Monday, April 27, 2009

Tripping TULIP Part 7: Conclusion

Please find Part 6 here.

My closing thoughts on modern Calvinism’s TULIP: What more can I say? I have not created some infallible refutation of TULIP. Much greater theological minds have created much better works I’m sure, though I have not read them. I know people will continue to argue these doctrines, both for and against, as long as we endure in this life. I would love to see the Pastors and other officers of the Church stand up and bring the Body into unity in Christ instead of allowing so much wrangling about man’s systems of theology. It could be that God is going to do that, I cannot be sure.

What I can confidently say is that I have completed this article with nothing other than several translations of the Bible, two source articles describing TULIP, some Greek helps, and Darby’s translation notes (not commentary and not overview just his notes on the translation). I didn’t need to study up on the arguments against TULIP to come to the findings I have. I did not read ahead in the articles but have gone through them in order responding as I went. This is the confidence that one can have when their sole purpose is to find out what the Scriptures say and believe it.

If the Scriptures would have indicated that TULIP is true, I would have been convinced and I would have said so. However, though a multitude of proof-texts were provided by the source material, not even one of them actually supported the doctrines they were cited for when read in context.

It must be noted that it is much easier to tear apart someone else’s theology than it is to accurately describe truth. It is no small feat to put together articles such as those I have used as sources. The authors were doing what they could, and they are to be commended for their effort. My work here has not been to do anything but show that TULIP is not an accurate representation of what the Scriptures say. I have not given a teaching to replace TULIP, such can be found in the Scriptures however. My work was relatively easy.

The great tragedy of systematic theology is students of these systems learn what the system says and then finds that confirmed in verses of the Bible. I do believe that we should BE “systematic” about our study, but not locked into a “system.” I hope that makes sense. One Brother who briefly reviewed this series noted to me that he taught Systematic Theology for years. My comments, previous to his notes, were overly harsh. We need to BE systematic, but just not rely on what has been determined to be part of the system.

The student of the Word studies the whole Word of God allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. This consistently means he or she can’t always answer questions quickly, there are very few “packaged answers” for people who study the whole Word consistently. TULIP allows people to hold to many things without ever having learned them from Scripture. That may be good enough for mankind, but God wants us to show ourselves approved rightly dividing the Word of Truth.

Tripping TULIP Part 6: Perseverance of The Saints

Please find Part 5 here.

Here’s what GraceNET has to say about this doctrine: Once God has saved elect sinners, he continues to keep and preserve them by his power and grace and will never let them go. Thus, they persevere to the end and can never be lost. If God did not do this, we would inevitably turn back again to the world, because of the sin that is around us and within us. Thus God enables his children to continue in faith and obedience throughout their earthly lives, then to pass into God's presence forever.

This doctrine is not to be taken as a license to go on sinning, as if the believer is free to act in any way he chooses now that he is eternally secure in Christ Jesus. The true believer will show signs of a growing desire for holiness and an increasing loathing of sin. The one who attempts to use the grace of God as an excuse for sinful living is in all probability not a true believer, for where there is spiritual life, the fruit of the Spirit will become evident.

Scripture references: 1 Peter 1:5; James 4:6; Philippians 1:6,19; John 6:39; John 10:28-29; Romans 8:38-39; Romans 8:8; Galatians 5:13-26

My initial thoughts on TULIP’s Perseverance Of The Saints: It is clear in Scripture that the believer is “Eternally Secure” and this means that if someone is saved through faith in Christ they are in fact eternally saved. Nothing can change the fact that they have been “baptized into” Christ’s death and resurrection. Romans 6.

The issue with this doctrine is not that it teaches security, but the method of the security. What does Scripture say the wages of sin is? What does Scripture say will happen to the soul that sins? Sin brings forth what? Death, death and death. Christians do not get changed into people are good enough for Salvation, and then are kept that way through the power of God’s Spirit. It is evident that the most devote Christian still sins. Sin requires death. The Christian, having placed his faith in the Christ of the Gospel, has been baptized into Christ’s death. In this the Christian has died in accordance with the Law of Sin & Death. Ezekiel 18 We have died, in Christ, in accordance with the just requirements of the Law. So now the Law has no hold on us. We have died in accordance with it already, having been found guilty.

Since we have died, the price has been paid. That cannot change, therefore we are eternally secure. While Limited Atonement hides the true issue that it is believed a person must be “good enough” to be saved, the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints openly displays that a person must continue to be good enough in order to finally be saved. The Calvinist will take issue with that statement, saying that God will maintain the goodness of the true convert by good works and faithfulness unto the end.

The author’s words about the difference between true believers and those who are not true is performance. The Calvinist will claim that salvation is “all of God” and “only by Grace” but then will focus the rest of their life on how “good” they are. They look for security in themselves and not in the finished work of Christ.

Our security comes from the same question that Paul asked the Corinthians who had come to reject part of the Gospel they had received – is this Gospel true? If it is true then we have the greatest hope, if it is not then we have all of us preached and believed in vain. Our security, and assurance must only come from the fact that Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead on the third day all in accordance with the Scriptures. Salvation truly is all of God because He did it, not us, and there’s nothing we can add to what He finished. Ours is simply to have faith in Him having done that for us.

The Spirit surely does work in believers to change them and conform them into the image of Christ, but this is not how God keeps people saved. People stay saved because Christ really did die for their sins.

The problem is illustrated nicely right in the title of the doctrine. Christians are “preserved” unto Salvation we do not “preserver” unto it.

Let’s look at the Scripture references used by GraceNET:

1 Peter 1:5

The inheritance is kept or reserved, the believers are being guarded. This does not state that the believers are being guarded from sinning so much that they would have to loose their salvation. It says merely that believers are being guarded. This is the preserving that God does for us. This passage does not talk about the performance of the Believer, either enhanced by God or not, therefore it does not support the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.

James 4:6

This is a rebuke about personal failure in the life of the Believer, and instruction on how to gain victory again. It does not say that God keeps Christians from sin so they will be saved in the end. It instructs Christians on how to overcome the sin they so easily fall into. Therefore it does not support the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.

Philippians 1:6,19

Verse 6 is a promise of God’s continued discipleship of the Believer unto the end. This Salvation is deliverance from the chains Paul was in. Paul knew his call, and knew that God would deliver him so that he could finish it. The rest of the chapter is witness to this fact. Neither of these verses even suggest that God’s method for keeping a person saved is through perseverance. Thus these do not support the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.

John 6:39

We have discussed this statement by Christ several times. There is no need to repeat. This does not indicate that God’s method for keeping someone saved is through perseverance. Thus it does not support the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.

John 10:28-29

This is security but it does not speak of the method of security, except to say that no one is able to take the sheep from God. It surely does not indicate that the sheep become very good sheep and so they stay saved. Thus it does not support the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.

Romans 8:38-39

Again this is security. It doesn’t say that God will keep these things from happening in the Believer’s life, but that they do not have the power to separate us from Him. This is preserving, not persevering. Thus it does not support the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.

Romans 8:8

Nothing done in the flesh can please God. This is true, of course because it is written in the Word of God, but people don’t stay saved by pleasing God. We do not “earn” or “maintain” our salvation, either by ourselves or through the effective working of the Spirit in our lives. We are saved on the basis of the Gospel and that is it. Anything else makes God a liar when He says that the Gospel is His power unto Salvation. Thus this verse does not support the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.

Galatians 5:13-26

My first thought at seeing this reference was joy at seeing a citation that didn’t pick and choose verses here and there in a chapter.

The whole point of this teaching by the Apostle is that Christians must live in the Spirit, not their flesh. The doctrine under discussion indicates that God keeps Christians from living in their flesh and instead has them persevere faithfully unto the end. The very first verse of the citation invalidates the doctrine. Verse 13 is instruction not to use our liberty as excuse. If we have liberty then we do not need to have God ensure we stay on the straight and narrow. It is because we can, and often do, stray off the straight and narrow path that the Apostle was led by the Spirit to write this instruction to us. It is dishonoring to God every time we stray. Our flesh wants nothing but to stray, but the Spirit of God living in us wants nothing but fellowship with God. We choose which we abide in, and the results are either God honoring or dishonoring. This doesn’t say we are kept living in the Spirit so that we “persevere” but that we must choose to in order to be fruitful. Thus this passage does not support the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.

My closing thoughts on TULIP’s Perseverance of the Saints: Mankind in the flesh tends to look for fleshy things to find confidence and security in. God is absolutely clear that it is impossible to please Him except by faith. When we look to ourselves for proof of our salvation we are not having faith. We are not trusting that He who began a good work with complete it to the end. Are you saved? Have you believed the Gospel – yes or no? Is the Gospel your hope for salvation - yes or no? If you died right now would your salvation be absolutely secured no matter what things you’ve done in life, even your life as a believer – yes or no? All yeses and you are saved because God said you would be and I’m not going to argue with God Almighty Who cannot lie. If you said no to something then you have some issue of misunderstanding at best which means you need discipleship. Or you have not trusted God at worst which means you are not saved.

If the Gospel is true then nothing about us has anything to do with being saved.

Please find the conclusion here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tripping TULIP Part 5: Irresistible Grace

Please find Part 4 here.

Here’s what GraceNET has to say about Irresistible Grace: When the gospel is preached, an invitation is issued by the Lord to all people to come to him for salvation. However, as the first article clearly states, the natural state of all people renders them incapable of responding to this invitation, except to reject it. So when God calls an elect sinner to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, he does so by sending his Holy Spirit to work a great change in that sinner's heart, enabling them to see their sin and their need of a saviour and leading them to put their faith in Christ alone for salvation. The Lord, by his Spirit, irresistably draws his elect to himself, raising them to spiritual life and making them willing to trust in Jesus.

Scripture references: Matthew 11:28-30; John 6:37; Matthew 23:37; John 5:40; Ephesians 1:12,19; Ezekiel 11:19-20; Psalm 110:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:11

My initial thoughts on TULIP’s Irresistible Grace: The author of the article again notes that this doctrine is founded in the doctrine of Total Depravity, making the mistake of assuming that people have to be good enough to seek Salvation. The “work a great change in that sinner’s heart, enabling them to see their sin and their need of a savior” is of particular importance. While the author does not term this as “regeneration” his description of the work matches what I have read other Calvinists say happens. They say that one is regenerated (more commonly known as being Born Again) and then they are able to accept Salvation. This would mean a person is first born again in Christ apart from Faith, and then they come to faith. One would be saved before they “received” the Gospel. Such makes God a liar on many counts not the least of which when He says that salvation is by Grace through Faith.

Even setting regeneration apart from faith aside the very doctrine makes Christ out to be a liar in describing the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the World after His ascension. John 16 makes this clear.

Joh 16:7-11

Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

of sin, because they do not believe in Me;

of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;

of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Note that the Lord says the Spirit will do this for the World, not the Elect… not Christians… but the World. He also doesn’t say that the Spirit will regenerate people so they can be convinced of these things. He says the Spirit will do so directly to the World.

The systematic theology of Calvinism needs the doctrine of Irresistible Grace to be true because it has set up the impossibility for anyone to respond to simple truth. It is a convoluted thing to try to explain. Because people cannot respond to the Gospel, there must be something that isn’t just appealing it must be irresistible. Also the idea that someone simply found out that help is available and asked for it is offensive to the Calvinist so they must have it so that the person didn’t have a choice.

People resist God’s grace constantly. Scripture tells us that God has shed His grace over the whole world. That people see and know His attributes from what they see in Creation but reject Him. I have no doubt that God could make a person do anything He wanted, however there is no need for this doctrine due to the fact that people can know and respond to the Gospel.

Let’s look at the Scriptures referenced by GraceNET:

Matthew 11:28-30

This is His call to all who are working for their salvation. I’m not sure how the author thinks this supports the doctrine of Irresistible Grace. It may very well be a failing in my understanding of the doctrine, but I see no relation between the description of the doctrine and any possible understanding or misunderstanding of this passage. Thus it offers no support to the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.

John 6:37

The Cross is where He drew all men unto Himself. John 12:32 Some will be drug to Judgment others will respond and come for Life. I can sympathize with those who think this verse supports the doctrine of Irresistible Grace. This is an instance of God citing those who are Elected to come will, they will do so themselves but they will be drawn by God. This is obviously irresistible, however this does not confirm the doctrine of Irresistible Grace because that says this is God’s only method of Salvation. There is nothing in this verse that limits Salvation to only those who are drawn in this way.

It is clear that the Father gave Christ the disciples, they were Elected to their rolls. This was discussed previously. As I have noted it’s clear that God does elect some to Salvation. I would say that God has chosen some people to live at particular times and carry out particular things in order that God’s plan for History would play out exactly as He has declared.

The temptation for the person seeking to prove Irresistible Grace is to see this instance and say it is all encompassing. If the language were “only those the Father has given Me will come” then it would be exclusive and we would have strong evidence that TULIP is true. However, what we see here is just the same as everywhere else. Many are called, few are chosen. This verse does show God working Election, but it does not limit Salvation to only those who are drawn in this way which is what the doctrine of Irresistible Grace is about. Thus it does not support the doctrine as it is defined in TULIP.

Matthew 23:37

This is an example of God’s own people resisting His Grace. It is God lamenting over the hardness of the hearts of the people who He longed to lavish with love. This is hardly an example of Irresistible Grace. I suppose the argument could be made that since God didn’t draw them “irresistibly” that this is why they didn’t come…. Such is just human reasoning nonsense however. It is adding to Scripture what is not written there. This verse does not support the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.

John 5:40

This is also an example of people resisting God’s grace. The same can be said of this as the last verse. It does not support the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.

Ephesians 1:12,19

I must admit I don’t know why the author chose verse 12. It is in the same passage of Scripture discussed under Unconditional Election but it doesn’t seem to offer anything about Irresistible Grace. Verse 19 is clearly not talking about His power to draw to belief, but His power to work on behalf of those who believe. Neither of these verses offer support for the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.

Ezekiel 11:19-20

Reading the chapter from the beginning shows that this is the Lord speaking of “His people” Israel, these are people already set aside for Him. This is a promise to be faithful to Israel, not an irresistible drawing of people to salvation.

What is the purpose of Israel? To be a people set apart for God. They are to be the image of Righteousness in the world. That nation is a testimony to the world of Who God is. This is why Israel has the problem of the Pharisees, because they recognize they are supposed to be this image of righteousness.

In the cited passage this is God promising to make Israel that image in His power not theirs. The author of the article conveniently fails to cite the very next verse which is God saying what He’ll do to those who resist His grace.

Eze 11:21

But as for them whose heart walketh well-pleased with their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their heads, saith the Lord Jehovah.

This passage has nothing to do with drawing people to Salvation, and when read in context actually shows people resisting God’s Grace. Thus it offers no support to the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.

Psalm 110:3

This is again a promise about Israel. This is the promise that God is going to work it so they receive Christ when He returns. This is what the Tribulation is all about. The time of Jacob’s trouble, is the preparation for Israel to finally receive her King. The Tribulation makes no sense if God’s method of bringing people to repentance was to irresistibly draw them. Israel will be judged and God’s wrath is going to be poured out on her in ways that the world has not even dreamed of yet for those 7 years. At the end of it she will say “Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the LORD!” and she will receive Her King.

This is not an instance of Irresistible Grace, it is a promise to do what it will take. Notice also that it says the “people will be willing” not that I will regenerate them to make them willing. Thus this does not support the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.

2 Thessalonians 1:11

The calling that Paul is talking about is perseverance through all these sufferings. I don’t know why the author of the article believes this verse might support Irresistible Grace. I see nothing about drawing people to Salvation here. Thus this does not support the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.

My closing thoughts on TULIP’s Irresistible Grace: It is true that God irresistibly draws those who are elected to salvation. However this is not God’s common or exclusive method of drawing all who will be saved. The common method is through conviction and convincing by the Spirit of God, this can be resisted and sadly most often is. Scripture bears witness to this over and over again; the least of these witnesses surely isn’t Romans 1. The problem for the person who already believes in this doctrine is sort of like this. If I tell you that my car is red, and it’s the only car you’ve ever seen or had color information about, and then I tell you that there are many other cars is it reasonable to think that all cars are red? What if I then tell you that every color is available. It becomes even less reasonable right? That a person might think all cars are red because that’s the color of the only one in his experience is a forgivable mistake, but it is not a reasonable deduction.

Please find Part 6 here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tripping TULIP Part 4: Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption)

Please find Part 3 here.

Here’s what GraceNET has to say: Put simply, Christ died only to save the elect, securing with absolute certainty their salvation. This is not to teach that there is anything lacking in the power of God, perhaps suggesting that he is not able to save all men. Rather, God's Word indicates that it was the Father's intention that his Son was to suffer and die only for his chosen people, atoning for their sins alone. Christ's atonement was limited only in extent, not in power, according to the sovereign will of God.

In the Bible we read that the Lord's servant (Jesus) would see the results of his work (his atoning sacrifice) and "be satisfied" (Isaiah 53:11). But also, Jesus stated plainly that there are many who are heading for eternal destruction (Matthew 7:13). We can only reconcile these two statements if we understand that Christ died only for a limited number of people - for God's elect.

Scripture references: Acts 20:28; John 3:14-15; Galatians 1:4-5; Revelation 13:8; John 6:38-39; John 17:9-10; John 17:24; John 10:11; 1 Peter 2:21; Romans 5:8-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Romans 8:33-34; Luke 1:68; Revelation 5:9; Isaiah 53:11

Here are my initial thoughts about Limited Atonement: At the beginning of my discussion of the doctrines of TULIP I stated that I would not argue from emotionalism. I must however confess that this doctrine is one of the most offensive that is taught in the Church. That it offends me does not invalidate it or even diminish it. Offended or not my intellect must bow to Scripture.

The primary issue I have with this doctrine is that it violates the plain reading of Scripture, invalidates the types and shadows of Christ in the Old Testament and makes a mockery of the qualification of the Gospel as being “in accordance with the Scriptures.” Isaiah 53:6 tells us that Christ was to take on all the sins of all people, if He did not then His death for our sins was not as Paul claims it was “in accordance with the Scriptures” 1 Cor 15:3

Isa 53:6

All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all.

1Co 15:3

For I delivered to you, in the first place, what also I had received, that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures;

Many Christians unfortunately think that Christ was a Christian, and that His sacrifice wasn’t in accordance with anything other than God’s desire to have satisfaction for sin.

Propitiation is the appeasement of God the Father for sin, Atonement is the whole process of God forgiving and cleansing based on the appeasement. A study of Leviticus will show what God set forth as the process for Atonement. He must be appeased and the sins must be confessed and born away. The spotless lambs were merely types and shadows of Christ. One could not both die and carry away the sins so the Law demanded a spotless lamb to die and have its blood sprinkled at the Mercy Seat. Then the sins had to be confessed on the head of the scape goat which then bore the sins away. All the sins of Israel were propitiated, those that were confessed were born away and so atoned for.

The reality of the Cross is that Christ was the spotless lamb, and the scape goat. His blood propitiates the Father for all sins of all the world 1 John 2:2, and He bears the sins of those who depend on Him as far away as the East is from the West. No sin can be born away unless God the Father has been appeased for it. Christ says that any can come to Him for Eternal Life, because He is the “lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

The primary issue with Limited Atonement is that the doctrine confuses how atonement is limited. Christ died for all sins, but only those who put their faith in this propitiation have their sins atoned for. It is not limited by God, it just that not everyone takes advantage of what is available.

Here are the scriptures referenced by GraceNET:

Acts 20:28

The Church is the pearl of great value that Christ bought (or purchased) the whole World to secure. Matthew 13 shows how Christ bought the whole world so as to get the Church out of it. Further verses such as 2 Peter 2:1 show that God purchased even those who are not saved. This verse does not give support to the doctrine of Limited Atonement.

John 3:14-15

This is right in the middle of Christ explaining Salvation to Nicodemus. He says that any who look to Him on the Cross will be saved. There is absolutely nothing limiting who may look. This was done for the whole world, as we read in the continuing verses, and any (in the world) who look will be saved. The purpose of sending Christ to do this was so that “the world may be saved through Him.” It is available to everyone, but only those who look will be saved. Nowhere does it say that God only died for those who look. The limiting factor is looking or not. Thus this passage does not offer support for the doctrine of Limited Atonement.

Galatians 1:4-5

This identifies Christ as the one who gave Himself for our sins. It doesn’t say that He didn’t give Himself for all the sins of the world, just that He did indeed give Himself for our sins. Paul’s primary issue with the Galatians was that they were believing a false gospel. He’s reminding them of the truth that they are saved by His work not theirs. He is not limiting the availability of Salvation, he is showing the completeness of it for those who believe. Thus this passage does not offer support for the doctrine of Limited Atonement.

Revelation 13:8

This doesn’t say that Christ didn’t die for all the sins of the World, as we read He actually did in 1 John 2:2 it says that only those who are saved have their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Those who have not believed have never, since the foundations of the world, had their names written in that book. There is some debate about which was since the foundations of the world – the Lamb or the writing. Revelation 17:8 uses the phrase similarly. I do not believe (this is a weak statement of course) that this indicates the names were written before and have been there ever since, but that they have been written progressively since. Regardless if this verse indicates Election to Eternal Salvation or not, it does not offer any support for a Limited Atonement as it does not limit who Christ died for.

John 6:38-39

Christ will not lose anything from that which the Father has given Him, the world. The Lord hasn’t lost anything in the World though it will be judged. He has become worthy to judge because He has redeemed (bought back from slavery) the whole world. He is the one who alone is worthy to take the scroll. Then He says that the will of the Father is that any who behold Him and believe will be given Eternal Life. The Lord does not say that it is the will of the Father that some should believe, but that those who do will be saved. Thus this passage offers no support to the doctrine of Limited Atonement.

John 17:9-10, 24

Some reading my response to the citation of these verses and claim “foul play” however go with me, I would not intentionally go against Scripture for any cause let alone to save my wretched pride. Who are “these who You have given Me” that the Lord is referencing? These are the Disciples. There are many who believed in Christ who along the way fell away because the teachings were very hard, or the risk of being shunned in the culture was too great for them. Verse John 17:12 shows us that He is talking about the Disciples and not all the people who have believed in Him in His ministry. The verses cited in isolation appear to support Election to Eternal Salvation but, even if that were true they do not at all limit Christ’s work on the Cross to only the Elect. This passage does not support the doctrine of Limited Atonement.

John 10:11

This doesn’t limit, it merely states the purpose. Much like was discussed above Christ bought the world so that He could secure the Church. This verse does not limit Christ’s work on the Cross so it does not support the doctrine of Limited Atonement.

1 Peter 2:21

Again this does not limit the work of the Cross but simply applies it to the believers. 1 Peter 2:25 says that we were going astray but now have returned to the Shepherd. He died, and we responded in faith. This verse does not support Limited Atonement.

Romans 5:8-10

As I was writing response to the citation of 1 Peter 2:21 I was going to quote extensively from Romans 5, but then I noticed that this chapter was the next citation. I think a person ought to read from the beginning of this chapter. God says He died for the ungodly. And that we have been justified on the principle of faith, not Election.

Calvinists tend to play havoc with the words “all” and “many.” Romans 5 gives us opportunity to shut those arguments down. Verse 15 says that death came to “the many”, and that Christ brought grace to “the many” as well.

This passage does not therefore offer support to the doctrine of Limited Atonement.

1 Thessalonians 1:10

As we spoke of before Paul explains to the Thessalonians that Jesus will deliver us from the Great Tribulation. We have been saved from the appointment with Wrath that the rest of the world has. This verse does not limit the work on the Cross, it limits God’s promise that those who believe have been saved from Wrath. This verse does not support Limited Atonement.

Romans 8:33-34

This is about election to purpose in life again. It is about being provided for through tribulation and distress. This chapter is about the blessed life of the believer, Eternal Salvation is not being explained. He is talking about walking in victory through this world in the knowledge that God provides for all the things we have been called to do and endure. This does not limit the work on the Cross, it shows the fullness of its blessing and protection for all who believe. Thus it does not support Limited Atonement.

Luke 1:68

His people” is not individuals, but the Nation of Israel which is “His people.” Do I even need to show Scripture about this? The truth of it is found in the very verse cited. I find Limited Atonement offensive enough, but the intentional abusive quoting of Scripture is beyond ugly. It dishonor’s God, which is in complete violation of what the Calvinist claims to want to do, and it preys on the young believer who probably has not read the Old Testament. My offense does not disqualify this citation, it’s being completely wrong and either intentionally, or wildly blindly so is what disqualifies it from giving support to the doctrine of Limited Atonement.

Revelation 5:9

The Lamb is only worthy to take the Scroll because He is the Kinsman Redeemer. This is a large study that Christians ought to undertake. Under Law the Jews could sell the land for a period of 7 years, but then it would have to be bought back, or “redeemed” by either the person or a kinsman redeemer. The whole had to be purchased back. You could not just buy back the portions that you wanted. This was to preserve God’s plan, not to please the people. We cannot sell the land for it does not belong to us. Likewise the Earth was put in our care but it did not belong to us. Christ the Kinsman Redeemer has come to redeem the World. Since He has, He now has the authority and is worthy to take the Scroll and exercise that authority over the World.

This verse says that people “out of” every nation because it is true that not everyone on the planet is going to receive Salvation. This doesn’t mean it’s not available to them, it is not been limited. They have not received is all it says. The whole was redeemed, salvation is available for the taking. Come buy and drink. This verse does not limit the work on the Cross so it does not support Limited Atonement.

Isaiah 53:11

This is one of those creative uses of the word “many” that I wrote of above. Isaiah 53:6 shows that the iniquities of all who have gone astray were put on Him.

Isa 53:6

All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all.

The cited verse not limit the work of the Cross at all and so does not support the doctrine of Limited Atonement.

My closing thoughts on Limited Atonement: As I said at the beginning of this section, this is probably the most offensive portion of TULIP. It is offensive because it diminishes the work of Christ, but it is wrong because it is not Scriptural. My emotional reaction to this false doctrine is not the basis for my rebuttal of it. In fact if this doctrine were to be supported by Scripture I would have to submit my intellect and surrender my offense before the pure truth of Scripture.

Please find Part 5 here.

Tripping TULIP Part 3: Unconditional Election

Please find Part 2 here.

Here’s what GraceNET has to say: God has shown us in his Word that from eternity past he has elected some sinners to be saved from the condemnation that is justly deserved by all, purely on account of his gracious mercy and love, not because of any foreseen merits in those sinners. Because of the fact of total depravity, salvation must originate with God, and we read in the Bible that it is God's sovereign will alone that has determined the recipients of that salvation.

This doctrine does not render God unjust, for all are guilty and all deserve to suffer God's judgement. Rather, it emphasises the grace of God by the fact that he has chosen some for salvation.

Scripture references: Psalm 65:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Romans 9:11; Ephesians 1:4,5,9,11; Romans 11:5; Romans 9:15,23; Psalm 103:11; 1 Peter 1:2-3; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Jonah 2:9

My initial thoughts on TULIP’s Unconditional Election: Right off the bat the explanation states this doctrine stems from that of Total Depravity. We have already seen Total Depravity is false so we could stop but that wouldn’t be as helpful as continuing may be. It is the false idea that people need to be somewhat good in order to receive Salvation that is at the root of the fallacy in this doctrine. Romans 4 clearly states that God justifies the ungodly, He doesn’t save people who were good enough to seek after Him, ask for Salvation or see Him.

Scripture does say that some are Elected to Salvation, but in most cases Election has to do with a purpose God has for a person in the world. This person can be either saved or not. The Scriptures record Jesus talking about those He has been given by the Father. I think each of these instances specifically deal with the Disciples, but Ephesians 4 shows that God the Father gave the people who fill the offices of the Church. I believe that God does elect some to Salvation, those are the people of particular importance for God’s plan for History to be carried out. This would be a very challenging thing to prove, but it does reconcile the obvious strains between the instances of Election and that of the open call and promises of God. This explanation satisfies my curiosity on the subject because we are just not given enough information to know, and because we are given the truth that some are elected to Salvation and others just receive it.

The primary issue I have with Unconditional Election is that it teaches that Salvation is exclusive to the Elect, something that Scripture never says. This exclusivity is due to the idea that one must be good enough to ask for Salvation, and since everyone is Totally Depraved, only those who God has Elected will ask for Salvation.

Let’s check the Scripture references GraceNET uses:

Psalm 65:4

When read in isolation this looks to be an example of Election to Salvation. However it is actually about Messiah. Isaiah 42:1 shows us Who this is about. The second half of verse is about Israel. We get a clue from reading Psalm 65:3 when David writes that God will forgive “our” transgressions. This does not indicate that only selected people are exclusively elected to Eternal Salvation.

2 Thessalonians 2:13

This is a particularly interesting passage. It is possible that Paul is writing that these have been chosen for Eternal Salvation from “the beginning.” But there are some things about the passage that lead me to think otherwise. Paul says they have been chosen for “Salvation through sanctification by the Spirit” this does not match Paul’s description of Eternal Salvation as being by Grace through Faith. But that’s not all that is of interest. Verse 13 starts with the word “But” (or “and” in some translations). This is a continuation of Paul’s teaching, not the teaching. What is Paul talking about, the fact that those who did not believe the Truth are going to be given a strong delusion. Then Paul thanks God that these Brethren are saved. Saved from what? The description does not match that of Eternal Salvation. These Brethren have been saved from the strong delusion through Sanctification and belief in the Truth.

Paul seals the deal by finishing with “Therefore Brethren, stand fast…” in verse 15.

It is of particular importance to know what is being taught before it is applied. If we decide what we’re reading before we let Scripture tell us we will always find man centered Theology. This verse does not indicate that selected people are exclusively elected to Eternal Salvation.

Romans 9:11

This recounting of Jacob and Esau is the classic example used to prove Unconditional Election. However, it doesn’t apply to Eternal Salvation at all. Jacob wasn’t elected to salvation and Esau to reprobation. No what was elected is written in Romans 9:12. The older will serve the younger. This verse does not indicate that selected people are exclusively elected to Eternal Salvation.

Ephesians 1:4, 5,9,11

I’m not sure why the author of the article felt he couldn’t just reference Eph 1, but instead choose to select particular verses. This is a very strong “election” passage. Both the election and foreordination are about what the people Paul calls “we” are “in Christ.” Not that the “we” would “be in Christ” but what we would be, “in Christ” or “through” Christ. He foreordained the adoption, not us. Paul is giving praise for what has been done for us, not instructing that we in particular have had this done for us. There is nothing exclusive or particular about the language other than the fact that it has been done for the group identified as “we.” What I’m trying to say is that nothing in this language excludes anyone who is not part of the “we.”

In verse 13 the language changes to “you” as Paul starts to show these believers what God has done for them. Paul is instructing them in faith, giving them confidence. Paul shows what God has predestined his group to be in Christ, and then likewise what these believers can expect. He is building their confidence with his experience. It is of note that the “you” is never said to have been chosen before the foundations of the World.

If the verses are taken in isolation they appear to give support to Unconditional Election, however when the whole chapter is read it is clear this is not what Paul wrote about.

Romans 11:5

This is a remnant of Israel. These are Jews who have not been blinded as per the next few verses. They are not “elected to Eternal Salvation” they are elected to not be blinded. Their Salvation still requires them to believe the Gospel. In fact Paul is ministering to THESE very Jews. He calls them “you Gentiles” or you particular people without God. They have not been blinded, they can see but they are still without God. Paul is doing everything he can to reach these very Jews. Romans 11:13-14

This verse does not show exclusive election to Eternal Salvation and therefore does not support the doctrine.

Romans 9:15, 23

Paul tells how the preparations were made in Christ in various other places such as Eph 1 as we have discussed above. Scripture denies the doctrine that these verses are being cited as support for in Romans 9:30-33

Rom 9:30-33

What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: "BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STUMBLING STONE AND ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND WHOEVER BELIEVES ON HIM WILL NOT BE PUT TO SHAME."

God did not choose people for destruction, He laid a stumbling block and those who did not seek righteousness by Faith stumbled on it.

Psalm 103:11

I cannot begin to see how the author might think this verse lends support to the doctrine of Unconditional Election. God gives mercy to those who fear Him. This does not say that God chooses who will be saved and who will not, and therefore does not support the doctrine.

1 Peter 1:2-3

This election is to their purpose – being obedient pilgrims of the dispersion, they were spreading the Gospel as per Christ’s command (however only after affliction). How is this election carried out, through Sanctification by the Spirit and the “sprinkling of the blood of Christ” which is a ceremonial term used in sanctification. This is not about Eternal Salvation and so has no support for the doctrine of Unconditional Election.

1 Thessalonians 5:9

This is about the Tribulation, the Thessalonians were fearful that the Great and Terrible Day of the LORD was appon them. Paul reminds them that they have nothing to fear, but that the return of Christ is our “blessed hope” because we have not been appointed to Wrath but to Salvation. This is not about election to Eternal Salvation, but that believers will never come under God’s wrath. This lends no support to the doctrine of Unconditional Election.

Jonah 2:9

Jonah starts out his prayer talking about how he’ll change his ways… but God gives him salvation from his predicament (being trapped in the belly of the fish) when he humbles himself. He says “Salvation is of the Lord.” He’s asking for help and he comes to the point of only relying on God’s Grace, then God saves him. He’s not saying that God chooses who gets Eternally Saved or not, he’s admitting that God alone saves and does it because of Who He is, not who we promise to be. This does not support the doctrine of Unconditional Election.

My closing thoughts on TULIP’s Unconditional Election: This is probably the doctrine I come closest to believing in TULIP. I believe that God has elected some to be Eternally Saved. Many are called, few are chosen sort of thing. However, I cannot let my thoughts decide what Scripture says. Scripture must always define what I think. Theology that is an inch deep and a mile wide comes from the presupposition that Salvation, Justification and Repentance are always about Eternal Salvation.

Theology that is as deep and as narrow as the Truth comes only from seeking meaning from context and usage.

Please find Part 4 here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tripping TULIP: Part 2 Total Depravity (Total Inability)

Here’s what GraceNET has to say: The Scriptures clearly teach that the effects of sin have extended to all parts of our being, rendering us incapable of spiritual understanding and love towards God. Despite the heading of this first article, it does not indicate that all people are as wicked as they could possibly be in all areas of belief and practice. However, sin has so fully and deeply affected our lives that, spiritually speaking, we are in a totally hopeless condition, unable to do anything to get ourselves out of this fallen state.

Our natural spiritual incapacity prevents us from being able to respond by our own strength to the call of the gospel message, yet this does not remove our guilt. We choose to follow the natural inclinations of our depraved hearts because when left to ourselves that is all we want to do.

Scripture references: Ephesians 4:18; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 1:30; John 15:25; Luke 19:14; John 5:40; Isaiah 5:20; Titus 1:15; Deuteronomy 32:18; Hebrews 2:1; John 12:39; John 6:44; John6:65; John 3:18.

My Initial Thoughts on TULIP’s Total Depravity: It is clear that mankind has become depraved. This happened when Adam ate of the fruit of the Tree Knowledge of Good and Evil. Gen 3 Previously mankind was in a state of innocence, but now we have gained the knowledge of good and evil. To prevent us from becoming like God in ourselves we were cast out of the Garden of Eden, and separated from the Tree of Life.

Gen 3:22-24
And Jehovah Elohim said, Behold, Man is become as one of us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he stretch out his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever...! Therefore Jehovah Elohim sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. And he drove out Man; and he set the Cherubim, and the flame of the flashing sword, toward the east of the garden of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life.

It is absolutely apparent that sin entered the world at the moment of Adam’s first sin. This has left all men as less than perfect. We have all fallen short of the Glory of God. Therefore we cannot fellowship with Him. What fellowship does light have with darkness? None. This is why we need to be saved, because we have lost our fellowship with God.

What is not said at or of the fall of man is that mankind lost all knowledge of good, or that we can no longer see good, or ask for help, or want salvation.

My issues with the point called Total depravity is that mankind is not “totally depraved” or “totally in-able” we have both the knowledge of good, and of evil. We are able to do good things; even those without faith do good in the world. We are able to see our need for Salvation, when the Spirit convicts and convinces us as is His promised ministry to the world. Not once in Scripture are we told that man is unable to perceive God’s goodness, and our need of Him. In fact Romans 1 tells us flat out that no one is blameless because we have all seen and known the attributes of God through the revelation of Creation all around us and we have made a conscious choice not to worship God. This results in us being given over to depravity. This is the complete opposite of being so depraved that we cannot observe God.

Let’s explore the scripture references provided to support this doctrine by GraceNET:

Ephesians 4:18
This is the middle verse of Paul’s instruction to Believers that they should not walk the same way that Gentiles (those who are separate from God) walk. It does describe the unbeliever as depraved but does not indicate the person is “totally depraved” or “totally unable.” Verse 17 says that these Gentiles walk in the futility of their mind, it does not say that they have no ability to choose not to, just that they do. Thus, this verse offers no support to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

1 Corinthians 2:14
This verse clearly says that things of a Spiritual nature are spiritually discerned. However, Paul is addressing saved Christians, Verse 1, and going back to the basics with them because they have not grown and are not basing their lives on the solid foundation of the Gospel. Paul is not saying that unsaved people cannot believe the Gospel as presented, Paul is saying people who’s minds have not been transformed cannot understand the deeper things of God. He is speaking to people who are not developing in the faith and telling them why he can’t tell them the greater things of God. This is the same sort of situation we read in Hebrews 5 & 6. While this verse taken by itself and out of context appears to support the doctrine of Total depravity, when it is read in context it obviously does not.

Romans 1:30
The author obviously wanted to include more verses than just this. This verse is just some of the list of sins that Paul says God gives people over to when they reject Him. Verse 28. This section of Romans 1 is a restatement of what is established in verses 20 -21.

Rom 1:20
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

It is clear that people “know God” through Creation, but reject Him and so He gives them over to the sins they desire. Thus, this quote does not offer any support to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

John 15:25
Verse 24 says that the people had “seen” but rejected. Verse 25 says this happened so that the prophecy would be true – that people hated Him without cause.
Salvation isn’t about us loving God. We don’t love Him and then are saved because of that love. We realize our need, call on Him who is revealed in the Gospel and we are saved, then we love Him because He first loved us. This is a very common error in Calvinism. The presupposition that a person must be made good in some way for them to receive God. Romans 4 says that God justifies the “ungodly” sinner by Grace, through faith apart from works.
Since Salvation is not earned through loving God, and this section also shows that the people were able to “see” what God was doing and Who He is it offers no support to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

Luke 19:14
This verse is very much like John 15:25 same concepts apply.

John 5:40
Verse 39 shows that these people were seeking after God, but rejecting His Son. They were unwilling to come to Him for life. It is a rebuke of their unwillingness. They clearly could see Who He is because they said they would not have Him to reign over them. This just says they were unwilling, not that they were unable. Thus it offers no support to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

Isaiah 5:20
Verse 19 talks about people knowing God’s counsel. Verse 24 says that the people rejected the Law of God and despised His Word. This is rejection, not being unable to receive. Thus it offers no support to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

Titus 1:15
This just says to the unbelieving all things are impure. It says that the mind and conscience of the unbeliever are defiled. The word ‘defiled’ means “tainted” not utterly evil, or Totally Depraved. Thus this verse does not add support to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

Deuteronomy 32:18
This says the unsaved person is unmindful of Christ (The Rock). It also says that the people had “forgotten” the Father. Both of these are about not taking heed of something they know. It doesn’t speak of inability, it speaks of rejection. Thus it does not give support to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

Hebrews 2:1
This verse speaks of the salvation we have received. Of course the unbeliever has not received it… this does not mean the unbeliever is unable to receive it nor does it even suggest such a thing. Thus this verse does not give support to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

John 12:39
This is with regard to Him being Messiah the Prince, not with regard to Salvation. The Prophecy of disbelief written in Isa 53 is about the nation of Israel not receiving Messiah but instead having Him crucified. They were not prevented from believing in Him for Salvation, they were prevented from receiving their King. The reader who is not aware of the difference will say there is none. This blindness came when Israel finally rejected Him. This final rejection is found in Mat 12. Mat 13 starts with Him leaving the house and sitting by the sea. This is the beginning of Christ’s ministry to the rest of the world.
Since this blindness was specific, and intentionally imposed by God for a purpose and not the state of Humanity, and not with regard to Salvation it does not support the doctrine of Total Depravity.

John 6:44 John 6:65
John 12:32 says that Christ’s crucifixion drew all to Him. Not “of all peoples” but “all” to Him. No one can come to Salvation unless we are drawn, because we cannot come to Christ unless He has been sacrificed in our place. Propitiation and Atonement have to happen. It is true that the Spirit of God has the ministry of Convicting and Convincing people of the truth of the Gospel. God is the pursuer, not the other way around.
In my opinion these verses are the strongest case that can be made for inability. They do not speak of an inability to believe the Gospel however, but an inability to come to Christ. All men must be drawn, and all are by the truth of the Gospel. The Gospel is the “power of God unto Salvation” it is what draws.

John 3:18
This is just a restatement of the truth that if one doesn’t believe they are not going to be saved. This offers no support to the doctrine of Total Depravity.
The Doctrine of Total Depravity says that man is so evil that he cannot even see that God is good and want Him. It says that we are unable to respond to the truth of the Gospel. The logical addition to this doctrine is that people need to be regenerated (Born Again) first in order that they will be able to believe. This has a multitude of problems but I will stay away from that right now as it was not brought up in either article.
I have not even gone into the Scriptures that tell the Gospel is for all men. The verses cited as support for this doctrine fall far short of supporting, even indirectly, Total Depravity.
I have also recently spent a lot of time in Ps 107 which shows “fools” and those “in darkness” call on God and are saved.

My closing thoughts on TULIP’s Total Depravity: This is the fundamental doctrine of TULIP. This very short and simple look at this doctrine shows that it is false. The problem mankind has is not that he lakes some goodness with which to reach God, it’s that he is not perfect. Since we are not perfect, we have fallen short of the Glory of God and all our righteousness is like filthy rags. There is not perfection outside of God, as Jesus said none are “good” except God, so we cannot have fellowship with Him unless we are baptized into Him.

Tripping TULIP Part 1: Introduction

Since posting about my impressions of the movie Knowing this blog has received a number of visitors who were linked here from The Contemporary Calvinist blog. I don’t think I’ve ever really addressed modern Calvinism’s “Doctrines of Grace” officially here before. I used to consider myself a Calvinist but after being introduced to the logical end of Reformed Theology, that being Lordship Salvation I felt forced to re-examine this systematic theology against the whole of Scripture. My examinations at first led me to denounce one point, then some portions of two other points in the so called “TULIP” definition of the Doctrines of Grace. Then I came to the shocking conclusion that each of TULIP’s points are completely dependent on all the others being true. One cannot simply deny a single point of TULIP. Each point requires all the others to be true. Since coming to this realization I’ve found this to be commonly recognized by theologians of many different backgrounds. It is amazing how blind a person can be. I never noticed or understood what people meant by that over a period of years.

Systematic Theology frustrates me. Please excuse me as I do not mean to offend, but I believe systematic theologies can make for lazy theologians. All too often they make laypersons consider themselves theologians and allow for great error to grow in the lives of believers completely unnoticed and unchecked. The most common statement I continue to read/hear from modern Calvinists is “You just don’t understand Calvinism.” This is a symptom of all Systematic Theologies, not just Calvinism, but my purpose here is to discuss Calvinism in particular. For the purposes of allowing the Calvinists the freedom to express their points without risk of my misunderstandings being the focus of my arguments (which is a logical fallacy called a Straw-Man Argument) I will be using two source documents in particular.

The Contemporary Calvinist’s description of each of the doctrines of TULIP is my first reference. Please find part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5. These documents are written, at least by my understanding, to address concerns with Calvinism which are based mostly in emotionalism and with regard to the Systematic Theology of Arminianism.

The Calvinist is often very indoctrinated and thinks their system is a perfect representation of Scripture. The Contemporary Calvinist blog, which appears to be one of the most honorable Calvinist websites I’ve ever seen (hence my linking to the material even though I will not quote any of it directly) even quotes Spurgeon equating Calvinism with Christianity. Of course let’s get this straight, it would be a very dishonest man who would hold to a theology that they were not sure was true. The Calvinist takes this to the next level however, they are so convinced that they don’t even consider the person who has concerns might actually be concerned only because the theology doesn’t match Scripture.

GraceNET’s The Doctrines of Grace is my second reference document. This was just found by a Google search. It appears to have a number of Scripture references for each point, and each description is short and to the point. This is going to be my primary reference document. The other is provided to round out the character of the Calvinist argument, this one is to define it.

For each point I will give key phrases from the Calvinist description of the point, give the scripture references they offer and then I will give my thoughts.

If all goes as planned, I will be posting an article on each of the points of TULIP daily over the next several days. Today I will start with Total Depravity which to the Calvinist means “Total Inability.”

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Global Cooling, no Global Warming, no Global Cooling....

The worship of Science and Scientists is a never ending source of amusement. How often have I heard the words "It's been scientifically proven that ________ is true!" as an argument against the Bible. Truthfully, and without bias, no scientific fact has ever disproved anything God has written in the Bible. But that is just a bunch of "He said! She said!" nonsense isn't it?

Well sometimes I just prefer to watch the scientific "facts" argue among themselves. Like all the ideas about the Big Bang. One person gets an award for studies that show the Big Bang couldn't possibly be true, and then someone else gets an award for his studies on the after effects of the Big Bang....

But let's look a bit closer to home. Have you been paying for your shopping bags... have you been considering buying a hybrid car that is half the size, twice as expensive, and doesn't even perform as well as it's advertised to... have you been using Compact Florescent lights in your house because they use less power and last a million times longer.. (have you REPLACED as many of these as I have BTW?)... have you been doing this because we have to SAVE OUR PLANET!! Have you been sucking it up, and paying "green taxes" to help the environment because the PLANET IS IN PERIL?

Here's a question... if the climate has changed many times... and life has just "evolved" to thrive in the new environments what are we so worried about?

OK here's my point. As I was checking the technology news this morning I saw Slastdot had a post about how the ice in the Antarctic is actually GROWING. It's the second funniest thing I've read this morning... the other was about a person...

Anyway.. here it is. Argue amongst yourselves. LOL.

Antarctic ice is growing, not melting away

The Australian

April 18, 2009 11:52am

Cool down ... ice is expanding in much of the Antarctic, experts say / Reuters
  • Ice expanding in much of Antarctica
  • Eastern coast getting colder
  • Western section remains a concern
ICE is expanding in much of Antarctica, contrary to the widespread public belief that global warming is melting the continental ice cap.