Archive for July, 2013

The damage done by hoax email and misinformation on the Internet

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Image result for photos people smugglers boats public domain

(photo courtesy au.news.yahoo.com, public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

I was at a Bible study group on the morning of 31 July 2013 in an outer Brisbane suburb. There I received a scanned copy of a page that indicated that Centrelink benefits for an Australian aged pensioner and spouse were $16,068.00 annually compared with $56,680.00 annually for illegal immigrants/refugees living in Australia.

This is what was handed to the members of the group, not by the leader, but by a group member:

clip_image002[6]

(image courtesy theantibogan)

What are the facts?

This image was located on this webpage in the article, ‘Asylum seekers: “Robert Bretton” liar & fraud’, March 15 2012.[1] It was also located HERE (on 31 July 2013).

When I was provided with this handout, I found these figures to be questionable and I ‘smelt a rat’. It would be unjust of the Australian government to promote this kind of inequity. I found the information to be somewhat unusual so I searched online. I’ve tried to verify the figures that were given in the handout.  This is what I found:

Robert Bretton’s information shown to be a hoax

Vietnamese boat people (image courtesy Wikipedia)

1. ‘Hoax e-mails[2] (The Refugee Council of Australia, May 2012). This includes the hoax of the Centrelink benefits that were allegedly higher for refugees than for aged pensioners.

2. Refugees and asylum seekers receive higher social security payments than Australian aged pensioners (The Refugee Council of Australia, February 2011).[3] This article states:

“Refugees and asylum seekers receive higher social security payments than Australian aged pensioners.”

A refugee who has permanent residency in Australia receives exactly the same social security benefits as any Australian resident in the same circumstances. Refugees apply for social security through Centrelink like everyone else and are assessed for the different payment options in the same way as everyone else. There are no separate Centrelink allowances that one can receive simply by virtue of being a refugee.

Centrelink payments are calculated at exactly the same rate for both refugees and non-refugees. A single person with no dependent children applying for Special Benefit or the Newstart Allowance (whether or not he or she is a refugee) will receive $469.70 per fortnight, whereas a single person on an Age Pension payment will receive a fortnightly payment of $658.40. A single age pensioner therefore receives over $180.00 more per fortnight more than a single refugee (or a single Australian citizen or permanent resident) who qualifies for Special Benefit or Newstart. Australian citizens and permanent residents with dependent children on lower to middle incomes (including refugees) may also be eligible to receive Family Tax Benefits or Parenting Payments. However, none of these allowances are paid at a higher rate than the single age pension.

Asylum seekers are not entitled to the same forms of financial support as citizens or permanent residents. The Asylum Seeker Assistance (ASA) Scheme provides assistance to some eligible asylum seekers who are in the process of having their refugee status determined. The ASA Scheme offers income support to cover basic living expenses, at a rate below Centrelink benefits.

Please note that the figures on Centrelink payment rates quoted above are current as at February 2011 and are subject to change. For the latest payment rates, visit www.centrelink.gov.au

3.    A House of Representatives Committee statement, dated 28 September 2012, ‘Australian Government assistance to refugees: fact v fiction‘.[4] This indicates that the information that was provided to the study group was a hoax and it is in emails that are circulating around the country/world.

4.    The Refugee Council of Australia on March 9 2010 stated that these figures about the discrepancies between benefits for aged persons and refugees were false. See, ‘Response to outlandish claims about benefits to refugees: update‘.[5]

5. The Australian Red Cross issued a ‘Fact sheet Migration Support Programs: Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme’, part of which stated:

Australian Red Cross : The Power Of Humanity

Australian Red Cross

Our case workers can assist you in accessing financial assistance to cover:

• basic living expenses (89% of Centrelink special benefits)

• general healthcare

• protection visa health and character checks.[6]

6. Parliament of Australia, 13 February 2013, corrected this benefit misinformation in, ‘Asylum seekers and refugees. What are the facts?’[7] It states:

In recent years, a series of emails have been widely circulated throughout Australia claiming to describe higher social security entitlements for refugees, compared with those of other Australian residents. A common claim in these emails is that refugees in Australia receive higher social security benefits than age pensioners.

There is no truth to claims that refugees are entitled to higher benefits than other social security recipients. Refugees have the same entitlements as all other permanent residents—they do not receive special refugee payments or special rates of payment.

7. In a letter-to-the-editor to the Fraser Coast Chronicle (published 17 June, 2010), sent by Sandi Logan, National Communications Manager, Department of Immigration and Citizenship by the Australian Government, ‘Asylum seekers don’t receive Centrelink benefits‘, it was stated:[8]

The figure mentioned in the letter of a $50,000 benefit paid by Centrelink to asylum seekers is completely incorrect. Asylum seekers, while in detention undergoing the processing of their claims, are not entitled to Centrelink social security benefits.

Until such time as an asylum seeker is determined to be a refugee, as defined by the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), or returned home, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) is solely responsible for the care of detainees.

If an asylum seeker is ultimately found to be a refugee and granted a visa, they then become a permanent resident and have access to exactly the same entitlements as any other resident or citizen of Australia: no more, no less.

Another questionable email sent by Christians

On 10 August 2013, I received an email titled, ‘She was a Christian’ that began with these words and these font colours:

WARNING:  THE PHOTO BELOW IS QUITE GRAPHIC….BUT VERY TRUE!  IF YOU THINK YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO STAND LOOKING AT IT THEN PLEASE DELETE THIS EMAIL.

What’s wrong with the Muslim world ???

HORRIBLE !!!!

SHE WAS ATTACKED – RAPED BY ABOUT 20 MUSLIMS AND AFTERWARDS MURDERED IN SYRIA.

WHAT WAS HER CRIME? “SHE WAS A CHRISTIAN”

MAY OUR DEAR LORD TAKE HER IN HIS ARMS……    AMEN!

Then followed what looks like Arabic writing and two photos, one of a beautiful teenage girl and beside her a photo of a murdered teen with the base of a cross shoved into her mouth and blood gushing forth (it’s too graphic for me to include on this page). The first thought that came to my mind was: Is this an accurate depiction from a credible source? Or is this another example of credulous Christians who pass on information without checking. So I went on a search, thanks to Google and some sites that check Internet hoaxes. This is what I found:

There are a number of reports in news items online of a 15-year-old Christian teenager in Syria who experienced multiple rapes from Muslim men. See:

cubed-redmatteSyria: 15-Year-Old Christian Girl Systematically Raped By Islamist …

cubed-redmatteMost victimized in Syria? Young Christian women – WND

cubed-redmatteList of Islamic Terror Attacks on Christians – TheReligionofPeace.com

cubed-redmatteTeenager in Syria raped & killed by 15 Islamist rebels

cubed-redmatteRumors confirmed: Christian women being raped in Aleppo …

cubed-redmatteMembers of ‘Free Syrian Army’ raped, killed girl in Syria, UN official …

cubed-redmatteSyria: 15-Year-Old Christian Girl Systematically Raped By Islamist …

cubed-redmatteChristian Girl Raped by 15 Islamists in Syria by the Side …

However, from where did this gory, bloody photo of a teenager with a cross being forced down the woman’s throat originate? I had doubts that this was genuine in referring to an actual Christian woman, so I sent an inquiry online to www.snopes.com to ask them to investigate if this is a hoax.

I did find this statement in a news item, ‘Support Remy Couture and You Support Violence Against Women‘. Part of it stated:

Quebec filmmaker, Remy Couture, was charged in 2009 under the Criminal Code obscenity law over material posted to his website, and went to trial in Montreal in December 2012. The material in question includes hundreds of photos and a pair of videos that depict gruesome murders, torture, simulated rape, extreme violence and necrophilia, all with young female victims. The sets viewed in court included titles like “Hook”, a series of photos depicting a woman being tortured with hooks by a masked man. Another picture set titled “Burn” involves a woman’s burned body being assaulted and mutilated.

The films, titled Inner Depravity I and II, feature Courture in the role of a serial killer who hacks off limbs and performs sex acts on his victims. Couture says the films are meant to depict the life of a serial killer, assisted by a 10-year-old boy, whose tendencies lead him to also have sex with his dead female victims. One sequence shows a woman bleeding after a crucifix was shoved down her throat. Another graphic scene shows a character carving out a victim’s organs (emphasis added).

The pictures that were supplied to be by email of this young woman and a cross being forced down a throat come from twicsy, the Twitter Pics Engine. I urged the person who sent the email not to pass these things on until they are verified as genuine. They may be genuine, but in a quick look on the www this morning, I cannot verify them as genuine from a woman who has been raped by Muslims in Syria, murdered, and then a cross shoved down her throat.

I came across this item from 20 March 2011,

**GRAPHIC** Body of Young Christian Woman, and Indonesian Jihadi Brutally Murdering Christians **GRAPHIC** with other graphic images, but I don’t know if these are genuine. They could be, but I don’t know. However, a comment on this website confirmed that that picture of the woman with a cross down her throat is from the film ‘Inner Depravity’.

However, what about the other pictures at the bottom of the article? Are they also from a film and are fake? I don’t know how to confirm the authenticity. However, some of the pictures from the bottom of this article are labelled as ghostpics. I investigated to find the nature of ghostpics and found this article to confirm how ghostpics may be genuine pictures but they have been known to manipulate pictures electronically. See, ‘Best Ghost Pictures Ever Taken‘.

This picture of the cross down the throat is also found in Encyclopedia Dramatica, which seems to suggest that this is not a genuine photo.

I urge Christians and others not to forward these kinds of email until their content can be verified.

It is critical to check the facts before circulating

This information indicates that the figures provided in the handout this morning are from hoax emails that have been circulating. Would you please do all you can to put an end to this kind of email that misrepresents the situation should you come across these incorrect figures?

There are too many people who are falling victim to circulating Internet and email hoaxes about various subjects. Many of them can be checked out at various sites on the Internet that investigate possible hoax emails and Internet information. These are the ones I use regularly:

check Snopes.com;

check Urban Legends;

check Hoax-Slayer; and

check TruthorFiction.com.

Notes:


[1] Available at: http://theantibogan.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/asylum-seekers-robert-bretton-liar-and-fraud/ (Accessed 31 July 2013).

[2] Refugee Council of Australia, available at: http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/f/myth-email.php (Accessed 31 July 2013).

[3] Refugee Council of Australia, available at: https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/f/myth-long.php#centrelink (Accessed 31 July 2013).

[4] Parliament of Australia, available at: http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BN/2012-2013/AustGovAssistRefugees (Accessed 31 July 2013).

[5] Available at: http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/docs/releases/2010/100309%20Updated%20Response%20to%20email%20on%20Centrelink%20benefits.pdf (Accessed 31 July 2013).

[6] Available at: http://www.redcross.org.au/files/20120203_ASAS_Fact_Sheet_.pdf (Accessed 31 July 2013).

[7] Available at: http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BN/2012-2013/AsylumFacts#_Toc348096472 (Accessed 31 July 2013).

[8] This online version of the letter is dated as 22 July 2010, available at: http://www.immi.gov.au/media/letters/letters10/le100722.htm (Accessed 31 July 2013).

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 May 2016.

Did Moses write the Pentateuch?

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

By Spencer D Gear

The Pentateuch consists of the first five books of the Bible – Genesis to Deuteronomy. Here is an overview of the JEDP theory:[1]

clip_image002

(courtesy www.cs.umd.edu)

The JEDP theory (sometimes called the Graf-Wellhausen or Documentary Hypothesis) was developed in the 18th and 19th century by critical scholars of the Bible. Under this view, the Pentateuch was not written by Moses. Instead, it was the result of a later author/editor, who pieced multiple sources together. Among these sources were:

J: From the German “Jahweh” or Yahwist source (dated ~950-850 BC).

E: From the Elohist source. Northern kingdom (~750 BC).

D: From the Deuteronomistic source. Southern kingdom (~650 BC).

P: From the Priestly source. Post-exilic (~587 BC).

An online discussion re JEDP

I engaged in discussion online with Jim, a promoter of the JEDP theory. Here is a copy of the discussion:[2]

OZ: The biblical evidence is right before us of Mosaic authorship.

JP: Does that evidence include Moses referring to himself in the third person and writing about his death, burial and 30 days of mourning AFTER he died?  believe it is from Moses’ time but not necessarily from his hand. (He was rather busy, you know.)

OZ: The Pentateuch claims in many places that Moses was the writer, e.g. Exodus 17:14; 24:4–7; 34:27; Numbers 33:2; Deuteronomy 31:9, 22, 24.

JP: It also has many places where Moses is referred to in the third person. So what? That means that Moses is reported to have written portions of “the Book of Moses.” It does not require that he wrote the whole thing. (Unless you are willing to hold to his continued, post-mortem, writing.)

OZ: Many times in the rest of the Old Testament, Moses is said to have been the writer, e.g. Joshua 1:7–8

JP: “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you”.That does not say Moses wrote the entire Pentateuch. It says he commanded Israel to keep the Law.
Joshua 8:32–34 Ditto.  Judges 3:4 Ditto.

Here’s what the Bible DOES say Moses wrote:

Exodus 24:4, And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD. (The Laws)  And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel (NKJV).

Numbers 33:2, Now Moses wrote down the starting points of their journeys at the command of the LORD. And these [are] their journeys according to their starting points:

Deuteronomy 31:9, So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel.

Deuteronomy 31:22, Therefore Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the children of Israel.

OZ: In the New Testament, Jesus frequently spoke of Moses’ writings or the Law of Moses,

JP: This is a very common and simplistic “proof.” The Torah was referred to as “The Book of Moses.” That name does not carry with it a statement of authorship. I have a “Webster’s Dictionary.” I have no misconception that it is a copy of what Noah Webster personally wrote.

OZ:   it seems likely that a sole author was responsible. Their exhaustive computer analysis conducted in Israel suggested an 82 percent probability that the book has just one author.

JP: I think Genesis is the work of a sole author. And a sole author can include more than one tradition and relating of the same story. It takes a great deal of skill and sophistication to do it well. I believe it was written by a sole author, most probably a contemporary of Moses and probably at the direction of Moses.

You seem to be rejecting out of hand, without consideration, the possibility that there could be more than one version of the creation and flood stories among these ancient people. That flies in the face of the existence of a variety of creation and flood stories among the ancient Mesopotamian people.

You also seem to be hung up on the idea that one author would, of necessity, have only one view to relate. That is not only unnecessary but, considering the text, it is unreasonable.

Further, you seem to assume that if I can see more than one tradition reflected in the text that I must agree with the whole of the documentary hypothesis, lock, stock and barrel. I do not. I think it is the result of over-analyzation combined with fertile imaginations and the need to publish.

I do see the two traditions, both representing valid recitals of the story of beginning from God’s creation of the heavens and earth through the dispersion. (Gen 1:1 – 11:9).

The dispersion is followed by a genealogy which connects the creation story to the story of the Hebrews who are the sons of Abraham, the descendant of Shem (SHem means “Name” and apparently refers to those who called upon Ha-Shem) the descendant of seth the son of Adam.

There is a felt need among many people that only Moses be allowed to be the author of the Pentateuch. It is an irrational need that flies in the face of the words of which Moses is demanded to be sole author. It is an imposition of man’s desire upon the word of God which detracts from it by restricting our understanding of His message to the views of one sect among God’s people.

Let my people go.

The Pentateuch and the JEDP theory

See my brief article, ‘JEDP Documentary Hypothesis refuted’.

This is not the place for a detailed critique of JEDP, but a few criticisms given by R. N. Whybray, who is certainly not a conservative, are in order:

1. While those espousing the documentary hypothesis assume that the biblical writers avoided repetitions, ancient literature from the same period reveled in repetitions and doublets as a mark of literary artistry.

2. The documentary hypothesis breaks up narratives into different sources thereby destroying their inherent literary and artistic qualities.

3. The source critics assume that variety in language and style is a sign of different sources, but it could just as well be a sign of differences in subject matter that carry with them their own distinctive vocabulary and style.

4. Inadequate evidence exists to argue for a sustained unique style, narrative story line, purpose and theological point of view in each of the four main documents that are thought to be the sources for the contents and message of the Pentateuch (cited in Kaiser 2001:137).

This we know from Scripture

The Pentateuch often refers to Moses as the author (eg Ex. 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Num. 33:1-2; Deut. 31:9). Christ and the apostles gave unequivocal support for Moses as the author of the Torah (Law), eg John 5:46-57; 7:19; Acts 3:22 [cf. Deut. 18:15]; Rom. 10:5.

Works consulted

Kaiser Jr., W C 2001, The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant? Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Notes:


[1] This summary of JEDP is provided by James Rochford of Xenos Christian Fellowship, ‘Authorship of the Pentateuch’, Evidence Unseen, available at: http://www.evidenceunseen.com/authorship-of-exodus/ (Accessed 31 July 2013).

[2] This is based on an interaction I (ozspen) had with Jim Parker on Christian Fellowship Forum, Contentious Brethren, ‘Dawkins won’t debate creationists’, FatherJimParker #41, 5 June 2012, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?msg=121081.41&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship (Accessed 6 June 2012).

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 November 2015.

What is the nature of human free will?

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Free Gift

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

It is not unusual to get questions from Christians like, ‘What, exactly, do you mean by free will?’[1] This can become an especially animated discussion between Arminians and Calvinists in theological discussions.

When we ask, ‘What is the nature of free will or free choice?’ we may be asking: How long is a piece of string in theological terms? If we are going to answer this question with biblical accuracy, we will need to ask further questions about:

  1. Free will / free choice and the power of God (see Isa 45:11-13; 46:4; Jer 32:16-44; Acts 4:24-31);
  2. Free choice and the decrees of God (Rom 8:28; Eph 1:9, 11; 3:11);
  3. Free choice and the salvation of human beings (Tit 2:11; Prov 1:23; Isa 31:6; Ezek 14:6; Matt 18:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 16:31; 17:30; Phil 1:39; 1 Jn 3:23);
  4. Free choice as it is related to God’s providence (Jas 4:2);
  5. Free choice and God’s foreknowledge (Rom 8:29-30; 2 Cor 6:1-2; 1 Pt 1:1-2);
  6. Free choice and a human being’s moral nature (Jn 1:12-13; 7:17; Rom 3:26; Heb 3:7-8, 15; 4);
  7. Free choice and Adam’s original sin (the origin of the sin of the human race) [Gen 3:1-8; Rom 5:12-19; 1 Cor 15:21-22; 1 Tim 2:13-14];
  8. Free choice and human depravity (Deut 6:4-5; Matt 22:35-38; Rom 2:14; 7:18; 8:14; 2 Tim 3:4);
  9. Free choice and eternal security/perseverance of the saints (Jer 3:12, 14, 22; Hos 14:4; Mt 24:13; Mk 4:16-17; 7:21-23; Jn 6:66-67; 13:10-11; Heb 6:4-6; 10:26-31; 2 Pt 2:20-22; 1 Jn 2:19)[listed in  Thiessen 1949:524].

I’ll make a brief attempt at an understanding of human free choice, but this will not be an adequate understanding without biblical knowledge of the above 9 points, with some biblical references provided.

From a human point of view, we understand God’s knowledge of the future is foreknowledge. But from God’s point of view, He knows all things ‘by one simultaneous intuition’ (Thiessen 1949:125).

Simply stated, the nature of human free will or of human free choice is, according to Norman Geisler, ‘the power of contrary choice’ (Geisler 2003:444). This is a basic and simple definition: ‘Free will or free choice is the power of contrary choice’ and it is not taken away from human beings by God’s sovereignty.

In my understanding, God gave to Satan (Lucifer) and to Adam the power of free choice before the Fall. However, to discuss free choice, God’s sovereignty and human depravity will take a lot of space that I have not attempted here.

This view of free will, the power of contrary choice, is not incompatible with God’s complete sovereignty over human choice as God’s omniscient attribute knows absolutely what every free choice will be. God cannot be the one who decrees sinful actions. Why?

We know God cannot sin. We know that he cannot lie (Heb 6:18; Titus 1:2) and he cannot be tempted by evil and he cannot tempt people with evil (James 1:13). This is the nature of our Lord God Almighty:

The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he’ (Deuteronomy 32:4 ESV)

That is not the way Jonathan Edwards saw it:

That we should say, that God has decreed every action of men, yea, every action that they do that is sinful, and every circumstance of those actions . . . and yet that God does not decree the actions that are sinful as sinful, but decrees [them] as good, is really consistent.

We do not mean by decreeing an action as sinful, the same as decreeing an action so that it shall be sinful; but by decreeing an action as sinful, I mean decreeing [it] for the sake of the sinfulness of the action. God decrees that it shall be sinful for the sake of the good that he causes to arise from the sinfulness thereof, whereas man decrees it for the sake of the evil that is in it (The Miscellanies of Jonathan Edwards #85).

1. Free will and the power of God

Power

(image courtesy ChristArt)

God’s omnipotence means that God ‘is able to do whatever He wills; but since His will is limited by His nature, this means that God can do everything in harmony with His perfections’ (Thiessen 1949:126). So this means that God cannot do whatever is contrary to his perfect nature. The implications are:

clip_image002 God is ‘pure and cannot stand the sight of evil’ (Habakkuk 1:13 NLT).

clip_image002[1] God cannot deny who he is (2 Tim 2:13 NLT);

clip_image003 It is impossible for God to lie (Heb 6:18 NLT);

clip_image003[1] God never tempts anyone and God himself is not tempted to do wrong (James 1:13 NLT).

It should be self evident that the God who created logic could not do that which is a self-contradiction. Since the spirit is immaterial, it is contradictory to speak of a material spirit – and a square circle. God can do what he wills with his power, but

God has limited Himself to some extent by the free will of His rational creatures. That is why He did not keep sin out of the universe by a display of His power; that is also why he does not save anyone by force (Thiessen 1949:126).

These Scriptures teach the all-powerful nature (omnipotence) of God: Genesis 17:1; Job 42:2; Jeremiah 32:17; Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37 and Revelation 19:6.

2. Free choice and God’s foreknowledge

Custom Made

(image courtesy ChristArt)

What is the meaning of God’s knowing everything? This is called God’s omniscience.

‘By the omniscience of God we mean that He knows Himself and all other things, whether they be actual or merely possible, whether they be past, present, or future, and that He knows them perfectly and from all eternity. He knows things immediately, simultaneously, exhaustively and truly. He also knows the best ways to attain His desired ends’ (Thiessen 1949:124)

How does this apply to God’s knowing the future and His foreknowledge? Henry Thiessen again: ‘From man’s standpoint God’s knowledge of the future is foreknowledge, but not from God’s since He knows all things by one simultaneous intuition’ (Thiessen 1949:125). This means that God’s foreknowledge includes:

clip_image005 Knowledge of the past, present and future (Isa 46:9; Daniel 2 and 7; Matthew 24 and 25; Acts 15:18);

clip_image005[1] Knowing that Israel would become prosperous and then practice idolatry, despise God and the intentions of these people – their wickedness (Deut 31:20-21);

clip_image005[2] The future work of Cyrus (Isa 44:26-45:7);

clip_image005[3] The Messiah would come (Micah 5:2);

clip_image005[4] What would happen to Jesus at his crucifixion and what wicked people would do to him in fulfillment of Scripture (Acts 2:23; 3:18);

Henry Thiessen warns not to confuse foreknowledge with causation: ‘We must not confuse foreknowledge with the predetermining will of God. Free actions do not take place because they are foreseen, but they are foreseen because they will take place’ (1949:126).

Thiessen (1949:126) cites Charles Hodge, a Calvinist, in support of this position: ‘That free acts may be absolutely certain, is plain, because they have in a multitude of cases been predicted. It was certain that the acts of Christ would be holy, yet they were free’ (Hodge 1979:401).

So, in God’s economy, God’s foreknowledge involves free acts but God’s foreknowledge does not cause a free action to happen in human beings. It knows a free action will lead to a certain effect.

3. Conclusion

Free will is defined as the power of contrary choice that has been given by God to all human beings. This operates within the sovereignty of God. God has put parameters around his power by allowing the free will of His rational creatures – human beings.

God’s attribute of omniscience means that He knows Himself and all other things, whether they be actual or merely possible, whether they be past, present, or future, and that He knows them perfectly and from all eternity.

From a human perspective, we can say that God knows the future through his attribute of foreknowledge (a dimension of omniscience). However, from God’s viewpoint, he knows all things ‘by one simultaneous intuition’ (Thiessen 1949:125).

‘Free actions do not take place because they are foreseen, but they are foreseen because they will take place’ (Thiessen 1949:126). God’s foreknowledge does not cause a free action to happen in human beings. It knows a free action will lead to a certain effect.

We can praise the Lord that he did not make robots or lemmings when he created human beings. He created them with genuine free will and that was not cancelled by the fall into sin and the depravity of the human race. How that can be, is contained in the infinite wisdom of God. Human beings find it difficult to grasp this concept of free will being still available to human beings although they are in bondage to sin before conversion to Christ.

4. See also my articles:

arrow-smallDid God create evil?

arrow-smallCalvinists, free will and a better alternative’;

arrow-smallHow a Calvinist can distort the meaning of 2 Peter 3:9’;

References

Geisler, N 2003. Systematic theology: God, creation, vol 2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Hodge, C 1979 reprint. Systematic theology, vol 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘The “free will” dilemma’, nobdysfool #325, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7746203-33/#post63269032 (Accessed 29 July 2013).

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

Is it possible or impossible to fall away from the Christian faith?

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Spencer D Gear

A Lutheran, Dr Richard P Bucher, wrote:

The same Paul that could triumphantly state that he was convinced that nothing in all creation “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39), could also write, “Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Cor. 9:26-27). By these latter words Paul freedly (sic) admitted the possibility that even he, the great Apostle, could “be disqualified,” that is, fall away (Bucher 1998).

I’ve been in this kind of discussion many times on Christian forums on the Internet. Here’s an example of one fellow wrote: ‘There are no passages that threaten Christians with losing their salvation’.[1]

Passages that warn of loss of salvation

Scarlet Salvation Button

(image courtesy ChristArt)

My response was:[2]

You know there are passages that warn against loss of salvation and Hebrews 6:4-8 is a classic example. I know that you want to interpret this passage differently as loss of salvation doesn’t fit in with your theological presuppositions. These verses read:

4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned (Heb 6:4-8 NIV)

We’ve debated loss of salvation at length on Christian Forums on several occasions. I have a lengthy exposition of this passage at, ‘Once saved, always saved or once saved, lost again‘.

Paul to Timothy gives another example:

18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme (1 Timothy 1:18-20 ESV).

Hymenaeus and Alexander have so shipwrecked their faith that Paul handed them over to Satan to deal with what they had done. He called it as an example of blasphemy. Shipwrecking one’s faith is blaspheming God, in Paul’s understanding.

Lutheran commentator, R C H Lenski. in his commentary on 1 Tim 1:19 wrote:

The Greek permits Paul to continue with three consecutive relative clauses; in English we should use independent clauses. The first is to be construed with “a good conscience” and not also with “faith,” for “the faith” appears in the relative clause: “which some by thrusting away (or: having thrust away) made shipwreck regarding the (their) faith.” When they thrust aside their conscience which tried to hold them to the prophecies they had learned from faithful teachers they made shipwreck of their very faith. One cannot keep his faith while he plays fast and loose with the prophecies (Word). He will have to silence his conscience, make it cease crying out against such practice, and then his faith is wrecked whether he admits it or not (Lenski 1937:532, emphasis added).

Clearly this is another example, this time from Paul, of people who thrust away, made shipwreck, could not keep their faith. But this does not fit in with eternal security presuppositions of a Calvinist.[3] Falling away refers to Jewish sacrificial system.

There was another person who responded to my stated interpretation of apostasy in Hebrews 6:4-6. He wrote:

The reason that a person would fall away as indicated by this passage in Hebrews 6 would be if they were once Jewish and returned to the sacrificial system of the old covenant after having “tasted the heavenly gift” – and then went back to the sacrificial system – then they have fallen away – and worse have no chance of ever getting back. So who around here does this apply to?

The main point of the passage from Hebrews 6 is to demonstrate that the old sacrificial system of the old covenant is not only worthless but dangerous to Jews who might be considering going back to it.

It is not talking about sinning or breaking the law leading to falling away. Its (sic) talking about going back to a system of works based salvation leading to a person falling away. I find it ironic that someone would use this passage to defend the idea that someone could fall away when the very thing that would make such a person fall away is by going to a system of works instead of trusting in God’s grace for salvation.[4]

How should I respond?[5]

That’s not what Heb 6:4-8 says in context. In fact, the English Standard Version has a heading, ‘Warning Against Apostasy’, that begins at Heb 5:11 and continues to Heb 6:12. Obviously these translators of the Greek NT disagree with your view. They consider it relates to apostasy, ‘a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc’ (an online dictionary definition of ‘apostasy’).

The context tells us that these Christians (‘in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son’, Heb 1:2 ESV) asked, ‘How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard’ (Heb 2:3). This is dealing with a message to those who are experiencing this ‘great salvation’ from Jesus the Son.

Good Book

(image courtesy ChristArt)

Is the Book of Hebrews addressing Christians or Jews?

Could it be that this person’s current theological worldview does not permit him to see that apostasy can be committed and salvation lost?

There were these additional problems in context:

  • They need someone to teach them ‘AGAIN the basic principles of the oracles of God’ as they were not able to get into solid food but were drinking milk instead (5:12 ESV);
  • Those who live on milk are ‘unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child’ (5:13);
  • ‘Solid food’ is for the mature, those who have ‘powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil’ (5:14).
  • These Christians are challenged to move from an elementary doctrine of Christ, to maturity (6:1);
  • Part of this movement from the immature to the mature doctrine is to understand the seriousness of committing apostasy (Heb 6:4-8).
  • ‘We desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end‘ (6:11).

Here we are dealing with immature Christians who need to move from milk to solid food and part of that movement is to understand how serious falling away (apostasy) from the faith is, and their need to have assurance of their faith UNTIL THE END.

What about John 10?

Another person wrote:

Jesus says it very simply.
John 10:25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

v28, Jesus gives them eternal life.
‘ETERNAL’ means forever does it not?
Second part of the verse says something very significant.
“and they shall never perish”
Well who are we going to believe? Lets believe what Jesus has already said about these things.
“NEVER” does not allow for any other thing to happen.
But of course this is only for the elect of God, who are on the straight, narrow path, not the broad wide world on the path to destruction.[6]

What should be an appropriate response?[7]

This person’s listing off of proof texts does not support his view. When I examine the Greek text of John 10:28-29, this is what I find. These verses place a very different emphasis than his conclusion that “they shall NEVER perish.”

These verses demonstrate the conditional nature of salvation by use of the present tense in Greek, stating that continuing to believe is the condition required for eternal life to be experienced and for being in a position where there are no deleterious salvific consequences.

Here in John 10:27-28 we learn: “My sheep hear [present tense, continue hearing] my voice, and I know [present tense, continue knowing] them, and they follow [present tense, continue following] me. I give [present tense, continue to give] them eternal life, and they will never perish [aorist, perish as a fact of action], and no one will snatch [future tense, snatch in the future] them out of my hand”. Here the need for a continuation of belief is necessary to prevent a future snatching of believers from the Father’s hand.

This person’s promotion of unconditional eternal security in this passage has changed the biblical meaning from continuing to believe, which produces eternal life, into believing as a momentary act and they NEVER perish.

Arminius’s words are wise and consistent with the biblical revelation of John 10:27-28 and other verses. He wrote that it is “impossible for believers, as long as they remain believers to decline from salvation” (Arminius 1977:281).

Is once saved, always saved a deception?

Another person asked of me:

My only question is … Where did the OSASers fall into their deception?
In the cradle? On Granny’s lap? At an OSASer’s dinner table? In an OSAS church pew?
Oh, there are a multitude of possibilities … that’s why we have so many of ’em.[8]

I was rather subjective in my following response:[9]

My view is that it comes from the theological worldview known as Calvinism. I cannot find unconditional eternal security in an inductive exegesis of Scripture (as I’ve attempted to show in my exegesis of John 10:28-29 above).

This, for me, raises a bigger issue: What causes Christians to have blind spots in these areas? I can have them, you can have them; others can have them. The BIG issue in my hermeneutics is: How can I be consistent with the original languages in my interpretation of Scripture? What do we do when Scripture disagrees with our own present theological worldview? To be honest, for me I must change my view when an inductive study of Scripture proves me wrong.

I had to do this almost 50 years ago when I was saved and raised as a Baptist teenager with an OSAS view. Then I went to Bible College in the 1970s, followed by seminary, and found that an inductive study of Scripture forced me to abandon OSAS. It was a BIG move for me to make from OSAS to salvation can be lost. What made it even worse is that two of my close friends from Bible college days, one an outstanding evangelist and the other a brilliant expositor, or no longer serving the Lord. They have abandoned their faith. So I know that salvation can be lost from an inductive study of Scripture and from personal experience with believers.

I also had to do this with my background of support of cessationism with regards to the gifts of the Spirit.

What I have found is that most people who cling to a particular theological model (and I used to be one of them), cling to that position in spite of verses to the contrary. There seems to be a filtering out of verses that contradict one’s presuppositional views.

This fellow was persistent in his requirement what Heb. 6:4-8 was not addressing Christians who committed apostasy from the faith:

The apostasy spoken of in Hebrews is returning to the OT sacrificial system over trusting in Jesus. Clearly this is what the threat is addressing. The author wants to move on from talking about repentance from dead works and faith in Christ – which is what he is addressing in vs 4-6. It’s the returning to dead works that causes a person to be in apostasy.[10]

What did the early church fathers believe?

Saint Irenaeus.jpg

Irenaeus (Wikipedia)

cubed-iron-sm Irenaeus (ca. 125-202), bishop of Lyons, ‘e was most influenced by St. Polycarp who had known the apostles or their immediate disciples’. It was he who wrote in one of his most celebrated publications:

‘Christ shall not die again in behalf of those who now commit sin, for death shall no more have dominion over Him…. We ought not, therefore, as that presbyter remarks, to be puffed up, nor be severe upon those of old time, but ought ourselves to fear, lest perchance, after [we have come to] the knowledge of Christ, if we do things displeasing to God, we obtain no further forgiveness of sins, but be shut out from His kingdom (Against Heresies 4.27.2).

Tertullian 2.jpg

Tertullian (image courtesy Wikipedia)

cubed-iron-sm Tertullian (b. ca 160), the son of a centurion and a pagan until middle life, wrote,

But some think as if God were under a necessity of bestowing even on the unworthy, what He has engaged (to give); and they turn His liberality into slavery…. For do not many afterward fall out of (grace)? Is not this gift taken away from many? (Tertullian, On Repentance, ch. 6).

Martin Luther on eternal security

Martin Luther by Cranach-restoration.tif

Martin Luther (image courtesy Wikipedia)

In his commentary on Galatians 5:4, he wrote:

Ye are fallen from grace.
That means you are no longer in the kingdom or condition of grace. When a person on board ship falls into the sea and is drowned it makes no difference from which end or side of the ship he falls into the water. Those who fall from grace perish no matter how they go about it…. The words, “Ye are fallen from grace,” must not be taken lightly. They are important. To fall from grace means to lose the atonement, the forgiveness of sins, the righteousness, liberty, and life which Jesus has merited for us by His death and resurrection. To lose the grace of God means to gain the wrath and judgment of God, death, the bondage of the devil, and everlasting condemnation (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians 5:4).

What about Jacob Arminius’s views?

James Arminius 2.jpg

Jacobus Arminius (image courtesy Wikipedia)

It is worthy of quoting him at some length in his segment on ‘The Perseverance of the Saints’:

My sentiments respecting the perseverance of the saints are, that those persons who have been grafted into Christ by true faith, and have thus been made partakers of his life-giving Spirit, possess sufficient powers [or strength] to fight against Satan, sin, the world and their own flesh, and to gain the victory over these enemies—yet not without the assistance of the grace of the same Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ also by his Spirit assists them in all their temptations, and affords them the ready aid of his hand; and, provided they stand prepared for the battle, implore his help, and be not wanting to themselves, Christ preserves them from falling. So that it is not possible for them, by any of the cunning craftiness or power of Satan, to be either seduced or dragged out of the hands of Christ. But I think it is useful and will be quite necessary in our first convention, [or Synod] to institute a diligent inquiry from the Scriptures, whether it is not possible for some individuals through negligence to desert the commencement of their existence in Christ, to cleave again to the present evil world, to decline from the sound doctrine which was once delivered to them, to lose a good conscience, and to cause Divine grace to be ineffectual.

Though I here openly and ingenuously affirm, I never taught that a true believer can, either totally or finally fall away from the faith, and perish; yet I will not conceal, that there are passages of scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect; and those answers to them which I have been permitted to see, are not of such a kind as to approve themselves on all points to my understanding. On the other hand, certain passages are produced for the contrary doctrine [of unconditional perseverance] which are worthy of much consideration.

Thus, Arminius, whose views have been most often associated with loss of salvation and repudiation of eternal security, actually stated that the one who is ‘a true believer’ (presumably meaning that he/she continues as a true Christian, cannot either totally or finally commit apostasy and fall away from the faith. The key is: Is that person continuing to trust in Jesus for salvation?

Thus it is evident from Scripture, some early church fathers, and evangelical leaders such as Martin Luther that it is possible to fall from grace and lose salvation, and thus experience the wrath and judgment of God.

I don’t believe that the promoters of eternal security are deceived. I place it within their hermeneutical system and the methods they use. However, there is a decided bias that seems to come from traditional interpretations (generally Calvinistic) that they have bought into.

Works consulted

Arminius J 1977. The Writings of James Arminius, vol. 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Bucher, R R 1998. Is a Christian “once saved, always saved?” February. Lexington, KY: Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, available at: http://www.orlutheran.com/html/once.html (Accessed 29 July 2013).

Lenski, R C H 1937. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc (originally published by Lutheran Book Concern, The Wartburg Press, and Augsburg Publishing House).

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums.com, Soteriology, ‘A super-short summary of God’s plan of salvation’, Hammster #46. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7762232-5/ (Accessed 29 July 2013).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen #53.

[3] From his many posts, I know that Hammster promotes Calvinism.

[4] Op cit., Behe’s Boy #56.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen #65.

[6] Ibid., sdowney717 #48.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen #55.

[8] Ibid., extraordinary #54.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen #60.

[10] Ibid., Behe’s Boy #67.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 April 2016.

New Fluoride Warning for Infants[1]

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Information about dental fluorosis

Courtesy QAWF

By Spencer D Gear

Does your drinking water contain added fluoride? If so, keep it away from infants under the age of  one. This directive was issued recently by an unlikely source: the American Dental Association (ADA).

In a November 9th 2006 email alert sent to all of its members, the ADA noted that “Infants less than one year old may be getting more than the optimal amount of fluoride if their primary source of nutrition is powdered or liquid infant formula mixed with water containing fluoride.” The ADA went on to advise: “If using a product that needs to be reconstituted, parents and caregivers should consider using water that has no or low levels of fluoride.”

The ADA issued this advice because babies exposed to fluoridated water are at high risk for developing dental fluorosis—a defect of the teeth which can result in staining and even corrosion of the enamel. In addition, on October 14th [2006], the Food and Drug Administration stated that fluoridated water marketed to infants cannot claim to reduce the risk of cavities.

Dental fluorosis is not the only risk stemming from a baby’s exposure to fluoride. In the same week that ADA issued its advisory, an article in the British journal, The Lancet, reported that fluoride may damage a child’s developing brain. The Lancet review described fluoride, along with the rocket fuel additive perchlorate, as an “emerging neurotoxic substance” due to evidence linking fluoride to lower IQs in children, and brain damage in animals.

8-month old twin sisters (Wikipedia)

“Newborn babies have undeveloped brains, and exposure to fluoride, a suspected neurotoxin, should be avoided,” notes Hardy Limeback, a member of a 2006 National Research Council panel on fluoride toxicity, and former President of the Canadian Association of Dental Research.

Fluoride is linked with other health problems as well, including weakened bones, reduced thyroid activity, and possibly, bone cancer in boys, according to a recent report from a team of Harvard scientists, the US National Research Council and other recent studies.

While most of western Europe has abandoned the practice of adding fluoride to water, most US water supplies remain fluoridated. In addition, some brands of bottled water sold in the US, such as Nursery Water, specifically market fluoridated water for young babies.

A recent investigation by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that over-exposure to fluoride among infants is a widespread problem in most major American cities. EWG’s study found that, on any given day, up to 60% of formula-fed babies in US cities were exceeding the Institute of Medicine’s “upper tolerable” limit for fluoride.

“Water is supposed to be safe for everyone. Why add a chemical that makes it knowingly unfit for young children? The US should follow Europe’s lead and end fluoridation,” says Michael Connett, Project Director of the Fluoride Action Network.

See also, ‘Is fluoride in baby nursery water safe for infant formula and newborns?’ (Angela Schnaubelt, Examiner.com, 16 July 2009).

For additional information, see: http://www.fluoridealert.org and http://www.ewg.org

Notes:


[1] Available from: Mothering Magazine, November 2006, at: http://www.mothering.com/sections/news_bulletins/november2006.html#fluoride (Accessed 9 Feb. 2008; however, this article was not available at this URL on 26 July 2013). This article was sourced from Fluoride Action Network (FAN) & Environmental Working Group (EWG), available at: http://www.fluoridealert.org/articles/mothering_magazine/ (Accessed 26 July 2013).

 

Copyright (c) 2013 Spencer D. Gear.  This document is free content.  You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the OpenContent License (OPL) version 1.0, or (at your option) any later version.  This document last updated at Date:26 July 2013.

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Is the spiritual gift of tongues ‘gibberish’?

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

By Spencer D Gear

Stir up the Gift

(image courtesy ChristArt)

It is not unusual on public Christian forums on the Internet to be exposed to all kinds of strange or different teaching. I came across this one:

Speaking gibberish has no relation to the Holy Spirit. It is uttered by a person’s spirit. The Holy Spirit will not indulge in such cheap gimmicks and degrading behavior to make known the will of God when He can directly speak to people as evidenced in the entire book of Acts without a middle man designated as an interpreter![1]

Yet one of God’s special ministry gifts to the body of Christ, A W Tozer, wrote, after citing Rom. 12:5-6 and 1 Cor. 12:4-7, that

The Bible teaches us that the genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit are a necessity in the spiritual life and ministries of every Christian congregation serious about glorifying Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord…. It seems to me that Paul was trying to make it as plain as he could in his epistles that any segment of the Body of Christ, anywhere in the world, should recapitulate – gather up and sum up within itself – all of the offices and gifts and workings of the entire church of Christ (Tozer 1978:21, 22; emphasis added).

How is it that a person in the pews is so opposed to the gift of tongues to call it ‘gibberish’, yet one of God’s special gifts to the body of Christ, A W Tozer, should claim that the Bible’s teaching that genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit are needed in every congregation? And these gifts include ALL of the offices, gifts and workings of the entire church. Tozer was adamant: ‘A careful study of the Apostle’s teachings concerning Jesus Christ and His church should persuade us that any local assembly ought to demonstrate all of the functions of the whole body’ (1978:22). Tozer is inferring that if God gives the gift of tongues to any local assembly of Christian believers, that gift should be allowed to function. Of course, the gift of tongues requires the gift of interpretation to make tongues intelligible for the congregation.

Sneering language against God’s gifts

How does one reply to such pejorative language of the Holy Spirit’s gift of speaking in tongues being described as ‘gibberish’, ‘cheap gimmicks and degrading behavior’? My response was:[2]

So what are we told not to forbid in this verse: ‘Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues (1 Cor 14:39 NIV)? Does this verse apply to the 21st century church as much as it did to the Corinthians?

What I often find in these discussions is that a person avoids some of the specific content of what is said. When this happens, it is called a red herring logical fallacy. The Nizkor Project explains that ‘a Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic’.

That is what happened to me in this circumstance. The response I received was:

Paul was referring to people who had already practicing this emotional part of personal prayer. I have nothing to say about personal prayers done in private in whatever language they want. But as one grows in the knowledge of the Lord, one would prefer greater gifts as Paul advised. That happened actually. Speaking gibberish diappeared (sic) after sometime (sic).
Now deluded Christians backsliding to bring back the worst conditions of Corinthian church![3]

This person continues with derogatory language for the gift of tongues, ‘emotional part of personal prayer’, ‘gibberish’, and ‘deluded Christians backsliding’ in the Corinthian church. Also the gift of tongues is not included in the ‘greater gifts’.

Rejection of mocking language for the gift of tongues

How should one reply to such negative views and mocking language against the gift of tongues? I wrote that[4] this person referred to tongues as ‘this emotional part of personal prayer’ and ‘speaking gibberish’ and that it is associated with ‘the worst conditions of Corinthian church’. To refer to God’s gift as ‘gibberish’ is something that I find pejorative towards God the Holy Spirit and the gifts that he gives. I note that he provided no biblical exposition for his position.

God’s language for the gift of tongues

What do the Scriptures state about the nature of the gift of tongues (glossolalia)?
The gift of tongues is a gift that God continues to give by his Spirit as a spiritual gift. We know this from 1 Corinthians 14:1-5,

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up (ESV, emphasis added).

We are to earnestly desire all spiritual gifts, especially prophecy, but the genuine gift of tongues and interpretation continues. There is no place in the church gathering for any who speaks in tongues without interpretation. The exhortation from 1 Cor 14:13 is, ‘One who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret’. Why? It is in order that the gift is intelligible to the remainder of the congregation that does not understand the tongue.

However, these verses teach that there is a genuine gift of tongues where one ‘speaks not to men but to God … for he utters mysteries in the Spirit’ (14:2). Please note that the biblical language does not speak of glossolalia as ‘gibberish’ but as speaking ‘to God’ and people uttering ‘mysteries in the Spirit’. I find it offensive that this person calls a ministry of the Spirit ‘gibberish’.

While the apostle Paul gives a preference for prophecy as a gift in the church as it ‘builds up the church’, he still gives this important teaching about tongues:

clip_image002_thumb‘I want you all to speak in tongues’ (1 Cor 14:5).

So the gift of tongues was available to all NT believers. Notice the contrast:

clip_image0021_thumb‘The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up’ (1 Cor 14:5).

So the gift of prophecy approximately equals tongues with interpretation for the building up of the church.

Contemporary evangelical scholars and the gift of tongues

While a person who posts on an evangelical Christian forum regards the gift of tongues as ‘gibberish’ and a ‘cheap gimmick’, how do some evangelical scholars describe this gift?

These three evangelical, New Testament scholars from very different traditions provide their definitions of the gift of tongues.

cubed-redmatte Jack W MacGorman, distinguished professor emeritus of New Testament, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, does not consider the gift of tongues to be a demonstration of ‘gibberish’. He wrote of the glossolalia in 1 Corinthians as, ‘Holy Spirit inspired utterance that is unintelligible apart from interpretation, itself an attendant gift. It is a form of ecstatic utterance, a valid charismatic endowment’ (MacGorman 1994:390-391). MacGorman considers that this definition is supported by these verses from 1 Corinthians 14:

  1. 1 Corinthians 14:2, “For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit” (ESV). McGorman’s argument was that nobody understands the ‘tongues’; he speaks to God and he speaks mystery.
  2. 1 Corinthians 14:13-14, “Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful” (ESV). The one speaking with the gift of tongues is not understood but his spirit is praying and therefore the person needs to be interpret.
  3. 1 Corinthians 14:18, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you” (ESV).
  4. 1 Corinthians 14:26, “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up” (NIV).

MacGorman’s view is that if these verses refer to tongues as real languages, then these verses become sheer nonsense.

cubed-redmatte D A Carson, research professor of New Testament at Trinity International University, is not of the view that it is nonsense, but Carson considers that the tongue is a real language that is not known to the tongues-speaker. Carson’s perspective is that

the evidence favors the view that Paul thought the gift of tongues was a gift of real languages, that is, languages that were cognitive, whether of men or of angels…. What bearing does the discipline of linguistics have on the assessment of modern tongues? To my knowledge there is universal agreement among linguists who have taped and analysed thousands of examples of modern tongues-speaking that the contemporary phenomenon is not any human language. The patterns and structures that all known human language requires are simply not there. Occasionally a recognizable word slips out; but that is statistically likely, given the sheer quantity of verbalization (Carson 1995:83).

cubed-redmatte Gordon D Fee, professor emeritus, Regent College, Vancouver BC, Canada, a card-carrying Assemblies of God minister, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians states of the nature of the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians 12:10:

The following seem certain (a) It is Spirit-inspired utterance; that is made explicit in vv. 7 and 11 and in 14:2; (b) The regulations for its use in 14:27-28 make it clear that the speaker is not in “ecstasy” or “out of control.” Quite the opposite; the speakers must speak in turn, and they must remain silent if there is no one to interpret. (c) It is speech essentially unintelligible both to the speaker (14:14) and to other hearers (14:16). (d) It is speech directed basically toward God (14:2, 14-15, 28); one may assume, therefore, that what is “interpreted” is not speech directed toward others, but the “mysteries” spoken to God.

What is less certain is whether Paul also understood the phenomenon to be an actual language. In favour of such a view are (a) the term itself, (b) the need for “interpretation,” and (c) the evidence from Acts 2:5-11. In the final analysis, however, this question seems irrelevant. Paul’s whole argument is predicated on its unintelligibility to both speaker and hearer; he certainly does not envisage someone’s being present who would be able to understand it because it was also an earthly language. Moreover, his use of earthly languages as an analogy in 14:10-12 implies that it is not a known earthly language, since a thing is not usually identical with that to which it is analogous. Most likely, therefore, the key to Paul’s – and their – understanding lies in the term “the language of angels” in 13:1 (q.v.) [Fee 1987:598].

Yet, a lay person on a Christian forum wants to call the gift of tongues, ‘gibberish’ and the Holy Spirit does not engage in ‘cheap gimmicks’. Such is not consistent with an exegesis of the passage as MacGorman, Carson and Fee have demonstrated.

There have been excesses

My experience is that there is such poor teaching on the correct approach to the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit – especially tongues and interpretation. I have seen too much existential chaos allowed by church leaders at the local church level that is too much like Toronto ‘blessing’ and Brownsville Pensacola ‘revival’ excesses that I’ve seen online and on DVDs. I can understand, but not endorse, this Christian forum person’s use of the language of ‘gibberish’ to describe tongues. I also have witnessed much disorder with the gift of tongues in a church gathering when there is no gift of interpretation taking place.

However, I have been in church gatherings when the gifts of the Spirit of tongues and interpretation have been manifested and I have been built up in my faith.

Paul was correcting excesses at Corinth with language such as the following in 1 Corinthians:

  • ‘If with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said?’ (14:9);
  • ‘Since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church’ (14:12);
  • ‘One who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret’ (14:13);
  • ‘I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue’ (14:18-19);
  • ‘Tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers’ (14:22);
  • ‘If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God’ (14:27-28).

God’s gifts functioning when the church gathers

However when the church gathers, this should be how the gifts of the Spirit are manifested by brothers and sisters in Christ: ‘When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up’ (1 Cor 14:26). Imagine if that were allowed in many churches today! The dominance of a few people in worship could be replaced by ‘each one’ being allowed to function in ministry. There is this biblical proviso, ‘All things should be done decently and in order’ (1 Cor 14:40).

So, the gift of tongues with the gift of interpretation should continue in the church gathering. These are gifts from the Holy Spirit of God and are meant for the ‘building up’ of the church. We have as much need for this building up in the 21st century as the 1st century.

The excesses should not cause us to reject the correct biblical teaching of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit that include tongues and interpretation. Faulty use of the gifts should not negate the gifts. It should mean correction of improper use of the gifts of the Spirit and promotion of the need for the Holy Spirit to be allowed to function with supernatural gifts when the church gathers.

It is important for us to remember that ‘God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose’ (1 Cor 12:18). Since he arranges the gifts of tongues and interpretation in the body, who are we to label one of them as ‘gibberish’? God did not arrange for ‘gibberish’ in the body of Christ. He arranged for His gifts by His Spirit and I dare not diminish them to a humanistic standard. However, there is always the need when the church gathers for believers to ‘weigh what is said’ (14:29) – weigh prophecy in this context.

What is the biblical exhortation about the gift of tongues? ‘Earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order’ (14:38-39).

The person who wrote negatively about the gift of tongues on this forum, also wrote:

I am going by the dictionary definition for speaking unknown tongues as gibberish just as Paul claimed himself as an apostle based on a similar understanding. There are only twelve apostles according to spiritual understanding, and in that Judas was replaced by Matthias.[5]

Which kind of dictionary was he using? Is it an English dictionary or a Greek dictionary (lexicon)? [6]

So what was he meaning when he said that ‘there are only twelve apostles according to spiritual understanding’? He did not explain how that relates to the gift of glossolalia (speaking in tongues).

I wrote: ‘The gift of tongues is a gift that God continues to give by his Spirit as a spiritual gift. I know that from 1 Corinthians 14:1-5, we are to earnestly desire all spiritual gifts, especially prophecy’. His response was:

Sorry, you are wrong here! Paul did not say to desire all spiritual gifts
1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

I replied that he was correct. It was an error of mine to write, ‘to desire all spiritual gifts’. This we do know that Paul taught the Corinthians, ‘Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy’ (1 Cor 14:5). So Paul was urging all of the Corinthian believers to be open to speaking in tongues, but even more to prophesy. He wrote:

No way God wants an agent’s agent to speak on behalf of the Holy Spirit!
1 & 2 Corinthians were early letters of Paul. He was still growing in the knowledge of the Lord that he had missed out since he was not a part of the ministry of Jesus on earth.

So he was inferring that the theopneustos (God-breathed)[7] Scripture of 1 & 2 Corinthians is a lower level of knowledge since he said that Paul ‘was still growing in the knowledge of the Lord’. Was Paul writing the truth about spiritual gifts or not? Was Paul writing the truth in the Corinthian correspondence or was he writing a lower knowledge since he was still growing in the Lord’s knowledge (his words)? He wrote:

One need (sic) to read 2 Corinthians to understand the 1 Corinthians. 2 Corinithians (sic) is nothing but a boastful and confessing letter of him that puts him in the right perspective.

I haven’t read anything in 1 or 2 Corinthians to say that I have to read 2 Corinthians to help me to understand 1 Corinthians. The second letter is addressing mostly different matters to the first letter. This person wrote:

This piece-wise interpretation is misleading. Let us see the entire verse:
5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
So do you accept that Paul is calling one gift is superior to another! That cannot happen when it comes to gifts of God! (emphasis in original)

The greater gifts are the intelligible ones. We know that from 1 Corinthians 14:9-12:

So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church (ESV, emphasis added).

The emphasis here is on gifts that are intelligible, understandable. The gift of tongues, as long as there is the gift of interpretation, is intelligible.

He asked an excellent question: ‘What do you mean by ‘approximately’? Do you have a yardstick to compare?’

This is what I wrote to which he was responding: ‘So the gift of prophecy approximately equals tongues with interpretation for the building up of the church’. I was referring to 1 Cor 14:5, ‘The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up’. Here, the use of the word, ‘unless’, shows that the gift of prophecy is like the gift of tongues PLUS interpretation. That’s what I mean by ‘approximately’.

He wrote: ‘One need (sic) to imitate Jesus Christ, not Paul, Apollos et al with their claims based on their personal traits!’

The biblical perspective is that ‘All Scripture is theopneustos [breathed out by God] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work’ (2 Tim 3:16-17 ESV, emphasis added).

Instruction for my Christian living to become competent and equipped for my Christian life and ministry, is from ALL Scripture and not just from Jesus Christ. That’s what the Bible teaches.

This person wrote:

No theory or behavior should be based on one verse, one author, one book, etc. Show me where else in the Bible you find the mention of this business of speaking unknown language supported by interpretation?

Since all Scripture is God-breathed, the book of 1 Corinthians comes with the authority of God. I dare not reject the gifts as articulated in 1 Corinthians when God has given them authoritatively for the edification of the church. Acts 2:1-11 does speak of ‘tongues’ but in a different context and understanding to the exposition in 1 Cor 12-14.

This person wrote that ‘from this it is obvious that what was happening and what is happening now in many churches is uncontrolled emotions elevated to spurioius (sic) spiritual status!’

I agree that there is excess happening in some churches regarding the gifts of the Spirit. The truth is that excesses and spurious teachings should be corrected, but excesses do not negate the truth of the spiritual gifts that are available for the 21st century.

This was the response from that person to what I wrote above:[8]

‘Since we are communicating in the known English language, any emotional blurting out by a person of an unknown language – when God has given one of the greatest gifts of speaking an intelligible language – can be branded as gibberish!’

My response was as follows:[9]

I find it offensive that he would call the Holy Spirit’s gift of tongues to be ’emotional blurting out’ and ‘gibberish’.

Why didn’t he answer what I wrote about going to the Greek language to obtain the meaning of the Greek lalein (to speak) in glwssia (tongues)? Even though we speak the English language, we need to go to the original NT language of koine Greek to obtain the meaning of glossolalia. Why did he ignore this input that I provided? Is it because he does not read and understand NT Greek?

Then this man wrote:

As I indicated earlier, the answer to this is found in 2 Corinthians when Paul admits the use of his craftiness to bring order there. Let us consider a situation wherein one person speaks an unknown tongue, and there is no interpreter. His sayings go as a waste. That can never happen if the Holy Spirit is prompting that.[10]

Paul’s craftiness has nothing whatsoever to do in context with an understanding of the gifts of tongues and interpretation in 1 Cor 12-14.As for there being nobody with the gift of interpretation in the church gathering, the person who spoke in tongues should be told by the elders that he/she is out of order and should not have spoken that gift.

First Corinthians 14:13 provides the answer to the question he raised: ‘Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret’ (ESV). I have seen this happen on many occasions where the person God gifts with the manifestation of tongues is also given the gift of interpretation. It is very rare that I have ever heard someone manifest the gift of tongues without the gift of interpretation. Does he have any experience in attending a Pentecostal/charismatic church or group where the gifts of tongues and interpretation have been happening? It seems that he is speaking from a lack of knowledge of the Bible (1 Cor 14:3) in this area, and non-exposure to these supernatural gifts of the Spirit in the local church.

How does one respond to his statement, ‘At the same time this unknown tongue is an act of person’s spirit. The Holy Spirit has nothing to do with that’?[11]

I do wish that he would read carefully what I Cor 12-14 states. Yes, the gift of tongues comes through the human spirit as 1 Cor 14:14 states, ‘For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful’. However, who or what is the origin of his gift? ‘For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God, for no one understand him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit‘ (1 Cor 14:3, emphasis added).

In context, 1 Cor 12:1 reads, ‘concerning spiritual gifts’, that person is ‘speaking in the Spirit of God … in the Holy Spirit’ (12:3). Then we are assured in 12:4, ‘There are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit‘ (12:4). As for the ‘varieties of gifts’ (12:4), ‘it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good’ (12:12:6-7).

Conclusion

Therefore, all of these spiritual gifts that are manifest in the ekklesia, are through the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit, the same God. But he wanted to label one of these gifts as ’emotional blurting out’ and ‘gibberish’. I urged him not to impose his pejorative meaning on these supernatural gifts from God’s Spirit. Of course, there can be abuse and misuse, but I am exposed to such in preaching/teaching as well. Abuse and misuse are not the sole responsibility of the spiritual gifts. They can happen elsewhere in the church as well.

And have a guess what? Two of those manifestations of the Holy Spirit of God are ‘various kinds of tongues’ and ‘interpretation of tongues’ (1 Cor 12:10). That is why I find his labelling of the Holy Spirit’s gift of tongues as ’emotional blurting out’ and ‘gibberish’ to be contrary to what the Scriptures state and to be offensive to Christian exegesis of the text. Why is he using such derogatory language to label God’s gifts of tongues and interpretation?

This person is anti the gifts of the Spirit and has resorted to using language that is contrary to what the Scriptures state in 1 Corinthians 12-14. Therefore, this person erected a straw man logical fallacy. When one does that, one is building a non-existent case for a view that comes from somewhere else – perhaps from a person’s anti-charismatic presuppositions. It looks very much like imposing a worldview on the text. Thus, this becomes eisegesis – the meaning is not determined by what the text says but by what the interpreter believes and imposes on the text.

I urged this person not to use such offensive language for two of God’s Spirit’s gifts to the congregation that are designed ‘so that the church may be built up’ (1 Cor 14:5).

Works consulted

Carson, D A 1995.[12] Showing the Spirit: A theological exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14. Carlisle, Cumbria: Paternoster Press.

Fee, G D 1087. The new international commentary on the New Testament: The first epistle to the Corinthians, F F Bruce (gen ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

MacGorman, JW 1974. The gifts of the Spirit: An exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14. Nashville: Broadman Press.

Tozer, A W 1978. Tragedy in the church: The missing gifts. Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications.

Notes:

 [1] Justtruly #26, Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Gift of Tongues – Book Research’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7755995-3/ (Accessed 24 July 2013).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen #31.

[3] Ibid., justtruly #32.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen #33.

[5] Ibid., justtruly #34.

[6] My response is at ibid., OzSpen #35.

[7] Based on 2 Timothy 3:16 which states: ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God [theopneustos] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness’ (ESV).

[8] Ibid., justtruly #49.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen #50.

[10] Ibid., justtruly #49.

[11] Ibid.

[12] This book was first published by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA in 1987.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 May 2016.

Calvinistic excuses for rejecting Jesus’ universal atonement

Friday, July 12th, 2013

By Spencer D Gear

                          James Arminius 2.jpg John Calvin (courtesy Wikipedia)          Jacob Arminius (David Bailly 1620)

I was engaged in discussion on a Christian forum about the meaning of 1 John 2:2 , which states, ‘He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’ (ESV).

The issue at stake is the meaning of Jesus’ ‘propitiation for our sins’ (our, referring to believers), but also ‘for the sins of the whole world’. Calvinists do not want ‘the whole world’ to refer to the entire humanity in the past, present and future. For them, Jesus didn’t die an atoning death for the whole world but only for the elect.

A Calvinist responded,

[In 1 John] the scripture says no such thing about Him being a “provision” for sins! It says that He IS the propitiation for our (Jew’s) sins, and not for ours (Jews) only, but also for the sins of the whole world (Gentiles).” John was writing to Jews telling them that Christ was the propitiation for Gentiles also.

The scripture says, “He IS the propitiation for sins….”

The Arminian says, “He is the provision for sins….”[1]

I responded, ‘Nowhere in 1 John 2:2 does it state what you said: “He IS the propitiation for our (Jew’s) sins”. Not a word about the Jews in that verse. That is your insertion’.[2]

A Calvinist replied:[3]

John was writing to Jewish Christians saying that Christ IS the propitiation for our (Jew’s) sins, and not for ours (Jews) only, but also for the sins of the whole world (Gentiles).

Paul said a similar thing in Romans chapter eight. In 7:1 He said that he was writing to them that “know the law” (Jews). He continues to address Jewish Christians specifically from 7:1 to 11:13 where he begins to address the Gentiles specifically. So he is addressing Jews throughout chapter eight. In verse verse 22 he says that the “whole creation” (Gentiles) groans with birth pangs. Then he says that we (Jews) ALSO groan within ourselves waiting for the redemption of the body.

John was speaking exactly in the same manner as Paul. For Paul the whole creation was the Gentiles. They groan in birth pangs, and we (Jews) also groan within ourselves. Likewise, for John the “whole world” was the Gentiles. John said that Christ IS the propitiation for our (Jew’s) sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (Gentiles).

John and Paul were NOT speaking about every human being. You should not give promises to those to whom God has made no promise.

The following was my response:[4]

You provided not one reference from 1 John to demonstrate that John was writing to Jews. That does not leave a good impression with me when I’m addressing a verse in 1 John 2:2 and you go to Romans to try to demonstrate that both Paul and John were addressing Jewish ‘our (Jew’s) sins’ and Gentiles ‘the whole world’. That’s called eisegesis – bringing in a meaning that is not there in the text.

In fact, some who have written detailed commentaries on 1 John disagree with this poster on First John being written to Jewish Christians.

The ‘Introduction’ in the English Standard Version of the Bible to First John states that ‘John wrote this general letter to congregations across Asia Minor (now Turkey) in the late first century A.D.’ (p. 1127).

Enlarge

Courtesy Augsburg Fortress

R C H Lenski, in his commentary on 1 John, states that:

This letter is an encyclical that is intended for the congregations that were under John’s special care; it was occasioned by the antichristian teachings of Cerinthus and of his following. It is usually supposed that this letter was written only to congregations in the province of Asia (1966:363).

Exposition of James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude (0801020808) by Simon J. Kistemaker

Courtesy BookFinder.com

Calvinist commentator, Simon J Kistemaker, wrote of the ‘recipients of I John’ that

Tradition holds that John wrote his epistles during his ministry in Ephesus, and that his first epistle was addressed to a church or group of churches whom the author knew well. Succeeding Paul and Timothy, John was a pastor in Ephesus until his death in about A.D. 98. From Ephesus he wrote his epistles, presumable to Gentile audiences rather than to readers who were Jewish Christians (Kistemaker 1986:207-208, emphasis added)

These commentators also disagree with your Jewish audience: I Howard Marshall, F F Bruce, and James Montgomery Boice.

So this evidence points to a Gentile, not a Jewish, audience who received this letter of First John and it was written to churches in Asia Minor to correct the false doctrine of Cerinthus, opponent of St. John or an early form of Gnosticism.

Bibliography

Kistemaker S J 1986. New Testament Commentary: James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lenski, R C H 1966. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of the epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers (special permission of Augsburg Fortress).

Notes:

[1] Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Is rejecting Christ a sin?’ The Boxer #609. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7755517-61/ (Accessed 12 July 2013).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen #611.

[3] Ibid., The Boxer #641 (emphasis in original).

[4] Ibid., OzSpen #649.
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

Does God’s grace make salvation available to all people?

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Ribbon Salvation Button

ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

It is common in Arminian vs Calvinist discussions for Arminians to proclaim that God’s grace offers Jesus’ salvation to all people. And this verse is one of the cornerstones of understanding the “all people” who have this grace of salvation offered.

Titus 2:11-12 reads: ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age’ (ESV).[1]

I encountered one fellow on a Christian forum who stated: ‘The verse says this grace brings salvation teaching to renounce ungodliness. Are you saying it doesn’t actually do that since apparently it comes to people and they reject the Gospel?[2]

How should I respond? This is what I stated:[3]

It’s amazing what you leave out of a verse. You should have begun your post with, ‘The verse says this grace brings salvation to all men [people] teaching to renounce ungodliness….’

Verse 11 in the Greek begins, ‘Appeared [aorist tense] for the grace of God saving to all men….’

As to ‘the grace … saving to all men’, Lutheran exegete and commentator, R C H Lenski, stated:

the grace … saving for all men.” Here is the universality of this saving grace, which is in direct contradiction to Calvin’s limited grace, who writes in his Commentary, published in Geneva in 1600, p. 542 … “Yet, he (Paul) does not understand individual men but rather notes orders or diverse genera of life,” i. e., “classes in life,” and he does this because slaves have just been mentioned as being one such class. To Calvin “all men” = some slaves, some young men, some young women, some old women, some old men. He has a similar exegesis of other passages, for instance, John 3:16: “God so loved the world,” regarding which he says that “the world” is mentioned only because there was nothing in the whole world to call forth God’s love.
12) This wondrous grace which is “saving for all men” is now operative in us (in Paul, Titus, the Cretan Christians), “educating (or training us as a pais or boy is educated, this verb is found also in I Tim. 1:20; II Tim. 2:25) us, that, having denied the ungodliness … we live sober-mindedly,” etc.  (Lenski 1937:919-920).

Emeritus professor of New Testament at Regent College, Vancouver BC, Canada and editor of Eerdmans’ New International Commentary series on the New Testament, Gordon D Fee (ordained with the Assemblies of God), wrote of Titus 2:11,

An explanatory for opens the paragraph and thus closely ties verses 11-14 to 2-10. It proceeds to explain why God’s people should live as exhorted in 2-10 (so that the message from God will not be maligned [v. 5] but instead will be attractive [v. 10]): because the grace of God that brings salvation to all people has appeared.
In the Greek text all of verses 11-14 form a single sentence, of which the grace of God stands as the grammatical subject. But contrary to the NIV (and KJV), Paul does not say that this grace appeared to all men; rather, as almost all other translations have it, and as both Paul’s word order and the usage in 1 Timothy 2:3-6 demand it, what has appeared (see disc. on 1 Tim. 6:14; epiphaneia) is grace from God that offers salvation to all people.
Paul does not indicate here the reference point for this revelation of God’s grace. Most likely he is thinking of the historical revelation effected in the saving event of Christ (v. 14; cf. 2 Tim. 1:9-10), but it could also refer existentially to the time in Crete when Paul and Titus preached the gospel and Cretans understood and accepted the message (cf. 1:3 and 3:3-4). That at least is when the educative dimension of grace, emphasized in verse 12, took place (Fee 1988:194, emphasis in original).

These evangelical commentators who are committed to a high view of Scripture affirm, contrary to Calvin, that Titus 2:11 affirms that what has appeared is grace from God that offers salvation to all people. Period! Full stop!

The kind of response to this post was predictable from the Calvinists. Here are a couple of examples:

6pointGold-small ‘Bringing now means offering. Got it’.[4]

My response was:

Why don’t you do your own Greek exegesis on the aorist, epephane (Titus 2:11), from epiphainw?

Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning in the passive voice (as here), ‘show oneself, make an appearance’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:304).

So are you going to challenge Arndt & Gingrich’s etymology of the word?

It doesn’t matter whether one uses ‘bringing’ or ‘offering’, the meaning is the same as I understand it. It refers to the Epiphany of Christ’s Incarnation that brought, offered salvation to the whole world – the entire race of humanity – ALL.[5]

Here was another Calvinistic response to my post:

6pointGold-small Appeal to authority fallacy. The verse says nothing about ‘offering salvation’. There you go attempting to shoehorn your free will-ism in there again.

‘These evangelical commentators who are committed to a high view of Scripture affirm, provide exegesis of the text that is contrary to Calvin’ [myy citation above]

It’s also contrary to the Bible.[6]

I responded in this way: [7]

That’s exegesis speaking and you don’t seem to like it.

But I consider it is rather contradictory when you claim that it is my tradition speaking but you don’t state that your tradition is doing some speaking through you in this thread.

Now answer the exegesis that Lenski and Fee provided. I gave them as examples, not as promoting a genetic fallacy, but to demonstrate that I am not the only exegete who comes to conclusions different to Calvin and griff.

The Nizkor Project’s explanation of the genetic fallacy contains this qualification, ‘It should be noted that there are some cases in which the origin of a claim is relevant to the truth or falsity of the claim. For example, a claim that comes from a reliable expert is likely to be true (provided it is in her area of expertise)’.

I have provided expert exegesis from Lutheran and Assemblies of God scholars who contradict your and Calvin’s view on Titus 2:11. It is a perfectly legitimate approach as Lenski and Fee have expertise in their area – NT Greek Exegesis.

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[8] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Fee, G D 1988. I and 2 Timothy, Titus. W Ward Gasque, New Testament (ed). Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Lenski, R C H 1937. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. Paul’s epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Notes:


[1] Unless otherwise stated, all Bible citations are from the English Standard Version.

[2] Christian Forums, Soteriology, Is rejecting Christ a sin, griff #510, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7755517-51/ (Accessed 10 July 2013).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen #535.

[4] Ibid., Hammster #536.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen #541.

[6] Ibid., griff #537.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen #538.

[8] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

The injustice of the God of Calvinism

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

By Spencer D. Gear

Tipped Scales

(image courtesy ChristArt)

A. Introduction

Let’s suppose that my wife and I have three children, Jane (12), Billy (10) and Carl (6). Since Jane was our first born, she has received lots of favours and preferences over the other two. I have given her special preference when it came to buying clothes she liked, theme parks she enjoyed attending, and food, food, and food – her kinds of food. She was graced with the privilege of receiving what she wanted, especially her favourite passionfruit ice cream from that special ice cream parlour.

But there’s more! She got lots more cuddles, sits on my knee, and extra help with school homework. In fact, I’ve had it said that she is my very favourite child – and she is.

Yes, I love Billy and Carl, but not as much as Jane. She is graced with lots of special privileges, including that special watch, extra special dresses and jeans. I make so bones about it. She is my very, very favourite. There is nobody in the world like my Janie. She’s a doll and the very best child I have.

I don’t forget about the other kids, but they come in a distant second and third in popularity with me. I’ve had some folks call me a bigoted, biased, unjust father. But why would they think like that? Isn’t it OK to have special favourites and especially in my family?

And that is what is happening in some theological circles with the promotion of a certain God who acts like my treatment of Janie. This God plays favourites; he only

  • chooses some people for salvation (the elect), and he chose this limited number from before the foundation of the world. This means that if he chose some for salvation, he left the remainder for damnation. By inference, they were chosen by God to be condemned – and that for eternity. In other words, he rejected large numbers of human beings throughout history and only chose a smaller group to join him through salvation in heaven. He’s a God who shows favourites through his deterministic will.
  • This means that Jesus didn’t die for the sins of the whole world, but only for the sins of the elect. The majority of human beings will never ever be able to be saved because Jesus’ didn’t pay the price, the atoning sacrifice (or propitiation) for their sins, through his shed blood on the cross.
  • The third factor is that that these saved believers have no say in salvation. They are irresistibly drawn and cannot say, ‘No’. Many people in the world are not in this category, so are not God’s favourites. He shows partiality towards a certain group of people. But there’s more….
  • These people are so special and given such favouritism that they are regenerated before they even have faith in him. It is said by some of the promoters of this kind of God that people believe in Christ because they have already received regeneration from God.

Let’s check out what this God of favourites does – this God of injustice and partiality! This is the God whom Peter declared in the King James Version of the Bible, ‘Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons’ (Acts 10:34). How does this God who is impartial, ‘no respecter of persons’, line up with the Calvinistic evidence?

B. Certain Christians and favourites

OCAL favorite folder icon by gsagri04 - open clip art library favorite folder icon (OCAL Logo from pianoBrad)

(image courtesy Openclipart)

This illustration about the family has some strong overtones in the evangelical Christian community. I’m not talking about the liberals. They don’t accept the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone (according to Acts 4:12), they denigrate Jesus, deny his deity and substitutionary atonement, and do not treat the Scriptures as authoritatively from God. See some of what I mean in my articles on:

Also refer to:

Instead, I’m talking about what is happening in some evangelical Christian circles in the name of Calvinism.

Which is the largest Protestant Christian denomination in the USA? According to 2012 figures, it is the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) with 16.2 million members. The SBC is concerned with the inroads of Calvinism in the Convention. Christianity Today, 18 June 2012, reported that

a just-released survey conducted by LifeWay Research found that roughly equal numbers of SBC pastors identify their congregation as Calvinist/Reformed (30%) or Arminian/Wesleyan (30%). More than 60 percent are concerned about Calvinism’s influence on the denomination.

A 2006 Lifeway survey found that only 10 percent of SBC pastors identified themselves as “five-point Calvinists.” However, a similar 2007 study of young ministers by the SBC’s North American Mission Board discovered that almost 35 percent of SBC ministers that graduated from SBC seminaries in 2004 and 2005 self-identified as “five-point Calvinists.”[1]

Those concerned with the influence of Calvinism in the SBC organised ‘The John 3:16 Conference’ on November 6-7, 2008, that was held at First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Georgia. The papers presented at the conference are published in Whosoever will: A biblical-theological critique of five-point Calvinism (Allen & Lemke 2010).

Here is another example from my personal experience of what happened when I tried to expose the nature of Calvinism and its view of God. When I made the following post to a certain Christian online forum, I had it removed by moderators as being inflammatory since I wrote that ‘the God who shows partiality by dying for some but not for all is the kind of Calvinistic God of injustice I’m talking about’. So, is it unfair to point out the nature of the unjust God of Calvinism? Was I being honest or unfair? Yes, it was a provocative kind of post, but that is the way that I see the issue as the following discussion will reveal.

The debate on this online forum emerged with a person (whose post has now been deleted) stating:

I believe that the Bible does teach that Christ died for everyone but I’ve never really studied the subject which is an omission on my part which I need to rectify I know, but what I don’t understand is how belief in a limited atonement is compatible with people being at fault for not believing in Christ. If Christ only died for the elect then how can the non-elect be found guilty of rejecting Christ when in actual fact He never died for them in the first place? “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:18 ESV). Also Christ said, ‘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 go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me (John 16:7-9 ESV). How can it be a sin not to believe in Christ if in fact Christ didn’t atone for that person’s sin?

My response (also now deleted) was:

You have stated it very well. That’s what I’ve been trying to say … when I stated that the God of Calvinism is unjust. He damned the whole of humanity through original sin, but only provided the opportunity of salvation to ‘some’ of humanity whom he saved through unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace.

It makes God into an impartial, unjust being who doesn’t care for the whole of humanity, but only for the damnation of all of humanity through original sin.

Thank you for saying it so well. You have articulated the unjust God of Calvinism in a very reasonable way. Don’t be surprised if you get a response something like: ‘But those who are damned and do not have an opportunity to receive salvation, are getting what they deserved anyway – hell and judgment’. But that avoids the issue of the injustice of this God in demonstrating partiality.

I consider that this issue involves the contrast between two teachings at the core of Christianity that leads to Calvinism’s promotion of an unjust God:

(1) When did sin start and how much of humanity is infected with sin as a result of breaking God’s law and God’s infliction of punishment (death and sin) on all individuals of the human race? God was responsible for carrying through with this punishment. And….

(2) For whom did Christ die? How many people are potentially able to be saved? Is salvation available to all of humanity or only some human beings today and throughout history who are called the ‘elect’?

Let’s examine these core doctrines briefly:

C. God’s justice in damning all sinners

You Sinner

(image courtesy ChristArt)

This deals with the doctrine of original sin and its consequences. On a practical level, this is the issue that I raised with that brief quote that was censored from that Christian forum. I know it was a provocative quote but here I’ll try to demonstrate that it was an accurate assessment that shows the justice of God in damning all people and the injustice of God in the Calvinist’s view of salvation.

I believe in the doctrine of original sin or inherited sin as taught in Scripture. Original sin means that God counts all human beings as guilty of sin because they sinned when Adam, the federal head of the human race, sinned against God and, thus, all sinned in Adam. This is affirmed in Scriptures such as:

blue-arrow-small ‘‘Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned’ (Romans 5:12 English Standard Version).[2]

Original sin entered the world because Adam disobeyed God’s command,

blue-arrow-small ‘And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”’ (Genesis 2:16-17).

What did Adam do with this command?

blue-arrow-small ‘So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths’ (Gen 3:6-7).

And the rest is history! We have these amazing two verses to tell us the consequences of this original, inherited sin:

blue-arrow-small ‘Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.’ (Romans 5:18-19).

So Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s commands and they, as representatives of the whole human race, caused all of us to be infected with sin. And sin leads to death and condemnation by God.

Another way of stating inherited sin is the doctrine of total depravity. See the article, ‘total depravity’, meaning comprehensive depravity of all human beings from conception. This is a result of Adam’s sin.

This is sound biblical doctrine that all human beings are infected by sin and are suffering the consequences of that sin – condemnation, damnation. See the sermon, ‘The justice of God in the damnation of sinners’.

Wayne Grudem summarised the doctrine of inherited sin this way:

The conclusion to be drawn from these verses is that all members of the human race were represented by Adam in the time of testing in the Garden of Eden.  As our representative, Adam sinned, and God counted us as guilty as well as Adam.  (A technical term that is sometimes used in this connection is impute, meaning ‘to think of as belonging to someone, and therefore to cause it to belong to that person.’) God counted Adam’s guilt as belonging to us, and since God is the ultimate judge of all things in the universe, and since his thoughts are always true, Adam’s guilt does in fact belong to us.  God rightly imputed Adam’s guilt to us (Grudem 1999:213).

So, it is a clear biblical doctrine that all are damned because of inherited sin from Adam. Theologian Wayne Grudem, as cited above, is Reformed in his doctrine of original sin. Eric Landstrom’s review of Grudem’s Bible doctrine (Grudem 1999) stated that ‘Grudem is a Calvinist’.[3]

That is how the entire human race contracted the disease, but is there a cure and how does it happen?

D. God’s injustice did not make salvation available to ALL.

Free Gift

(image courtesy ChristArt)

But what is God’s solution according to the TULIP Calvinists? TULIP means:

  • Total depravity,
  • Unconditional election,
  • Limited atonement,
  • Irresistible grace, and
  • Perseverance of the saints.

This will be a brief examination of the points of ULI only, along with the Calvinistic interpretation that regeneration precedes faith.

1. Unconditional election

Matt Slick of CARM, a Calvinist, stated his understanding of unconditional election was that ‘God elects a person based upon nothing in that person because there is nothing in him that would make him worthy of being chosen; rather, God’s election is based on what is in God. God chose us because he decided to bestow his love and grace upon us, not because we are worthy, in and of ourselves, of being saved’.[4]

J I Packer explains election:

The verb elect means “to select, or choose out.” The biblical doctrine of election is that before Creation God selected out of the human race, foreseen as fallen, those whom he would redeem, bring to faith, justify, and glorify in and through Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28-39; Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 2 Tim. 1:9-10). This divine choice is an expression of free and sovereign grace, for it is unconstrained and unconditional, not merited by anything in those who are its subjects. God owes sinners no mercy of any kind, only condemnation; so it is a wonder, and matter for endless praise, that he should choose to save any of us; and doubly so when his choice involved the giving of his own Son to suffer as sin-bearer for the elect (Rom. 8:32) [Packer 1993:149].

Packer does what not all Calvinists do. He goes on to state his understanding of ‘election’ of the remainder of humanity – the reprobates:

Reprobation is the name given to God’s eternal decision regarding those sinners whom he has not chosen for life. His decision is in essence a decision not to change them, as the elect are destined to be changed, but to leave them to sin as in their hearts they already want to do, and finally to judge them as they deserve for what they have done. When in particular instances God gives them over to their sins (i.e., removes restraints on their doing the disobedient things they desire), this is itself the beginning of judgment. It is called “hardening” (Rom. 9:18; 11:25; cf. Ps. 81:12; Rom. 1:24, 26, 28), and it inevitably leads to greater guilt (Packer 1993:150)

Thus, the God of Calvinism is a God of injustice and partiality who unconditionally elects some to eternal salvation and leaves the rest to eternal damnation.

2. Limited atonement

Again, Matt Slick stated his doctrine of limited atonement: ‘Christ bore the sin only of the elect, not everyone who ever lived’.[5]

That is not the view of John Calvin, the father of Calvinism, who wrote in his commentary on John 3:16:

Faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish….

And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life (emphasis added).

Thus John Calvin himself is very clear. He believed in atonement for the whole world.

R C Sproul:

I prefer the term definite atonement to the term limited atonement (though it turns tulip into tudip). The doctrine of definite atonement focuses on the question of the design of Christ’s atonement. It is concerned with God’s intent in sending Jesus to the cross….

Anyone who is not a universalist is willing to agree that the effect of Christ’s work on the cross is limited to those who believe. That is, Christ’s atonement does not avail for unbelievers. Not everyone is saved through His death. Everyone also agrees that the merit of Christ’s death is sufficient to pay for the sins of all human beings. Some put it this way: Christ’s atonement is sufficient for all, but efficient only for some.

This, however, does not really get at the heart of the question of definite atonement. Those who deny definite atonement insist that Christ’s work of atonement was designed by God to atone for the sins of everyone in the world. It made possible the salvation of everyone, but made certain the salvation of no one. Its design is therefore both unlimited and indefinite.

The Reformed view holds that Christ’s atonement was designed and intended only for the elect. Christ laid down His life for His sheep and only for His sheep. Furthermore, the Atonement insured salvation for all the elect. The Atonement was an actual, not merely potential, work of redemption. In this view there is no possibility that God’s design and intent for the Atonement could be frustrated. God’s purpose in salvation is sure (Sproul 1992:175-176).

I have reached the view that a doctrine that claims that Christ did not die for the whole world but for only some of humanity, the elect, is a doctrine of an unjust God. He is the God of favourites, as I was of Janie. He is not the God revealed in Scripture. A God who condemns the whole of humanity to damnation because of the sin of the fountain head of the human race (Adam) is a just God as Adam was our representative. But a God who does not provide an opportunity through Christ’s death for all to be saved, is an unjust God. He promotes discrimination on a massive scale.

3. Irresistible grace

Matt Slick wrote of irresistible grace: ‘The term unfortunately suggests a mechanical and coercive force upon an unwilling subject. This is not the case. Instead, it is the act of God making the person willing to receive him. It does not mean that a person cannot resist God’s will. It means that when God moves to the save/regenerate a person, the sinner cannot thwart God’s movement and he will be regenerated’.[6]

Wayne Grudem concurred when he stated that sometimes irresistible grace is used for regeneration. Irresistible grace

refers to the fact that God effectively calls people and also gives them regeneration, and both actions guarantee that we will respond in saving faith. The term irresistible grace is subject to misunderstanding, however, since it seems to imply that people do not make a voluntary choice in responding to the gospel – a wrong idea, and a wrong understanding of the term irresistible grace. The term does preserve something valuable, however, because it indicates that God’s work reaches into our hearts to bring about a response that is absolutely certain – even though we respond voluntarily (Grudem 1999:301).

This is surely a mixed bag of ideas from a leading contemporary theologian since he states that irresistible grace:

  • Guarantees that a person will respond in saving faith.
  • It is a wrong understanding to eliminate voluntary choice by human beings in salvation.
  • God’s response in the heart is absolutely certain, even though
  • Human beings respond voluntarily. This is an oxymoron.

This is a confusion of ideas that human beings respond voluntarily but God gives them irresistible grace that guarantees they will respond in faith. Talk about mixed up thinking – voluntary by people but irresistible by God!

This, nonetheless, means that God is unjust in providing irresistible grace only to the unconditionally elect for whom Jesus died and he did not die for the sins of the whole world.

4. Regeneration precedes faith

Wayne Grudem explained the Calvinistic perspective:

The idea that regeneration comes before saving faith is not always understood by evangelicals today. Sometimes people will even say something like, “If you believe in Christ as your Savior, then (after you believe) you will be born again.” But Scripture itself never says anything like that. This new birth is viewed by Scripture as something that God does within us in order to enable us to believe.

The reason that evangelicals often think that regeneration comes after saving faith is that they see the results (love for God and his Word, and turning from sin) after people come to faith, and they think that regeneration must therefore have come after saving faith. Yet here we must decide on the basis of what Scripture tells us, because regeneration itself is not something we see or know about directly: “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8) [Grudem 1999:303].

R C Sproul, another Calvinist, wrote:

The key phrase in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians is this: “…even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have you been saved)” (Eph. 2:5). Here Paul locates the time when regeneration occurs. It takes place ‘when we were dead.’ With one thunderbolt of apostolic revelation all attempts to give the initiative in regeneration to man are smashed. Again, dead men do not cooperate with grace. Unless regeneration takes place first, there is no possibility of faith.

This says nothing different from what Jesus said to Nicodemus. Unless a man is born again first, he cannot possibly see or enter the kingdom of God. If we believe that faith precedes regeneration, then we set our thinking and therefore ourselves in direct opposition not only to giants of Christian history but also to the teaching of Paul and of our Lord Himself (Sproul n d).

What about the master Calvinist himself – John Calvin? When did regeneration take place for him? In his commentary on John 1:13, he wrote:

Hence it follows, first, that faith does not proceed from ourselves, but is the fruit of spiritual regeneration; for the Evangelist affirms that no man can believe, unless he be begotten of God; and therefore faith is a heavenly gift. It follows, secondly, that faith is not bare or cold knowledge, since no man can believe who has not been renewed by the Spirit of God.

It may be thought that the Evangelist reverses the natural order by making regeneration to precede faith, whereas, on the contrary, it is an effect of faith, and therefore ought to be placed later. I reply, that both statements perfectly agree; because by faith we receive the incorruptible seed, (1 Peter 1:23,) by which we are born again to a new and divine life. And yet faith itself is a work of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in none but the children of God. So then, in various respects, faith is a part of our regeneration, and an entrance into the kingdom of God, that he may reckon us among his children. The illumination of our minds by the Holy Spirit belongs to our renewal, and thus faith flows from regeneration as from its source; but since it is by the same faith that we receive Christ, who sanctifies us by his Spirit, on that account it is said to be the beginning of our adoption (Calvin n d; emphasis added).[7]

Here, John Calvin clearly disagrees with contemporary Calvinists, Wayne Grudem and R C Sproul. Calvin believed that regeneration is an effect of faith and does not precede faith. In other words, regeneration takes place at the time a person believes in Christ for salvation.

Calvin’s theology on regeneration also is contrary to that espoused by Calvinist, A W Pink, who stated that ‘man chooses that which is according to his nature, and therefore before he will choose or prefer that which is divine and spiritual, a new nature must be imparted to him; in other words, he must be born again’ (Pink 2008:138).

God’s injustice is promoted again as God shows partiality by providing irresistible grace to only some of human beings throughout human history.

E. But He is the God of justice and impartiality

Love and justice

(image courtesy ChristArt)

Scripture reveals the Lord God Almighty as one who is just and impartial. A few verses will be enough to cement these attributes of God.

1. The God of justice revealed

‘By the righteousness and justice of God we mean that phase of the holiness of God which is seen in His treatment of the creature. Repeatedly these qualities are ascribed to God (e.g. 2 Chron. 12:6; Ezra 9:15; Neh. 9:33; Ps. 89:14; Isa. 45:21; Dan. 9:14; John 17:25; 2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 16:5). In virtue of the former He has instituted a moral government in the world, imposed just laws upon the creatures, and attached sanctions thereto’ (Thiessen 1949:129-130).

A sample from these verses includes:

  • Psalm 89:14, ‘Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you’.
  • Daniel 9:14, ‘Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice’.
  • 2 Timothy 4:8, ‘Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing’.
  • Revelation 16:5, ‘And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgements’

Since God’s righteousness and justice are synonymous, we know from both Old and New Testaments that God’s righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne and that God is righteous in all the works he performs. God is the righteous judge and he, the Holy One, is the God of justice. That’s his nature and how he acts.

Thiessen explains further that God demonstrates remunerative justice by giving rewards (see Deut. 7:9, 12, 13; 2 Chron. 6:15; Ps. 58:11; Matt. 25:21; Rom. 2:7; Heb. 11:26). By inflicting punishment, God is engaged in punitive justice as demonstrated by Gen. 2:17: Ex. 34:7; Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 1:32; 2:8-9; 2 Thess. 1:8 (Thiessen 1949:130).

2. The God of impartiality revealed

  • 2 Chronicles 19:7, ‘Now therefore, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes’.
  • Job 36:5, ‘Behold, God is mighty, and does not despise any; he is mighty in strength of understanding’.
  • Acts 10:34, ‘So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality’.
  • Romans 2:11, ‘For God shows no partiality’.
  • 1 Timothy 2:4 states that God our Saviour ‘desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’.
  • James 1:17, ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change’.
  • James 3:17, ‘But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere’.
  • 1 Peter 1:17, ‘And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile’.

Could it be any clearer? The Lord God Almighty, revealed in Scripture, by nature is just (righteous) and impartial in his actions. This is quite different from the God who is a respecter of persons (the elect) and plays favourites according to Calvinism with unconditional election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace.

See Caleb Colley’s article, ‘God is no respecter of persons’.

F. Who got it wrong?

Calvinistic theologian, Charles Hodge, wrote:

In the sight of an infinitely good and merciful God, it is necessary that some of the rebellious race of man should suffer the penalty of the law which all have broken. It is God’s prerogative to determine who shall be vessels of mercy, and who shall be left to the just recompense of their sins. Such are the declarations of Scripture; and such are the facts of the case. We can alter neither. Our blessedness is to trust in the Lord, and to rejoice that the destiny of his creatures is not in their own hands, nor in the hands either of fate or of chance; but in those of Him who is infinite in wisdom, love, and power (Hodge 1979, vol 2:652, emphasis added).

Hodge’s view is that:

  • God is infinitely good and merciful;
  • Rebellious human beings should suffer the penalty for breaking God’s law;
  • His language is ‘it is God’s prerogative’ to determine those to whom he extends mercy and those who are left without God’s mercy (to suffer recompense for their sins);
  • These are the facts from Scripture;
  • We are blessed to trust the Lord and rejoice in God’s partiality (he doesn’t use this word) in declaring the destiny of two different groups of people;
  • This partiality is based on God’s infinite wisdom, love and power.

My, oh my! What a distorted understanding of God’s goodness, mercy, infinite wisdom, love and power!

What could be clearer than 2 Peter 3:9? This verse states, ‘The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (ESV).

One Calvinist wrote:

So God is patient toward you/beloved/Christians/God’s elect, not wishing any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. The whole point is, God is patient towards his elect, not wishing any should perish, but that all of his elect should reach repentance. God is delaying the 2nd coming of Christ until all of his elect reach repentance.[8]

What about these interpretations of 2 Peter 3:9 by two Calvinistic commentators, including John Calvin himself? They disagree with the view that this verse refers to the elect Christians.

John Calvin wrote of 2 Peter 3:9, ‘So wonderful is [God’s] love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost’ (The Second Epistle of Peter, p. 419, emphasis added).

In this passage Calvin does give his particular view of predestination,

But it may be asked, If God wishes none to perish, why is it that so many do perish? To this my answer is, that no mention is here made of the hidden purpose of God, according to which the reprobate are doomed to their own ruin, but only of his will as made known to us in the gospel. For God there stretches forth his hand without a difference to all, but lays hold only of those, to lead them to himself, whom he has chosen before the foundation of the world.

So the father of Calvinism states that 2 Peter 3:9 means that God’s love for all human beings is such that ‘he would have them all to be saved’. That’s Calvin’s understanding of the context.

Another Calvinistic commentator, Simon J. Kistemaker, wrote of 2 Peter 3:9,

Not wanting anyone to perish.” Peter is not teaching universalism in this sentence. In his epistle, he clearly states that the false teachers and scoffers are condemned and face destruction (see 2:3; 3:7; Rom. 9:22). Does not God want the false teachers to be saved? Yes, but they disregard God’s patience toward them, they employ their knowledge of Jesus Christ against him, and they willfully reject God’s offer of salvation. They, then, bear full responsibility for their own condemnation.

[God wants] everyone to come to repentance.” God provides time for man to repent, but repentance is an act that man must perform (Kistemaker 1986:334).

For a more detailed discussion of 2 Peter 3:9 in support of God’s not being willing that any of the whole of humanity should perish, see my article, How a Calvinist can distort the meaning of 2 Peter 3:9. See also, ‘Does 2 Peter 3:9 teach universalism?

Who got it wrong according to the Scriptures? The Calvinists did and they got it wrong BIG TIME. They got it as wrong as I did when I played favourites with Jane, the eldest child. They get it wrong because they make God a respecter of persons when he is not (see Acts 10:34 NLT, ‘Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favouritism’).

What is the solution to the unfair, discriminate, unjust version of God promoted by Calvinism?

G. The solution

The solution is found in providing biblical answers to these four questions:

  • What is God’s basis for election to salvation?
  • Did Jesus die for all people or only for the elect? Is the atonement limited?
  • Does God extend his grace to all or only some people?
  • Is regeneration prior to or coinciding with faith?

1. What is the basis for election to salvation?

Purple Salvation Button

In contrast with the Calvinistic definition of unconditional election, the biblical material points to a better understanding: ‘By election we mean that sovereign act of God in grace whereby He chose in Christ Jesus for salvation all those whom he foreknew would accept Him. This is election in its redemptive aspect’ (Thiessen 1949:344). Here I’m using election and predestination as essentially synonymous terms.

Henry Thiessen was a leading Arminian theologian of the twentieth century. Roger Olson explained that ‘one of the most influential Arminian theologians of the twentieth century was Henry C. Thiessen…. Thiessen was apparently not aware that he was an Arminian! But his pattern of thought is clearly Arminian’ (Olson 2006:190).

Thiessen (1949:344) explained that election is a sovereign act by God Himself as God was under no obligation to elect anyone as all people had lost their standing before God. Even after Christ’s death on the cross, God was not required to make salvation apply to anyone. However, it was a sovereign act of grace ‘in that He chose those who were utterly unworthy of salvation’ Human beings deserved the opposite ‘but in His grace God chose to save some’. On what basis does he tell us this choosing took place? Scripture is clear that God chose people whom he knew would accept Christ’s salvation. The Scriptures are clear that God’s election is based on his foreknowledge. Here is some biblical support:

arrow-small ‘For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified’ (Romans 8:29-30; emphasis added).

arrow-small ‘To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood’ (1 Peter 1:1-2; emphasis added).

Thiessen’s statements profoundly summarise the biblical material:

Although we are nowhere told what it is in the foreknowledge of God that determines His choice, the repeated teaching of Scripture that man is responsible for accepting or rejecting salvation necessitates our postulating that it is man’s reaction to the revelation God has made of Himself that is the basis of His election. Since mankind is hopelessly dead in trespasses and sins and can do nothing to obtain salvation, God graciously restores to all men sufficient ability to make a choice in the matter of submission to Him. This is the salvation-bringing grace of God that has appeared to all men. In His foreknowledge He perceives what each one will do with this restored ability, and elects men to salvation in harmony with His knowledge of their choice of Him. There is no merit in this transaction. (Thiessen 1949:344,345).

The salvation-bringing grace of God that appears to all people is affirmed in Titus 2:11, ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’ (emphasis added). Notice the emphasis – for all people. It does not say, ‘For all who are in the elect of God’.

Thiessen rightly sees the connection between Calvinistic unconditional election and God’s injustice:

In the minds of some people, election is a choice that God makes for which we can see no reason and which we can hardly harmonize with His justice. We are asked to accept the theory of “unconditional election” as true but unexplainable in spite of the fact that the persistent demand of the heart is for a theory of election that does commend itself to our sense of justice and that harmonizes the teaching of Scripture concerning the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man (Thiessen 1949:345).

Thiessen outlines the biblical proof of election as:

  • Based on God’s foreknowledge;
  • Christ died for all human beings;
  • The doctrine of God’s justice;
  • It inspired missionary activity (Thiessen 1949:345-347).

His pointed statement regarding the justice of God and election sinks the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election, as I understand it:

“But it is difficult to see how God can choose some from the mass of guilty and condemned men, provide salvation for them and efficiently secure their salvation, and do nothing about all the others, if, as we read, righteousness is the foundation of His throne. God would not be partial if he permitted all men to go to their deserved doom; but how can He be other than partial if He selects some from this multitude of men and does things for them and in them that He refuses to do for the others, if there is not something about the two classes that makes the difference? We hold that common grace is extended to all, and that every one has the ability restored to him to ‘will and to do His will.’ The salvation-bearing grace of God has appeared to all men; but some receive the grace of God in vain. It seems to us that only if God makes the same provisions for all and makes the same offers to all, is He truly just (Thiessen 1949: 346-47).

This view is incorporated in the Arminian view of election. It sees that God’s justice requires that God offers to all humanity – all sinners – the possibility of salvation. It doesn’t matter whether it is Judas Iscariot, terrorists, Hitler, Stalin, the apostle Paul, St Augustine, Martin Luther, Henry Thiessen or Wayne Grudem. God provides as much grace for salvation to all these sinners in his consistent view of election. The nature of God is such that he must always act in justice to all people. He does this in the moderate Arminian view of election as summarised by Henry Thiessen.

David Servant has shown how the totality of Scripture does not support unconditional election in his article, ‘Calvin’s unconditional election’. In fact, he takes a line similar to the emphasis of this brief article on the injustice of the Calvinistic God who promotes unconditional election and irresistible grace that provides salvation for some people when all the rest are damned by God. In this article, he wrote:

How will God judge the world in justice if unconditional election/damnation is true? When He says to the goats on His left, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink” and so on, might they not rightly say, “But we could not help but sin, because You created us totally depraved, and because we were not among the elect, You never did bestow upon us Your irresistible grace! We never had a chance to be saved, because our damnation You predestined before we were born! How can you righteously condemn us?”

Will God condemn them for what it was impossible for them not to do? Will He punish them everlastingly for not escaping what they could not escape? He might as justly punish people because their hearts beat within them! So do Calvinists nullify God’s justice by elevating His sovereignty to unbiblical proportions.

I recommend Roger Olson’s article, ‘Election is for everyone’. See also, ‘Divine election and predestination in Ephesians 1’. This is the view that affirms God’s justice.

2. Did Jesus die for the sins of ALL people (unlimited atonement)?

Cross Clip Art

(image courtesy Clker.com public domain)

Henry Thiessen helpfully summarised the biblical material:

Christ Died For The Elect. The Scriptures teach that Christ died primarily for the elect. ‘For to this end we labor and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of them that believe’ (1 Tim. 4:10); ‘even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many’ (Matt. 20:28); ‘I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me; for they are thine’ (John 17:9); ‘who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace’ (2 Tim. 1:9); ‘even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it’ (Eph. 5:25); ‘whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime’ (i. e. in saving those who believed in pre-Christian times, Rom. 3:25); cf. also Rev. 13:8. He died for the elect, not only in making salvation possible for them, but also in the sense of actually saving them when they believe on Christ.

Christ Died For The Whole World. The Scriptures also teach that Christ died for the whole world. See again 1 Tim. 4:10 (above); and, ‘behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29); ‘who gave himself a ransom for all’ (1 Tim. 2:6);  ‘for the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men’ (Titus 2:11); ‘who privily shall bring in destructive heresies denying even the Master that bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction’ (2 Pet. 2:1); ‘but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance’ (2 Pet. 3:9); ‘that by the grace of God he should taste death for every man’ (Heb. 2:9); ‘and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world’ (1 John 2:2). There is a necessary order in a man’s salvation; he must first believe that Christ died for him, before he can appropriate the benefits of His death to himself. Although Christ died for all in the sense of reconciling God to the world, not all are saved because their actual salvation is conditioned on their being reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18 – 20). Hodge paraphrases these verses thus: ‘ Seeing that God in Christ is reconciled, and that He has commissioned us to make known this great truth, it follows that we, as preachers of the Gospel, are ambassadors of Christ.’ Chas. Hodge, Op. cit., p. 146 (Thiessen 1949:329-330)

These sound like contradictory positions and could have the potential for a cry of foul, ‘Your Bible is presenting conflicting positions. It can’t be believed’. Thiessen rightfully does not see the situation that way:

His death secured for all men a delay in the execution of the sentence against sin, space for repentance, and the common blessings of life which have been forfeited by transgression; it removed from the mind of God every obstacle to the pardon of the penitent and restoration of the sinner, except his wilful opposition to God and rejection of him; it procured for the unbeliever the powerful incentives to repentance presented in the Cross, by means of the preaching of God’s servants, and through the work of the Holy Spirit; it provided salvation for those who die in infancy, and assured its application to them; and it makes possible the final restoration of creation itself (Thiessen  1949:330).

Conrad Hilario of Xenos Christian Fellowship provided this penetrating assessment of limited atonement and concluded that it is not a biblical doctrine: ‘For Whom Did Jesus Die? Evaluating Limited Atonement’.

We know that Christ died for the whole world of sinners as it is affirmed in these verses

  • ‘behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world‘ (John 1:29 ESV);
  • ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).
  • ‘who gave himself a ransom for all‘ (1 Tim. 2:6);
  • ‘for the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people‘ (Titus 2:11);
  • ‘that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone‘ (Heb. 2:9);
  • ‘but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance‘ (2 Pet. 3:9);
  • ‘and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world‘ (1 John 2:2).

Therefore, we know from these verses that …
World = whoever = all = all people = everyone = the whole world.

See,

3. Is there any kind of grace from God that is extended to all people?

Grace Candle

(image courtesy ChristArt)

I already have addressed this topic in another article, ‘Is prevenient grace still amazing grace?’ Let’s check out the Scriptures. I find that prevenient grace is still amazing grace for these biblical reasons:[9]

a. God must take the initiative if human beings are to be saved to enjoy eternal life. God’s common grace will not bring people to salvation. That God took the initiative in salvation is shown by what he did with Adam & Eve after the fall into sin (Gen. 3:8-9). Even after they became fallen human beings, they were still able to hear the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden and the Lord God called on the man and that man was able to hear God – even though ‘totally depraved’ (this terminology is much later language than the era of the original Fall).

b. We know this from the teachings of Isa. 59:15-16 and John 15:16. Paul told us in Rom. 2:4 that God’s kindness was designed to lead people to repentance.

c. In accepting prevenient grace, I understand that God, in his amazing grace, has made it possible for all people to be saved (e.g. 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:2; Titus 2:11). With Titus 2:11, this amazing grace of God has appeared ‘bringing salvation for all people’ (ESV) or ‘the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men’ (NIV).

d. The result is that the human will is freed in relation to salvation. This is what is implied in the OT and NT exhortations to turn to God (see Prov. 1:23; Isa. 31:6; Matt. 18:3; Acts 3:19), to repent (1 Kings 8:47; Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38; 17:30), and to believe (2 Chron 20:20: Isa 43:10; John 6:29; 14:1; Acts 16:31; Phil 1:29; 1 John 3:23).

e. We must remember what this means. It DOES NOT mean that prevenient grace makes it possible for a human being to change the permanent bent/nature of his will in favour of God. It does not mean that a person can stop sinning in the natural and make herself/himself acceptable to God. It does mean that a person can make an initial response to God (as with Adam & Eve) and God can give repentance and faith. God can say as he stated in Jeremiah 31:18, “Bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the Lord my God”. Or, “Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us” (Ps. 85:4). God does it, but not without ‘restore us again” or “bring me back”. This truly is amazing grace. If we can say this, God has granted us a measure of freedom to respond to him – truly amazing grace. This means that in some way God has enabled us to act contrary to our fallen nature. If we will say this much, ‘bring me back’, God will grant a person repentance (“Acts 5:32; 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25) and faith (Rom. 12:3; 2 Peter 1:1).

f. God’s amazing prevenient grace has enabled human beings to have this opportunity to respond to God. It is a resistible grace, but God has enabled the will to respond to Him.

g. So prevenient grace is amazing, common, God-sent grace.

Henry Thiessen describes prevenient grace as common grace: ‘We hold that common grace is extended to all, and that every one has the ability restored to him to ‘will and to do His will.’ The salvation-bearing grace of God has appeared to all men; but some receive the grace of God in vain. It seems to us that only if God makes the same provisions for all and makes the same offers to all, is He truly just’ (Thiessen 1949:347; emphasis added).

This is what Norman Geisler wrote in 1986:

Irresistible force used by God on his free creatures would be a violation of both the charity of God and the dignity of humans. God is love. True love never forces itself on anyone. Forced love is rape, and God is not a divine rapist (Geisler 1986:69)

His language in 1999 when discussing hell was,

God’s Love Demands a Hell. The Bible asserts that “God is love” (1 John 4:16). But love cannot act coercively, only persuasively. A God of love cannot force people to love him. Paul spoke of things being done freely and not of compulsion (2 Cor. 9:7). Forced loved (sic) is not love; it is rape. A loving being always gives “space” to others. He does not force himself upon them against their will. As C. S. Lewis observed, “the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of his scheme forbids him to use. Merely to override human will … would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo” (Lewis, Screwtape Letters, 38). Hence, those who do not choose to love God must be allowed not to love him. Those who do not wish to be with him must be allowed to be separated from him. Hell allows separation from God (Geisler 1999:311).

Now that kind of language will get some Calvinists to oppose Norm Geisler when he calls the God of ‘irresistible’ to be a ‘divine rapist’ because ‘forced love is rape’.

See also, ‘How does grace work in Arminian-Wesleyan theology?

4. Regeneration coinciding with faith

Born Again

(image courtesy ChristArt)

See my article, ‘Does regeneration precede faith in Christian salvation?

H. There are some practical implications

1. It can zap motivation for evangelism

The Lost

(image courtesy ChristArt)

One Orthodox Presbyterian Church pastor[10] asked a good question, ‘Does Calvinism nullify evangelism?’ His response was:

But it is important to recognize that the God of the Bible ordains not only the end (salvation) but also the means to the end (the proclamation of the gospel)….

The ordinary means by which God gathers his people is through their hearing and believing the gospel message. In Romans 1:16, Paul declares that he is not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. In Romans 10:13, he states that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Then he adds, “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!’ ” (Rom. 10:14-15 NASB)….

Why am I, a Calvinist, so passionate about evangelism? Several reasons immediately spring to mind. First, my Lord Jesus Christ commands me to do so (Mark 16:15). Second, given that my chief duty (and delight) is to glorify God, I am moved by the fact that the Father is honored whenever the Son is honored. The supreme means of honoring the Father is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ (John 5:22-23)! Third, I know that when the nonelect reject the gospel, as they are wont to do, preaching leaves them all the more without excuse when they receive the condemnation they justly deserve. And last, I know that God brings his elect to himself through the preaching of the gospel.

It is important to remember that Calvinism does not need to quash evangelism as we know from James Kennedy, the originator of the evangelistic program, Evangelism Explosion. He was the pastor of a church in a denomination that is known for its Calvinism, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Nevertheless, one five-point Calvinist, Phil Johnson, was concerned about the impact of the rise of hyper-Calvinism on evangelism. He wrote:

Many modern hyper-Calvinists salve themselves by thinking their view cannot really be hyper-Calvinism because, after all, they believe in proclaiming the gospel to all. However, the “gospel” they proclaim is a truncated soteriology [doctrine of salvation] with an undue emphasis on God’s decree as it pertains to the reprobate. One hyper-Calvinist, reacting to my comments about this subject on an e-mail list, declared, “The message of the Gospel is that God saves those who are His own and damns those who are not.” Thus the good news about Christ’s death and resurrection is supplanted by a message about election and reprobation—usually with an inordinate stress on reprobation. In practical terms, the hyper-Calvinist “gospel” often reduces to the message that God simply and single-mindedly hates those whom He has chosen to damn, and there is nothing whatsoever they can do about it.
clip_image001Deliberately excluded from hyper-Calvinist “evangelism” is any pleading with the sinner to be reconciled with God. Sinners are not told that God offers them forgiveness or salvation. In fact, most hyper-Calvinists categorically deny that God makes any offer in the gospel whatsoever.
clip_image001[1]The hyper-Calvinist position at this point amounts to a repudiation of the very gist of 2 Corinthians 5:20: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” The whole thrust of the gospel, properly presented, is to convey an offer (in the sense of a tender, a proffer, or a proposal) of divine peace and mercy to all who come under its hearing. The apostle’s language is even stronger, suggesting the true gospel preacher begs sinners to be reconciled to God—or rather he stands “in Christ’s stead,” pleading thus with the sinner. Hyper-Calvinism in essence denies the concept of human responsibility, and so it must eliminate any such pleading, resulting in a skewed presentation of the gospel.[11]

So Phil Johnson can see how a certain form of Calvinism can have a detrimental effect on how the gospel is presented in evangelism by this hyper-Calvinistic group. His warning needs to be taken seriously that for this group, ‘the good news about Christ’s death and resurrection is supplanted by a message about election and reprobation – usually with an inordinate stress on reprobation’. When election and reprobation replace the gospel call of all to come to Christ, Calvinistic doctrine has detrimentally affected the nature of evangelism.

Vincent Cheung, a hyper-Calvinist, leaves no doubt about how his Calvinism affects evangelism:

It is wrong and sinful to preach the gospel as if there is a chance for even the non-elect to obtain faith and be saved, as if God is sincerely telling them that he desires their salvation and that they could be saved (Luke 10:21; John 6:65).  We do not know the precise content of God’s decree in election (as in who are the elect and who are the non-elect), and so we must not act as if we know.  However, it does not follow that we should speak as if election is false when we preach the gospel.

Instead, in our message, we must make it clear that God seriously commands every person, whether elect or non-elect, to believe the gospel, thus making it every person’s moral obligation to believe – those who do will be saved, and those who do not will be damned.  But we must not present this as a “sincere offer” of salvation from God to even the non-elect.[12]

Thus, there are Calvinists who state clearly how their theology affects evangelism and the gospel call.

I suggest that you read this article from SBC Today (25 September 2012), ‘Some Calvinists are not evangelistic just like some traditionalists are not evangelistic’. However, there was a Calvinism Committee within the Southern Baptists that was concerned about the extremes of Calvinism and Arminianism and their impact on evangelism and the salvation of the sinner. Part of the report to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President, Frank Page, in June 2013 stated:

Both sides of the theological divide [Calvinism and Arminianism], the report says, have extremes that should be rejected.
“We must stand together in rejecting any form of hyper-Calvinism that denies the mandate to present the offer of the Gospel to all sinners or that denies the necessity of a human response to the Gospel that involves the human will. Similarly, we must reject any form of Arminianism that elevates the human will above the divine will or that denies that those who come to faith in Christ are kept by the power of God. How do we know that these positions are to be excluded from our midst? Each includes beliefs that directly deny what The Baptist Faith and Message expressly affirms.”
SBC leaders, entities, churches and even prospective ministers all have a role in ensuring that a debate over Calvinism does not divide the denomination, the report says (Foust 2013).

Why was this Report commissioned? ‘The advisory team — not an official committee of the convention — was assembled by Page in August 2012 to advise him on developing “a strategy whereby people of various theological persuasions can purposely work together in missions and evangelism”. The committee was composed of Calvinists and non-Calvinists from different walks of life in the convention’ (Foust 2013).

One news report from Associated Press stated:

Is God’s saving grace free to anyone who accepts Jesus, or did God predestine certain people for heaven and hell before the beginning of the world? That’s a 500-year-old question, but it is creating real divisions in 2013 in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination….

The Lifeway poll also found that 61 percent of pastors were concerned about the impact of Calvinism on the SBC.

Evangelism is a huge focus of Southern Baptist life and some non-Calvinists worry that the belief in predestination is incompatible with spreading the gospel.

“People involved will always say, ‘If you believe in Calvinism, you don’t believe in evangelism. If you believe everything is predetermined, why even bother to preach the gospel?” Kidd [Thomas Kidd, professor of history, Baylor University) said. “But as it turns out, Calvinists have never acted that way in the Southern Baptist Convention” (Loller 2013).

2. ‘God will bring them in’

I was in personal conversation with a Calvinist, Presbyterian pastor, at one time and asked why there was no active, overt evangelism taking place in his church. His immediate response was, ‘God will bring em in’. Not one ounce of evangelism was promoted by that church, but still ‘God will bring em in’ – as that church continues to lose members and is diminishing in size. I find this to be an abominable excuse, but it is consistent with the view of Calvinism I have expounded above that has the potential to close people down in their evangelistic activities.

There is a further issue that was raised by a forum supervisor when I stated, ‘The God who shows partiality by dying for some but not for all is the kind of Calvinistic God of injustice I’m talking about’. My chastisement stated that by this kind of statement I was inferring that Calvinists were not Christian. Is that so?

I. Are these Calvinists Christians?

Let me be clear up front. I have never stated nor inferred that Calvinists are not Christian. That’s a false allegation. My position is that they are teaching a false view of the nature of God’s justice and impartiality. I consider it is false teaching about unconditional election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace.

However, they are most certainly Christian because they believe in salvation by grace through Christ alone. Here are a few samples:

3d-red-star-small  Wayne Grudem (1999:321),

Faith is an instrument to obtain justification, but it has no merit in itself…. Justification comes after saving faith. Paul makes this sequence clear when he says, “We have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified (Gal. 2:16). Here Paul indicates that faith comes first and it is for the purpose of being justified….Scripture never says that we are justified because of the inherent goodness of our faith, as if our faith has merit before God. It never allows us to think that our faith in itself earns favor with God. Rather, Scripture says that we are justified “by means of” our faith, understanding faith to be the instrument through which justification is given to us, but not at all an activity that earns us merit or favor with God. Rather, we are justified solely because of the merits of Christ’s work (Romans 5:17-19)’ [emphasis in original].

3d-red-star-small Matt Slick,

Justification is by faith.  True faith is God’s work (John 6:28-29), granted by God (John 1:29), and is concurrent with regeneration (2 Cor. 5:17), which God works in us by his will (John 1:13).  This result of this justification and regeneration is that the sinner turns from his sin and towards doing good works.  But it is not these works that earn our place with God nor sustain it.  Jesus accomplished all that we need to be saved and stay saved on the cross.  All that we need, we have in Jesus.  All we need to do to be saved, to be justified, is to truly believe in what God has done for us in Jesus on the cross; this is why the Bible says we are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1).  This true belief with justification before God and regeneration in the new believer, results in good works.[13]

3d-red-star-small Ligonier Ministries (the teaching fellowship of R C Sproul) and John Calvin,

John Calvin comments, “If it be the office of Christ to save what was lost, they who reject the salvation offered in him are justly suffered to remain in death.” Scripture teaches universalism when it comes to humanity’s fallenness, but it does not teach universalism regarding salvation. Redemption is limited to those who are in Christ — those who rest on Him alone for salvation and prove this faith by putting His words into practice (1 Cor. 15:22).[14]

3d-red-star-small J I Packer

How are believers saved? Packer wrote that salvation is ‘through Christ, and in Christ…. Our salvation involves, first, Christ dying for us and, second, Christ living in us (John 15:4; 17:26; Col. 1:27) and we living in Christ, united with him in his death and risen life (Rom. 6:3-10; Col. 2:12, 20; 3:1)…. Rather, we should live in light of the certainty that anyone may be saved if he or she will but repent and put faith in Christ (Packer 1993:149, 151).

While I differ markedly in my understanding of God’s attributes of justice and impartiality with Calvinists, I regard them as fellow Christians. I have considerable difficulty with their doctrines regarding election, atonement, and grace leading to salvation, but I enthusiastically endorse them as brothers and sisters in Christ as long as they maintain salvation through Christ alone. I will continue to challenge their teachings that differ with Scripture in these areas. Never let it be said that I do not regard these people as Christians in the body of Christ with me. There is absolutely no statement or inference in what I write that states they are not Christian.

J. Conclusion

Much of this discussion would be unnecessary if there was a general consensus on the freedom of the will within evangelical Christians. Such agreement is not there. For affirmation of freedom of the will, see: Ransom Dunn, “A discourse on the freedom of the will’.

My conclusion, based on the above assessment, is that the God of Calvinism is one who plays favourites, is discriminatory towards a large section of humanity today and has been throughout history. The Calvinistic God promotes injustice and partiality, which are contrary to the nature of the Lord God Almighty revealed in the Christian Scriptures. He is not the God I choose to worship. The biblical revelation reveals the true nature of God as one who is righteous, just and loving towards ALL human beings.

This means that the biblical view of God is:

  • God’s election of human beings to salvation is based on his foreknowledge of how they, using their free will, respond to the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone when it is preached or shared.
  • Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. Thus, his atonement is universal or unlimited.
  • Prevenient or common grace is provided to all human beings to enable them to respond in faith to the Gospel.
  • Christians are born again – regenerated – simultaneously when they, by faith, receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

This is my understanding of these teachings of biblical Christianity, which are in contrast to the views of Calvinism that promote an unjust God.

K. For your consideration

See my article,

L. Bibliography

Allen, D L & Lemke, S W (ed). Whosoever will: A biblical-theological critique of five-point Calvinism. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic.

Calvin, J n d. Commentary on the Gospel according to John, vol 1. Tr from Latin by W Pringle. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/comment3/comm_vol34/htm/i.htm (Accessed 4 July 2013).

Foust, M 2013, Calvinism committee issues report, urges SBC to ‘stand together’ for Great Commission, May 31. Baptist Press, available at: http://bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=40419 (Accessed 7 July 2013).

Geisler, N 1986. God knows all things, in D Basinger & R Basinger (eds), Predestination & free will, 61-98. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Geisler, N 1999. Hell, in N Geisler, Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics, 310-315. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Grudem, W 1999. J Purswell (ed), Bible doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

Hodge, C 1979 reprint. Systematic theology (in 3 vols). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Kistemaker, S J 1986. New Testament commentary: Exposition of James, epistles of John, Peter, and Jude. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Loller, T 2013. 500 years later, theological debate over Calvinism still simmers among Southern Baptists. Associated Press, Daily Journal, 7 June. Available at: http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/story/9c64374dcfce4d88a756dc96e7750f37/US-REL–Southern-Baptists-Calvinism/http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/story/9c64374dcfce4d88a756dc96e7750f37/US-REL–Southern-Baptists-Calvinism/ (Accessed 7 July 2013).

Olson, R E 2006. Arminian theology: Myths and realities. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Packer, J I 1993. Concise theology. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers.

Pink, A W 1961. The sovereignty of God, rev ed. Edinburgh/Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust.

Sproul, R C n d. Regeneration precedes faith. Available at Monergism, at: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/sproul01.html (Accessed 4 July 2013).

Sproul, R C 1992. Essential truths of the Christian faith. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes:


[1] Weston Gentry 2012. As Baptists prepare to meet, Calvinism debate shifts to heresy accusation, Christianity Today, 18 June. Available at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/juneweb-only/baptists-calvinism-heresy.html (Accessed 6 July 2013).

[2] Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV) of Scripture.

[3] Wayne Grudem’s Bible Doctrine Book Review by Eric Landstrom ©2001, Available at: http://www.ovrlnd.com/Book_Reviews/Grudem_doctrine.html (Accessed 3 July 2013).

[4] ‘What is CARM’s position on Calvinism?’, available at: http://carm.org/carm-calvinism (Accessed 3 July 2013).

[5] ‘What is CARM’s position on Calvinism?’ available at: http://carm.org/carm-calvinism (Accessed 3 July 2013).

[6] ‘What is CARM’s position on Calvinism?’ available at: http://carm.org/carm-calvinism (Accessed 3 July 2013).

[7] This is from Calvin’s commentary on John 1:6-13, available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/comment3/comm_vol34/htm/vii.ii.htm (Accessed 4 July 2013).

[8] This Calvinist was participating in an online discussion at Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Good News, Really?’, griff #273, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7711171-28/#post62087962 (Accessed 1 January 2013; emphases in original).

[9] With considerable help from Thiessen (1949:155-156).

[10] Bill Welzien 2001, Calvinism and Evangelism, July. Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Available at: http://www.opc.org/new_horizons/NH01/07b.html (Accessed 5 July 2013).

[11] Phillip R Johnson 1998, A primer on hyper-Calvinism. Available at: http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/hypercal.htm (Accessed 5 July 2013).

[12] Vincent Cheung on Calvinism and evangelism, June 28, 2011. The ‘sincere offer’ of the Gospel, Countering the rise in Calvinism, available at: http://counteringcalvinism.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/vincent-cheung-on-calvinism-and-evangelism/ (Accessed 5 July 2013).

[13] Matt Slick, ‘Verses showing justification by faith’, CARM, available at: http://carm.org/verses-showing-justification-by-faith (Accessed 6 July 2013).

[14] Ligonier Ministries, Saved through Christ alone, available at: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/saved-through-christ-alone/ (Accessed 6 July 2013).
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 30 April 2016.

Has the evidence for climate change been concealed, censored or ignored?

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

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Courtesy Wikipedia

By Spencer D Gear

I was shocked, surprised and encouraged to read this article in one of the main-stream media outlets in Australia, The Australian newspaper (3 July 2013) – one of our leading daily publications. It provides evidence about the smokescreen of climate change. Why don’t you take a read of Michael Newman’s evidence, ‘Climate change science has become an expensive smokescreen‘?

What is a smoke screen, smoke-screen or smokescreen? The Free Dictionary states that it is:

1. A mass of dense artificial smoke used to conceal military areas or operations from an enemy.

2. An action or statement used to conceal actual plans or intentions (‘smoke screen’, The Free Dictionary).

It is this second definition that deals with the topic of climate change and a smokescreen that Newman has raised. Has some of the climate change evidence been concealed for the Aussie populace? This article by Michael Newman provides evidence that this is so. Part of the article reads:

The voices of alarm and authority have been unable to hide the reality that, statistically, there has been no increase in global temperatures since 1997, despite an 8.3 percent rise in atmospheric CO2. For those who want to cite warming in some records, all datasets agree there has been none since 2000. In fact since 2002 a slight cooling has been observed. Who knew? Well, not the warmist scientists.

Indeed, the ABC reported: “A study forecasts that global warming will set in with a vengeance after 2009, with at least half of the following five years expected to be hotter than 1998, which was the warmest year on record.” Wrong. Even recent claims of an “angry” Australian summer were not validated by satellite data.

Roy Spencer, from the University of Alabama, compared 73 warming predictions to actual data across 34 years. Ending in 2012, he found an extraordinary discrepancy between what the models predicted and the actual observations of satellites and balloons. The predictions were all strongly biased to the upside. As he commented, “I frankly don’t see how the IPCC can keep claiming that the models ‘are not inconsistent with the observations’. Any sane person can see otherwise.”

Scientists have long searched for a “hot spot” in the atmosphere. When it could not be found, some said it must be in the oceans. Yet, since the deployment in 2003 of 3000 Argo floats (the acme of ocean temperature measurement), researchers still haven’t found it.

Newman’s observation is that

Scientists have long searched for a “hot spot” in the atmosphere. When it could not be found, some said it must be in the oceans. Yet, since the deployment in 2003 of 3000 Argo floats (the acme of ocean temperature measurement), researchers still haven’t found it.

While CO2 may be a greenhouse gas, it seems that natural forces dominate climate change, not mankind’s emissions. Henrik Svensmark’s theory of cosmoclimatology (the role of cosmic rays) may be right.

Courtesy Wikipedia

Maurice Newman, a former chairman of the Australian Securities Exchange and the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission), is not the only person raising issues of the climate change smokescreen. On June 10, 2013, also in The Australian, David Uren wrote an article, ‘Sceptics put heat on climate change’. Here, he reveals some Aussie attitudes towards climate change:

CLIMATE change sceptics outnumber believers, according to an OECD study that shows how the debate has sharply divided Australians

The study into household attitudes towards the environment shows Australians are more sceptical than any of the other 10 nations examined, with the exception of The Netherlands.

It shows 45 per cent of Australians think environmental dangers are exaggerated and are reluctant to pay for government environmental policies.

In contrast, 42 per cent of Australians believe the environmental challenges are real and think the government should take action, which they are prepared to pay for even if the amount is not matched by other nations.

The OECD study identifies a third group of people who believe that environmental dangers are real, but thinks technological progress will resolve them. This group is about 10 per cent of the Australian population.

In Canada, Sweden and France, more than half the population is motivated by environmental concerns, while less than 40 per cent are sceptical (emphasis in original).

But there are those who challenge the climate change denial and examine the social science behind denial. One example is Haydn Washington and John Cook 2011. Climate change denial. London/New York: Earthscan (Routledge).

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Courtesy Routledge

The publisher’s description of the book is:

Humans have always used denial. When we are afraid, guilty, confused, or when something interferes with our self-image, we tend to deny it. Yet denial is a delusion. When it impacts on the health of oneself, or society, or the world it becomes a pathology. Climate change denial is such a case. Paradoxically, as the climate science has become more certain, denial about the issue has increased. The paradox lies in the denial. There is a denial industry funded by the fossil fuel companies that literally denies the science, and seeks to confuse the public. There is denial within governments, where spin-doctors use ‘weasel words’ to pretend they are taking action. However there is also denial within most of us, the citizenry. We let denial prosper and we resist the science.

Climate Change Denial explains the social science behind denial. It contains a detailed examination of the principal climate change denial arguments, from attacks on the integrity of scientists, to impossible expectations of proof and certainty to the cherry picking of data. Climate change can be solved – but only when we cease to deny that it exists. This book shows how we can break through denial, accept reality, and thus solve the climate crisis. It will engage scientists, university students, climate change activists as well as the general public seeking to roll back denial and act.

See also ‘Global Warming & Climate Change Myths’ from Skeptical Science.

Are there others who question the climate change views being promoted so widely? See Wikipedia’s ‘List of scientists opposing the mainstream scientific assessment of global warming’. This article includes a list of ‘Scientists arguing that global warming is primarily caused by natural processes’. Some of these scientists include:

So, Maurice Newman’s timely article in The Australian raises some issues of concern for all of us regarding the evidence against artificially created climate change that may have been presented to the public as a smoke screen.
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.