Paul's Passing Thoughts

Helping Tim Challies and Other Calvinists with Evangelism

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on September 29, 2016

Originally published January 29, 2015

ChalliesYesterday, I was sent the following article about Calvinist evangelism written by blogger Tim Challies: How To Offend a Room Full of Calvinists. Miffed by the suggestion that somebody knows better than me how to offend Calvinists, I immediately read the article.

Apparently, according to Challies, Calvinists get offended when people suggest that their soteriology hinders evangelism.  According to Challies, the argument goes like this:

Many people are firmly convinced that there is a deep-rooted flaw embedded within Reformed theology that undermines evangelistic fervor. Most blame it on predestination. After all, if God has already chosen who will be saved, it negates at least some of our personal responsibility in calling people to respond to the gospel. Or perhaps it’s just the theological-mindedness that ties us down in petty disputes and nuanced distinctions instead of freeing us to get up, get out, and get on mission.

Protestants en masse think Calvinism’s greatest sin is weak evangelism, and of course, that makes them very angry because it’s supposedly the last criticism standing. I could start with the fact that Calvinism is works salvation under the guise of faith alone, or progressive justification, or salvation by antinomianism. Pick one; any of the three will work. But I have a mountain of data on that subject already; let’s do something different. Yes, let’s use Challies’ own words in the post to refute his argument. Before we call on Challies to refute his own protest, we will address his take on church history.

We go to history to show that the great missionaries, great preachers, and great revivalists of days past were Calvinists, and that Reformed theology was what fueled their mission… There are only so many times I can point to Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and the Great Awakening, or William Carey and the great missionary movement of the nineteenth century, or Charles Spurgeon and the countless thousands saved under his ministry. Sooner or later I have to stop looking at my heroes and look to myself. I can’t claim their zeal as my own. I can’t claim their obedience as my own.

In the post, Challies argues that we know that a straight line can be found from Reformed theology to evangelistic zeal because of history. Supposedly, Calvinists throughout history were driven directly by this deterministic gospel to reach thousands. It is very interesting when you consider the examples given which will aid in making my point.

The Great Awakening had absolutely nothing to do with Reformed soteriology. We should know this as a matter of common sense to begin with because the Holy Spirit doesn’t colabor with a false gospel. The Great Awakening was fueled by the ideology of the American Revolution and was expressed to a great degree in churches, especially among African Americans. Fact is, guys like Edwards and Whitefield then got on their horses and rode around the countryside bloviating and taking credit for the freedom movement tagged with “The Great Awakening” nomenclature.

Fact is, the Great Awakening was a pushback against the Puritan church state driven by Reformed soteriology that came across the pond as a European blight on American history. I would liken Challies’ assessment to our present President taking credit for things he is against when the results are positive.

What about Spurgeon? That example is just too rich because it makes the last point for me. Spurgeon, who once said Calvinism was no mere nickname but the very gospel itself, was the poster boy for getting people to come to church in order to get them saved. That’s important, hold on to that because it’s our last point.

But before we get to the last point, let’s look at the major point: Challies argues against the idea that fatalism hinders evangelism, and then confesses that he doesn’t evangelize like all of the great Calvinists in history because of…fatalism. Calvinism doesn’t cause fatalism resulting in lame evangelism, but Challies doesn’t evangelize because of fatalism.

After all, if God has already chosen who will be saved, it negates at least some of our personal responsibility in calling people to respond to the gospel… We go to the pages of Scripture to show that God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are not incompatible, but that people truly are both free and bound, that God both chooses some while extending the free offer of the gospel to all.

So why does Challies not evangelize according to him? First, because he just doesn’t, but secondly, he is responsible:

It is my conviction—conviction rooted in close study of God’s Word—that Calvinism provides a soul-stirring motivation for evangelism, and that sharing the gospel freely and with great zeal is the most natural application of biblical truth. But it is my confession—confession rooted in the evidence of my own life—that my Calvinism too rarely stirs my soul to mission. The truths that have roared in the hearts and lives of so many others, somehow just whisper in me. The fault, I’m convinced, is not with God’s Word, or even with my understanding of God’s Word; the fault is with me.

He is responsible, but not often stirred. And what’s his solution? There isn’t one, it is what it is; he is responsible, but not called to evangelism. No corrective solution is offered in the post. Why not? Because, as he said, we are responsible, but unable. Responsibility and inability are not incompatible. So, Calvinism doesn’t hinder evangelism, but if you don’t evangelize, there is no solution. Others did it, and you don’t, the end.  Well, I suppose that approach doesn’t prevent evangelism either!

And funny he should cite Edwards. Susan is doing a session on Edwards for TANC 2015 and is studying his sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. She approached me and wanted to discuss something about the sermon that she was perplexed about. Edwards spent the better part of an hour addressing the total hopelessness of man and his likelihood of ending up in an eternal hell, but in the end offers no counsel on how to escape. Why? Because if God is going to do something, he is going to do it, and man is responsible either way.

This now brings us to the final point with a bonus; we are going to help Challies with his evangelism shortcomings. There is, in fact, a solution for Tim’s lack of evangelistic zeal. He doesn’t properly understand Calvinism and its history. This isn’t about saving Tim from the false gospel of Calvinism, this is about being a good evangelist in the context of Calvinism. If I can’t save a Calvinist, I can at least teach them how to be a better Calvinist. Really, it’s disheartening when Calvinists don’t properly understand Calvinism.

This is how we will help Tim Challies. We will bring him back to the historical significance of Spurgeon using some of his own observations. First, let’s get a lay of the land; how does true Calvinistic evangelism work? First, it is the “sovereign” gospel which means the subject must not be told that they have a choice. This is some fun you can have with Calvinists. Ask them if they tell the recipients of their gospel message that they have a choice. Most will avoid answering because they don’t want to admit the answer is, “no.” By their own definition, that would be a false gospel speaking to man’s ability to choose God.

Secondly, if God does do something, if “the wind blows,” that puts the subject in two categories according to Calvin: the called and those who persevere.  The called are those that God temporarily illumines, but later blinds resulting in a greater damnation. Those of the perseverance class are the truly elect. So, the “good news” is that you have a chance to make it. But, if you don’t make it according to God’s predetermined will, your damnation is greater than the non-elect. God has either chosen you for greater damnation or the jackpot, but I guess it’s worth a try if God so chooses.

But hold on, and this is huge: all of that can be bypassed by Calvin’s “power of the keys.” What’s that? If you are a formal member of a Reformed church, and the elders like you, whatever they bind on earth is bound in heaven and whatever they loose on earth is loosed in heaven.

Furthermore, according to Calvin, sins committed in the Christian life remove us from salvation, but membership in the local church and receiving the “impartations of grace” that can only be found in church membership supply a perpetual covering for sin. And here is the crux: one of those “graces” is sitting under “gospel preaching” of which Spurgeon was chief. In one way or the other, Spurgeon sold this wholesale and the results speak for themselves.

See, the solution for Challies is simple.  There is a solution for the disobedience he himself is responsible for: simply invite people to church in order to “get them under the gospel.” And that often looks like this…

Or perhaps it’s just the theological-mindedness that ties us down in petty disputes and nuanced distinctions instead of freeing us to get up, get out, and get on mission.

Problem solved. That’s how Calvinism is a straight line from its theology to evangelism—you are saved by being a formal member of a Reformed church, and your salvation is sustained by remaining a faithful member of that church and obeying everything the elders tell you to do and think. But let’s not call it intellectual rape, let’s call it “keeping ourselves in the love of Jesus.” Let’s call it “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.” Let’s call it “being faithful to the church every time the doors are opened.” Let’s call it “putting ourselves under the authority of Godly men.” Let’s call it “trusting God with our finances.”

You’re welcome Tim, glad I could help.

paul

The Gospel of Sovereignty? Romans Series Interlude: Predestination, a Potter’s House Journey; Part 7

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on February 9, 2016

Originally posted June 30, 2014

HF Potters House (2)

sov·er·eign·ty [sov-rin-tee, suhv-] noun, plural sov·er·eign·ties.

1. the quality or state of being sovereign.

2. the status, dominion, power, or authority of a sovereign; royalty.

3. supreme and independent power or authority in government as possessed or claimed by a state or community.

4. rightful status, independence, or prerogative.

5. a sovereign state, community, or political unit.

“The sovereignty of God” is a phrase that we hear often in Christian circles; in fact, it is a subject that dominates Christian discussion in our day. Moreover, it is an attribute of God that Christians make intrinsic to the gospel itself. In my contention against progressive justification in our day, the argument I hear most is, “You don’t understand the sovereignty of God.”

And no wonder, one of the premier evangelicals of our day, John MacArthur Jr., had this to say in a message titled, “An Explanation of the Sovereign Gospel.”

So we know it has been laid upon us to be faithful in our evangelistic responsibility. At the same time, sometimes we struggle with this reality of divine sovereignty and what it is that we can do when everything is predetermined by God and worked by the Holy Spirit.

Well, the simple answer to the question is God has not only ordained whom He will save, but He has ordained that we in our faithful evangelism would be the means by which He would save His own. To be useful to Him is the purpose in the fulfillment of His sovereign plan, to be an instrument that He can use, to be a vessel unto honor, fit for the Master’s use. To be obedient because that brings, of course, blessing, reward in this life and eternal reward as well (Grace Community Church | Romans 9-11 | September 03, 2011).

Of course, if God has predetermined who will be saved, and uses our evangelism to carry that out, our obedience to evangelism must be preordained as well. As discussed in a previous lesson in this series, this necessarily requires the redefining of the words “obedience” and “reward” as well as many other words and the normative understanding of them. But the main point I want to make here is MacArthur making salvation synonymous with sovereignty which is defined as CONTROL.

Herein is the problem: the word “sovereign” does NOT mean “control,” it means that one has the right to have authority in a given jurisdiction. Even some among the Reformed admit this:

What does it mean to say that God is sovereign? The refrain has become so common, almost clichéd, in Reformed writing and preaching that it sometimes slips away from the reader or listener without lodging meaning in the mind. Worse, we typically hear the phrase to mean something it doesn’t. When Christians affirm that “God is sovereign,” they often mean “God is in control.” Paul Tripp, for example, wrote in his excellent book Lost in the Middle that “God truly is sovereign . . . there is no situation, relationship, or circumstance that is not controlled by our heavenly Father.”

The problem is that the English word sovereignty does not mean control. The U. S. government is sovereign within American territory, but that doesn’t mean the government controls everything within American borders or causes all that happens. If you look up sovereignty in the dictionary you’ll not find control in the definition—nor even as a synonym in a thesaurus.

Sovereignty means “rightful authority.” A dictionary gives “supreme rank” as one definition, and a thesaurus lists jurisdiction and dominion as synonyms. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty tells us God is the rightful ruler of the universe. He has legitimate claim to lordship. His government is just. In fact, justice is defined as his rule. God’s sovereignty doesn’t tell us whether God does in fact rule—just that he ought to, and that we should acknowledge his rule and obey it. (Is “Sovereign” the Best Descriptor for God? Paul D. Miller).

Miller goes on to say…

Once again, it is true God is sovereign. It’s also true he’s in control of everything that happens and he causes all that happens. But that is the doctrine of God’s providence, not his sovereignty.

Does God CAUSE everything to happen? Perhaps, but that’s not what providence means either.

prov·i·dence [prov-i-duhns] noun

1. the foreseeing care and guidance of God or nature over the creatures of the earth.

2. God, especially when conceived as omnisciently directing the universe and the affairs of humankind with wise benevolence.

3. a manifestation of divine care or direction.

4. provident or prudent management of resources; prudence.

5. foresight; provident care.

First, the word “sovereign” appears nowhere in the Bible which should give people pause in regard to the frivolousness of its use in Christian circles. Secondly, it does NOT mean, control, preordination, or predetermination. Certainly, if God wanted to control everything, He could, but does He? Did God know sin was going to come into the world? Yes, so why didn’t he prevent it beforehand? The best answer points to the importance of freewill. God did not cause sin by not preventing it. God tempts no one with sin and is not the creator of evil (James 1:13-18).

When the attributes of God are considered (most theologians name 21 different attributes), absolute deterministic control is not one of them. Even with said attributes, God at times chooses to forfeit the attribute for a period of time. Therefore, if God is predeterminist, He wouldn’t always necessarily choose to predetermine. Some attributes of God are temporarily mutable, and others are NOT ever mutable. An immutable attribute of God is His love towards mankind for all the living. Clearly, an example of an attribute that God has temporarily suspended at times is omniscience:

Genesis 18:20 – Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

Mark 13:32 – But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Also, yes, in regard to some things God is immutable, but in contrast, he can be persuaded by prayer:

Isaiah 38:1 – In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover.” 2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 and said, “Please, O Lord, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

4 Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: 5 “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city.

2Chronicles 16;12 – In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the LORD, but only from the physicians (NIV).

We have established that sovereign would be the wrong word to describe God as causing all that happens, and those things being according to His desired will. It has also been mentioned that the word “sovereign” is not in the Bible. Even if sovereign did mean that all things are predetermined according to God’s pleasure, would it be correct to make that part and parcel with the gospel as most do in our day? Below is yet another version of the infamous Cross Chart that can be applied to this question:

Chart A

The Problem is defining the gospel according to God’s sovereignty as opposed to God’s love and the good news thereof. Why would the idea that God preordained people to hell be good news? This also speaks to man’s worth. Did Christ die for humanity because it has some kind of worth to God? We can again utilize the cross chart for this question:

Chart B

To the extent that man has worth, the gospel gets smaller and God’s grace, and the degree of His sacrifice are diminished. A gospel based on the sovereignty of God must completely eliminate man altogether, and John Immel’s point made in this year’s TANC conference is well taken: it eventually boils down to Man having no right to exist.

All of this greatly hinders the proper answering of questions people have about the Bible. Take note of John Piper’s answer to the question, “Why was it right for God to slaughter women and children in the Old Testament? How can that ever be right?”

It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases. God gives life and he takes life. Everybody who dies, dies because God wills that they die.

God is taking life every day. He will take 50,000 lives today. Life is in God’s hand. God decides when your last heartbeat will be, and whether it ends through cancer or a bullet wound. God governs.

So God is God! He rules and governs everything. And everything he does is just and right and good. God owes us nothing.

If I were to drop dead right now, or a suicide bomber downstairs were to blow this building up and I were blown into smithereens, God would have done me no wrong. He does no wrong to anybody when he takes their life, whether at 2 weeks or at age 92.

God is not beholden to us at all. He doesn’t owe us anything.

Now add to that the fact we’re all sinners and deserve to die and go to hell yesterday, and the reality that we’re even breathing today is sheer common grace from God.

I could make the question harder. As it was stated, it doesn’t feel hard to me, because God was stated as the actor.

My basic answer is that the Old and New Testaments present God as the one who has total rights over my life and over my death.

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). How he takes away is his call. He never wrongs anybody.

~ Ask Pastor John | Desiring God .org | February 27, 2010

In essence, you see the mentality in this answer that man does not have the right to exist, and has no worth. Yet…

Malachi 3:17 – They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.

John Piper has been called out many times publicly for making these kinds of statements in regard to tragedies, but no one seems to understand the ideology behind such statements. Some also notice tacit acceptance of terrorism as well, and the lack of justice in the institutional church for those who have been abused speaks for itself. If the president of the flagship seminary in service to the largest denomination in the world thinks that “One man’s terrorist is another man’s patriot,” what are we to expect?

When one thinks of life past the fatalistic prism of the “sovereign” gospel that saturates today’s church and reads the Bible in the same thinking way, much better answers evolve. Unfortunately, life teaches us that terrorists cannot be reasoned with. I heard a retired high-ranking military official state this week that the only way to deal with terrorists is to eliminate them. Keep in mind, this is because they do not value mankind or life because of the same presuppositions that we are discussing.

When Israel was getting ready to enter the Promised Land, it could very well be that God knew certain cultures in the area would continually harass Israel and were completely unreasonable while having no regard for life. Israel’s lack of obedience in following God’s command to completely wipe out certain cultures came back to bite them for hundreds of years—even until this very day. These were cultures very much like ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria who are presently wreaking havoc in the Middle East and mercilessly slaughtering thousands. These people, unfortunately, cannot be negotiated with.

Lastly, another problem with a gospel that is based on deterministic fatalism follows. There is only one person spoken of less in our day than the Holy Spirit: Satan. The Bible warns us throughout to be aware of the devil’s schemes, and that he “deceives” the world. Why would this be relevant and how do you “deceive” someone who is already preordained for eternal punishment? The Bible continually places blame on Satan for leading people into condemnation.

In the final analysis, a “sovereign” gospel devalues prayer, God’s promises, evangelism, sin, justice, hope, life value, future reward, and the belief that what we do in this life is relevant. I have come to believe that people will perish because we have been neutralized by ignorance:

Ezekiel 3:16 – And at the end of seven days, the word of the Lord came to me: 17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 18 If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. 20 Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. 21 But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.”

John MacArthur claims that Christians should take part in God’s “sovereign” plan, and therefore find blessings in being obedient to evangelism. I have heard this same take from people who equate freewill with an unsovereign gospel/false gospel. Again, God’s “sovereignty” is the attribute that primarily drives the gospel and not love. But the following is irrefutable, such obedience must also be preordained and not really of our own volition. Furthermore, the reward is invalid as well.

I have also come to believe that there are no paradoxes in God’s election. I believe the confusion can be eliminated, and people motivated to labor in God’s ministry field with zeal. But I believe the study will be very hard work.

Nevertheless, let us begin it posthaste.

The Interpretation of Reality and the Calvinist Swamis

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 14, 2015
Swami Albert Mohler

Swami Albert Mohler at 2011 FBC Conference: pastors are “God-appointed agents to save God’s people from ignorance.”

The fact of the matter follows when you boil it down to the least common denominator: the Protestant Reformation was a quarrel about how one should interpret reality. In other words, sola scriptura is pure propaganda. Especially in our present day, preaching for the most part uses Scripture to promote a certain view of reality. The specific studies on this are the historical-redemptive hermeneutic and what is known as Biblical Theology. These terms are egregiously misleading. Instead of the Bible being used to develop a theology with a historical-grammatical view of reality assumed, the Bible is used as a mere tool for aiding one in interpreting reality as a story, or metaphysical narrative written by a god or plethora of gods.

The concept finds its roots in good old fashioned mythology. One should not think of mythology as rank superstition; to the contrary, mythological narratives are stories written by “gifted” spiritual leaders who understand spiritual truth that the populous at large are not able to understand. The gifted leaders package these truths in bedtime stories that the totally depraved masses can understand for purposes of life application. In Protestant context, we know it as orthodoxy and “subordinate truth.” One example would be the Westminster Confession which was penned by the “Westminster Divines.”1 Ponder that one for awhile if you think words mean things.

The foundation and historical progression is not hard to follow.2 It began in the garden when the serpent attempted to present himself as a mediator between people and God. The case presented to Eve follows: there are things about God that you can’t understand, but because I am a superior being, I can guide you in them to make you more like God. At issue from the very beginning was additional mediators between mankind and God. The serpent suggested that the direct relationship between God and mankind was lacking. This is the lie that forms the foundation of all false religions. Instead of mankind at large having initial and ongoing direct access to God at all times, false teachers make the case that they are the gateway to God or some kind of utopia.

Almost immediately after the garden, the religion of spiritual caste was off and running. More than likely, Hinduism was the first formal religion of spiritual hierarchy. True salvation is a body with one head—Christ. Because we are literally born of God into His literal family, we love God and are new creatures who think like Him, and have the same mind of His Son, Christ. Unity comes from having the same mind in Christ, and coming to agreement on such.3 If there is only one mind, and there is disagreement, obviously everybody must agree that someone is right and someone is wrong. However, Scripture instructs us to leave room for the members to be convinced in their own minds and according to the development of a biblical conscience.4 Of course, this would exclude the gospel of first order that cannot be compromised.5

In spiritual caste, an elite class understands reality while the masses are unable. This is usually divided between the material and the invisible as two different realities. Fundamentally, the material is evil and the invisible is good. One may suspect that the incarnation of Christ was a direct pushback to that idea. And of course, if the elite know what’s best for the great unwashed, for the best possible well-being of humanity in general, they must rule over those enslaved to interpreting reality through their five senses. This is where authority comes in; supposedly, for the sake of mankind. So, let’s review the primary tenets of most religions:

  1. Two realities divided by truth versus illusion.
  2. Mediators between truth and illusion.
  3. The mediators should have authority for the sake of humanity.

Usually, the invisible realm is represented by virtue or some sort of deity. Mediators are the elitists in the caste system. They can be visiting deities, or those specially gifted in the material realm. And because they are part of the material realm, they are subject to it, but not to the degree that the ungifted are so…do what they say, not what they do. It’s primarily a gift of perception; because they can see things that the common man cannot see. They create understandable teachings that will best serve man in the material realm.

In most of these caste religions, predeterminism is the centerpiece. This is because in the vast majority of these caste religions, reality is a story orchestrated by the truth realm, or invisible realm. And all stories have an author. If reality is a story, the story must have an author. And if reality has an author, of course everything is predetermined by the author—this is unavoidable. So if redemption is a story as academics of the Reformed tradition constantly state as if in a manner of speaking, of course every detail of reality is predetermined because reality is a story, and all stories have an author. In addition, it may be noted that determinism and fatalism are the historical norm in general, and Protestantism is just another player in the same old song and dance.

The progression of caste started in the garden, found its first formality in Hinduism, was passed on to Plato when he studied in India, became Gnosticism, and later dictated the basic principles of the Protestant Reformation. Augustine’s City of God is a remodeled version of Plato’s Republic and Martin Luther, as well as John Calvin, were rabid followers of Augustine. Luther was a friar in the Augustinian Order, and Calvin quotes Augustine more than 400 times in the Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion. In some translations of the Institutes, that’s an average of every 2.5 pages.

In the final analysis therefore, the Reformers, especially Martin Luther, made the gospel a metaphysical story that interprets all of reality. When you go to see a movie at your local theater, you are a character in the movie watching a movie. The movie you are in was prewritten by God like all movies are prewritten by an author. Therefore, in some sense, saving faith is seeing yourself in God’s plot which is totally out of your control and would exclude all freewill. If you have any freewill at all, you are trying to write your own reality; you are writing your own story; you are trying to be your own god. In fact, this is the very primary theses of the founding doctrinal statement of the Protestant Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation to the Augustinian Order. In that founding document presented to the Order six months after the 95 Theses, Luther presented reality in two parts: the cross story and the story of man. According to Luther a theologian is either a theologian of the cross, or a theologian of glory (the glory of man rather than God).

Presently in the Protestant evangelical church, the idea of Christianity being a story dominates church media. Consider the following citation by the contemporary father of historical-redemptive hermeneutics and Biblical Theology:

If the story is true, Jesus Christ is the interpretative key to every fact in the universe and, of course, the Bible is one such fact. He is thus the hermeneutic principle that applies first to the Bible as the ground for understanding, and also to the whole of reality.6

Similar quotations among evangelicals in our day are myriad. The Bible is merely a prototype of redemptive reality that describes generalities, or prisms of redemptive reality in which we see our own lives. Our own lives are part of the story, and we are to interpret our lives through the redemptive reality described in the Bible. The Bible describes the redemptive reality of the past (other lives as interpretive prisms/examples) and the future (how the story will end), and we are experiencing the present redemptive reality IF we have “entered into the plot”7 or entered the “Divine drama.”8 This is little less than the Hindu Lila.

The basic recurring theme in Hindu mythology is the creation of the world by the self-sacrifice of God—”sacrifice” in the original sense of “making sacred”—whereby God becomes the world which, in the end, becomes again God. This creative activity of the Divine is called lila, the play of God, and the world is seen as the stage of the divine play. Like most of Hindu mythology, the myth of lila has a strong magical flavour. Brahman is the great magician who transforms himself into the world and then performs this feat with his “magic creative power”, which is the original meaning of maya in the Rig Veda. The word maya—one of the most important terms in Indian philosophy—has changed its meaning over the centuries. From the might, or power, of the divine actor and magician, it came to signify the psychological state of anybody under the spell of the magic play. As long as we confuse the myriad forms of the divine lila with reality, without perceiving the unity of Brahman underlying all these forms, we are under the spell of maya. (…) In the Hindu view of nature, then, all forms are relative, fluid and ever-changing maya, conjured up by the great magician of the divine play. The world of maya changes continuously, because the divine lila is a rhythmic, dynamic play. The dynamic force of the play is karma, an important concept of Indian thought. Karma means “action”. It is the active principle of the play, the total universe in action, where everything is dynamically connected with everything else. In the words of the Gita Karma is the force of creation, wherefrom all things have their life.9

And of course, if reality is a story with an author, hard determinism is the order of the day; stories do not write themselves, nor do the characters in the story have freewill to write the story. Consequently, the notion that Calvinists derive their theology from the Bible rather than metaphysics is a misnomer, and in many cases outright deceptive. The Reformed tradition is really the same worn out deterministic mythology that has always dominated world philosophy and wreaked havoc on historical experience from the very beginning. And invariably, converts to Protestantism in the Reformed tradition will mutate from freewill, to soft determinism, and finally hard determinism. Or from “Pelagianism,” to “Semi-Pelagianism,” to “orthodoxy.”

Karma is the infant stage of Hinduism where saints believe they are responsible for their own actions, but as growth moves forward, the mature saint…

“[…] becomes convinced that God has been doing everything by using his body, mind, energy and the senses. He feels that he is only an instrument in the hands of God, and whatever God has been doing to him is for his ultimate spiritual good. At this high level of spirituality the doctrine of predestination becomes the only valid doctrine to him. To him the doctrine of karma ceases to be a valid doctrine.

Therefore, these two doctrines, even though apparently contradictory to each other, are valid for people at different stages of spiritual growth.”10

In regard to practical application, the parallels become even more vivid. The trichotomy of soul and society in Hinduism and Platonism are identical, and the same principles are mirrored in Gnosticism and Calvinism as well. The soul of each person is threefold, and predetermined by God or some other force/deity. In each person, there is the spiritual, intellectual, and instinctive. However, each person will be dominated by one of these characteristics, and society benefits to the degree that each person lives according to the predetermined dominant aspect of their souls. This is the basis for caste systems, and usually coincides with lineage. In other words, you are expected to stay within the social strata determined by birth for the good of society at large. This is jumping ahead a little, but this idea had deep roots in Puritan beliefs who were theological descendants of Calvin. To not remain in the social strata you were born into was thought to be a violation of the 5th commandment according to the Puritans—it was dishonoring your parents.11

The theory also coincides with the two realities of material and invisible, the material being evil and the invisible being truth. The spiritual are the mediators who are able to see beyond the material while the intellectuals are wise enough to know that the mediators should be trusted. They have a special love for the truth, so they love the mediators as well. Those who have souls dominated by instinct are enslaved to the material world and their five senses. To insert another connection somewhat prematurely, the Puritan Jonathan Edwards believed that salvation required a sixth sense in order to see the kingdom of God. In other words, the five senses that evaluate the material world were all but useless for salvation.12 This sixth sense, according to Edwards, is experienced by “delightful conviction” and “inward, sweet delight in God and divine things.” Well known pastor and Puritan wannabe John Piper borrowed these ideas from Edwards to form his Christian Hedonism movement.

In regard to Plato and the aforementioned metaphysical trichotomy, this is the philosopher king, warrior, and producer classes. This coincides with the Hindu Bhramin, Kshatryia/Vaishya, and Sudra/Untouchables. And, John Calvin had his own construct communicated via his election doctrine with more of a Gnostic flavor. Unbeknownst to most people who actually call themselves “Calvinists,” John Calvin propagated three classes of elect: the elect of the elect (those who persevere, the “P” in TULIP), the temporary elect (the called who do not persevere), and the non-elect. This coincides with Gnosticism as follows:

Calvinism derived its 3 classes ultimately from the 3 classes in Valentinian Gnosticism (see Ireneaus’ five books Against Heresies):

1. Pneumatics (spirituals) – The elect of the elect.

2. Psuchics (soulys) – The average elect.

3. Hylics (carnals) – The non-elect.

Meaning, the Hylics have no chance. As for the Psuchics, they are (as you put it) “entered into the race” but not given “the gift of perseverance.” And the Pneumatics, of course, are elect to the uttermost, meaning nothing they do can damn them.

In Gnosticism, this is natural selection, or election by nature according to Clement of Alexandria in Stromata: 2. 3. More specific definitions follow:

In the gnostic view, hylics, also called Somatics (from Gk σώμα (sōma) “body”), were the lowest order of the three types of human. The other two were the psychics and the pneumatics (from Gk πνεύμα (pneuma) “spirit, breath”). So humanity comprised matter-bound beings, matter-dwelling spirits and the matter-free or immaterial, souls.

Somatics were deemed completely bound to matter. Matter, the material world, was seen as “evil” in the gnostic world view. The material world was created by a demiurge, in some instances a blind, mad God, in others an army of rebellious angels as a trap for the spiritual Ennoia. The duty of (spiritual) man was to escape the material world by the aid of the hidden knowledge (gnosis). *

The pneumatics (“spiritual”, from Greek πνεῦμα, “spirit”) were, in Gnosticism, the highest order of humans, the other two orders being psychics and hylics. A pneumatic saw itself as escaping the doom of the material world via the transcendent knowledge of Sophia’s Divine Spark within the soul.†

They conceive, then, of three kinds of men, spiritual, material, and animal . . . The material goes, as a matter of course, into corruption. The animal, if it make choice of the better part, finds repose in the intermediate place; but if the worse, it too shall pass into destruction. But they assert that the spiritual principles which have been sown by Achamoth, being disciplined and nourished here from that time until now in righteous souls (because when given forth by her they were yet but weak), at last attaining to perfection, shall be given as brides to the angels of the Saviour, while their animal souls of necessity rest for ever with the Demiurge in the intermediate place. And again subdividing the animal souls themselves, they say that some are by nature good, and others by nature evil. The good are those who become capable of receiving the [spiritual] seed [and becoming pneumatic]; the evil by nature are those who are never able to receive that seed [and become hylic].—Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. I. 7, 513

Calvin held to these same three types of categories except the determinism is by God rather than nature. For Calvin, it is the non-elect, the elect, and those of the elect that are gifted with perseverance:

In fine, we are sufficiently taught by experience itself, that calling and faith are of little value without perseverance, which, however, is not the gift of all (CI 3.24.6)

The expression of our Savior, “Many are called, but few are chosen,” (Mt. 22:14), is also very improperly interpreted (see Book 3, chap. 2, sec. 11, 12). There will be no ambiguity in it, if we attend to what our former remarks ought to have made clear—viz. that there are two species of calling: for there is an universal call, by which God, through the external preaching of the word, invites all men alike, even those for whom he designs the call to be a savor of death, and the ground of a severer condemnation. Besides this there is a special call which, for the most part, God bestows on believers only, when by the internal illumination of the Spirit he causes the word preached to take deep root in their hearts. Sometimes, however, he communicates it also to those whom he enlightens only for a time, and whom afterwards, in just punishment for their ingratitude, he abandons and smites with greater blindness (CI 3.24.8).14

Calvinism is nothing new; it’s the same worn out ancient mythological song and dance foisted on the Bible. Many preaching in Protestant temples in our day think that it all comes from the Bible because Protestant academics told them such. We call that “orthodoxy.” It is mythology’s noble lie of metaphysical bedtime stories for serfs. Sunday church is hosted by two kinds of pastors: those who think orthodoxy actually came from the Bible and therefore think they are teaching the Bible, and those who know what’s really going on. The former is sad enough, but those who sit under the latter are paying good money to be perceived as useful idiots.

_______________________________________________________________________

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westminster_Assembly

2 Historical progression will be documented in detail: TTANC volume 3

3 Phil 2:2, 2:5-8, 1Cor 1:10, 2:15

4 Romans 14

5 1Cor 15:1-4

6 Graeme Goldsworthy: Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics; p.48

7 Paul David Tripp: How People Change

9 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lila_(Hinduism) Frijof Capra, The Tao of Physics (1975)

10 Swami Bhaskarananda: Chapters 9-11 The Essentials of Hinduism; Predestination

13 https://paulspassingthoughts.com/2014/01/30/predestination-and-the-gnostic-connection/

14 https://paulspassingthoughts.com/2014/01/30/predestination-and-the-gnostic-connection/

Helping Tim Challies and Other Calvinists with Evangelism

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 29, 2015

ChalliesYesterday, I was sent the following article about Calvinist evangelism written by blogger Tim Challies: How To Offend a Room Full of Calvinists. Miffed by the suggestion that somebody knows better than me how to offend Calvinists, I immediately read the article.

Apparently, according to Challies, Calvinists get offended when people suggest that their soteriology hinders evangelism.  According to Challies, the argument goes like this:

Many people are firmly convinced that there is a deep-rooted flaw embedded within Reformed theology that undermines evangelistic fervor. Most blame it on predestination. After all, if God has already chosen who will be saved, it negates at least some of our personal responsibility in calling people to respond to the gospel. Or perhaps it’s just the theological-mindedness that ties us down in petty disputes and nuanced distinctions instead of freeing us to get up, get out, and get on mission.

Protestants en masse think Calvinism’s greatest sin is weak evangelism, and of course, that makes them very angry because it’s supposedly the last criticism standing. I could start with the fact that Calvinism is works salvation under the guise of faith alone, or progressive justification, or salvation by antinomianism. Pick one; any of the three will work. But I have a mountain of data on that subject already; let’s do something different. Yes, let’s use Challies’ own words in the post to refute his argument. Before we call on Challies to refute his own protest, we will address his take on church history.

We go to history to show that the great missionaries, great preachers, and great revivalists of days past were Calvinists, and that Reformed theology was what fueled their mission… There are only so many times I can point to Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and the Great Awakening, or William Carey and the great missionary movement of the nineteenth century, or Charles Spurgeon and the countless thousands saved under his ministry. Sooner or later I have to stop looking at my heroes and look to myself. I can’t claim their zeal as my own. I can’t claim their obedience as my own.

In the post, Challies argues that we know that a straight line can be found from Reformed theology to evangelistic zeal because of history. Supposedly, Calvinists throughout history were driven directly by this deterministic gospel to reach thousands. It is very interesting when you consider the examples given which will aid in making my point.

The Great Awakening had absolutely nothing to do with Reformed soteriology. We should know this as a matter of common sense to begin with because the Holy Spirit doesn’t colabor with a false gospel. The Great Awakening was fueled by the ideology of the American Revolution and was expressed to a great degree in churches, especially among African Americans. Fact is, guys like Edwards and Whitefield then got on their horses and rode around the countryside bloviating and taking credit for the freedom movement tagged with “The Great Awakening” nomenclature.

Fact is, the Great Awakening was a pushback against the Puritan church state driven by Reformed soteriology that came across the pond as a European blight on American history. I would liken Challies’ assessment to our present President taking credit for things he is against when the results are positive.

What about Spurgeon? That example is just too rich because it makes the last point for me. Spurgeon, who once said Calvinism was no mere nickname but the very gospel itself, was the poster boy for getting people to come to church in order to get them saved. That’s important, hold on to that because it’s our last point.

But before we get to the last point, let’s look at the major point: Challies argues against the idea that fatalism hinders evangelism, and then confesses that he doesn’t evangelize like all of the great Calvinists in history because of…fatalism. Calvinism doesn’t cause fatalism resulting in lame evangelism, but Challies doesn’t evangelize because of fatalism.

After all, if God has already chosen who will be saved, it negates at least some of our personal responsibility in calling people to respond to the gospel… We go to the pages of Scripture to show that God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are not incompatible, but that people truly are both free and bound, that God both chooses some while extending the free offer of the gospel to all.

So why does Challies not evangelize according to him? First, because he just doesn’t, but secondly, he is responsible:

It is my conviction—conviction rooted in close study of God’s Word—that Calvinism provides a soul-stirring motivation for evangelism, and that sharing the gospel freely and with great zeal is the most natural application of biblical truth. But it is my confession—confession rooted in the evidence of my own life—that my Calvinism too rarely stirs my soul to mission. The truths that have roared in the hearts and lives of so many others, somehow just whisper in me. The fault, I’m convinced, is not with God’s Word, or even with my understanding of God’s Word; the fault is with me.

He is responsible, but not often stirred. And what’s his solution? There isn’t one, it is what it is; he is responsible, but not called to evangelism. No corrective solution is offered in the post. Why not? Because, as he said, we are responsible, but unable. Responsibility and inability are not incompatible. So, Calvinism doesn’t hinder evangelism, but if you don’t evangelize, there is no solution. Others did it, and you don’t, the end.  Well, I suppose that approach doesn’t prevent evangelism either!

And funny he should cite Edwards. Susan is doing a session on Edwards for TANC 2015 and is studying his sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. She approached me and wanted to discuss something about the sermon that she was perplexed about. Edwards spent the better part of an hour addressing the total hopelessness of man and his likelihood of ending up in an eternal hell, but in the end offers no counsel on how to escape. Why? Because if God is going to do something, he is going to do it, and man is responsible either way.

This now brings us to the final point with a bonus; we are going to help Challies with his evangelism shortcomings. There is, in fact, a solution for Tim’s lack of evangelistic zeal. He doesn’t properly understand Calvinism and its history. This isn’t about saving Tim from the false gospel of Calvinism, this is about being a good evangelist in the context of Calvinism. If I can’t save a Calvinist, I can at least teach them how to be a better Calvinist. Really, it’s disheartening when Calvinists don’t properly understand Calvinism.

This is how we will help the Challies. We will bring him back to the historical significance of Spurgeon using some of his own observations. First, let’s get a lay of the land; how does true Calvinistic evangelism work? First, it is the “sovereign” gospel which means the subject must not be told that they have a choice. This is some fun you can have with Calvinists. Ask them if they tell the recipients of their gospel message that they have a choice. Most will avoid answering because they don’t want to admit the answer is, “no.” By their own definition, that would be a false gospel speaking to man’s ability to choose God.

Secondly, if God does do something, if “the wind blows,” that puts the subject in two categories according to Calvin: the called and those who persevere.  The called are those that God temporarily illumines, but later blinds resulting in a greater damnation. Those of the perseverance class are the truly elect. So, the “good news” is that you have a chance to make it. But, if you don’t make it according to God’s predetermined will, your damnation is greater than the non-elect. God has either chosen you for greater damnation or the jackpot, but I guess it’s worth a try if God so chooses.

But hold on, and this is huge: all of that can be bypassed by Calvin’s “power of the keys.” What’s that? If you are a formal member of a Reformed church, and the elders like you, whatever they bind on earth is bound in heaven and whatever they loose on earth is loosed in heaven.

Furthermore, according to Calvin, sins committed in the Christian life remove us from salvation, but membership in the local church and receiving the “impartations of grace” that can only be found in church membership supply a perpetual covering for sin. And here is the crux: one of those “graces” is sitting under “gospel preaching” of which Spurgeon was chief. In one way or the other, Spurgeon sold this wholesale and the results speak for themselves.

See, the solution for Challies is simple.  There is a solution for the disobedience he himself is responsible for: simply invite people to church in order to “get them under the gospel.” And that often looks like this…

Or perhaps it’s just the theological-mindedness that ties us down in petty disputes and nuanced distinctions instead of freeing us to get up, get out, and get on mission.

Problem solved. That’s how Calvinism is a straight line from its theology to evangelism—you are saved by being a formal member of a Reformed church, and your salvation is sustained by remaining a faithful member of that church and obeying everything the elders tell you to do and think. But let’s not call it intellectual rape, let’s call it “keeping ourselves in the love of Jesus.” Let’s call it “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.” Let’s call it “being faithful to the church every time the doors are opened.” Let’s call it “putting ourselves under the authority of Godly men.” Let’s call it “trusting God with our finances.”

You’re welcome Tim, glad I could help.

paul

Predestination and Fatalism: “How Much?” is the Question that Only Leaves Two Choices

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on January 26, 2015

HF Potters House (2)

Originally published May 30, 2014

“This speaks to conditional and unconditional promises by God, cause and effect, and hope. What is at stake is our very understanding of reality itself.”

“What am I saying? A am saying that predeterminism is not a paradox in and of itself, I am suggesting that we consider the idea in our study that predeterminism is a slippery slope to making all of life a paradox. In other words, it makes objective truth unknowable.”        

This is part 6 of our series on predestination. We are in the process of evaluating predestination from the viewpoint of love, promises, judgment, cause and effect, hope, commandments, obedience, fear, foreknowledge, freewill, choice, ability, total depravity, evangelism, the gospel, Bible doctrine, paradox, and salvation. In most cases, determinism creates a strained understanding of what some of these words mean to us in real life.

For instance, if God loves the world and man does not have the ability to choose, why does God choose some and not others? He is impartial, no? Why will God judge those who never had a chance to escape judgment? Would God really command us to do things that He knows we are not able to do? How is God’s love really defined? Paradox is a reality, but to what extent do we except paradox as a replacement for the common understanding of life concepts and the words that describe them? Are the simple concepts of commands, love, and choice really a paradox in spiritual matters but necessarily taken literally in the milieu of life? Does whosoever will really mean whosoever has been chosen? And if it does, why doesn’t God simply state that accordingly?

In part one, we established an important starting point: the doctrine of predestination has always been primarily framed and assimilated by Reformed theologians. That’s a problem because they had/have the gospel wrong. This is a matter of simple theological math; they were on the wrong side of the law and gospel. Therefore, the doctrine must be reexamined.

In part 2, we examined God’s will in regard to the lost and the relationship of evangelism and paradox. Evangelism is another word that becomes paradoxical in light of predestination. Obedience is a paradox, love is a paradox, judgment is a paradox, and evangelism as well because the legitimacy of the offer of salvation is called into question. Whosoever will becomes whosoever has been elected. If election is a paradox, all of the concepts connected to it are paradoxical as well.

In part 2, we established that God does not desire that any person perish. He does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. Which brings up another paradox: does God plead and exhort man to be saved while knowing that he is unable to respond? When God states, “come, let us reason together,” is he saying that while knowing that man is unable to reason?

At any rate, we concluded in part 2 that God does not desire the death of the wicked—He desires that all would be saved.

In part 3, we established that predestination was not unique with the Reformers. In fact, determinism is an ancient concept that has dominated human history. We also examined the historical bad fruit produced by its ideology, and biblical contradictions as well.

In part 4, we looked at the means by which God seeks man. Man is created with intuitive knowledge of God, man begins life in the book of life and must be blotted out if he/she perishes, and Christ died for all men, not just the elect. Though not in the study, the fact that all sins are imputed to the Old Covenant, and belief in Christ eradicates the Old Covenant and all of the sin imputed to it, it implies a readiness and desire of God to vanquish one’s sin. The imputation of all sin to a covenant is sort of the opposite of starting life in the Book of Life; God wants to keep you in the one book and get rid of the other one.

Moreover, God sent the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin and the judgment to come while the works of God’s law are already written on the heart of every person. On the one hand, God has set up a gargantuan infrastructural reality to facilitate the salvation of man, but in all of this, who enters in is ultimately predetermined by Him. Why all the drama? Why all of the paradox? Why all of the confusion? Yet, another paradox that could be added is the Holy Spirit’s warning in regard to judgment along with all of God’s prophets; why offer this incentive to escape judgment to those who are unable to respond? This speaks to conditional and unconditional promises by God, cause and effect, and hope. What is at stake is our very understanding of reality itself.

In part 5, we begin to answer the question, “How much?” Let’s say that man is unable to choose God initially, but what about post new birth? Is man then able to make choices? Curiously, the Reformers say, “no.” We looked at the Reformed redemptive-historical hermeneutic that interprets all reality as a gospel metaphysical narrative. We simply put ourselves in the narrative by believing everything in life points to a truth about Christ and is predetermined. We called this plenary determinism. Also, while discussing this, we introduced the possibility that certain things are predetermined by God, while other things are not. We used the following chart to illustrate this:

Election Final Draft

Granted, we want some things to be predetermined by God. We want a happy ending. We want justice. We want the good guys to win. We want everyone to live happily ever after. In times of danger, we want our fears tempered by knowing that God is control. In the book of Revelation, for certain, the opening of the six seals will make it seem like the earth is in complete chaos and spinning out of control, but the fact will be that God is in control of every bit of that. Will that temper the fear of those who know that at the time? Sure it will.

But is everything predetermined? Does man have any role in reality at all? The main source for predestination doctrine has always been the Reformers, at least in Western culture, and they disavow choice in both the saved and unsaved state. Consequently, from an eschatological view, there is only one judgment in which both believers and unbelievers stand in to determine one’s eternal fate. Opposing eschatological views posit a separate judgment for believers and unbelievers, one for reward (believers), and one that condemns (unbelievers).

Obviously, the idea of reward strongly suggests that the reward is for something earned by making a right choice. In Reformed circles, rewards spoken of in the Bible are attributed to salvation (the reward[s] is salvation), but now we have yet another paradox because it is not really a reward that we get for something that we did! What am I saying? I am saying that predeterminism is not a paradox in and of itself, I am suggesting that we consider the idea in our study that predeterminism is a slippery slope to making all of life a paradox. In other words, it makes objective truth unknowable.

However, the Reformers state that truth can be known, and that there is no paradox at all: Man and history were created to glorify God. Everything that happens is predetermined by God (cause), and everything that happens is for God’s glory, and in fact, does glorify Him (effect). Hence, man has no ability to choose in being the cause for anything that happens. Judgment reflects God’s glory alone in simply revealing what God has preordained via good or evil. If this is not true, then how much choice does man have? That must be determined. If true, then how much choice does man not have? This must be determined as well.

At the T4G 2008 conference, John MacArthur stated the following:

The sum is that man is evil and selfish, unwilling and unable because he is dead. He loves his sin. He loves the darkness. He thrives on selfish lust. He’s happy to make a god of his own, manufacturing and convinced himself that he is good enough to satisfy that god. He may see his sin in his sin, but he does not see his sin in his goodness, and he does not see his sin in his religion, and it is his sin in his goodness that is most despicable for there is the deception and it is his sin in his religion that is most blasphemous because there it is that he worships a false god…

The contemporary idea today is that there’s some residual good left in the sinner. As this progression came from Pelagianism to Semipelagianism and then came down to sort of contemporary Arminianism and maybe got defined a little more carefully by Wesley who was a sort of a messed up Calvinist because Wesley wanted to give all the glory to God, as you well know, but he wanted to find in men some place where men could initiate salvation on his own will. That system has literally taken over and been the dominant system in evangelical Christianity. It is behind most revivalism. It is behind most evangelism. That there’s something in the sinner that can respond.

Notice how MacArthur combines ability with goodness. Ability is made to be a moral issue. Why does an ability to choose something, or make a wise choice, or desire to have something that is rooted in anthropology, have to be an issue of inherent goodness? If unregenerate man can make wise choices, or at least correct choices, and certainly he can, why couldn’t one of those wise choices be that of salvation? Yes, certainly the Bible teaches that man’s inclination is away from God, but once God seeks him out and confronts him, does he have the ability to be persuaded? Why is man able to choose to stop at a red light (cause) to prevent an accident (effect), but unable to choose God?

Throughout the same message, MacArthur asserts the following like points:

Wesley wanted to give all the glory to God, as you well know, but he wanted to find in men some place where men could initiate salvation on his own will.

Here, MacArthur makes an ability to choose equal with initiating the means of salvation and initially seeking God. Our previous lessons assert that man doesn’t initially seek God, but once God seeks him by various means, man has the ability to choose. Man has many abilities that are morally neutral, even in his weakness, why can’t the ability to choose be one of them when he/she is aided by God and convicted by the Holy Spirit? In Scripture, we have instances of men being nearly persuaded (Mark 12;34, Acts 26:25-32); what are we to surmise from this, that man has the ability to be partially persuaded, but not the ability to be fully persuaded? James suggested that some men can believe in God, but fall short of believing in a saving way (2:19). This means man has an ability to believe in God intellectually, but is unable to understand saving truth about God and make his own choice? Why would man then have the ability to believe in God at all?

According to MacArthur,

A new wave followed as people struggled to hang on to human freedom which said that Adam’s sin had “in some measure” affected and disabled all men, but sinners were left with just enough freedom of the will to make the first move of faith toward God. And then God’s grace kicked in. But sinners made the first move, and that’s what became known as semi-Pelagianism. Some would call it prevenient grace. There’s a component of grace in all human beings that gives them in the freedom of their own will the ability to initiate salvation. The idea is that depravity is real, but it is not total. Saving grace from God then becomes a divine response rather than the efficient cause of our salvation. This view is denounced, as you know, by several councils starting around 529.

How does an ability to choose equal the initiation of salvation? How does an ability to choose, or the freedom of the will to choose equal us making the first move? We by no means made the first move! Clearly, God made the first move by supplying the means of salvation, and the second move by calling all men unto salvation. After this, how does our abilty to choose constitute the “first move”? It’s not the first move, it’s a response to God’s love. And in regard to the point of our first lesson, throughout his message, MacArthur validates his points by citing St. Augustine; that is very problematic in and of itself. MacArthur then moves on in the same message to make the new birth synonymous with our ability to choose. If we have an ability to be persuaded, that is supposedly like giving birth to ourselves:

When the Bible speaks about the condition of the sinner, with what words does it speak? Well, when the Bible speaks of the sinner’s condition, it is usually in the language of death, sometimes darkness, sometimes blindness, hardness, slavery, incurable sickness, alienation, and the Bible is clear that this is a condition that affects the body, the mind, the emotion, the desire, the motive, the will, the behavior. And it is a condition that is so powerful no sinner unaided by God can ever overcome it… John 3, you are very familiar with it, Nicodemus, and no one is going to be able to see the kingdom of God unless he’s born again, Jesus said in verse 3, very interesting. Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” He is not stupid. He’s a teacher in Israel. He’s speaking metaphorically. He’s picking up on Jesus’ born again metaphor and asking the question, how does that happen? How does it happen? You can’t do it on your own. You can’t birth yourself. That’s his point. He gets it. He understands that man has no capability to bring birth to himself. Jesus follows up by saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the spirit,”

First, MacArthur’s concession, perhaps unwittingly, that “it is a condition that is so powerful no sinner unaided by God can ever overcome it” is exactly what we are saying, and not by any means that man can choose God solo. God supplies the means of salvation and seeks after man with the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the word of God. But in the end, man is able to neglect this great salvation, and to his own eternal detriment. Also, the new birth is part of the means of salvation totally out of man’s control; the new birth is a promise to those who believe, and obviously not man giving birth to himself.

When you start thinking about these things apart from Reformed orthodoxy, some observations become interesting. MacArthur used the following proof texts to make one of his points:

But let me just work you through John for a minute, John 1:12-13. “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become the children of God even to those who believed in his name who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of men, but of God.” That is unmistakable. Unmistakable. Salvation being the work of God.

First, notice that man’s role is simply to receive, and then man is “given” the “right” to become the children of God. Then MacArthur bemoans the following:

It is behind most revivalism. It is behind most evangelism. That there’s something in the sinner that can respond. And this is sort of like the right in a free country. You have to have this right. This wouldn’t be fair if God didn’t give the sinner the right to make his own decision so that the sinner unaided by the Holy Spirit must make the first move. That’s essentially Arminian theology. The sinner unaided must make the first move. And God then will respond when the sinner makes the first move.

This is exactly what the proof text that MacArthur stated says, that those who receive Christ do in fact have the “right” to become part of God’s kingdom. Also, in stating his Reformed logic in another way, he suggested that hearing the gospel message and receiving it was the same thing as preaching ourselves:

What can remedy that? We do not preach ourselves, verse 5, we preach Christ Jesus as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. We preach the gospel of Christ as lord and ourselves as slaves. And what happens? Verse 6, God who said light shall shine out of darkness, that’s taking you back to creation, God who created, who spoke light into existence is the one who has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Aside from the fact that having the ability to be persuaded is not preaching ourselves rather than Christ, note that MacArthur equates creation with the gospel which insinuates that the fall was built into creation itself. This is part and parcel with the supralapsarianism that we discussed in previous lessons.

But the thrust of this lesson centers on the “how much” when it comes to any role at all for man in salvation and the logical end of it, and in the final analysis how God’s love is defined. This is a sobering consideration. In both the 2013 Shepherds’ Conference and T4G 2008, MacArthur presents the idea that John 3, regarding the new birth, is something that is done to the individual without any participation on the part of the believer. The clear message in both cases was that any decision or belief on the part of the believer was excluded also. It was very much like the following rendition of the same text:

When we consider the great teachings of Scripture, they are not there just to give us information and they are not to teach us what we can do in our own strength. In Musings 34 (http://www.godloveshimself.org/?p=2018) we looked at how believing that the doctrine of justification is true is not the same thing as being justified. The new birth was also mentioned at the end. In the passage above (John 3:3-5) Jesus speaks pointedly and with power in a way that reflects on the issue being mused on here. Jesus did not tell Nicodemus that he must know the truth about the new birth in order to enter the kingdom. Jesus also did not tell Nicodemus that he must believe the truth about the new birth in order to enter the kingdom. Instead of that, Jesus told Nicodemus that he must actually be born again in order to enter the kingdom. There is a huge difference between believing what is true and what is true actually happening to you.

If we take this as a picture or even as an example of the teachings of Scripture, we can view what it means to believe something with different eyes or with a different perspective. Neither Jesus or Paul declared that a person must believe the facts about justification in order to be justified, but simply that a person must be justified (God Loves Himself .wordpress .com: Musing 35; February 10, 2014).

So, if reality is a prewritten metaphysical narrative for the sole purpose of glorifying God in all that happens in the narrative, it only stands to reason that God is motivated by self-glorification and self-love as the highest purpose for all that he does:

Perhaps this concept that Edwards gives just above cannot be stated too strongly or emphasized too much since all true Christianity depends on the truth of it. If God is not centered upon Himself and He does not do all for His own glory, then God Himself is not holy and acts against the perfection of His own nature, wisdom, holiness, and perfect rectitude. If God Himself does not love Himself and do all He does out of love for Himself (as triune), then He does not keep the same standard that He commands all others to do. If God does not love Himself and do all He does out of love for Himself, then the both the great Commandments and the Ten Commandments are not a transcript of the character of God. If God Himself does not love Himself and do all He does out of love for Himself (as triune), then He does not do what He requires of others in the first three petitions in the Lord’s Prayer. If God Himself does not love Himself and do all He does out of love for Himself (as triune), then He does not do all in His own name as He requires others to do so. If God Himself does not love Himself and do all He does out of love for Himself (as triune), then He does not do all for His own glory which He requires others to do (God Loves Himself .wordpress .com: Edwards on the God Centeredness of God; 11 December 7, 2013).

Add yet another paradox in regard to love. God didn’t send His Son to the cross because he loves mankind, he sent His Son to the cross because He loves Himself. The list of commonly understood words in a grammatical reality that have been redefined by the doctrine of determinism is now very lengthy. Why indeed did God even bother to write the Bible in a grammatical format? No wonder that Rick Holland, a former associate of John MacArthur has stated that good grammar makes bad theology. No kidding? Add yet another paradox: the idea that God is not a God of confusion. Of course, the Reformed would say that there is no confusion at all—ALL things are predetermined for God’s glory and completely out of our control—end of story.

Let’s pad this point a little more with some quotes from John Piper:

I would like to try to persuade you that the chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy himself forever. Or to put it another way: the chief end of God is to enjoy glorifying himself.

The reason this may sound strange is that we tend to be more familiar with our duties than with God’s designs. We know why we exist – to glorify God and enjoy him forever. But why does God exist? What should he love with all his heart and soul and mind and strength? Whom should he worship? Or will we deny him that highest of pleasures? It matters a lot what God’s ultimate allegiance is to! (Desiring God .org: Is God for Us or for Himself?; October 23, 1984).

Actually, the Bible states that the chief end of man is to obey God, and that God takes more pleasure in obedience than sacrifice (Ecc 12:13,14 1Sam 15:22). I am not sure that the Bible ever states any “chief end” of God. Really? God’s life has a primary purpose that we can understand? And its narcissism?

Though there seems to be many Scriptures that bolster determinism, it requires the redefining of many commonly understood word meanings, and inevitably leads to an unavoidable illogical outcome. If the doctrine of predetermination in and of itself was the only paradox, that would be different, but the problem we see here is that it makes all of reality a paradox unless you accept the mythological Reformed metaphysical narrative.

Redefinitions

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