Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Nature of God

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on August 7, 2015

God-Is-LoveI believe incredibly exciting times await God’s people as they break free from the Protestant Orthodoxy Dark Ages. The key will be the realization that God wrote the Bible for the average individual. We have an example of this regarding the nature of God; a subject thought to be too deep for the average disciple.

Our only head is Christ who teaches all, and the idea of being taught assumes the ability to understand. God’s people need to simply let the words in the Bible say what they plainly say, and we are individually responsible for doing so. One must free their minds from the tyranny of orthodoxy and journey into the Bible with their own God-given mind, and they will be responsible to God alone for doing so.

What then does the Bible teach us about God’s nature? The Bible states that God is love:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Obtaining God’s Love

Protestant orthodoxy has a peculiar teaching known as the “vital union.” According to Reformed tradition, we maintain this vital union of “Christ in us and us in Christ” by “preaching the gospel to ourselves.” This is done by searching for sin in our lives so that we can return to the cross for forgiveness resulting in increased salvation. The following chart publicized by several Reformed organizations illustrates the process:

how-to-preach-the-gospel-to-yourself-2 (2)

In case you think this is a “biblical” process for best results in growing as a disciple expressed in the illustration by “Heart Changed,” think again as illustrated by another chart published by several Reformed organizations as well:

gospel-grid

In this chart, what is growing? Us, or our “salvation”? Many Reformed teachers in our day are fond of telling us how to “keep ourselves in the love of God” by “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.” In fact, if we change, the following chart from the same camp shows the consequences:

ssp_temp_capture1

…our salvation gets smaller! In contrast, we obtain God’s love once, and for all time, by believing in His Son, and experience assurance of that love but walking according to our new being.

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him…

But according to Protestant orthodoxy, if we make every effort to love God and others instead making every effort to find more and more sin in our lives, the gospel effect in our lives is diminished.

The Nature of God

How we obtain the love of God as prescribed by Protestant orthodoxy flows from its tenets regarding the nature of God. Primarily, God is defined as sovereign. Rather than sovereignty being an aspect of God’s nature, it is made to be the primary organizing principle—not love. This is an important distinction for those who take part in the exodus from Protestant darkness; will God’s nature be defined by a grammatical and exegetical interpretation of Scripture, or an interpretation based on orthodoxy?

Clearly, the Bible states that God is love. So, how does the Bible define love? Let’s see:

1Corinthians 13:1 – If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The so-called Reformed gospel of sovereignty calls for the total inability of man to love God even after their definition of conversion. One well known Reformed theologian wrote a book titled One Way Love. This staple Protestant belief is defined in the doctrine of double imputation which calls for the imputation of Christ’s alien righteousness to be imputed to our lives apart from anything we do other than preaching the gospel to ourselves. Much is made of living the Christian life by faith alone in order to maintain our “just standing.”

What it boils down to is God creating evil for His own glory. Whether you consider the teachings of Martin Luther or John Calvin, the founding fathers of Protestantism, this is an irrefutable fact. Luther taught that God created mankind with a passive will; in other words, a will that can only act if acted upon from an outside source. This testifies to God’s nature as defined by sovereignty. Hence, certain people are predetermined to suffer for eternity. In regard to this, John Calvin stated,

[God] arranges all things by his sovereign counsel, in such a way that individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify him by their destruction.

~Institutes 3.23.6

I again ask how is it that the fall of Adam involves so many nations with their infant children in eternal death without remedy, unless it so seemed meet to God?…The decree, I admit, is dreadful; and yet it is impossible to deny that God foreknew what the end of man was to be before he made him, and foreknew, because he had so ordained by his decree.

~Institutes 3.23.7

This is contrary to love which is the true nature of God, being “kind,” and “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” The Reformed even make it a point to say that God did no wrong by creating man in an evil state because the end cause is God’s glory. If God brings good out of something evil, in the final analysis it is good because the end is good. It is also said that God created evil to make good better. However, that still does not dispose of the kindness issue. Love CANNOT be unkind to ANYONE.

Furthermore, it does not seek its own way, and you can insert “its own glory” in that list as well. Moreover, love does not rejoice in evil for any outcome, and always rejoices in truth and not the temporary demise of truth for some kind of better outcome. That notion is absurd.

In the final analysis, one of God’s attributes is sovereignty, but sovereignty is not the organizing principle of his nature because his nature is love.

paul

4 Hyper-Grace Myths: God Loves Everybody, Backslidden Christians, Sinners Saved by Grace, and it’s wrong to Fear God

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 13, 2010

As some know, I am dating a fellow Southern Baptist named Susan. We did not meet in the same church, so we are presently going to both by alternating back and forth. This post is sparked by the fact that I have been able to offend parishioners in both churches via Sunday school discussions. I did this at Susan’s church first while we were discussing “backslidden” Christians during Sunday school. I suggested to the class that it is wrong to give “backslidden” Christians assurance of their supposed salvation while in a state of perpetual rebellion; it was not well received.

Then in Sunday school last week while we were at my church I repeated my offensive behavior by suggesting that God does not Love everybody following a comment by someone in the class to the contrary. And while I am at it, I would like to throw in two more Christian clichés that I have suffered by throughout my Christian life: we are “sinners” saved by grace, and as Christians, we shouldn’t have any fear of God.

But before I begin, why does it matter? My answer to this question is my belief that how we think about these issues has a profound effect on evangelism and discipleship.

First, does God love everybody? Do we really want to tell unbelievers that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life? I understand the angle: “if you would just give your life to the Lord, you would find true happiness!” “Don’t you understand? God loves you!” (assuming that knowledge will motivate people to be saved).

And what about John 3:16? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” If you think about it, this verse probably means that God’s love could potentially love everyone without distinction, but is conditional upon their belief in His Son. The second part of the verse seems to add that condition. Why do I say that? Because of what Psalms 11:5 says: “The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” In regard to the righteous and unrighteous, Romans 9:13 says: “As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’”

Even those who want to believe that God loves everyone must concede that God does not love unbelievers the same way that He loves us as believers. Matthew 7:23 records the words Christ will say to some: “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Of course, this doesn’t mean that Christ never knew who they were, but rather refers to intimacy (Genesis 4:1, Gen. 19:5, 8). Christ never knew them or loved them intimately. So, to simply tell unbelievers that God loves them is to allow them to assume God loves them in the same way he loves believers which at the very least is false. Furthermore, it is a half-truth because it is also true that God hates them as well, so to only mention the love part is only half of the truth. It should go without saying that it is very important for unbelievers to have a truthful and accurate picture of their standing before God while being evangelized.

Secondly, should we say anything to professing Christians to give them assurance of salvation when they are living a disobedient lifestyle? Should we just label them “backslidden” and patiently wait for God to deal with them when he pleases, if at all? Should our reasoning sound like the following?: “Well, at least they are saved. It will all be good in the end. Besides, we shouldn’t judge.” But isn’t giving them assurance of their standing with God making a judgment as well? So, do we want our judgments to be truthful, or merely positive? Actually, I wouldn’t make any judgment; I would follow Scripture which would certainly forbid giving comfort, or encouragement to people living in a lifestyle of disobedience to God.

The Scriptures are clear; a disobedient lifestyle is indicative of unbelievers regardless of their claims otherwise: “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous” (1John 3:7). “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1John 3:10). The first chapter of 2Peter also makes it clear that we make our calling and election “sure” by “adding” spiritual virtues to our life. Therefore, disobedient persons who have assurance of salvation are a biblical anomaly. Do I believe that many well meaning Christians are unwittingly making some unbelievers as comfortable as possible until they one day wake-up forever separated from God? I say with great concern, yes.

Thirdly, are we “sinners saved by grace”? No, we are not. We are born again (John 3:7), new creatures (2Corintians 5:17), who sin at times (1John 1:8). There is a significant difference. “Sinners” are those who have a life characterized by sin; that’s not us. The English dictionary defines “sinner” via the synonym “evildoer.” We are not evildoers, that’s a biblical description of the unregenerate. Clichés such as this are not healthy nomenclatures among Christians and send the wrong message. Any phrase that downplays the vast difference in spiritual abilities between the saints and unbelievers tends to neutralize Christians. This vast difference between the two is a major theme in the book of Ephesians. If the distinction is blurred, Christians will behave accordingly. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Lastly, is it wrong for Christians to fear God? Francis Chan, in his book, “Crazy Love” describes his own fear of God as a time in his life when he was spiritually immature. Now that he is supposedly mature, he describes his present fear of God as “reverent intimacy.” Likewise, throughout out my own Christian life I have been continually taught that “fear” means “reverence.” This eliminates a very important sanctification element in the lives of believers: a healthy fear of God.

Throughout the New Testament, Christ and the Holy Spirit use fear of God as a positive motivator for proper behavior and spiritual growth. In fact, Christ commands Christians to fear God in Matthew 10:28; “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” It is also interesting to note that no fear of God is usually associated with unbelievers: “Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Psalm 36:1). Furthermore, Philippians 2:12 should make it clear what kind of fear is being talked about: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling….” The word “trembling” should adequately qualify the word “fear” in this passage of Scripture. Here again, we have an imperative to fear God.

In the Apostolic Age, Christians might have been getting overly caught-up in “saved by grace alone.” Whatever the reason was exactly, God sent the church a wake-up call via Ananias and Sephira (Acts 5:1-11). The results are then stated in verses 11, “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events,” and 13, “No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.” And also 14, “Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number” [obviously, those who really meant business]. In addition to this point, Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Throughout proverbs and Psalms, fear of God is associated with wisdom that unbelievers do not have. Throughout the New Testament, fear of God is used as a motivator to do what’s right: “and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you” (1 Thess. 4:6); “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9); “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 11:29).

Therefore, does Francis Chan and many others like him do the church harm by teaching that Christians shouldn’t fear God? Yes they do, obviously. To the contrary, they should have the heart of the Psalmist: “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD” (34:11).

In a time such as ours when an overemphasis on the gospel among the already redeemed replaces discipleship, Christians are living on a steady diet of sound bites that taste good. I hope this post provokes many to rather “…. demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2Corintians 10:6).

paul

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