Friday, August 31, 2012

The Debater's Potter - Part 11 - Chapter 6

Welcome back to the series I'm calling The Debater's Potter where we're moving at a breakneck pace through Dr. James R. White's book "The Potter's Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and the Rebuttal of Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free"(TPF).  With a title like that you ought to be able to understand why this series is so long, at least I hope you can. White intends the book to be "the Rebuttal" of Dr. Norman Geisler's book "Chosen But Free"(CBF) and I'm reading to see if it can accomplish that task, and to see how it compares to Scripture. I had not intended this series to be a rebuttal of Dr. White's book, but in many ways I cannot help myself. Perhaps I will back off of that in future posts, but not today.

Last time we looked at Dr. White's insistence that the Reformed doctrine of Unconditional Election is "necessary" and what we found was that many, many, Reformed theologians taught the doctrine. What we didn't find was a clear, unfettered defense of the doctrine from the Scriptures, nor a presentation of the necessity of the doctrine from the Scriptures.

This time I will give my exegesis of John 6 and see if it teaches Calvinism or something different,  and we'll take a look at how Dr. White interacts with CBF on what he calls:

Chapter 6 - CBF's "Big Three" Verses

Since I own CBF on Kindle I was able to search for the phrases "big three" and "big three verses." I was unable to find these phrases in the book. The only reason I can think of for why Dr. White would put "big three" in quotations is he is attempting to be sarcastic. I'm no stranger to sarcasm, but I don't make it the foundation of my arguments; that's just me though.

Waaait!! Did I just make a sneaky sarcastic argument there to undermine his upcoming argument in your mind? Did I "poison the well"? Yes I sure did. The reason I did it was to give you example of what Dr. White did with the title of this chapter. Dr. White is consistently a debater. He is lauded as a theologian, but he is a debater.
"Throughout his work, Dr. Geisler quotes a set of three verses as evidence that God wants to save all men, but is unable to do so outside of their freely willing to be so."
Actually that's kind of what Geisler says, but not really. Geisler doesn't say God is unable to save those who don't believe in Him freely. Geisler says God will not do so. God doesn't lack the ability to save unwilling people, God lacks the ability to go against His revealed nature, His goodness.
"When one excludes the sections of the book that do not deal with biblical argumentation, one of these verses appears on average every three to four pages."
Seldom do you see someone manipulate statistics so openly. Normally such silly behaviour is hidden... what exactly is he trying to say here? I know what he is implying, but the manipulation of the stats is so over the top that the implication becomes laughable.

Writing of Matt 23:371Tim 2:4; and 2Pet 3:9 Dr. White says:
"CBF assumes a particular meaning for each passage and then utilizes that interpretation as the primary refutation of any and all passages that would disagree with the Arminian view. Over and over again biblical passages will receive no exegesis outside of "Well, it can't mean this, because we know 2 Peter 3:9 says...""
So I searched CBF and could not find one instance of such a quotation, or any variation. We'll see if Dr. White behaves the way he claims Dr. Geisler does shortly. Yet, Dr. White offers an "example."
"For example, in responding to the clear teaching of John 6:65, CBF uses two of these three verses as proof-texts:"
"Moderate Calvinists and Arminians agree with this. As Sproul himself admits, the real question is, "Does God give the ability to come to Jesus to all men?" The answer is that there is nothing here or anywhere else to say God limits His willingness to provide this ability to only some. Indeed, the Bible is clear that He is patient, "not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2Peter 3:9), and that He "wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4; also Ezek 18:32)."
So, did Geisler say "Well, it can't mean this, because we know..." Did he even state anything with that intent? Or did Geisler use the whole of teaching on the subject to properly determine what is being said?

It is interesting to me that Geisler doesn't offer the whole quote. He doesn't include what Geisler says he is in agreement with Sproul about. Here it is,  Geisler in CBF quoting Sproul on John 6:65
"Jesus said, " 'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.' " Sproul comments, "The passage teaches at least this much: It is not within the fallen man's ability to come to Christ on his own, without some kind of divine assistance."
Geisler didn't say, or imply, that the verse doesn't mean what it says. Geisler simply didn't add Calvinism to the verse and call it exegesis. Indeed, the verse doesn't indicate that God only does this for some, and not others. It merely asserts that no one can come to Him unless God does grant it.

White adds only this comment further:
"But are the interpretations CBF assumes valid? If we find that the Reformed view can provide a more consistent interpretation of these passages, the entirety of the presentation in CBF is undermined, for if these passages do not teach what the book assumes, its primary foundation is washed away." 
We're two long introductions and 6 chapters into the book, wouldn't it be wonderful if the long awaited attempted "refutation" of CBF would start? Well instead of discussing John 6:65 White decides it's time to talk about these "big three" verses, and what he says Geisler "assumes" is true about them.

Before we look at that though; I want to discuss John 6:65. I don't agree with the position White has about the passage in the slightest. I don't have to say that the passage doesn't say what it says, nor do I even have to appeal to other passages out of context to support my view.

The first thing to realize is that John 6 is one teaching. The Lord isn't jumping from subject to subject and using cryptic language that can only understood in the light of Calvin's Institutes.

What is He talking about?

Jn 6:25-29 tells us He's talking about what people are, and what they should be occupied with. They are following Him around looking for bread to feed their bellies but they should believe in Him so they would have bread that gives Eternal Life. This is the will of the Father that they should do, to believe on the Son whom He sent.

These men understood that Jesus said their believing in Him was to do the work of the Father, not that the work of the Father was to make them believe. Hear their answer!

Jn 6:30-34 They want a sign so they will believe. The Lord tells them that He is the true bread that comes down from Heaven, not just the bread that was for a sign.

Jn 6:35-40 is a passage that normally gets pulled apart and only a couple of verses are discussed. Read it in its entirety please:
35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
It is often said of Jn 6:35 that believing and coming are equated. Yet, as we will see from Jn 6:45 that it is the result that is equated for coming follows believing.

Jesus is speaking to these same men who had followed him for bread, and then asked how they too could do the work of the Father, and had been told the will of the Father is that they believe on the Son, and that He is the bread of life that gives eternal life.  Don't forget who He is talking to and why.  The Lord says that they have seen Him and yet do not believe - thus they do not have that Bread they need, nor the Eternal Life. He goes on saying that all that the Father gives Him will come to Him, and the one  who comes to Him He will by no means cast out.

Does this speak of Unconditional Election, as Dr. White would teach that it does? It definitely seems to indicate, by necessity, that those the Father does not give will not "come", and that those the Father does give will surely "come." The Lord doesn't stop His teaching here however, as so many preachers choose to do.

The Lord explains this saying "For I have come down from Heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." He explains that the will of the Father is that the Lord should loose nothing or no one which or who have been given to Him by the Father. He goes on still, saying "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise Him up at the last day." 

The Lord has been talking about the true need of these men from the beginning. Their need for Eternal Life is the topic, the result of the process not the process.  Who does the Father give Him? Who then comes? Those who believe. It is the will of the Father that all those who believe have Eternal Life. Only those given to the Son will come to Him, and the Father only gives those who believe. Jn 1:12-13

Jn 6:41-42 The Jews then complain about Him saying He was from Heaven. They are calling Him a liar.

Now the Lord talks about process.

Jn 6:43-44 "Jesus therefore answered them" No one can come to Him unless the Father "draws" them.  You can see my discussion of The Drawing of God here.

Jn 6:45-46 Tells us how this drawing works in one brief sentence. Those who believe what the Father shows them, the Son, come to the Son. It is they who believe who come, it is therefore they who believe who are given. In verse 46 the Lord iterates that the Jews hadn't actually seen the Father, only He had. Jn 1:18; Jn 16:5-11

Jn 6:47-51 The Lord exclaims that everyone who believes in Him has Eternal Life. He explains it through the imagery of the bread in the wilderness. He says He gives His flesh for them(us) to eat.

Jn 6:52-59 The Jews get all upset about this, and the Lord repeats it. There are interesting things about sin offerings and eating of flesh which help us to understand their upset and the repetition but they are outside the scope of today's discussion.

Jn 6:65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

What is the Lord saying "therefore" about?

Jn 6:61-64 He's saying 'because some of you don't believe I have told you that none can come to Me unless you eat my flesh and drink My blood.' The problem is not that they were not granted to believe, the problem is they will not be granted to come to Him and so they will not have Eternal Life unless they eat and drink, which He equates with believing.  The Lord is talking about a sin offering here, His flesh is that offering. The consistent problem that the Lord dealt with the Jews about was their need to have their sins washed away. They thought they were going to get to the Father because of their lineage. The Lord was clear that no one could get to the Father except by Him.

Coming to Jesus, or coming to the Father is being reconciled to Him, returning to Him. This is not believing in Him, it is the reconciliation that comes through (or logically after) belief. God only saves those who believe, all others are already condemned.

Jn 6:66 I wonder how Dr. White reconciles that people the Holy Spirit calls "Disciples" fell away and refused to believe this teaching with his Lordship Salvation theology.

Jn 6:67-71 Here we find that the twelve, or rather eleven of the twelve, had come to believe that Jesus is the Christ. The Lord notes that He choose the eleven, even though one of them was a devil.

So that's my explanation of Jn 6:65 which is both completely exegetical and completely at odds with Dr. White's view. The point of Dr. Geisler's book CBF is that God, in Eternity Past, chose to save those people who would believe (through conviction & convincing without violating His own nature), and worked History to reveal Himself to them so they would believe.

Does my explanation seem complicated? Perhaps that is because Calvinism has over ridden this chapter of Scripture for so long that we have been taught HOW to read it and what it must really mean. When I first started to challenge Calvinism John 6 would give me a head ache. You know why? Because I could hear sermon after sermon in my mind. Not because the passage says anything close to Calvinism.

Let's get back to The Potter's Freedom.

White quotes Geisler on Matt 23:37:
"Also, Matthew 23:37 affirms emphatically that Jesus desired to bring Jews who rejected Him into the fold but could not because they would not. He cried, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." God's grace is not irresistible on those who are unwilling." 
White responds to this quote:
"We first note that "irresistible grace" is a reference to God's sovereign regeneration of His elect: any other use of the phrase is in error."
Dr. White first an foremost in every engagement protects his theology. Why is that always his first concern? After doing that he says that Geisler is saying:
"...God's grace is dependent upon the will of man. If a man is willing, God's grace will prevail. But grace cannot change the will of man." 
The implication is that if man is unwilling that God's grace will "not prevail", it will fail. This however, is not at all the argument of Geisler's book. As demonstrated in our brief look at CBF, Geisler states that God will not violate the will of man to save him. Not that he cannot. The quote that White provides of Geisler makes it seem as though he is saying that God is not able, but Geisler's actual point is that He is not able to do so because it would violate who God is. This become absolutely clear when one reads more than short quotations of CBF.

White complains:
"No exegesis is offered, just conclusions. How Dr. Geisler arrived at these conclusions, we are not told. Later we are informed that it is the "plain meaning" of the text and are asked rhetorically, "What could be more clear: God wanted all of them, even the unrepentant, to be saved."
What exegesis is required? Really. OK let's look at it, but let's look at the Lord's whole statement which comes after multiple "Woe to you" statements about their willful ignorance:

Matt 23:37-39
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”
Who is the Lord speaking to? To Jerusalem, the house of the Jews, particularly the leadership of the nation it would seem. He calls them guilty of killing and stoning those whom God sent to them. Of these same people, these people who reject Him and those whom He sent to them, that He desires to gather them as children! It doesn't matter if He is talking about every Jew ever, or just these ones who reject Him. The point is absolutely clear and plainly stated. I wanted to, but you were not willing. It is absolutely impossible to use exegesis to separate those whom He desired to gather, from those who rejected Him and were unwilling to be gathered. Only, eisegesis and forcing one's theology on this passage can accomplish such a foolish task. Further, the Lord is not done desiring to gather these unrepentant people for He says they won't see them until they say "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD!" There is hope for these, if they will recognize Jesus for Who He is they will be gathered as children.  Did I really need to explain this? Was this "exegesis" at all necessary?

It looks to me as though the foundation Geisler is building on is just fine.

White continues restates that Geisler uses this passage along with 1Tim 2:4 and 2Pet 3:9 to build the case that God desires to save every person.  He questions if this is what Matt 23:37 is really teaching and then promises to "..provide an exegetical interpretation of the passage and compare it with the presentation in CBF."

He makes the following points:
"The first fact to ascertain in examining any passage of Scripture is its context. This passage comes in the midst of the proclamation of judgment upon the leaders of the Jews." 
That's true it does come in there, however as I pointed out above this does not aid Dr. White's argument.
"Who, then is "Jerusalem"? It is assumed by Arminian writers that "Jerusalem" represents individual Jews who are, therefore, capable of resisting the work and will of Christ. .... Jesus is condemning the Jewish leaders, and it is to them that He refers here. This is clearly seen that:
  1. It is to the leaders that God sent prophets;
  2. It was the Jewish leaders who killed the prophets and those sent to them;
  3. Jesus speaks of "your children," differentiating those to whom He is speaking from those that the Lord desired to gather together. (emphasis added)
  4. The context referes to the Jewish leaders, scribes and Pharisees
A vitally important point to make here is that the ones the Lord desired to gather are not the ones who "were not willing"! Jesus speaks to the leaders about their children that they , the leaders would not allow Him to "gather."
OK as I said above it would take a feat of eisegesis and forcing ones' theology on to a passage to separate those who He desired from those who rejected Him. What White does is clever, and is probably very convincing to many people who read his argument. But there are two distinct problems with his argument which make it not sound.

1. White is saying that it is impossible for the sinner being saved to resist the grace of God, but that if someone else doesn't want them to be saved that other person can resist the grace of God toward you so that Christ is helpless to save anyone unless the Jewish council allows it. This is rebuttal is exactly in context with White's argument against Geisler. It is an absurd statement.

2. While Jerusalem may well be a title for the Jewish leaders, and I would hold to that same view, the "children" of Jerusalem must indicate all Jews. What Jew is not a child of Jerusalem? In White's argument the children are those under the Jewish council. What Jew was not? Therefore here we find White admitting that Jesus is stating that at the very least He wanted to save every Jew with the only exception grammatically allowable and within the limits of White's argument being the Jewish council. Did Christ accomplish this desire? Of course not. Then White's question to Geisler ought to be asked of White "Did Christ then fail to accomplish it?"

The solution is plain and simple. Jesus is rebuking the Jewish council, but the point is the same the Jewish people are the ones He desired to save yet they would not. Was it only the Jewish council that was blinded at their rejection of Him? Or do we find that all Jews suffer from that blindness? Is it not so that all Jews suffer from the problem of not seeing Him until they say "Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the LORD!"?

White finishes his response to Geisler on Matt 23:37 triumphantly:
"So we can now plainly see that CBF has absolutely no basis for its assertion.... One of the three primary passages used in CBF is seen, then, to have no connection with the application made of it over and over again in the text." 
It is a shame that Dr. White missed Geisler's point, for if he had caught it (perhaps) he would have ended this response very differently.

Next up White discusses 1Tim 2:4 saying that "again" the key to this passage is the context. He says:
"We must remember that the early Christians were a persecuted people, and normally the persecution came from those in positions of power and authority. It is easy to understand why there would have to be apostolic commandments given to pray for the very ones who were using their power and authority to persecute these Christians." 
Paul tells us the purpose of the prayers in 1Tim 2:2 "...that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence."So far I don't disagree with White. What follows however, are tactics White would write whole books about were Geisler to employ. 
"Who are kings and all who are in authority? They are kinds of men, classes of men. Paul often spoke of "all men" in this fashion." 
Calvinists typically have trouble interpreting the word "all"... I'm just say'n... :) Hey these chapters are long, and frustrating. I've got to take whatever chance I can to lighten the mood and get a giggle or two right?
"For example, in Titus chapter 2, when Paul speaks of the grace of God which brings salvation appearing to "all men" the context, both before and after, speaks of kinds of men." 
Only a die-hard Calvinist would have to put "all kinds of men" in place of "all men" in this passage. What was it that White was accusing Geisler of writing in CBF? Oh yeah "Well, it can't mean this, because we know..."
How does substituting "all kinds of men" work for Dr. White when Paul writes of the instructions started in 1Tim 2 saying:

1Tim 4:6-11
If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. 10 For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. 11 These things command and teach. (emphasis added)
Paul's concerns in this letter are the fidelity of Timothy's ministry, the care of and peace for the Saints, and the salvation of all men. Not all kinds of men, but all men. For God is the Saviour of all men, especially those who believe.

A proposed sentence "God is the saviour of all kinds of men, especially those who believe" makes no sense. But the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, and those who believe are actually saved.

But White says that Paul often writes of "all kinds of men" did Paul mean that "all kinds of men" sin and fall short of the glory of God? Rom 3:23? How about Rom 5:18 that I called "Calvinism's Black Box" back in September 2010. Does it say that judgment came to all kinds of men here and that the free gift of salvation came to all kinds of men? Or does it say that judgment came to all, and the free gift of salvation came to all? As I pointed out in the Calvinism's Black Box article the greek for both phrases is exactly the same, the context is the same - thus Paul's argument makes sense - and it cannot be reconciled with Calvinism. It surely cannot be reconciled with Dr. White's "all kinds of men" substitution.

White's "all kinds of men" is a convenient substitution of what the Text says with what his theology says. There is absolutely no grammatical or contextual reason in 1Tim 2 (or other places for that matter) to make this substitution. Without TULIP ringing in one's ear one would never ever see that in the Text.

White makes several attempts to mock the scope of what "all" could mean in 1Timothy 2. Saying that Paul didn't want them to institute constant prayer sessions where every single person in the world is prayed for individually. He brings up Titus 3:2 and says that can't be universal in scope. That in Acts 22:15 could not mean that Paul would witness to every single person ever.... he goes on with several of these. I sympathize with his argument to some extent. It is true that in 1Tim 2 Paul was not telling them to pray for every single person in existence in all of history. He was telling them to pray for everyone they knew about. His emphasis was on those who persecute them. White would say that this means it doesn't mean that God wants to save every single person on the planet, ever. That it is limited in scope. He then makes the leap that this means "all kinds of men" not everyone.  The problem is that the very same people that Paul is telling them to pray for are included in the "all men" whom God desires to save.  Is the actual context every individual ever in existence? No of course not, not on the prayer side. But Paul is telling them that they should pray for these people BECAUSE God wants to save everyone - even these ones.  Again, this is not hard to see in the Text unless one has studied TULIP first.
"Almost invariably, proponents of Arminianism isolate this passage from the two verses that follow.... Verse 5 begins with the word "for," indicating the connection between the statement made in 3-4 and the explanation in 5-6. Why should Christians pray that all men, including kings and rulers, be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth? Because there is only one way of salvation... First, if one takes "all men" in verse 4 to mean "all men individually," does it not follow that Christ is of necessity must be mediator for all men as well?"
The Text doesn't say that, and neither does Geisler. The text says God desires all men to be saved, and that Christ is the mediator between God and men. Grammatically their is a clear difference. One is all inclusive the other is a subgroup.
"If one says, "yes, Christ mediates for every single human being," does it not follow that Christ fails as mediator every time a person negates His work by their all-powerful act of free will?"
Notice how he brings up Christ failing when he wants to make his point seem more clear than it is?
"... for anyone familiar with the relationship between atonement, mediation and intercession in the book of Hebrews knows well that to make such an assertion puts the entire argument of Hebrews 7-10 on its head." 
Is White saying "Anyone as smart and biblical literate as I am would know that I'm right..."? He doesn't explain how such a thing would put Heb 7-10 "on its head" nor does he bother to find Geisler stating that Christ mediates for every single person. He invents an argument and argues against it using an emotional appeal - a supposed failure of Christ, and a haughty statement. This is his great defense of the Reformation and "the" Rebuttal of CBF?
"...the ransom that Christ gives in His self-sacrifice is either a saving ransom or a non-saving one. If it is actual  and really made in behalf of all men, then inevitably all men would be saved. is far more consistent to recognize that the same meaning for "all men" and "all" flows through the entire passage, and when we look at the inarguably clear statements of Scripture regarding the actual intention and result of Christ's cross-work, we will see that there is no other consistent means of interpreting these words in 1 Timothy." 
I truly wish that White would stop promising biblical arguments and just give one.

Perhaps he has never read Leviticus 16. Lev 16:15 shows that on the Day of Atonement that one animal was killed as a propitiation of God for the sins of the people. Its blood was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat. It was killed for ALL the people of Israel. God was propitiated for all the sins of all the people. Justice was fully served. Then in Lev 16:20-22 we read that the other animal, the Scapegoat, had the sins confessed on its head and it bore them away.  Calvinists will tell you that if Christ died for everyone that Universalism must be true. Scripture paints an entirely different picture. God MUST be propitiated for all sin, every single sin by an acceptable sacrifice. He CANNOT be propitiated by the death of a dirty sinful animal, or a dirty sinful sinner.

I'm going to skip over the rest of his argument about 1Tim 2:4 because it is more of the same that we've seen from him on other subjects. If anyone should desire me to address each additional point please comment and I will do so. There is nothing there that poses any challenge to my view, or Geisler's. This article is massive, and I know the longer these are the fewer people will read them. It is this length by necessity, though I wish I could condense it further.

Of usage of 2Pet 3:9 White begins:
"This is surely the most popular passage cited (almost never with any reference to the context) to "prove" that God could not possibly desire to save a specific people but instead desires to save every single individual person, thereby denying election and predestination." 
White doesn't say that this is what Geisler is doing in CBF, and one could make a clear argument that Geisler teaches in CBF that God does save only those whom He has purposed and predestined in accordance with His desire. White quotes 2Peter 3:3-13, quoting a large portion of the passage which I applaud as a practice, but I wonder why he starts in the middle of a sentence. Verse 3 is not the start of something it is a continuance of something.
"Immediately one sees that unlike such passages as Eph 1, Rom 8-9, or John 6, this passage is not speaking about salvation as its topic."
Really? What's more: Rom 8 isn't about salvation, it's about sanctification. Rom 9 is the beginning of Paul's explanation of God's faithfulness to Israel, not salvation. John 6, well we looked at that earlier in this article. Eph 1, we'll get there.
"The reference to "coming to repentance" in 3:9 is made in passing." 
"Peter is explaining the reason why the coming of Christ has been delayed as long as it has."
OK I'm on board with this bit.
"But the next thing that stands out upon the reading of the passage is the clear identification of the audience to which Peter is speaking. When speaking of the mockers he refers to them in the third person "them." But everywhere else he speaks directly to his audience as the "beloved" and "you."...the assumption made by the Arminian is that when verse 9 says the Lord is "patient toward you" that this "you" refers to everyone. Likewise when it says "not wishing for any to perish" but "all to come to repentance," it is assumed that the "any" and the "all" refers to anyone at all of the human race."
One of my personal beefs with Calvinism is that it makes simple English so hard to read. I've watched as people tried to read through John 6 and if it wasn't so tragic it would be funny to see how hard a time people have with it. Not because the English translation is so terrible, but because the weight of the theology on the Text is so heavy.  The reading of this passage suffers in like fashion. I really don't think the passage needs to be broken down as I've done with previous ones. However, I will in the comments if that is requested.

Let me simply break Calvinism's influence on it.

If the "all" and the "us" are the same group of people, the Elect of God, and if Peter's theology is that God's Election is as the Reformers state it "Unconditional" then his statement is without purpose, and near to complete nonsense.  'God is long-suffering toward us, and not willing that any of us should perish but that all of us would come to repentance.' If Calvinism is in view then it is not possible that any would perish, such a thing could not be in the minds of Peter's readers. Why is Peter even writing any of this 2Peter 3:1-13 at all? Scoffers will come, but the true Calvinist will persevere anyway... they need not be convinced of God's faithfulness, nor assured of it. They have been regenerated and thus have been given a new heart that does the will of God.... While White makes a clever argument the passage doesn't actually fit with his theology. It can only be manipulated to look as though it does if other parts of the theology are momentarily ignored.

Peter's audience was a group of already saved people. To say that this audience defines the "any" and "all" is to greatly manipulate the Text. Further, this is not how we would read such a letter to us. If I and the group of saved Evangelists I work with in street ministry received a letter from a Pastor who knows that we are saved and he was telling me about God's delay in coming and how there are mockers around but that God is long suffering toward us not willing that any should perish but that all would come to repentance - would I think he was talking about our group of people? Or would I think that he was talking about everyone else? Given the context of our ministry we would think of everyone else. Given just the letter without the context of our ministry I could still not define the "any" and "all" as some part of us. It would surely mean that those "any" and "all" could join US.

What's missing from Peter's words for White's argument to work? Peter not once links "all" or "any" with the Church which is His Body. In fact Peter doesn't mention the Church as a whole. He mentions only the "us" or "you" to which he is writing. If Peter did have the building of the Church in view then White's argument could perhaps have validity.  Instead of being driving from the Text through exegesis, White assumes the doctrine of the Elect of God, or the Church which is His Body as a whole is the subject and inserts it into the Text.
"The point of the passage is that God will bring the elect to repentance throughout the time period prior to the parousia, the coming of Christ."
I'm not sure this is "THE" point of the passage, but it is a point for sure. Further Geisler uses the passage in exactly the same way. He simply doesn't limit "any" to those who already are.

Dr White closes Chapter 6 in this way:
"The person inclined to accept the thesis of CBF should consider this issue well: it is an understatement to say that Dr. Geisler relies upon Matt 23:37; 1Tim 2:4; and 2Pet 3:9 as his key Scriptural passages. If, in fact, one can present an interpretation of each that is at least as valid, if not much more so, than his own, does it not follow that the vast majority of the biblical response provided in CBF becomes suspect?" 
If Dr. White's assertion is true, that these are the "key" verses, and if one were able to present an interpretation as described then perhaps yes CBF could become suspect. However, Dr. White ignores the vast majority of Scriptural argumentation in CBF and focuses on these three passages. Frankly, given my review of his interpretation of them the only thing left suspect in my opinion is the book The Potter's Freedom. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The 'Cage Stage' of Maturing in Calvinism

Have you ever heard of "The Cage Stage" of the Calvinist's development?  I hadn't until today. At least not that I can remember.

I was having an online conversation and someone brought it up.  I found it funny, but also a bit disturbing. The fact is the problem is so prevalent in Calvinism that Dr. James R. White had to write a book called Drawn By The Father about it. Here's how he describes the problem.
"I've seen it many times. The Cage Stage. A believer's eyes are opened to the majesty of God as the sovereign King of the universe, and their entire life is turned upside down. And for a while, they have more zeal than they have knowledge. We call it the "cage stage." That period in the experience of the new Calvinist where they would be better off kept in a cage until they can gain enough maturity to handle these vitally important topics aright. That time when they are more likely to hurt themselves, and others! You know, when they are all running around smacking someone upside the head with Pink's The Sovereignty of God? Yeah."
That time when they are more likely to hurt themselves, and others! Really? That period when they would be better off kept in a cage?

Phil Johnson (John MacArthur's former 2nd in command) had this to say about the subject in a sermon titled "Marching Orders for a Backslidden Church":
The goal of our study should not be the constant shifting of our beliefs, but Christ like steadfastness, solid, settled, mature convictions.

And let me add this. If you do abandon Arminianism and become a Calvinist, if you leave one eschatological position and take up another one, if you under go any kind of major doctrinal shift, don’t suddenly act like that point of doctrine is more important than all the others. Don’t start preaching on it constantly to the exclusion of everything else. But spend some time settling into your new convictions before you pretend to have expertise you frankly haven’t had time to develop.

I think that is the tendency of fresh Calvinists to become cocky and obsessive about the fine points of predestination and that is one of the things that makes Calvinism so odious to most non Calvinists.

But don’t do that. If you shift your opinion, learn what you believe before you begin to make it a hobby horse. That is not a sign of maturity and you are not truly steadfast in the faith until you are truly mature. In fact, let’s be clear about that. What Paul wants to see here is not the ability to argue with zeal and vigor in point of a favorite point of view. Immature college kids can do that better than anybody else.
Let me try to get this straight.

In The Potter's Freedom Dr. White defines the sovereignty of God like this:
"The conjunction of God's absolute freedom and His Creatorship results in the doctrine of God's Decrees: the soul-comforting truth that God has wisely and perfectly decreed whatsoever comes to pass in this universe."  
"This extends not only to inanimate objects... but to every aspect of human history, personal relationships, and most importantly, to the life of every man, woman and child." 
So God makes everything, EVERYthing, happen. Every decision you make, you don't - God does, or to be consistent with White's theology, God did in Eternity Past; you or anyone, everyone really.

With these things in mind, please someone explain this to me: When God supposedly opens the eyes of a Believer to see White's view of the Sovereignty of God why would God manifest what should be a wondrous event by making the person act like an insufferable jerk so that it would be better for them to be kept in a cage so they couldn't hurt their self or anyone else?

In the conversation I was having with several people I asked this question very similarly.  A Calvinist responded "No wonder Calvinists are rude to you."

I'm the middle of a huge series of long articles about James White's book "The Potter's Freedom" and I'm a bit sick of how Calvinists, both young and mature, act. I'm tired of the air of superiority, the constant cry of "misrepresentation" without demonstration of any, and the clever, convenient manipulation of the Scriptures mixed with "just so" doctrines that are determined by their theology not by the Scriptures. So, I would understand readers thinking I'm just out to get James White. I'm not... I'm not offended by the freedom of God either.

I constrain my theology to that which I read in the Scriptures. I can think of only one thing I think must be true, but which is not directly revealed or required by the Scriptures. I would never teach that this is true. I would surely not build a system of theology around it. What is it? It's that if a person doesn't know that they are eternally secure in Christ that they haven't actually been assured, they don't actually have saving faith. This is something I THINK is true, but it is neither directly revealed nor directly required in the Scriptures - so it doesn't matter what I think, I must constrain my thinking to the Scriptures.

I'm sick of a system that is based on such convictions. The Eternal Decrees of God, Regeneration prior to Faith, Determinism... Non-Calvinists, aren't you tired of reading John 6 with Calvinism's baggage? Doesn't it weigh down the reading of that chapter? In my next article in The Debater's Potter I'm going to offer a verse by verse exegetical explanation of John 6:25-71. I hope this will help lift that weight for some.

So with that in mind, I hope you will realize that I'm not out to get James White. I just want to know how this Cage Stage makes sense? How do they justify it? James White also teaches Lordship Salvation, so how is very un-Christ-like behaviour the manifestation of God's working in a Believer to open his eyes?


Some subscribers just got a preview of Part 11 of the series of The Debater's Potter. I hit publish in error. The article will not be completed today... what was sent out was not proof checked and may contain crazy errors!

I will try to get the article out by tomorrow, but I may not be able to.


Friday, August 17, 2012

A Friend's Funeral

Today I attended the funeral of a friend.  Chris and I served together in the Canadian Forces (now the Royal Canadian Airforce) for 15 years. We worked along side each other, we took each other's positions as one or the other moved. We didn't always get along, but we always respected each other. I knew what drove Chris, where he was coming from, and how he was likely to be in any given situation, and I suspect he knew me in the same way.

Chris retired first, and then came back as a Reserve member, then I retired and didn't come back. The last time I saw Chris he was driving by me sometime in March of this year. It was late, a little after 5pm and he was in his uniform driving home from work. That time of year is personnel review time, and I smiled and waved. We shared a quick glance, but there was a full conversation in it. He was tired and had been working late to try to get caught up. We both knew I could feel his pain, and his pride in doing right by his people, and we both knew I was glad I wasn't the one who had the kind of day he must have had. When you know someone for that long, well you just know them. A glance is all it takes to get everything across.

Since then I've wanted to call Chris to have a coffee, but you know how that goes. Intentions never get anything done. I never did call him, and we never had that coffee. I never got to tell him that I'm proud he was continuing on and that I know he was doing right by his people. I never got to tell him that I'm proud he was doing a great job.

Today I sat as far from my old military colleagues as I possibly could. I did look over and sort of long to be part of the family again, but I wasn't there to see them.

As I sat there looking at Chris' flag covered coffin I couldn't believe his body was really in it. His dress uniform hat was laying on top. I had worn that hat once, when he discovered that mine was dirty just before I was to go see the Wing Chief Warrant Officer. I was just going to wear my hat, but Chris gave me that look and said "I don't knooow Kevin... " Even now I can hear his voice in my head; a bit of gravel in it, chastising me and warning me of impending doom.

The military Chaplain started to speak, and to be honest I really don't feel like getting into what he said. It was a mix of Roman Catholicism and humanism... He did however pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, so while I didn't actually agree with a lot of what he said I couldn't help but say my amen.

I'll be heading out to preach the Gospel to lost sinners on the streets of my city tonight. My heart is heavy, my stomach is sickly, I'm exhausted.

I know that Chris had heard the Gospel from me, and from at least one other Brother. What I don't know is if he ever actually believed it. The Chaplain made it seem like Chris was the Lord's servant, and would be welcomed home. Perhaps he knew something I didn't about my friend.

That's the day I've had.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Debater's Potter - Part 10 - Chapter 5

Welcome again to the ongoing series of articles detailing my reaction to and my interaction with Dr. James R. White's book The Potter's Freedom(TPF) as a Non-Calvinist-Non-Arminian. According to the subtitle of the book Dr. White intended TPF as a rebuttal of Dr. Norman Geisler's book Chosen But Free(CBF).

This time we will take up Dr. White's 5th chapter "Unconditional Election a Necessity." When I read the title of the chapter I thought immediately how Calvinism is a theology of "necessity" and not revelation. Based on the "calvinistic" view of God, the 5 points of TULIP flow, along with the so called "Eternal Decrees of God" yet as of this date (having read several chapters ahead of where I'm writing now, and having studied the topic at length for years) I have never seen TULIP or the Eternal Decrees of God revealed in the Scriptures.

As we have seen in previous posts in this series that Dr. White seems to refuse to understand that Dr. Geisler doesn't agree with him, and is proposing a view of Unconditional Election which is closer to what the Scriptures reveal.  Some of White's complaint seems reasonable, in that Dr. Geisler uses the title "Unconditional Election" to describe a different doctrine than what the Calvinists use the same title to describe.

Who owns the term "Unconditional Election"? While Dr. White complains that Dr. Geisler uses the term to describe something which he believes to actually be a "Conditional Election" he does so at his own determent. Instead of understanding the argument for how God works in Time which is presented in CBF Dr. White chooses to break the argument appart into sections, isolating them. Where Dr. White shows that God knows all of History and chooses to work in accordance with that knowledge, Dr. White mocks him for using the terminology "Determinatively Knowing." Where Dr. Geisler shows Election to happen, the choice, without condition - unconditional election - in accordance with God's foreknowledge that such would be conditionally received on the basis of faith, Dr. White claims that Geisler is creating confusion by teaching a different doctrine than what he does.

If one or the other could be shown to be not in accord with the Scriptures then Dr. White would be able to successfully rebut Dr. Geisler's argument. However, instead of rebutting the argument Dr. White cleverly re-interprets it and mocks what he has created. Go ahead and see if you can rebut Dr. Geisler's argument. God knows the end from the beginning and will accomplish all He has purposed to do. Isa 46:10 It is the will of the Father to save all who believe Jn 6:40, it is to those who believe on the Lord that God gives the right to become children of God. Jn 1:12 Note that it is the new birth that is accomplished in accord with the will of God, not the belief Jn 1:13 just exactly as vs 12 says. That people access this grace, this justification, this salvation THROUGH faith Rom 5: 1-2; Eph 2:8-9. And that God elects people on the basis of His "foreknowledge" of them. Rom 8:29-30. Note that the predestination is to being conformed to the image of Christ, not to belief.  It is apparent, that God draws all men to some extent, but turns those who reject Him over to their reprobate minds, the Elect are drawn all the way unto faith. Please see the article The Drawing of God for scriptural support for this complex topic. So, as Dr. Geisler states, God knows all things. He is not surprised by events, or controlled by them. He is not subject to His creation. God knows people before hand and elects in accordance with that knowledge. Salvation is given unconditionally - by grace - and received conditionally - through faith. This is simply what the Scriptures say. 

Now let's get back to TPF!

Chapter 5 - Unconditional Election a Necessity

"Some terms and phrases are self-definitional... The theological phrase "unconditional election" would seem to indicate an election or choice made without conditions. And historically that is how the phrase has been understood."
I can almost sympathize with Dr. White here. Except that, he (apparently) intentionally misses that the "election" or the "choice" that Dr. Geisler explains is unconditional. God chooses this person, not conditional on anything, but in accordance with His foreknowledge. Rom 8:29-30.  God chooses and that is that. It will happen. This is what Dr. Geisler actually presents in CBF, as we saw in Part 7 - A Brief View of Chosen But Free.

White explains his frustration with Geisler:
"Earlier in the work Geisler concludes a section "Avoiding Extreme Calvinism's view of Unconditional Eletion" by stating, "In short, we are chosen but free--which is directly contrary to the conclusion of extreme Calvinists." So whatever else he means, one things is for certain: he does not mean what Reformed writers have meant down through the centuries." 
Well duh! He's arguing against the doctrine... perhaps Dr. White should be paying more attention to the  "whatever else he means" bit and get off the whole 'he doesn't agree with So-And-So!' wagon... I'm not sure how Dr. White misses Geisler's point he actually goes on to quote a very short and clear passage from CBF on the very subject.
"In summary, the error of extreme Calvinism regarding "unconditional election" is the failure to adhere to an election that is unconditional from the standpoint of the Giver (God), but has one condition for the receiver--faith. This, in turn, is based on the mistaken notion that faith is a gift only to the elect, who have no choice in receiving it." 
What could Dr. White say to this? He states:
"Election then is conditioned upon human faith: God gives it freely to all who will believe." 
He then goes on to quote Geisler the subject, and go back to how Geisler explains God's "determinatively knowing." Instead of discussing how God knows everything in Time, White picks at some complicated language by Geisler. Entirely missing the point White goes on to say:
"We saw that this argument is based upon false premises and is not valid. We likewise saw that it does not work for it becomes obvious that in Geisler's view man's free choice does become determinative. God's determination is passive while man's "free choice" is active." 
It is frustrating to cover the same things over and over, but if I must. God elects in accordance with His foreknowledge. God chooses those who will believe, to be born again. No one can change that choice. It was made by the Sovereign of the Universe before Time. God's choice is not held at bay by man's choice. Man is who he is, God chooses. Man's "free choice" is only "free" from man's point of view, in actuality God draws the Elect to the "choice" without violating His revealed nature.

White goes on to complain again:
"CBF is saying man does have a say in his own salvation, the work is synergistic, a matter of cooperation. Therefore, there can be no use of the term "unconditional election" in its consistent and historic meaning, for if the term means anything, it means that salvation is totally of God and not of man." 
While CBF does use the terms "synergistic" and "cooperation" with regard to how God accomplishes Salvation, CBF also makes it absolutely clear that God chooses, and that man actually does not have a say in his own salvation. As we saw clearly in Part 7. Dr. White's attempt to "rebut" a work called "Chosen But Free" really ought to start with at least understanding the title of the book, don't you think? God chooses in accordance with His foreknowledge and works all things to accomplish His purpose. The person responds freely to God's working, they are not regenerated so as to believe they are drawn. They are drawn by the One who has foreknown them, they are drawn perfectly, just as the one who rejects is rejected perfectly.

Dr. White goes on to ask of the Unconditional Election that CBF presents:
"Are there a specific elect people, chosen distinctly from the non-elect, chosen without any reference to their own free choices?" (emphasis added by me)
Did Dr. White read Chosen But Free or was he given a group of quotes from the book by his students, peers, friends and fans to respond to? It's a serious question. CBF presents that there is a specific elect people chosen distinctly from the non-elect, in accordance with God's foreknowledge. Exactly what the Apostle Paul also presents.  Once again Dr. White is seemingly more interested in fidelity to his favorite Reformed teachers than to the Scriptures. He continues:
"It will become painfully obvious as we examine CBF's attempts to present biblical arguments against the Reformed position that the answer to this question is "no." 
Why is Dr. White waisting chapter after chapter on this point? Dr. Geisler disagrees with your position, that's why he wrote CBF... that's just one of the most obvious points of CBF. What is the purpose behind Dr. White's continued surprise by this? How does this "rebut" CBF or "defend the Reformation"? It seems little more than a debate tactic of rousing your audience.

What rouses a Calvinist audience more than calling your opponent an Arminian? Not much... He states:
"Geisler holds to the Arminian view:"
And then quotes Geisler:
"Few teachings are more evident in the New Testament than that God loves all people, that Christ died for the sins of all human beings, and that God desires all persons to be saved." 
Well I'm not an Arminian, in fact I reject all 5 points of the 1610 Remonstrance, but I agree fully with what Geisler presents. I can think of few teachings of the NT which are more clear than these. This is not an "Arminian" view, while they may hold that view it does not make it an "Arminian view." It is a Biblical view, in my sincere opinion, but the truth is that no matter who holds it - it is simply a view. Calling it Arminian has no other purpose than to discredit it without having to show how it could be false using Scripture. Which, by the way, Dr. White does not even attempt to do. Instead he continues with talking about what Unconditional Election means in accordance with Reformed theology.

It is this paragraph which motivated me to write Part 7 A Brief View of Chosen But Free. So I will simply quote the passage and those interested in my interaction with it can read that.
"Given the confusion introduced by Dr. Geisler's use of the phrase "unconditional election" to actually refere to an unconditional decision to offer salvation that is conditioned, with reference to the actual accomplishment of the salvation of any individual, upon the free choices of men, it is necessary to establish the historic meaning of the phrase before we can respond to CBF's unique viewpoint." 
As we have seen Dr. Geisler doesn't introduce or cause confusion on the subject whatsoever. Dr. White then goes on to quote the following to explain the "historic" use of the phrase "unconditional election."
  • London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689)
  • Westminister Confession of Faith
  • James P. Boyce's Abstract of Systematic Theology
  • W.J. Seaton using the Baptist Confession
  • Duane Edward Spencer speaking of unconditional election
  • Lorrain Boettner on unconditional election
  • Edwin Palmer on unconditional election
  • C. Samuel Storms summary of unconditional election
I'll save you the quotes, and simply concede that each of these sources most likely would at least largely agree with Dr. White's position.

Dr. White cites Rom 9:16 to state that God's "election" is not based on anything man does, either good or evil. The election in this passage is unto honorable use by God, not unto Eternal Life. Find eternal life in this passage, it is only in the mind of the one who puts it there. Neither in context, prescription, nor implication is it to be found in this passage. This is about God using a different people in the world other than Israel.

He goes on to cite that 2Tim, Rom 9:11, Eph 1:4, and 1Peter 1:1-2 show that "God [doesn't] set his electing love upon any individual" because of works, holiness or obedience.  I would agree with his conclusion, if not his intent.  He continues
"Rather, election finds its sole and all-sufficient cause in the sovereign good pleasure and grace of God (Eph 1:9; Rom 9:11; 11;5; Matt. 11:25-26; 2Tim 1:9)" 
In a later chapter we'll see how he makes Eph 1:9 about election unto salvation, but for now I ask the reader to examine if this is what the Apostle wrote about. Or is it about the mystery of God's plan for the fullness of times? I've already briefly discussed Rom 9, which I will no doubt have to go into in detail at some point in this series. Rom 11:5 according to the election of Grace? This is explaining the reformed view of "Unconditional Election" it is speaking of how God is still saving those who believe, even if they are of Israel. The three chapters, 9-11, are about God's faithfulness to Israel. Further, instead of saying that God has unconditionally elected some to Heaven and the rest to Hell, God says that He is provoking Israel to jealousy by bringing salvation to the Gentiles! Why provoke to jealousy when You simply regenerate people to believe in You? It makes the passage nonsense. Matt 11:25 -26 Again this is about hiding and revealing - turning over to reprobate minds, and drawing - which matches Geisler's view much better than White's Reformed view of Unconditional Election which requires pre-faith regeneration. 2Tim 1:9 also fits completely with Rom 8:29-30, and Jn 6:40, and Jn 1:12, and Eph 2:8-9, and Rom 5:1-2... and so on.... it states that God called us not according to works but according to His purpose, which Jesus stated in Jn 6:40.

What's most shocking to this reader is White continues:
"Were election to be based upon what God foreknows that each individual will do with the gospel it would be an empty and altogether futile act." 
Rom 8:29-30 reads
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Is White's point that it is God's foreknowledge about how one will react to the Gospel, or that God chooses in accordance with His foreknowledge? As we've seen in other parts of this book, and in his question about CBF's doctrine of election - White is offended that God would do anything in accordance to His foreknowledge of man. God's decisions must be made in complete disregard to anything God knows about man, or He is not "sovereign."
"...Calvinism is monergistic when it comes to the doctrine of salvation. This simply means that when a person is saved it is due wholly to the working of one source of power, God. Arminianism is by necessity synergistic, in that it conceives of salvation as the joint or mutual effort of both God and man."
Above I noted how Geisler uses the phrase "synergistic" and "cooperative" to describe HOW God accomplishes the Salvation of sinners.  What I didn't note at the time was what God works synergistically with. Is it the effort of man? No. Does Geisler teach that God uses, or must have available to Him, the effort of man in order to save man? Not even in the slightest.

Geisler says that God works synergistically, that is not in violation of, the will of man. God controls the event, and even makes it happen but He does so through drawing which includes revelation, conviction and convincing. He does not change the man's will, He reveals truth to the man, convinces and convicts the man. The man adds nothing. His faith is merely a reaction to the working of God. See more in Well Done Abram?

While the largest part of this chapter is filled with quotations and explanations of the teachings of men, White spends exactly ONE PARAGRAPH on the verses I discussed above. He doesn't offer any exegetical discussion of them, but merely references them as support for his views. He then goes back to quoting teachers for a few more pages and states:
"What do all of these citations have in common? They all define unconditional election as being without conditions!"
Well there you have it then... but he's not finished yet! He then quotes Calvin.
"We shall never be clearly persuaded, as we ought to be, that our salvation flows from the wellspring of God's free mercy until we come to know his eternal election, which illumines God's grace by this contrast: that he does not indiscriminately adopt all into the hope of salvation but gives to some what he denies to others. (Institutes III:21:1)."
Would White say that God gives to some indiscriminately (without regard to anything other than Himself), to not to others (also indiscriminately)? How is this supposed to be comforting?

White closes the chapter with:
"The Reformed position on election is, first and foremost, a biblical one. Yes, it flows from the sovereignty of God and the deadness of man in sin; however, it is just as clearly and inarguably stated in Scripture"
I am at a loss then why this chapter is so filled with the teachings of men while it scarcely mentions the Scriptures. 

Thursday, August 09, 2012

1st Corinthians A Letter of Assurance and Correction

There are various theological systems that take statements in 1st Corinthians and use them to question, cast doubt on, and encourage people to question their own, salvation of those who claim to be Christian.

I know people appeal to "context" when they teach such things. However, I've seldom ever seen someone develop context from the Scriptures. It is a skill the Church is sorely lacking today. So much is said about "context, context, context" and people throw around the word "hermeneutics" but how much controversy is there about 1st Corinthians? From groups that want to pattern themselves after the Corinthians, to people saying that much of the letter is about people who aren't "truly saved" isn't it strange that none of these groups can explain the context they use to interpret the Scripture, from the Scripture itself?

When I wrote Fail-Safe for Fallacy I was a strong proponent of reading Scripture out loud to one's self. I still am! I think it is an amazing way to check what you're reading and understanding. This year however, I've added listening to the books of the bible repeatedly as I exercise. This has doubled, or tripled the amount of time I get to spend in the Word weekly. It has also exposed me to the context of each of these books much more effectively. I can spend entirely too much time in a passage or verse, and when I do that it's easy to forget the purpose the author of the book had in mind.

Let's see what Paul had in mind for 1st Corinthians.

1Cor 1:1-3

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul's greeting identifies who he is writing to very clearly. Those how are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints. This doesn't in itself mean that everyone Paul will talk about in the letter is saved, but it DOES mean that it is addressed to saved people. The "you" in this letter referes to saved Christians.

1Cor 1:4-9

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus,that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
In case there is any doubt that Paul believes these people to be truly saved he includes statements like: "for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus" "even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you" "our Lord Jesus Christ who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." "God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." These are not things you can say about the unsaved, or even the potentially unsaved. Surely God who cannot lie, could not inspire such words about unsaved people.

There is absolutely no way to get around the fact that the "you" this letter is addressed to is a group of people who are unquestionably saved in Christ.

So now that we have established "Who" the letter is written to, we come to "why" Paul is writing to them - and us who call on the Name of the Lord as we read in 1Cor 1:2

1Cor 1:10

10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 
This is the purpose of the letter. We can now state the overall context of 1st Corinthians to be: Paul correcting the divisions among saved, but carnal, Believers at Corinth and by extension Believers throughout this age. 

1Cor 1:11-17  

11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. 16 Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.
Paul hits the root of the problem right away. He, is glad that he didn't sow this disorder by baptizing people himself. He's glad to have been obedient to the call which the Lord put on his life - to preach the Gospel. 

1Cor 1:18-25

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” 
20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The reader of 1st & 2nd Corinthians will find that Corinthians preferred the cleverness and bondage of their "super apostles" over the humble and hard working Paul. They had clever doctrines which confused the Gospel with wise sounding intellectual doctrines which went against the Gospel of the Christ. They even taught the Corinthians that there is no resurrection of the dead. 1Cor 15. In the quoted passage we find Paul sticking to the truth of the Gospel instead of trying to spruce it up to capture the attention of the Corinthians. 

1Cor 1:26-31

26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
Paul continues with his harsh words against relying on intellectualism.

So from the first chapter of 1st Corinthians we find that Paul is writing to saved Christians who are divided to follow various wise sounding people and systems in order to correct their disorderly behaviour.

This is the context of the letter, derived from the Scripture not from any other source. Let's look at a few important passages with this context in mind.

1Cor 2:14 is often used as a proof-text to show how unregenerate people are "unable" to believe the Gospel unless they are regenerated first. 

14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

However, Paul starts the chapter talking about how he didn't come to them with wisdom of words, but instead simply stuck with the Gospel. 1Cor 2:1-5 Paul then goes on to talk about how he speaks wisdom to those who are mature. That these deep things, these wise things are hidden from the world, not the Gospel - not Christ and Him Crucified 1Cor 2:2 but the deeper things of God. The things that if the rulers of this world knew, would change what they would do so that they would not even have crucified the Lord. 1Cor 2:7-8

Let us then look at 1Cor 2:13-15

13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
As we see, this is not about how unregenerate people cannot believe the Gospel, but it is about how these important things of wisdom in God are only spiritually discerned - and that doesn't just mean being regenerate, but also mature in the faith.

Paul continues his explanation of why he can't explain the wisdom of God to them in the third chapter. They are carnal. These believers. These truly saved believers are carnal, and cannot receive the wisdom of God and so must be again taught about Christ and Him Crucified. 1Cor 3:1-3

Paul continues to rebuke the Corinthians for being enthralled by the wisdom of men. Talking about their carnality, division and their desire to appear wise like those "super apostles." 1Cor 3:4-22

And then Paul talks about how he doesn't even judge his own performance. He's not interested in measuring up to those whom the Corinthians prefer, and he knows that even if he could see nothing against himself that this would not justify him. 1Cor 4:1-5

Then being careful to avoid accusing his Brother, Paul explains how he has made his argument using Apollos in order to show them the issue they suffer from.

1Cor 4:6-7

Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
Paul demonstrates his humility and contrasts it with how he has allowed the Corinthians to be. 1Cor 4:8-13 Then he returns to his loving tone, explaining why he is writing this. 

1Cor 4:14-17

14 I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.
This is not something you can write to someone you think may or may not be saved. He's begotten these children of his through the Gospel. Because of this he tells them to imitate him in his humility. The chapter is closed with a stern warning and a solemn choice for the Corinthians to make. Do they want Paul to come in gentle love, or as a father to correct with the rod? 1Cor 4:18-21

In his fifth chapter Paul talks about a specific problem with sexual immorality in the assembly. Paul tells them to come together and put the one, who is engaged in sexual immorality of a sort that isn't even named among the unsaved, out of the assembly so that he may suffer at the hands of satan for a season. We see in 2nd Corinthians that this man was to be accepted back into fellowship readily when he repented. 1Cor 5:1-5

Then we get an interesting warning and instruction from the Apostle.

1Cor 5:6-8 
Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
These truly saved Believers are to understand that leaving the man in the assembly dirtied all of them. Even though they are truly unleavened - without sin, this man's sinful practice and their glorying in accepting him actually dirties them. 

Paul closes the chapter with instruction to show them that it is only Believers who are sexually impure who they are to separate from. They are not to try to reform the world, or withdraw from the world. They are to be in the world, but not of the world. They are to be there spreading the word of Christ, but not becoming like the world. "Therefore" Paul writes, put that one out of the assembly. 1Cor 5:9-13

I've looked at the context of the letter, and used that context to interpret the first 5 chapters of this letter. What's clear to me is that Paul offered clear assurance to Believers he knew to be saved, and also stern correction to these same carnal ones who were so stuck on the wisdom of the world, and division that they actually couldn't understand the deeper things of God.

Go through the rest of this letter and take in the richness of Paul's care of this assembly, and us Believers today.