Paul's Passing Thoughts

God’s Choosing in Election

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 26, 2018

Originally Published January 26, 2017

Much is made over any number of verses in the Bible that people will point to as a proof text for election, or Calvin’s notion of “unconditional election”, the idea that God chooses who will be saved and who will be damned. One such verse is Matthew 22:14.

“For many are called, but few are chosen.” ~ Matthew 22:14

To the casual reader (which unfortunately describes many “Christians” these days who are not good students of scripture but rather leave the heavy lifting of study and critical thought to some “authority”) it would appear that Jesus is indeed stating that people are chosen. For those of you who are like me and are not casual readers but actually do think critically, a simple observation of the context and grammar of the passage shows otherwise.

This verse comes at the end of the passage where Jesus gives the parable of the marriage feast. Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a king who prepares a grand feast for his son’s wedding. In the passage, the king sends out invitations, but only a few accept the invitation. The king then offers the invitation to more and more so that the wedding feast will be full of guests. The ones who reject the invitation are cast into outer darkness.

Among other things this parable teaches, one is that the “church” is not the Bride of Christ, but rather the “church” are the guests at the wedding. But this passage also gives us a clear understanding about the real doctrine of “election.” There is a distinction made between those who are given the invitation to come to the wedding and those who accept the invitation. It should be noted that those who reject the invitation do so by their own choice, not because God pre-ordained them to damnation.

I think the reason the concluding verse of this passage is so confusing, aside from man’s attempt to use orthodoxy as a means to control, is because of the lack of clarity in the grammar in all English translations. The key to understanding Matthew 22:14 is that we must recognize something that is clear in the Greek but not so clear in English. The words “called” and “chosen” are adjectives and not verbs. This means that the words identify or describe a particular group and do not indicate an action.

If we assume, as the common assumption is, that “called” and “chosen” are verbs, that is not necessarily a problem with the first clause. It speaks to the sending out of an invitation. To say that many “are called” is to acknowledge that an invitation is indeed given out to men- men are called to the wedding feast; men are called to accept salvation. But if we project that same grammatical usage onto the second clause, then we would necessarily be forced to accept the idea that the ones who respond to the invitation do so not by personal choice but by God’s determination alone. But this conclusion presents us with two rationally inconsistent ideas. Why would God bother to invite all mankind if He was only going to choose a few?

Let’s take a look at the grammar of verse 14. Here I have taken an excerpt from my electronic interlinear Bible that shows the verse parallel with the Greek text. The notations below the Greek indicate the part of speech and usage.

matthew-22-14-grammar

The first thing I want you to notice in this verse is that there is only one verb. The word “are” in the second clause “few are chosen” does not appear in the Greek text. Your Bible probably indicates this by having “are” italicized. As you can see by the notes above, the verb used is equivalent to the English word “is” or “are”, and it is used here in this verse as a linking verb. When a verb is a linking verb, that means the subject and predicate can be switched, and the meaning of the clause remains the same.

This is especially important when you realize that with the exception of the two conjunctions “for” and “but”, all the other words are adjectives. Not only are they adjectives, but the notation “_Nom” that you see beneath them indicates that they are used in the nominative case. That means they can be used in either in the subject or as a predicate nominative. And since they are all nominative case, that means that the phrases:

“many are called, few are chosen”

means the same thing as

“called are many, chosen are few.”

So you can see by grammatical analysis, that the idea of “chosen” doesn’t specify an action upon a group but instead it identifies or labels a group. What you have in this verse is the identification of two sets, one named “The Called”, and another named “The Chosen”. In addition, we are given some indication as to the relative size of each group, many and few. Please keep this in mind as we move on, this is important: these are not actions, they are people groups!

Moreover, the second group is a subset of the first group. Let me give a more mundane example to help illustrate my point.

spotted and speckledFarmer Jones has 50 white goats. 30 of them are all white, but there are 20 of them that have spots and speckles. So while the larger set of all 50 goats are indeed white, a subset of them (20) have spots and speckles. So it would be accurate to say that:

“Of farmer Jones’ goats, many are white but few are spotted and speckled”

Notice that “white” and “spotted” are not verbs or actions that describe something happening to the goats, but rather they are labels given to identify the larger set (white) and the subset within that larger set (spotted/speckled). To say that a number of goats are white isn’t saying something “whited” them. Likewise to say that a number of goats are spotted isn’t saying something “spotted” them. They are not goats on which somebody performed the act of speckling and spotting. It is a label only.

In this same sense, in Matthew “called” and “chosen” are not verbs or actions that describe something happening to the subject, but rather they are labels given to identify the larger set (“The Called”) and the subset within that larger set (“The Chosen”). Said another way, they are not the subject on which someone performed the act of “choosing”. It is a label only.

Many are Legos, but few are green.Let me use another mundane example. This one is a little more personal to me, but if you have kids you can probably relate. My five children (even the almost 16-year-old!) love to build with Legos. In fact, you could probably say that we do our fair share in keeping the Lego company solvent. We have TONS of Legos.

Now, consider this pile of Legos you see pictured at right. Notice that there is a pile of green Legos surrounded by another pile of assorted colors. The assorted pile are Legos, but they are not green, and the pile of green ones are still Legos. By looking at this picture, one could say, “There are many Legos, but few are green.”

Let me use one more example. My son’s birthday is coming up soon. Let’s say I have decided that I am going to host a birthday party, so I am going to send out invitations to all his friends and our family. Let us also say that I decided two months ago that I was going to host this party. And when I decided to host this party, I also decided that everyone who comes to the party will receive a door prize; a small bag of candy and other treats.

Now let us assume that I send out 100 invitations, but only 20 guests show up. Those 20 guests will receive the door prize. Remember, I decided that two months ago. So it could be said, that many were invited to the party, but only a few showed up to receive the prize.

Now consider this. Did I choose who would show up? No, of course not. I chose what they would receive when they got here. While I did not actually choose who would show up, the ones who did received the prize. Whoever showed up was a result of those individuals who decided whether to come or not. Those to whom I sent the invitations could be referred to as “The Invited.” Those who showed up to receive the prize could be referred to as “The Prized”. So, many are Invited, but few are Prized.

Now consider this passage at the beginning of Ephesians.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” ~ Ephesians 1:3-7

This is another favorite passage that many use as a proof text for the doctrine of election and determinism. But look carefully at what the apostle Paul is saying. The scenario is the same as that of the birthday party example.

election-chart

Careful examination of the grammatical structure of this passage makes it clear that God did not choose who would be saved. God chose what those “in Christ” would receive.

“The Called” are those to whom God sent out the invitation to receive eternal life. “The Chosen” are the ones who accepted the invitation and received the gift that God chose to give to all those who accepted the invitation.

What is remarkable about these conclusions is they are rationally consistent with the rest of what scripture teaches about soteriology. There is no need to perform theological gymnastics in order to force together contradicting conclusions or simply dismiss one or the other altogether.

~ Andy

God’s Choosing In Election

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 26, 2017

Much is made over any number of verses in the Bible that people will point to as a proof text for election, or Calvin’s notion of “unconditional election”, the idea that God chooses who will be saved and who will be damned. One such verse is Matthew 22:14.

“For many are called, but few are chosen.” ~ Matthew 22:14

To the casual reader (which unfortunately describes many “Christians” these days who are not good students of scripture but rather leave the heavy lifting of study and critical thought to some “authority”) it would appear that Jesus is indeed stating that people are chosen. For those of you who are like me and are not casual readers but actually do think critically, a simple observation of the context and grammar of the passage shows otherwise.

This verse comes at the end of the passage where Jesus gives the parable of the marriage feast. Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a king who prepares a grand feast for his son’s wedding. In the passage, the king sends out invitations, but only a few accept the invitation. The king then offers the invitation to more and more so that the wedding feast will be full of guests. The ones who reject the invitation are cast into outer darkness.

Among other things this parable teaches, one is that the “church” is not the Bride of Christ, but rather the “church” are the guests at the wedding. But this passage also gives us a clear understanding about the real doctrine of “election.” There is a distinction made between those who are given the invitation to come to the wedding and those who accept the invitation. It should be noted that those who reject the invitation do so by their own choice, not because God pre-ordained them to damnation.

I think the reason the concluding verse of this passage is so confusing, aside from man’s attempt to use orthodoxy as a means to control, is because of the lack of clarity in the grammar in all English translations. The key to understanding Matthew 22:14 is that we must recognize something that is clear in the Greek but not so clear in English. The words “called” and “chosen” are adjectives and not verbs. This means that the words identify or describe a particular group and do not indicate an action.

If we assume, as the common assumption is, that “called” and “chosen” are verbs, that is not necessarily a problem with the first clause. It speaks to the sending out of an invitation. To say that many “are called” is to acknowledge that an invitation is indeed given out to men- men are called to the wedding feast; men are called to accept salvation. But if we project that same grammatical usage onto the second clause, then we would necessarily be forced to accept the idea that the ones who respond to the invitation do so not by personal choice but by God’s determination alone. But this conclusion presents us with two rationally inconsistent ideas. Why would God bother to invite all mankind if He was only going to choose a few?

Let’s take a look at the grammar of verse 14. Here I have taken an excerpt from my electronic interlinear Bible that shows the verse parallel with the Greek text. The notations below the Greek indicate the part of speech and usage.

matthew-22-14-grammar

The first thing I want you to notice in this verse is that there is only one verb. The word “are” in the second clause “few are chosen” does not appear in the Greek text. Your Bible probably indicates this by having “are” italicized. As you can see by the notes above, the verb used is equivalent to the English word “is” or “are”, and it is used here in this verse as a linking verb. When a verb is a linking verb, that means the subject and predicate can be switched, and the meaning of the clause remains the same.

This is especially important when you realize that with the exception of the two conjunctions “for” and “but”, all the other words are adjectives. Not only are they adjectives, but the notation “_Nom” that you see beneath them indicates that they are used in the nominative case. That means they can be used in either in the subject or as a predicate nominative. And since they are all nominative case, that means that the phrases:

“many are called, few are chosen”

means the same thing as

“called are many, chosen are few.”

So you can see by grammatical analysis, that the idea of “chosen” doesn’t specify an action upon a group but instead it identifies or labels a group. What you have in this verse is the identification of two sets, one named “The Called”, and another named “The Chosen”. In addition, we are given some indication as to the relative size of each group, many and few. Please keep this in mind as we move on, this is important: these are not actions, they are people groups!

Moreover, the second group is a subset of the first group. Let me give a more mundane example to help illustrate my point.

spotted and speckledFarmer Jones has 50 white goats. 30 of them are all white, but there are 20 of them that have spots and speckles. So while the larger set of all 50 goats are indeed white, a subset of them (20) have spots and speckles. So it would be accurate to say that:

“Of farmer Jones’ goats, many are white but few are spotted and speckled”

Notice that “white” and “spotted” are not verbs or actions that describe something happening to the goats, but rather they are labels given to identify the larger set (white) and the subset within that larger set (spotted/speckled). To say that a number of goats are white isn’t saying something “whited” them. Likewise to say that a number of goats are spotted isn’t saying something “spotted” them. They are not goats on which somebody performed the act of speckling and spotting. It is a label only.

In this same sense, in Matthew “called” and “chosen” are not verbs or actions that describe something happening to the subject, but rather they are labels given to identify the larger set (“The Called”) and the subset within that larger set (“The Chosen”). Said another way, they are not the subject on which someone performed the act of “choosing”. It is a label only.

Many are Legos, but few are green.Let me use another mundane example. This one is a little more personal to me, but if you have kids you can probably relate. My five children (even the almost16-year-old!) love to build with Legos. In fact, you could probably say that we do our fair share in keeping the Lego company solvent. We have TONS of Legos.

Now, consider this pile of Legos you see pictured at right. Notice that there is a pile of green Legos surrounded by another pile of assorted colors. The assorted pile are Legos, but they are not green, and the pile of green ones are still Legos. By looking at this picture, one could say, “There are many Legos, but few are green.”

Let me use one more example. My son’s birthday is coming up soon. I have decided that I am going to host a birthday party, so I am going to send out invitations to all his friends and our family. I decided two months ago that I was going to host this party. And when I decided to host this party, I also decided that everyone who comes to the party will receive a door prize, a small bag of candy and other treats.

Now let us assume that I send out 100 invitations, but only 20 guests show up. Those 20 guests will receive the door prize. Remember, I decided that two months ago. So it could be said, that many were invited to the party, but only a few showed up to receive the prize.

Now consider this. Did I choose who would show up? No, of course not. I chose what they would receive when they got here. While I did not actually choose who would show up, the ones who did received the prize. Whoever showed up was a result of the individuals who decided whether to come or not. Those to whom I sent the invitations could be referred to as “The Invited.” Those who showed up to receive the prize could be referred to as “The Prized”. So, many are Invited, but few are Prized.

Now consider this passage at the beginning of Ephesians.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” ~ Ephesians 1:3-7

This is another favorite passage that many use as a proof text for the doctrine of election and determinism. But look carefully at what the apostle Paul is saying. The scenario is the same as that of the birthday party example.

election-chart

Careful examination of the grammatical structure of this passage makes it clear that God did not choose who would be saved. God chose what those in Christ would receive.

“The Called” are those to whom God sent out the invitation to receive eternal life. “The Chosen” are the ones who accepted the invitation and received the gift that God chose to give to all those who accepted the invitation.

What is remarkable about these conclusions is they are rationally consistent with the rest of what scripture teaches about soteriology. There is no need to perform theological gymnastics in order to force together contradicting conclusions or simply dismiss one or the other altogether.

~ Andy

 

The Good News About God

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on September 20, 2015

TANC LOGOGod is good news. This is perhaps the simplest distinction between Biblicism and Protestantism; Biblicists believe that the gospel, or the good news about God is good news to everyone. It believes that the offer of salvation is a valid offer. It believes that the gift is offered to everyone. This speaks to the pejorative claim that Biblicists are unreasonable wooden literalists; indeed, we believe that words mean things. We believe that “news” informs someone of something that they didn’t know previously, and that God is a good reporter tending towards full disclosure; it isn’t good news to some and bad news to others. How is predetermined eternal suffering for the glory of God good news? How can a promise be a promise to you if you have no way of knowing if the promise is actually for you or not? Biblicists assume different word choices from a God that is not a God of confusion. Biblicists believe words mean things; Protestants don’t, and even say so in no uncertain terms! (Note Rick Holland’s heading on page 39 of Uneclipsing The Son: “When Bad Grammar Makes Good Theology”).

In these sessions, the term “Protestant” refers to the authentic doctrine of the Protestant Reformation. The fact that many have strayed from the original article is noted, but what Protestant gives a waiver to a Buddhist that doesn’t believe everything Buddha believed? It’s still Buddhism.

Consider an apple tree. Apple trees do not produce peaches. However, nor are the branches or the fruit exactly the same. The branches differ, and the apples vary in size and color, but it is still an apple tree. Biblicism is an altogether different tree.

Before we examine the Biblicist gospel, let me take you to the book of Genesis to illustrate the aforementioned elements of Biblicism.

Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

All kinds of hay is made with these opening statements from God’s word; if this creation account is really about the gospel, or symbolic of it, then outrageous presuppositions can be assimilated into the thinking of people without plainly stating the thesis. If you believe that the creation account is about the gospel, you also concede that God preordained the fall of man, created evil (darkness), and goodness, (light). And in fact, as I think will be ascertained from Susan’s sessions, this very belief, that God created evil and preordained the fall of man for his own glory, is very much a part of Protestant tradition.

There is no doubt that many of the biblical authors used the creation account for metaphors, but that does not speak to the primary purpose or point of the passage. The idea that this creation account is about the gospel is an assumption, and Biblicism chooses conclusions that are plainly stated over assumption in all cases. This is an account of the “first day” of creation and how God brought that about. The rightness of this epistemology can also be seen in the same passage:

God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.

Hence, from the very beginning, we see that reality is defined by what it is called through using words. If the meaning and science of words are not concrete, reality cannot be known. If this is a metaphysical statement concerning the gospel and good and evil, why wouldn’t God simply state that accordingly?

As far as words interpreting reality, God involved Adam in the process:

Genesis 2:19 – Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.

Don’t misunderstand, things don’t cease to exist because they are not named, but there is no way to define existence without words, at least not in our reality, and therefore, the unnamed thing has no meaning. Remember also that people can be manipulated into doing absolutely anything if they are convinced by others that certain words mean certain things.

The definitions of words define reality in the minds of people. Those who control the definitions control what and how people think, and thus control their actions as well. Some call this “propaganda.”

Symbolism is the most often-used communication technique to convince people that certain words mean things they don’t mean. This is very subtle and effective; if creation represents the gospel, then obviously God anticipated the fall of man because it was part of His intended will for mankind.

But mankind did fall, and the recorded account in Genesis gives us insight into the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of Sin, the gospel, evangelism, and the Caste religion.

This shouldn’t surprise us, but the serpent approached Eve with a religion. Well, really, THE religion. If this approach worked, and it did, why would there be a deviation from the original article? Sure, applications will differ, but the basic principles remain the same; it’s a tree of kind. What is it?

Genesis 3:1 – Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Let’s focus on the obvious here. The Religion has four basic principles, and the second point is less obvious, but valid: for the most part, ALL religious and political ideologies flow from this religion. Mankind was absolutely hell-bent on functioning by this premise until the Enlightenment Era. Here are the four basic principles of the Caste religion:

1. There is spiritual knowledge that is separate from material knowledge; the knowledge of good and evil.

2. Mankind is unable to comprehend the spiritual; he is enslaved to the material world.

3. Mediators are needed between God and man to understand the spiritual knowledge and apply it to the material realm for the overall well-being of mankind.

4. These mediators are divinely gifted by God and preordained.

The first three points can clearly be seen in Genesis 3:1ff. “Hey Eve, there is a whole body of wisdom that God is keeping from you, and you need me to mediate that wisdom between you and God because I am superior to you and therefore qualified to do so.”

Notice the communication techniques used by the serpent to deceive Eve: he changed the definition of words; “No, no, Eve, you misunderstand what God said, he didn’t mean that you will literally die.” And she ate, and guess what? She didn’t drop dead. The serpent changed the definition of the word, “death” as God meant it in that context, and nothing has ever changed accordingly. When we allow mediators between ourselves and God, we are trusting them to define words for us because we supposedly can’t understand God. Take note: when men speak of “subordinate truth,” this is set against the superior truth that only they and God understand, and we call that “orthodoxy.” When Biblicists are criticized for thinking we do not need creeds and confessions, that ought to make cold chills run up our spine. Creeds, confessions, and counsels are nothing more than mediators penning bedtime stories for the great unwashed who are childlike in their ability to understand realty. Consider this illustration once again:

eec5c9fa7c36e18aa5f7da878d739c1b

What is this? Right, the knowledge of good and evil. Right? Let me show you something else:

Our wisdom, insofar as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and ourselves.

That’s the very first sentence of the Calvin Institutes. If only God is good, and mankind is totally depraved, how is this not the knowledge of good and evil as the premiere epistemology of all metaphysics? It’s the knowledge of good and evil mediated by those preordained by God for the well-being of society at large. This religion brought death in the garden, and created elitist caste systems that dictate life from the family unit to offices of governors and kings.

We saw it in high school, and we even see it in the Republican primary. The elitist party hacks are beside themselves that the great unwashed are being duped by Donald Trump, but instead of asking “why?” and looking in the mirror, it is chalked up to the total depravity of the masses. Therefore, the party elitists must neutralize Trump in order to save the great unwashed masses from themselves. Though Trump continues to lead the pack in the polls by double digits, he is summarily dismissed by political pundits. One cannot by any means separate this from an elitist mentality that dismisses the discernment of the voters.

SIN: THE BIBLICAL DEFINITION

Something else can be learned here about the nature of sin. What is the biblical definition of sin? It is defined as a master, or slave master. Sin is defined as a separate entity that seeks to enslave.

Genesis 4:5 – So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

In what can be considered the first detailed account of a gospel presentation and that by God Himself, sin is identified as something that has desire, and that desire is to rule over others. God tells Cain that he must instead rule over sin. We also find that sin makes its appeal through desire:

Genesis 3:6 – So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

James 1:13 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

This is a fundamental definition of sin that is an important building block for additional understanding: it is a slave master that desires to rule over others and makes its appeal through desires, or “sinful desires.” The results of sin are types of death experienced throughout life leading to ultimate death. Sin is also empowered by its ability to condemn:

1Corinthians 15:56 – The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

When we get into the subject of law/gospel in part 3 of this session, the correlation between law and condemnation will be explained, but for now, the main point is that sin is empowered by its ability to condemn. It’s a master who desires to rule over people and bring many faceted deaths into their lives, and makes its appeal through the desires of others. It is empowered by the condemnation that results. In one way, sin rules over people by paralyzing them with guilt and fear.

SIN 1

We see this in the garden. After Adam and Eve sin, they hide from God because they are afraid of God’s condemnation.

Genesis 3:9 – But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

Sin and fear of condemnation go together. This also speaks to evangelism and free will. Protestants love to make much of “No man seeks after God” (Rom 3:11). But this is not because man is totally depraved and has no inkling towards God whatever. Man does not seek God because he fears condemnation. Obviously, when Adam and Eve sinned, they did not immediately seek out God for a solution. Instead, they hid from God because they were afraid of His condemnation. This is why man does not seek God, he is afraid—not because he is totally depraved.

In addition, we see the essence of evangelism from the very beginning: God seeks out man with the remedy for sin. Just because God is the one who is proactive does not mean man has no ability to make a choice when confronted by God. Adam and Eve had no ability to come up with a plan that would fix the fall. Obviously, God is the only one who could remedy the problem. Man’s inability is in regard to proposing a plan of reconciliation with God, not an inability to accept the gift of salvation through a plan devised by God when offered.

Blog TalkRadio Podcast, Session 2: Challenging Doctrinal Presuppositions of Orthodoxy

Election and the Real Golden Chain of Salvation: Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on September 17, 2015

ppt-jpeg4Those who still need salvation have that need for a reason; they yet remain damned. Furthermore, they saturate themselves with a justification only perspective on the law which will magnify their damnation unless they repent.”

An item of particular interest in regard to the Reformed use of Romans 8:29,30 for the ordo salutis (order of salvation or the golden chain of individual salvation) is that sanctification is missing from the process. Sanctification is not in Romans 8:29,30. Let there be no doubt about it when the least common denominator is front and center: this issue concerns two different gospels. One gospel states that sanctification is not mentioned because it is the same thing as justification; the other gospel states that sanctification is missing because justification and sanctification are totally separate.

And obviously therefore, one states that salvation is a finished work while the other sees salvation as a process that the individual experiences and lives in while the process is ongoing. This is why Protestantism has ALWAYS been characterized by weak sanctification and lack of assurance. If justification and sanctification are the same thing, there is going to be an over emphasis on justification; if we are in the midst of the justification “process” and our salvation depends on whether or not God chose us to believe, and our individual election will not be verified until the “tribunal,” assurance will be lacking.

The Bible is clear. Assurance is based on two things: confidence in the FINISHED election process preordained by God, and the ability to work out the gifts given to us with our finished and final salvation being of no consideration in regard to our works of love. In other words, one of the purposes of election is to radically separate justification and sanctification leading to assurance and aggressive sanctification. The Reformed order of salvation uses election to fuse justification and sanctification together resulting in that train wreck we call “Protestantism.”

This is why I think Romans 8:29,30 is in the past tense; it concerns justification ONLY as a finished work. Yet, the Reformed use it to make a case for a salvation that is yet future; in other words, the Reformed throw out grammatical considerations regardless of whether it is in the English, Hebrew, or Greek. While they claim deep knowledge of the languages are efficacious to valid understanding of the Scriptures, they rape and ravage normative grammatical rules unfettered. While using knowledge of the languages to intimidate the great unwashed, they say, “good grammar makes bad theology” as if there are no rules of grammar in the Greek and Hebrew. But there are, and the rules are fairly consistent in all languages. Knowledge of Greek and Hebrew is oversold for purposes of control. More relevant than anything is a good working knowledge of grammar.

Romans 8:29,30 speaks of a group, or classification of people who were pre-loved, predestined, called, justified, and glorified. However, not all who are called within the group answer the call, but rather reject it. Those who accept the invitation of the calling are part of the elect group. In the same way, Israel was elected, but not all Israelites accept the invitation. Therefore, God also preordained the Gentiles for salvation in order to make the Jews jealous. In part one, I cite Matthew 22:1-14 to make this case in regard to the “called”, and would also like to add Romans 11. The “remnant” can also be considered an elect group as well, and any Jew can be saved by becoming a part of it IF they believe individually (Romans 11:23).

Throughout the Bible, people are called to believe and are warned that they will be judged if they don’t. The means of salvation being elected rather than individuals, and those individuals being called on to become part of the elect group excludes the need to relegate the gospel to paradox. God is not a God of confusion. If the “called” are not distinguished from the definition of “elect,” the Bible becomes utterly confusing. Nevertheless, Matthew 22:1-14 seems to end the argument altogether; many are called but few are elect. The elect are the ones who accept the invitation to the wedding feast.

Admittedly, this is a working hypothesis for consideration among the laity, but the following is certain: the Protestant gospel of a progressive order of salvation must be rejected with extreme prejudice for many, many definitive reasons. And Biblicism knows the following concretely in regard to its alternative gospel: justification is a finished work by God alone and the saint is free to love aggressively without fear of condemnation. We leave the cross and move on to maturity in love. Those who still need salvation have that need for a reason; they yet remain damned. Furthermore, they saturate themselves with a justification only perspective on the law which will magnify their damnation unless they repent.

At any rate, the idea that a group is elected for a certain purpose without all in the group being saved is far from being unbiblical, and Israel is the primary example (NASB):

Deuteronomy 7:6

“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

Exodus 19:4-6

‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”

Psalms 135:4

For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His own possession.

Isaiah 41:8-9

“But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, Descendant of Abraham My friend, You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its remotest parts And said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.

Isaiah 43:10

“You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me.

Isaiah 44:1-2

“But now listen, O Jacob, My servant, And Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus says the LORD who made you And formed you from the womb, who will help you, ‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant; And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen.

Isaiah 45:4

“For the sake of Jacob My servant, And Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor Though you have not known Me.

Amos 3:2

“You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”

In Romans 11:2, the apostle Paul even writes that God “foreknew” Israel. This is the election and foreknowledge of a group of which all are not saved. God calls all of those belonging to the group, but many within the group reject the call. Again, note Matthew 22:1-14. If they answer the call, they are elect because they are part of the group that was elected. It is plain that election is not defined by individual pre-selection alone, and in fact, specific verses that seem to indicate the election of individuals are not only rare, but ambiguous at best while the former are ample and concise.

Let me throw a couple of thoughts in here that would be prompted by reading almost anywhere throughout the New Testament. First, if individuals are pre-selected, the Scriptures pass on the opportunity to make that clear over and over again. For example:

Luke 16:27 – And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No,father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

If the issue is pre-selection, why wouldn’t Abraham merely say so? Why is the source of information that would persuade the rich man’s brothers the issue rather than God’s choosing? Individual pre-determinism makes the Bible an illogical convoluted mess, not to mention a god that is playing head games with mankind.

Secondly, if there is no future purpose for Israel, or the “church” has taken Israel’s place, which is an idea firmly embedded in Reformed tradition via amillennialism and supersessionism, does that not deny a true link in the election chain? Does it not make some aspects of election temporary? Why not? In part 1 we discussed John Calvin’s interpretation of the “called” as those who are temporarily chosen and therefore relegated to a greater damnation in the end.

So, what is the true golden chain of salvation? We begin to explore that in part 3.

paul

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Ground Zero for Understanding the Biblical Counseling Movement

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on February 2, 2015

CWW 4

Originally published September 18, 2013

“I believe this will go down in church history as one of the most grotesque betrayals ever perpetrated on a man in the name of friendship and the gospel.” 

A Chapter Theses for Clouds Without Water: The Biblical Counseling Movement; It’s True History and Doctrine

 In the Beginning, Plato, and then Augustine.

During the first century, the upstart assemblies of the risen Christ suffered a viral affront from Gnostic sects. The first century church was made up of people from all socioeconomic strata, and the Gnostics infiltrated Christianity for that purpose. Those in the first century church well-endowed with money were a valuable resource, and this is who the Gnostic sects primarily targeted with their false doctrine.

Gnosticism has always been about elitism, power, and money. If you want to see an immaculate mural of the American church, read Philip J. Lee’s “Against the Protestant Gnostics.”

Gnosticism finds its roots in the philosophy of Plato. Every American born into the world should be thoroughly apprised of Plato the man and his philosophy. To understand Plato is to understand Western culture politically and spiritually. All the philosophers agree on this point. From there, the math is easy: Augustine was the father of Reformation doctrine, and a rabid follower of Plato. Augustine had little use for the Bible without Platonist insight, and considered Plato a Pre-Christianity Christian.

Of course, the favorite red herring is that Plato is not agreed with on every point, but the fact remains that his primary construct founded Reformed theology: the incompetence of man, and the need for a select few (the enlightened) to rule over the masses. Those with gnosis know how society best functions, and they know how the masses can find individual peace from the desires that rule over them.

The Age of Enlightenment (circa 1630) produced men who were the first to confront Plato’s construct successfully. The most formidable product of that movement was the American experiment which obviously turned out quite well. It was founded on the competence of the individual. The competition was the Platonist Puritans who unfortunately survived the voyage from Europe and wreaked havoc on the East coast. But fortunately, their worldview kept them from settling further inland. “Go west young man!” is hardly the motivational words of competence found among the purer forms of Reformed thought.

Let there be no doubt about it, the idea of merging church and state is grounded in the religion of man’s incompetence. The masses need the state to take care of them. Plato’s philosopher kings contrive orthodoxy, and the soldiers enforce it. This concept did not find its way into the Westminster Confession by accident.  Even those who think the state should be separate from the church think a utopia would arise if the church ran the state. “Separation of church and state” doesn’t mean no theocracy; theocracy would be a good thing, supposedly. The state has always had an interest in ruling over religion because ideas are dangerous, and the church has always been a willing participant if the state agrees to enforce their orthodoxy. The battle between the two for the upper hand of control is the political intrigue that is European history in a nutshell. And that is how the world as we know it will end: the zenith of church statecraft as described in the book of Revelation.

This is Western history, and the  children of the enlightenment would have no part of it on American soil. Ten years after the Declaration of Independence, James Madison successfully stopped a European style push for a church state in A Memorial in Remonstance Against Religious Assessments. For all practical purposes, it was an indictment against the fruits of European Reformed doctrine.

The Reformation’s Historical Cycle of Social Death and Resurgence

The Reformers, being children of Plato, didn’t interpret reality with a normative epistemology. Plato’s Achilles’ heel has always been the application of Eastern mysticism. Instead of reality being interpreted empirically, and a course of action being determined by discovery, conclusions are drawn by using interpretive gateways to the “pure” form of reality that is hopefully good. Plato thought it was good, but his interpretive gateway to reality rejected the five senses out of hand. Gnosis was the key.

The Reformers merely replaced gnosis with the personhood of Christ as a sort of stargate to reality. That reality was predicated on the difference between the unchangeable pure form of Christ, and the inherent evil of man dwelling in a world that constantly changes. Plato equated the pure forms with immutable objectivity, and evil matter with mutable subjectivity. Hence, today’s Platonist Reformers speak of the “objective gospel experienced subjectively.”  This is clearly Plato’s metaphysical construct based on the incompetence of man in regard to interpreting reality. Like Plato, the Reformers of old and new alike bemoan man’s attempt to understand reality “in the shadows” of all matters that “eclipse Christ.” While donning the persona of Biblicism, pastors like Steve Lawson call for pastors to “come out from the shadows.”

This is the theme of books like “Uneclipsing the Son” by John MacArthur confidant Rick Holland. In his book, he hints at why purest Reformed theology gets lost in the minds of Christians from time to time and therefore needs periodic resurgences and rediscoveries. He notes in his book that good grammar makes bad theology. The mystic heretic Paul David Tripp makes the same assertion in “How People Change,” noting that a literal interpretation of Scripture circumvents the personhood of Christ and His saving work. What’s in an interpretation method? According to Tripp—your salvation.

This is the paramount point at hand: the Reformers did not interpret the Bible grammatically, objectively, exegetically, or literally at any point; they interpreted the Bible through the dual prism of  “reality” seen in God’s holiness and our evil. The only objective truth is the person of Christ leading to a mere subjective experience of His power and  grace manifestations. Hence, many Reformed purists in our day embodied in the New Calvinist movement speak of, “spiritual growth in seeing our own evil as set against the holiness of God.” Therefore, commands in the Bible become part of the narrative that helps us see what we are unable to do rather than commands to be obeyed. We merely seek to see, and wait for the subjective experience of “vivification.” The seeing is the “mortification.” Reformed theologians like Michael Horton explain this as a continual re-experience of our original baptism as we perpetually revisit the same gospel that saved us “afresh.”

This reduces the Christian life to experiences of perpetual rebirth found in Eastern concepts Plato borrowed for “practical life application.”  This is the foundation of Historical Redemptive hermeneutics born of Reformed purism.  This is also the interpretive method that is all of the rage in our day through programs like BibleMesh.

This is not the natural bent towards interpreting truth. We are wired to interpret truth objectively, and grammatically—tools like allegory and parables notwithstanding. This is why Reformed purism dies a social death from time to time throughout history. Thus, this metaphysical anomaly experiences “rediscovery” and “resurgence” movements. Be certain of the following: this is the New Calvinist movement in our day, and in essence, a return to the exact same viral Gnosticism that plagued the New Testament church with this caveat added: we by no means possess the doctrinal intestinal fortitude of the first century church.

Ground Zero: The 1970 Resurgence

1970 is ground zero for the present landscape of American Christianity.  In that year, two movements emerged. Since colonial times, the third resurgence of Reformed purism was born through a project called the Australian Forum. In that same year, Dr. Jay E. Adams, a hybrid of Calvinism and Historical Grammatical interpretation, launched the biblical counseling movement. His movement was predicated on the competence of enabled congregants to counsel each other through the deepest of human problems. Adams also recognized the simple concept of anthropology and its relationship to helping people. Because all humans are created by God, what works well for the unsaved should work even better for the saved. If unsaved people who don’t violate their consciences are happier, this should also aid Christians in their walk with God. Bad ideas are simply bad for everyone, the ultimate need for eternal salvation notwithstanding. But that doesn’t mean you throw out the unsaved baby with the bath water of practicality. And in addition, does practicality show forth the wisdom of God and thereby point people to God? Should God not know what makes people tick? Moreover, what is the authority for interpreting human existence? Philosophy,  or the Bible?

Adams’ biblical construct produced astounding conclusions, especially in areas where a medical model covered for escape mechanisms that create another reality for realties one may not like. If Bob is in big trouble, he merely becomes Ted, or maybe even Jane. This is a bad idea for Christians. Adams created a dichotomy between salvation and the Christian life. He believed in the utter incompetence of man to save himself, but abundant competence in colaboring with God for a victorious life over sin. With Adams, it is about CHANGE for the glory of God and the happiness of His people.

Thus, with the resurgence of Reformed purism at the same time, the battle lines were drawn, and a confusion of conflict emerged in the biblical counseling movement. The one predicated on the utter incompetence of man whether saved or unsaved, and the other predicated on the competence of the Spirit-filled Christian. The one predicated on Christians only being righteous positionally, and the other predicated on the idea that Christians are also practically righteous. The one predicated on contemplationism, the other predicated on obedience. This is the civil war that has raged in the biblical counseling movement from its conception until this day. It is for the most part a civil war of servility, lest two different gospels be separate, and careerism maimed.

The Forum doctrine quickly found footing at Westminster Seminary in Pennsylvania where Adams was a professor. The initial vestige of relevant infection was found in Dr. John “Jack” Miller, also a professor at Westminster Seminary. True, Westminster was founded by Reformed purists that believed the many acts of Christ’s righteousness were part of the atonement, not just His one act of death on the cross, but for the most part, the Reformation’s metaphysical anomalies had reduced Westminster to moderate Reformed ideology. If you will, a hybrid Calvinism that interpreted reality grammatically.

Miller changed that. While the doctrine was in the process of suffering a brutal death in Reformed Baptist circles by moderate Calvinists, being labeled as antinomianism, it found resurgent life at Westminster in Miller’s Sonship Theology incubator. The forerunner of this doctrine in Reformed Baptist circles, Jon Zens, discovered the doctrine  in the early years of the Forum while he was a student at Westminster. He actually became heavily involved with the Forum in the 70’s, convincing them that everyday Covenant Theology would be a hindrance to infecting Christianity with the newly rediscovered disease. From that conversation came the birth of New Covenant Theology circa 1981. It was a significant addition to the present repertoire of elements that confuse the real crux of the issue. Till this day, few moderate Calvinists make this historical connection between New Covenant Theology and New Calvinism.

But it was a particular mentoree of Miller’s that saw Adam’s construct as a threat to the successful spread of the Forum’s rediscovery: Dr. David Powlison. Powlison, working closely with Miller, developed the Dynamics of Biblical Change which is a counseling construct based on Reformation purism. This became the counseling model for Westminster’s biblical counseling wing known as The Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF). Later, there was a proposal for an organization that would certify counselors for CCEF. Adams was opposed to it as it smacked of the kind of elitism that he was trying to avoid. Remember, Adams was all about the competence of the average congregant to counsel. But Purist Reformed ideology is all about elitism because Gnosticism is all about elitism; the two go hand in glove.

Show Me the Money

Gnosticism rejects the average man’s ability to understand reality. So, assimilation for purposes of functionality is the main concern; ie., that the masses are controlled by indoctrination that is not necessarily understood, but invokes behavioral goals. But another primary goal is the spiritual caste system that provides millions of dollars for elitist educators. In essence, these are the professional Sophists produced by Platonism. This is why Gnosticism always dwells in the upper socioeconomic strata, as Phillip J. Lee notes in the aforementioned book, Gnosticism is a rich man’s game. CCEF certified counselors are extremely rare in zip codes of average incomes less than $80,000 per year, and nowhere to be found in zip codes of $50,000 or less. This of course, is very telling. Their conferences require registration fees of  $300.00 per person or more.

Meanwhile, NANC Happens

Powlison followed a classic mode of Gnostic deception by seeking to be identified with the persona of Adams’ successful counseling construct while despising the doctrine as a supposed false gospel. To be more specific, he wanted to gain ground by being identified with Adams’ success, and with a deliberate long-term goal of destroying the historical grammatical approach to biblical counseling.

Unfortunately, and to the chagrin of Adams, the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors was born (NANC). “Nouthetic” counseling was a Greek term introduced by Adams and often associated with him. Therefore, Powlison et al were able to be identified with the tsunami like personal transformations of the Adams reformation as a jump start for their own construct, and with a long-term goal of destroying the competition. They did this so effectively that Adams was often thought of as the founder of NANC, which was never true.

Consequently, Adams experienced an increased persecution from within the contemporary biblical counseling movement that he founded. His counseling was dubbed “first generation” biblical counseling and referred to as nothing more than “producing better Pharisees.” I believe this will go down in church history as one of the most grotesque betrayals ever perpetrated on a man in the name of friendship and the gospel.

The fallout in our day is indicative of the spiritual carnage that has always been left in the path of Gnosticism. While the spiritual peasantry cries out in hopes that the elite will police their own, the Nicolaitans of our day laugh all the way to the bank. After all, subjective reality is messy business and peasants just don’t understand. The biblical counseling community has founded organizations who seek to keep them out of court and prevent the obscuring of cash flow. The New Calvinism movement is intrinsically connected by a complicated and massive network of  associations—in many cases disagreeing with each other on “secondary issues.” A prime example is the G.R.A.C.E mediatory organization headed by Boz Tchividjian.  While playing the part of advocates for the spiritually abused, they are professionally networked with serial abusers of the worst sort.

Conclusion

The biblical counseling movement embodied in New Calvinism is nothing more or less than a return to the exact same Gnosticism that plagued the first century church. The fact that Eastern mysticism is often the application can be seen by what happened at a Passion Conference where the who’s who of New Calvinism led the audience in a form of Transcendental Meditation. Tim Keller, a co-mentoree of Miller along with David Powlison in the early days, is a staunch advocate of Eastern mysticism as a practical application for Christian living.

CCEF, and NANC are the epitome of false advertising. They advertise the gospel and change, but believe in neither. Like the father of their faith, St. Augustine,  it is Plato they trust. The banner over them is not love, but a sense of elitist entitlement to be paid and supported by the unenlightened masses for their own good. Sheep that don’t get it are more than expendable; the one in 99 is expendable for the 99 who know their place and pay the Shamans their tax deductible dues.

They invent and sell orthodoxy, the layman’s manual for experiencing perpetual rebirth. On the one hand, there is a Christianity that posits the living water that is received once, the onetime washing, and the moving on to maturity from the beginning principles of baptisms, and then there is the gospel of our day that posits the perpetual rebirth of Eastern mysticism.

But this is not a mere disagreement about how to live the Christian life. How we see the Christian life reveals the gospel that we really believe. When our salvation is not a finished work, something must be done by us to finish it—even if that means doing nothing with intentionality. NOT living by a list of do’s and don’ts is the work that keeps us saved. It is playing it safe by hiding our talents in the ground and giving the Lord back what He originally gave.

Christians would do well to choose which gospel they will live by in our day.  At this point, that conversation has not arrived yet. And to be sure, many do not want the conversation to be clarified to that point. The gospel itself has become the elephant in the room.

paul

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