worship, he must love everyone equally and in the same way. He must do his best to save everyone. A god who does his best and fails isn’t worth worshipping. Our God is in the heavens, and he has done whatsoever he has pleased.

Secondly, these people almost never refer to the Scriptures apart from a few proof-text they have taken out of context. They will tell us what the Bible doesn’t say and in some cases are correct. For example, they will tell us John 3:16 does not say “For God so loved the elect.” I, for one, never though it did. John’s point in that verse is that the love of God is not confined to his covenant people, Israel; he loves vile sinners of every nation. The original Arminians seemed to be much more biblical. Still. even they quoted verses that did not prove their point. For some unknown reason they thought Acts 7:51 “you do always resist the Holy Spirit” disproves the doctrine of irresistible grace. No Calvinist argues that sinners are unable to resist the Holy Spirit. We argue the same fact the Scriptures argue—sinners in a state of nature ALWAYS resist the Holy Spirit.

Thirdly, these people almost never grapple with real issues. Their arguments are almost always against “straw men.” Sometimes they simply tell outright lies. For example, “Calvinists don’t believe in eternal security.” That came as quite a shock to me. Of course, Calvinists believe in the eternal security of true believers. What we deny is the eternal security of everyone who walks an aisle, signs a card, prays a prayer, punches a code into his iphone etc. Interestingly, our position happens to coincide with quite a number of Scriptures on this issue. For example, John 10:28 clearly tells us that Jesus gives his sheep eternal life and they shall never perish, but we must also consider how he describes his sheep in verse 27—“my sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.” There is no indication that those who refuse to hear his voice and follow him are eternally secure. God’s people are kept by the power of God, but we are not saved apart from divinely produced persevering faith.

Fourthly, because they don’t have the exegetical ability to answer bona fide arguments, they resort to name calling. [Please note that referring to someone as an Arminian or as a Semi-Pelagian is not name calling. These are theological designations for those who believe in synergistic as opposed to monergistic salvation. That they are logically inconsistent concerning the doctrine of eternal security does not affect the issue one way or the other. If a person who believes in hypothetical universalism wishes to call himself a “four point Calvinist,” why should we not refer to these people as “four point Arminians?] The saddest part is they have resorted to calling God nasty names like “cruel bully.”

Fifthly, they deal falsely by not posting comments that make it clear they don’t know what they are talking about. This is blatantly dishonest. I will post any comment made here that follows the blog rules I have posted. If I refuse to post your comments, it is because you have not followed the rules, not because I disagree with your comment.

Let’s talk. I am ready to discuss the Scriptures with you people. Let’s have a real discussion of biblical texts in their contexts. Name a topic and let’s discuss what the Scriptures have to say about it.

28
Feb
13

Do we need regeneration after all?

Perhaps a ¨non-Calvinist¨ who is passing through could give me an answer to a question I have been pondering. Several times I have seen those who oppose the idea of predestination state that sinners have ¨free will.¨ According to their own statements, they mean by this that sinners possess equal ability to choose either good or evil. I assume by this they mean sinners not only have the ability to choose good but also to do good.

My question is this–If sinners are able to choose to trust Christ apart from the Spirit´s work of regeneration and are able to choose and practice good by virtue of their ¨free will,¨ why do we need to be regenerated? If by nature we are able to believe the gospel and obey the commands of God, why do we need the Holy Spirit?

Please read the rules for commenting before weighing in on this issue.

24
Feb
13

The Bonfire–Straw Man Argument #6

Today’s prize goes to a woman who calls herself “trust4himonly.” Her comment occurred over at expreacherman.com. The nifty think about their blog is they can tell all the prodigious lies they wish, but don’t allow comments that disagree with their slanderous statements. Her comments are basically a mindless regurgitation of Paul Dohse’s enigmatic pronouncements. He has little idea what he is talking about and his followers are even more clueless. Even after being told numerous times that he is misrepresenting the Calvinistic position, he continues to spew his vitriolic comments. Since he has been told so often that he is misrepresenting our position, I can only conclude his persistence in doing so is a deliberate and malicious act. I only say this to warn you about him, much like I would warn you about a mad dog in the street. He cannot be taken seriously by anyone who understands what we really believe, but for those who depend on him to tell them the truth, his comments can be extremely damaging. The following is what she wrote:

Calvinists look at Christ being outside the picture of the believer then [rather than?] being inside of the believer (this is the reason you do not hear of the Holy Spirit being in taught in the context of molding and shaping within the believer). Everything is in the context of the “Christian” not being fully saved until they have persevered in the faith- which means this is an oxymoron because they contradict themselves continually by saying that only one can rely on Christ for that salvation. Calvinists are really no different then [from] the Arminianist [Arminian] (even though they would aggressively disagree) because they view a work that must be done instead a ONE TIME justification based on Christs death and ressurrection. The Calvinist believes that Jesus Christ had to live a life of perfect obedience and [is] STILL obeying for us so that we could be saved.

I have written quite a lot on this blog that answers many of the issues she has raised. I would simply refer you to my posts about “progressive justification,” “the gospel,” and “the imputation of Christ’s righteousness,” to learn what I believe. I believe my views on these issues are consistent with the classic Calvinistic position.

The Westminster Confession of Faith States

Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness, by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

Let me simply list the issues I believe she is raising and then briefly comment on them.

1 “Calvinists look at Christ being outside the picture of the believer then [rather than?] being inside of the believer.”
This erroneous statement is likely based on Mr Dohse’s misinterpretation of Calvinistic statements about the basis of the believer’s justification. That believers are not justified based infused grace or internal righteousness, but on a righteousness that is not theirs being imputed to their account does not mean God does nothing in believers or that “Christ is outside the believer.” Salvation involves more than justification. To say that the judicial declaration the Scriptures refer to as justification as a declaration outside of us, does not mean every work of God is outside of us.

2. “this is the reason you do not hear of the Holy Spirit being in taught in the context of molding and shaping within the believer.”

I am not sure what brand of Calvinism she has been exposed to, but most Calvinist pastors I know are committed to expository preaching. Typically, such pastors deal with whatever text is before them. If the passage concerns the ministry of the Spirit, the message will expound the ministry of the Spirit. If the passage deals with the redemptive work of Christ, the message will concern his work etc. Calvinists have no aversion to teaching about the Holy Spirit.

3. “Everything is in the context of the “Christian” not being fully saved until they have persevered in the faith-”

Here, of course, whether this is a straw man argument depends on what she means by ” fully saved.” Typically, such people use “saved” and “justified” synonymously. If that is the sense in which she is using the word “saved,” her statement has no validity whatsoever. We believe sinners are as righteous in the sight of God the moment they first believe as they will ever be. In that sense, be believe the newest believer is “full saved.”

There is another sense in which she is right. We do not think believers are “fully saved” simply because we have been declared completely righteous. Paul speaks of our salvation being “nearer than when we believed” (See Romans 13:11). Also, in more than one passage he uses the present tense to describe our salvation. The present tense in Greek is intended to express continuing action. A good translation would be “being saved” (see 1 Cor. 1:18; 15:2). We have been saved from sin’s penalty; we have been saved from sin’s reigning power; but we have yet to be saved from remaining sin in us, and from the presence of sin around us. We have yet to be conformed to Christ’s glorious image. When we stand in his presence at last, wholly conformed to his image, we will stand there as those who are “more than conquerors, through him who loved us.”

4. “they view [justification as ?]a work that must be done instead a ONE TIME justification based on Christs death and ressurrection.

I would probably be willing to offer a huge reward to anyone who could show me a Calvinist who believes our justification is based on anything other than the redemptive work of Christ. If you have any doubt about what we believe on this subject, please refer to the Westminster Confession above.

5. “The Calvinist believes that Jesus Christ had to live a life of perfect obedience and [is] STILL obeying for us so that we could be saved.”

Though we do believe Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience to the Law and, thus, provided for those united to him by faith a perfect righteousness, we do not believe he is STILL obeying for us. The period of his obedience is over. The period of his sojourn under the Law has come to an end. His current ministry is one of intercession in which he applies his finished work to his people.

20
Feb
13

The Bonfire–Straw man argument #5

Tracking down “straw man” stuffers and burners is a target-rich environment. I have seldom seen such vitriol spewed by those who claim to be fellow believers in Christ as I have found on several of the blog sites I have visited. My suspicion is that not one of them has ever read anything a Calvinist has written. One almost gets the impression they haven’t studied the Scriptures very much either. I have not yet seen one of them offer an exegetically sound argument to prove their positions. It appears they are content to gather around their bonfire and toss their straw men into the fire. In our search for such “straw man burners, today’s prize goes to—
Kenneth Groenewald | February 11, 2013 at 8:41 am |

(Posted at http://www.expreacherman.com)

He wrote,

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 2 Cor4:4. The Calvinists would have us believe that it is God who blinds the minds of the unbelievers and not Satan. The Calvinists have created an Ogre for their God who blinds the minds of the unbelievers so that He prevents them from ever being saved. Sick.

On the page where I found this comment, I left a request for some kind of substantiating citation from a real Calvinist, but, of course, my comment wasn’t posted. I don’t think it is too much to ask to request a real quotation of a person’s actual remarks. Who is the phantom Calvinist who makes all these wild statements that no other Calvinists seem to believe? If only we could get recorded statements or excerpts from his writings, perhaps we could show him the error of his ways.

The truth is, no such Calvinist exists. No Calvinist “would have us believe that it is God who blinds the minds of unbelievers.” No Calvinist would have us believe “God. . .prevents them [sinners] from ever being saved.” We believe sinners are blind by sinful nature. Through Satan’s (the god of this age) temptation, Adam, the representative of all in him, fell into sin, and thus all his offspring became bind in unbelief. In this way, the god of this age has blinded those who believe not. It would be unnecessary for God to blind anyone, even if he wished to do so. Sinners are blind already. It is the work of God’s Anointed One to open the eyes of the blind, not to close them (See Isa. 35:5; 42:7). God never prevents anyone being saved who wishes to be saved. He delights in showing mercy to sinners (See Micah 7:18).

It is true, God blinds sinners as an act of judgment (See Isa. 6:9-10) and John 12:39-40), but he does so in the sense that he judicially determines to leave them in their blindness due to their persistent unbelief in the face of abundant revelation (cf. John 12:37). Still, this is not a belief that is exclusively Calvinistic, but the belief of anyone who believes the teaching of Scripture.

11
Feb
13

The Bonfire–Straw Man Argument #4

The following question was asked in response to a statement made by a Calvinist regarding the relationship between the sinner’s choice and God’s choice.

“We are free to choose the flavor of ice cream we want, color of socks that we are going to wear today, and what we want for breakfast, but not God?”

This question is obviously based on the straw man argument that Calvinists don’t believe sinners are able to make active and free choices but, like puppets or robots, are controlled by God apart from conscious and culpable decisions they make.

In answer to this argument I would invite you to read my post “Arminian Presupposition #s 11 & 12.”

The answer is, sinners are as free to choose God and Christ if they want to as you are to choose the flavor of ice cream you wish, the sock color you wish, or what you wish for breakfast. No one believes sinners can’t choose what they wish. What Calvinist believe is that sinners are unable to choose what they hate.