Archive for August, 2013

Is homosexual life expectancy lower than for heterosexuals?

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

Courtesy Wikipedia

By Spencer D Gear

I read an article online from news.com.au, ‘EXCLUSIVE: Libs in preference crisis in Lindsay over gay comment‘.[1] Here it stated:

THE Liberal Party has scrapped a preference deal with the Christian Democratic Party in the must-win seat of Lindsay after a candidate described gay men as having a “lower life span” than heterosexual males.

The decision to dump the CDP’s Andrew Green is a blow to the hopes of Liberal Party hopeful Fiona Scott, who had earlier struck a preference deal with Fred Nile’s religious party.

But after being alerted to Mr Green’s inflammatory remarks – made at a public forum last week – the NSW Liberal Party last night said it “will be amending” the CDP swap deal.

Mr Green, the 55-year-old CDP candidate for the western Sydney seat, shocked the public audience with his remarks, and was yesterday unable to cite his source.

The church pastor made his comments during a debate on gay marriage at a candidate’s forum in the western Sydney seat.

Why didn’t news.com.au do its own research to discover the data that is backing what Christian Democratic Party’s (CDP) candidate for the seat of Lindsay,  Andrew Green, stated?

Research shows that life expectancy rates are lower for the homosexual men than for heterosexual men. That’s what research has confirmed. Here are some examples of the research:

1.    ‘Modelling the Impact of HIV Disease on Mortality in Gay and Bisexual Men‘ (Robert S. Hall, et al, 1997. International Journal of Epidemiology, Vol 25, no 3, pp. 657-661). This study found that:

In a major Canadian centre, life expectancy at age 20 years for gay and bisexual men is 8 to 20 years less than for all men. If the same pattern of mortality were to continue, we estimate that nearly half of gay and bisexual men currently aged 20 years will not reach their 65th birthday. Under even the most liberal assumptions, gay and bisexual men in this urban centre are now experiencing a life expectancy similar to that experienced by all men in Canada in the year 1871.

2.    There was this information in Psychological Reports, ‘Gay obituaries closely track officially reported deaths from AIDS‘ (2005 June; 96 (3 Pt 1):693-697). It’s abstract states:

The age distribution of AIDS deaths of males who have sex with males [MSM] was estimated from obituaries in the Washington Blade, a gay newspaper. Statistics from the 2003 HIV/AIDS Surveillance Supplemental Report are highly congruent with deaths of MSM due to AIDS from these obituaries. Death due to AIDS in old age was most frequent for heterosexuals and least frequent for MSM who were drug abusers. Obituaries in the Washington Blade are thus consistent with and may be representative of deaths due to AIDS among MSM. The latest CDC [Centers for Disease Control] report tends to strengthen the overall finding based upon obituaries: that the lifespan of MSM is shortened two to three decades by AIDS and, possibly, other causes (emphasis added).

3. There is an added factor – the increase in HIV diagnosis among men having sex with men. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA has this article online, ‘HIV Among Gay and Bisexual Men‘. It outlines some of the statistics on the increased HIV infection among homosexual and bisexual men. These are:

Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) represent approximately 2% of the US population, yet are the population most severely affected by HIV. In 2010, MSM accounted for 63% of all new HIV infections, and MSM with a history of injection drug use (MSM-IDU) accounted for an additional 3% of new infections. That same year, young MSM (aged 13-24 years) accounted for 72% of new HIV infections among all persons aged 13 to 24, and 30% of new infections among all MSM. At the end of 2010, an estimated 489,121 (56%) persons living with an HIV diagnosis in the United States were MSM or MSM-IDU.

When will this news organisation get to the point of stating what the research is showing that life expectancy rates of homosexuals is less than for heterosexuals, statistics that support Andrew Green’s statement?

It’s too bad that Andrew Green didn’t have these statistics at his finger tips and quote them from a researched source. I hope this teaches him a lesson about being accurate and giving the source for his provocative statement. But they are there for any journalists to investigate, but this news source, for this article, didn’t give accurate information about the mortality rates in the homosexual community in this article. Why not?

It is abominable that the Liberals will dump his preferences and not take into account the researched truth of what Green stated.

Andrew Green hit the mark. But news.com.au did not acknowledge the accuracy of what Green stated.

Courtesy Wikipedia

Notes:


[1] Steve Lewis, News Limited Network, 21 August 2013, available at: http://www.news.com.au/national-news/federal-election/exclusive-libs-in-preference-crisis-in-lindsay-over-gay-comments/story-fnho52ip-1226700883582 (Accessed 24 August 2013).

 

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

How to destroy a Christian denomination

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

By Spencer D. Gear

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).png

Courtesy Wikipedia

If your denomination lost 100,000 members in a year, wouldn’t you think that this would be enough of a ‘hint’ to investigate why this is happening?

You may be interested to see the effect of theological liberalism on a denomination. What happens when a denomination gives up its commitment to the integrity of Scripture and seeks another view of the Bible? What is the effect of a denomination giving up its evangelical faith for something else? What happens when a denomination is promoting a politically correct agenda rather than a biblical agenda?

Take a read of what this has done and is doing to the Presbyterian Church (USA): ‘2012 statistics show dramatic decrease in PCUSA membership, congregations‘. Here you will learn that

Membership in the Presbyterian Church (USA) declined by more than 100,000 last year, according to the 2012 statistics released recently by the denomination’s Office of the General Assembly. It is the single largest annual membership decline since the PCUSA was formed in 1983….

[Mateen] Elass said that the explanation from Parsons “boils down to two things: 1) All the mainline churches are in decline; the PCUSA is a mainline church; therefore it is in decline. 2) Our culture is increasingly resistant to affiliating with religious institutions — how can we help it if people today don’t want to sign on the dotted line …? Both these reasons, whether true or not, show a desire to excuse the leadership from responsibility rather than a passion to turn things around. There are certain churches that are growing in this environment. Why not study them and invest the denomination’s significant resources in retooling itself to become a more effective proponent of the gospel? Why not return with passion to the heart of the Biblical Gospel rather than giving itself over to causes that are ancillary to the church’s true mission?”

He continued, “On the other hand, the denomination is leaking like a sieve when it comes to membership retention. The number who transferred out to other denominations by certificate was up 126 percent from 2011 (52,064 compared to 23,082). The number lost through ‘other’ means (cleaning the rolls, usually) was up about 4 percent (from 95,613 to 99,067). The only category showing a slight decrease in losses from that of 2011 was in number of deaths. This is small consolation.”

For some diagnoses of what is happening in the PC(USA), take a read of these:
designRed-small The end of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Mark Roberts
designRed-small Fighting the wrong battle in the PCUSA, Calvin Fox
designRed-small The Road to Gay Ordination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Donald Fortson III
designRed-small 13 Differences Between the PCA and the PCUSA, Andrew Webb

Mateen Elass, a former PC(USA) pastor, gave his assessment in ‘A Long Oblivion in the Same Direction’. Part of his assessment reads:

I have a few suggestions for Gradye and other PCUSA leaders seeking to reach more Americans with the gospel and reverse the decline of the denomination:

1) In the name of racial diversity, invest more effort in reaching out to white Anglo-Saxon Americans. This is still the largest segment of American society, but the group that is fleeing evangelical and mainline churches in largest numbers. On the other hand, failure to do this will at least lead the PCUSA to perhaps reach an expired GA goal of 20% minority membership by 2010. As more WASPs leave the church, and minority numbers hold steady, overall minority percentages will increase dramatically. Not what was originally envisioned, I’m sure, but hey, at least it’s a goal to check off.

2) Since Jesus said to go where the fields were white unto harvest, and since the Pew report indicates that those most likely to affiliate with religious institutions are the politically conservative, begin a top to bottom house-cleaning of social, political and economic endorsements that lean leftward, and replace them with ones that lean right. This will attract those most likely to affiliate and give you a chance to welcome larger numbers into membership. Right now, you’re pitching your message to those least likely to respond. Isn’t that a waste of time and energy?

3) Since the unaffiliated (that fastest growing segment of the younger American population) is turned off by power-grabbing, money-grubbing religious institutions, and since you obviously want to reach this segment of society, rein in all the presbyteries and synods and GA entities that are lording it over individual congregations seeking to leave the PCUSA. Instead of ignoring or secretly encouraging them as they abuse their institutional power to cause as much pain as possible and extract as much money as they can in exchange for permission to legally become part of the body of Christ in another denominational structure, why not remove the property trust clause from the Book of Order, or declare that all churches are free to leave, no strings attached, no fees assessed? Any wishing to stay will do so voluntarily, and all unaffiliateds will see that the PCUSA is in fact not a money-grubbing, power-obsessed institution. Perhaps in observing such Christian grace, they will begin flooding into the new PCUSA.

These suggestions are, of course, made with tongue in cheek, though they each contain a kernel of truth worth considering as the denomination reels with its losses.

For some of my assessment of what happens when theological liberalism invades churches and denominations, see:

blue-satin-arrow-small Is liberal theology heresy?

blue-satin-arrow-small What does historical-critical theology do to the Bible?

blue-satin-arrow-small Is theology important?

blue-satin-arrow-small Spong’s deadly Christianity

blue-satin-arrow-small John Shelby Spong & the Churches of Christ (Victoria, Australia)

blue-satin-arrow-small Spong’s swan song — at last!

blue-satin-arrow-small Why would a Presbyterian denomination reject Jesus’ atoning sacrifice as propitiation?

blue-satin-arrow-small The Gospel Distortion: A reply to John Shelby Spong

That should be enough to get you thinking about core elements of the Christian faith and what to do about spiritual surgery – cutting out the diseased stuff in any church or denomination.

First Presbyterian Church of Houston

Courtesy Wikipedia

 

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

Do angels have free will?

Friday, August 9th, 2013

By Spencer D Gear

Jacob

Jacob wrestling an angel (image courtesy ChristArt)

A friend at our Bible study group asked me this question: ‘Do angels have free will? He said that he was chastised by a member of a Christian group gathering (after the group) for saying that angels have free will. What do you believe?’

Before we pursue the ‘free will’ or otherwise of angels, we will make a brief excursus into the ministry of angels.

Who are angels and what is their ministry?

We don’t have an ABC of angelology that is provided for us in one chapter of the Bible. I’m grateful for the biblical scholars in systematic theology who have gathered the information about angels and provided an analysis for us. They’ve done the hard word and I reap their labours.

This is how we are introduced to angels as the Scriptures unfold:

3d-red-star-small Psalm 148:2, 5 (ESV):[1] ‘Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts!… Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created’;

3d-red-star-small Colossians 1:16: ‘For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him’.

3d-red-star-small Nehemiah 9:6, ‘You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you’.

3d-red-star-small Genesis 1:1, ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth’.

3d-red-star-small Genesis 2:1, ‘Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them’.

Thus we learn that angels, ‘the hosts’, were created beings. They are not eternal and they are invisible. So they are spirits but may take on physical form as we learn from Genesis 18. Hebrews 1:13-14 states: ‘And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?’ We learn from Jesus’ words after his resurrection, according to Luke 24:39, ‘See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have’.

So angels are unseen ministers of God among us. They do not have gender and never die (Matt 22:30; 25L41; Luke 20:35-36); have great wisdom and knowledge (2 Sam 14:20; Mark 13:32); exercise enormous power (Gen 19:10-11; Ps 103:20; Matt 24:31; 1 Thess 1:7; 2 Pt 2:11); have feelings (Lk 15:10) and are beings of beauty (Isa 6:1-2; Matt 28:3; 2 Cor 11:14).

For what reason are there angels? Norman Geisler (2003:479-480) has summarised their purposes as:

3d-gold-star-small To glorify God (Ps 148:2; Rev 4:11);

3d-gold-star-small To serve God (Col 1:16; Job 1:6; 2:1);

3d-gold-star-small To reflect God’s attributes (Isa 6:3; Ezek 1:5, 28);

3d-gold-star-small To learn God’s wisdom and grace (Eph 3:10; 1 Pet 1:12);

· To minister to God’s elect (Heb 1:14; Matt 18:10).

Norm Geisler summarised some further ministry of angels:

Angels come regularly as “sons of God” to present themselves before the Lord (Job 1:6; 2:1 NKJV; cf. Ps. 91:11). They are constantly seen throughout the Bible running errands for God (Gen. 18:2ff; Den. 10:1ff; Matt. 1:20-24; Luke 1:11ff.). They eventually escort believers into the presence of the Holy One (Luke 16:22). But, most fundamentally, angels are God’s servants, and all their service is for His glory. Meanwhile, some angels are assigned to fight evil angels in a cosmic spiritual warfare (Dan. 10:13-21; 12:1; cf. Eph. 6:12) [Geisler 2003:480].

What about angels and free will?

My immediate response to my friend when he asked about whether or not angels had free wills, was to say that I had not considered this issue in recent times, but we live in a free will universe where Adam has the opportunity to choose between two alternatives – from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or not to eat (see Genesis 2:16-17,’ 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’ (ESV).

The following is the result of my further investigations.

The fall of angels into sin

Evangelical theologian, Henry Thiessen, wrote the following concerning the fall of angels and the problem of the origin of evil:

Evil originated in heaven and not on earth….

There is every reason for believing that the angels were created perfect. When we come to the account of creation in Gen. 1, we are told seven times over that all that God made was good. In the last verse of this chapter we read “and God saw everything that He had made and behold it was very good.” Surely that includes the perfection of the angels in holiness when originally created. Some think that Ezekiel 28:15 refers to Satan. If this be so then he is definitely said to have been created perfect. But various Scriptures represent some of the angels as evil (Ps. 78:49; Matt. 25:41; Rev. 9:11; 12:7-9). This is because they left their own principality and proper abode (Jude 6), and sinned (2 Pet. 2:4). Satan no doubt was the leader in the apostasy. Isa. 14:12 seems to speak of him as the Day Star and the Son of the Morning and to bewail his fall. Ezek. 28:15-17 likewise seems to describe his fall. There can be no question, therefore, as to the fact that there was a definite fall for some of the angels (Thiessen 1949:194-195).

However, when did the angels fall? Thiessen continues, ‘Scripture is silent on this point; but it is clear that the fall of the angels occurred before the fall of man, since Satan entered the Garden in the form of a serpent and induced Eve to sin’ (Thiessen 1949:195).

Thiessen reached the very controversial view that Genesis 1:2 ‘represents the outcome of some great catastrophe’ and ‘the fall of the angels [came] somewhere between vss. 1 and 2…. We suggest that it occurred some time after the creation of the heavens and the earth and that it was a chief cause in bringing about the condition described in Gen. 1:2’ (Thiessen 1949:195). This is known as the Gap Theory which is explained:

The gap theory postulates that an indefinite span of time exists between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. This time span is usually considered to be quite large (millions of years) and is also reputed to encompass the so-called “geologic ages.” Proponents of the gap theory also postulate that a cataclysmic judgment was pronounced upon the earth during this period as the result of the fall of Lucifer (Satan) and that the ensuing verses of Genesis chapter 1 describe a re-creation or reforming of the earth from a chaotic state and not an initial creative effort on the part of God (Sofield 2004).

Edward Rice’s comments on Thiessen’s view were:

Gaptists[2] place the fall in a fictitious and great catastrophe after Genesis 1:1

And Gen 1:2. Thiessen prefers such folly…. In literal Bible interpretation the fall had to occur after the 6 day creation when every thing created was good, and the temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden (Rice n d:7).

Thiessen concluded that

the fall of angels was due to their deliberate, self-determined revolt against God. It was their choice of self and its interests in preference to the choice of God and His interests. If we ask what particular motive may have been back of this revolt, we seem to get several replies from Scripture. Great prosperity and beauty seem to be thrown out as possible hints in this respect. The “Tyrian king seems to symbolize Satan in Ezek. 28:11-19; and he is said to have fallen because of these things (cf. 1 Tim. 3:6). Undue ambition and the desire to surpass God seems to be another hint. The king of Babylon is charged with this ambition, and he, too, seems to symbolize Satan (Isa. 14:13, 14). It will be seen that in any case it was selfishness, discontentment with what he had and the craving to get all that anyone else had. No doubt the cause of the fall of Satan was also the cause of the fall of the other evil angels and the demons (Thiessen 1949:196, emphasis added).

Norman Geisler in his Systematic Theology, vol 2, had this heading and brief exposition:

Angels have free will
Paul spoke of Satan, who chose to rebel against God, saying, “[Do not place] a recent convert [in a position of spiritual leadership], or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6). Jude added, “Angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home – these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day ” (Jude 6). Peter noted that “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4) [Geisler 2003:478, emphasis added].

I highly recommend chapter 20 in Geisler (2003), titled, ‘The creation of spiritual creatures (angels).

Conclusion

Angels are created beings who are good and evil as a result of their choices. They are free-will, unseen beings who are ministering spirits to human beings and for the glory of God.

Works consulted

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

Rice, E G n d. Coursework for TH502 Systematic Theology II angelology, anthropology: A project submitted to Louisiana Baptist University Seminary Dean, Dr Steven R Petty, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the course TH502 Systematic Theology II. Available at: http://gsbaptistchurch.com/seminary/lbts/th502_course.pdf (Accessed 8 August 2013).

Sofield, J C 2004. The gap theory of Genesis chapter one, 5 May. Bible.org, available at: https://bible.org/article/gap-theory-genesis-chapter-one (Accessed 8 August 2013).

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

Notes:


[1] Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture is from the English Standard Version (ESV).

[2] Gaptists is a pun on Baptists who believe the Gap Theory.

 

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

‘I will beat the hell out of God’

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

By Spencer D Gear

#

OpenClipArt

It is not unusual to read of or hear about someone who turns off or away from God after a traumatic experience.

A fellow who was hurting deeply started a new thread on Christian Forums that he called, ‘lost all faith in a god’. He wrote:

My world has crashed down like a ton of bricks these last few weeks after watching my 16 year old son die a slow painful death of cancer, he suffered so much and as i am a single parent dad i was the only one to be with him and i never left his side. my faith is smashed now as i think if there is an all loving god who saves people then why not save my son ? my son was the kindest kid in the world always thinking of others and even to the end was thinking about me.

there is just no sence (sic) to this and my feeling of anger is such that if there is a god then when its my turn to die i will beat the hell out of him and make him or her or it suffer like my son did i grew up to belive (sic) in being good kind and help others in this cruel world as it is today my son was so loved and yet this kind of thing happens to many people its just all so unfair to watch others live a good happy life never knowning (sic) what its like to suffer why on earth does this go on why carnt (sic) we just leave in a peaceful world without the suffering ? and when we die then just let us die of old age without suffering ? if god is all powerful and loving and kind then surely he would have to the power to grant that to us all ? hence my faith now is smashed as i dont have the answers and never will have.[1]

How does one respond to a hurting individual, especially when he is blaming God for his teenager’s painful death from cancer? I replied:[2]

I know you are hurting deeply and nothing I can say will ease that pain.

You say that you don’t mean to anger or upset anyone, but what did you say about my Lord God?

Please consider three points:

  1. When the Lord Almighty made the universe (see Genesis 1), did he consult with you and me as to how the world is to be run? And,
  2. When Adam and Eve fell into sin (Genesis 3), they did it for you and me. They were our representatives. If we had been there, we would have disobeyed God just as they did. And what happened?
  3. What was unleashed on your son were the consequences of sin entering into the world. I have lived with a rheumatic heart condition all of my life and have had 5 open-heart, mitral and aortic valve replacement surgeries, along with a tricuspid valve repair. I know the pain of 3 bouts of rheumatic fever as a child that left me with heart problems. I cannot begin to tell you about the excruciating pain I experienced with attacks of rheumatic fever at ages 6, 10 and 12. The pain was so bad that a hoop had to be placed over my knees and ankles to prevent a sheet from resting on them. My father dropped dead of a heart attack at age 57. My dear friend suffered a massive stroke recently and entered the presence of the Lord through death. I am not immune to pain in my life, but I am not blaspheming God like you did.

Why? It is my view of God that is based on biblical revelation. God has told us why your son could experience cancer and why I suffered attacks of rheumatic fever. It is a direct consequence of Adamic sin.

Besides, you and I spend so little time during our earthly journey when compared with eternity. Where will you be spending eternity with your current view of God? Why are you blaspheming him? Do you know God personally and do you have a relationship with him?

I then encouraged him to send me a private message on the Forum and asked if he had had any grief counselling to deal with his son’s death.

Sadly, he did not respond to what I wrote and did not engage much further with others on that Forum.

How do we explain evil in our world?

See my articles:

blue-arrow-small  Did God create evil?

blue-arrow-small Is God responsible for all the evil in the world?

blue-arrow-small Isaiah 45:7: Who or what is the origin of evil?

blue-arrow-small September 11 & other tragedies: Why doesn’t God stop it?

blue-arrow-small Sinful nature or sinful environment?

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘lost all faith in a god’, desypete #1, 3 June 2012, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7661562/ (Accessed 4 June 2012).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen #11.

 

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

Fluoride, asthma and the Israeli Supreme Court

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Spencer D Gear

Dental fluorosis (Google – public domain)

Here is an issue that you may want to take up with your local Council and State Government (if you live in Australia) where States and Councils are continuing to fluoridate or allow fluoridation of the water supply.

The Israeli Supreme Court, near the beginning of August 2013, ruled against adding fluoride to the water supply because of its negative health effects. It is requiring the nation of Israel to end fluoridation by the year 2014. See the article, ‘Israeli Supreme Court Backs Work of Irish Scientist on Fluoride‘ (Hot Press, 6 August 2013).

Here is some of the evidence from this article that seems to have influenced the Israeli high court to go against Israel’s minister of health and cancel the use of fluoride in the water supplies.

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court in Israel has ruled that all public water fluoridation in the state of Israel must cease by 2014.

The court’s ruling is remarkable in that it goes even further than – and thus overturns – the decision taken earlier this year by Israel’s Minister for Health, Yael German, who had legislated for an end to mandatory fluoridation, leaving the option open to local councils to fluoridate water supplies at their own discretion. Now, however, by order of the Supreme Court, fluoridation in Israel is definitively at an end. This is regarded as a crucial victory by anti-fluoridation campaigners, especially given the close diplomatic and economic links between Israel and the US – the original home of the policy of fluoridation.

The decision is a further vindication of the work of Irish scientist Declan Waugh, who has been directly involved in the campaign to end fluoridation in Israel.

Waugh had alerted the Israeli Minister for Health to the risks associated with fluoride, outlining how within less than a decade of commencement of water fluoridation, inflammatory respiratory diseases such as asthma had increased by 100% in young adults in Israel. Since commencement of water fluoridation in Ireland in the late 1960s, the prevalence of asthma has increased by 500% – it now affects approximately half a million people and one in five children 12 years of age in this country. Ireland now has one of the highest prevalences of asthma in the world, levels that are only to be found in fluoridated countries.

“Scientific studies have clearly demonstrated that Fluoride is a pro-inflammatory agent that can contribute to all inflammatory diseases, not just asthma,” Waugh told Hot Press.

If there has been an increase of 100% in the inflammatory respiratory diseases of Israel’s youth since the commencement of fluoridation, what is fluoride in our water supply doing to Australia’s incidence of asthma and other inflammatory respiratory diseases?

Advice from the Fluoride Action Network

In this article on the FAN website, ‘Israel Will End Fluoridation in 2014, Citing Health Concerns’, it was stated:

On July 29, 2013, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that new regulations require Israel to stop adding fluoride chemicals into public water supplies in one year, reports the Fluoride Action Network (FAN).

Izun Hozer Association for Dissemination of Health Education and Yaacov Gurman petitioned Israel’s highest court, November 12, 2012, demanding that the Ministry of Health order the cessation of fluoridation because it presents health dangers and its benefits are no longer widely accepted.

A 1974 regulation mandated fluoridation throughout Israel.  But in April 2013, the Minister of Health,Yael German, created a new regulation removing that mandate.

“It must be known to you that fluoridation can cause harm to the health of the chronically ill,” including “people who suffer from thyroid problems,” German wrote in a letter addressed to doctors opposed to ending fluoridation.

The court ruled that the new regulations will not only bring an end to mandatory fluoridation in Israel in 2014 but will also put an end to any fluoridation – mandatory or voluntary.  See translation of the Court’s ruling at: http://www.fluoridealert.org/uploads/israel_supreme_ct_july2013.pdf

Paul Connett, PhD, FAN Executive Director, says, “Zealous fluoridation promoters try to convince the American public that ‘everyone drinks fluoridated water.’ But the opposite is true. An overwhelming number of countries do not fluoridate, including 97% of the European population. In fact, over half the people in the world drinking fluoridated water live in the US. We are the odd ones out.”

“Fluoridation is an outdated, unscientific, failed public health blunder,” says Connett. ”What I find remarkable here is that Health Minister German has been able to escape the unscientific belief system on fluoridation that traps so many public health bureaucracies in fluoridated countries.”

Many communities, over the last few years, stopped fluoridation in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Recently, both Wichita, Kansas and Portland, Oregon rejected fluoridation 60% to 40%. Hamilton, NZ, councilors voted 7-1 to stop 50 years of fluoridation after councilors listened to several days of testimony from those  for and against fluoridation

Windsor, Ontario, stopped 51 years of fluoridation.  Sixteen regional councils have halted or rejected fluoridation in Queensland since mandatory fluoridation was dropped there in Nov 2012.

Meanwhile, New York City Council Member Peter Vallone, Jr continues in his effort to halt fluoridation in NYC.

Research published in peer-reviewed scientific journals indicates that fluoride ingestion is ineffective at reducing tooth decay and harmful to health.  See http://www.FluorideAction.Net/issues/health

Why is it that only about 5% of the world’s population has fluoridated water supplies? There are serious effects which many in the medical and dental profession don’t seem to want to admit. Why don’t you check out what is happening in other countries around the world. Here’s a starter:

fluoride photo: fluoride is toxic m_a3b8933c01e64f12785965a4019c8e3c.jpg

(courtesy photobucket)

Fluoridation status of some countries

Despite dental pressure, 99% of western continental Europe has rejected, banned, or stopped fluoridation due to environmental, health, legal, or ethical concerns

Only about 5% of the world population is fluoridated and more than 50% of these people live in North America. The Danish Minister of Environment recommended against fluoridation in 1977 because “no adequate studies had been carried out on its long-term effects on human organ systems other than teeth and because not enough studies had been done on the effects of fluoride discharges on freshwater ecosystems.”

“In 1978, the West German Association of Gas & Water Experts rejected fluoridation for legal reasons and because ‘the so-called optimal fluoride concentration of 1 mg per L is close to the dose at which long-term damage [to the human body] is to be expected’ ” .[1]

At the time of writing this short article (7 August 2013), Moreton Regional Council, where I live, continues its forced medication of its entire people with fluoride in the water when we know the negative consequences of ingesting fluoride. See my articles:

arrow-small New Fluoride Warning for Infants

arrow-small More Fluoride Spin

arrow-small Hazardous waste put in our water as fluoride

arrow-small Anti-fluoride advocates provide ‘all sorts of wild, weird and whacky information’

arrow-small Fluoride for politicians

arrow-small Anti-Fluoride Propaganda Blitzes

Why can’t we have the benefits of freedom in our democracy and choose whether or not we want fluoride in our water?

If people want fluoride in their water supplies, they can voluntarily obtain fluoride tablets from Councils (if Councils make such available). However, forcing people to drink fluoridated water supply is not only against the spirit of freedom in our democracy, but it also is compulsorily medicating Queensland’s population with a deleterious medication over which there is no control of intake. We don’t know how much water is drunk by each person, so we do not know how much of this unauthorised ‘medicine’ is taken into the system.

For further information on the negative affects of ingested fluoride, see: The Fluoride Action Network.

Action needed

Please contact your local Councillor and State MP to advise them to act on your behalf to halt fluoridation of the water supply. You may use some of the above information.

If your Council will not remove fluoride from the water supply, I urge you to do what I have done. I have installed a reverse osmosis (RO) machine under my kitchen sink to provide fluoride-free water from just one tap in the house. This is what we use for all drinking water.

How does RO work? See the article based on its chemistry, ‘What Is Reverse Osmosis and How Does It Work?’

Notes:


[1] Quotes from: Hilleman B, “FLUORIDATION: Contention won’t go away,” Chemical and Engineering News, 1988 Aug, 66:31 (The [ ] brackets were in the original article).

 

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

Can God do anything and everything?

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

By Spencer D Gear

Volcanoe

ChristArt

It is not unusual to hear from Christians in person or on the Internet, statements like this: ‘By definition, God is omnipotent. He can do anything and everything’. [1]

Is this a true statement? Can God do absolutely anything and everything? What is the truth?[2]

The error of one Bible paraphrase

To answer that question, I recommend that we DO NOT accept this shocking paraphrase version of the Bible’s Ephesians 3:20 in The Message. It reads:

God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us (emphasis added).

What does Ephesians 3:20 actually state? It pays to check it out, not in a one-man paraphrase by Eugene Peterson (The Message), but in a committee translation of the Bible:

Open, gold leaf, glowing Bible light up a globe of the western hemisphere

(courtesy ChristArt

cubed-iron-sm Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us (ESV).

cubed-iron-sm Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us (NASB).

cubed-iron-sm Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us (KJV).

cubed-iron-sm Now to him who is able to do all things more abundantly than we desire or understand, according to the power that worketh in us (Douay-Rheims).

cubed-iron-sm Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine (NRSV).

cubed-iron-sm Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (NIV).

cubed-iron-sm Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think (NLT).

cubed-iron-sm Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine (NJB).

cubed-iron-sm Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us (NAB).

As the above committee translations, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, demonstrate, The Message paraphrase commits a very false impression and gives us a wrong translation when it begins with these words, ‘God can do anything, you know’. It is a shocking translation (paraphrase), based on the Greek text, but it gives a translation that is contrary to the teaching of Scripture about God’s actions.

‘God can do anything, you know’ – wrong!

Worm and Lace

ChristArt

In spite of this paraphrase assertion from The Message Bible, God cannot ‘do anything and everything’. To adapt this paraphrase to the truth, we must change it to read, ‘God cannot do anything, you know’. On this verse, The Message promotes false theology and a message that is contrary to the whole tenor of Scripture.

We know this because God has revealed in Scripture that this is not the case. He cannot do things that are contrary to his perfect nature. Here are examples from Scripture:

  • He ‘cannot look at wrong’ (Hab 1:13 ESV);
  • ‘He cannot deny himself’ (2 Tim 2:13);
  • ‘It is impossible for God to lie’ (Heb 6:18);
  • ‘God cannot be tempted by evil’ (Jas 1:13).

When we speak of God’s omnipotence, the biblical definition is not that He ‘can do anything and everything’ as this person has stated.

Henry C. Thiessen

Henry C Thiessen (Courtesy Wheaton College)

Henry Thiessen defines God’s omnipotence:

By the omnipotence of God we mean that He is able to do whatever he wills; but since His will is limited by His nature, this means that God can do everything that is in harmony with His perfections. There are some things that God cannot do: (1) Such as are contrary to His nature as God [examples above]…. And (2) such as are absurd or self-contradictory [examples below]….

The possession of omnipotence does not, however, imply the exercise of His power, certainly not the exercise of all His power. God can do what He wills to do; but He does not necessarily will to do anything. That is, God has power over His power; otherwise He would act of necessity and cease to be a free being. Nor does omnipotence exclude but rather imply the power of self-limitation. 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).

Wayne Grudem explains his understanding of omnipotence:

God’s omnipotence means that God is able to do all his holy will. The word omnipotence is derived from two Latin words, omni, ‘all,’ and potens, ‘powerful,’ and means ‘all-powerful’. There are no limited on God’s power to do what he decides to do…. There are, however, some things that God cannot do. God cannot will or do anything that would deny his own character. This is why the definition of omnipotence is stated in terms of God’s ability to do ‘all his holy will.’ It is not absolutely everything that God is able to do, but everything that is consistent with his character….

Although God’s power is infinite, his use of that power is qualified by his other attributes (just as all God’s attributes qualify all his actions). This is therefore another instance where misunderstanding would result if one attribute were isolated from the rest of God’s character and emphasized in a disproportionate way (Grudem 1999:98-99).

Then Grudem gives examples of what he can’t do by not lying (Tit 1:2), not tempted with evil (Jas 1:13), and can’t deny himself (2 Tim 2:13).

The omnipotence of God means that God is only able to do what He wills to do and what he wills is limited by his nature (holy character) and purposes. So God can only do all things that harmonise with the perfections of God Himself.

In Job 42:2 it is stated: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted’ ESV). Although this is an early revelation of God’s nature, it is clear that God’s doing ‘all things’ is tied to the ‘purpose of yours’. We know from elsewhere in Scripture that the purpose of God is to do what is consistent with his perfect nature.

In my understanding, there are other things that God cannot do. He can’t do what is absurd or self-contradictory. I’m thinking of examples such as creating a spirit that has material properties; making a stone that is sensitive and compassionate; developing a square circle, etc.[3]

God cannot do evil?

Because ‘God cannot be tempted by evil’ (Jas 1:13) and his character is holy (see Lev 11:44-45; Hab 1:12; Jn 17:11; Heb 12:10; 1 Pt 1:15-16; Rev 4:8), we need to define those terms of evil and holiness.

What, then, is evil or the nature of evil?

William C Williams in his article on ‘evil’ in Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology states:[4]

As a prerequisite for any discussion of evil, moral evil must be distinguished from physical or natural evil. This essay uses the term “moral evil” to include both social offenses (ethics: murder, theft) and cultic sins (those offenses aimed directly against the deity: blasphemy, idolatry). Moral evil, therefore, whether its setting be cultic or social, when carried out may be considered a sin. That cultic and ethical values were one and the same in the Hebraic mind may be illustrated by the similar penalties exacted for the severest offenses in either category (death, being cut off). Cultic values are addressed in the first four of the Ten Commandments ( Exod 20:3-11 ; Deut 5:7-15 ) and by the first of Jesus’ “Great Commandments” ( Matt 22:37-40 ; Mark 12:30 ; Luke 10:27 ; cf. Deut 6:5 ); ethics are considered in the last six of the Ten Commandments ( Exod 20:12-17 ; Deut 5:16-21 ) and by the second “Great Commandment” ( Lev 19:18 ).

Accordingly, what is morally good is not what human society decides is in its best interest, but what the revealed will of God declares. There can be no biblical ethics that stand apart from cult nor a biblical morality apart from theology. Instead, morality is defined by theology, which carries within it certain cultic affirmations and prohibitions together with the ethical. For example, the same Decalogue that declares that stealing and murder are wrong likewise forbids idolatry and blasphemy. What makes these things wrong is not some abstract quality called “the good” as sought by philosophers in time past. Instead, what constitutes social evil is what is so defined by God, and in that respect (i.e., as to why a given act is good or bad), differs little from cultic evil. There are, therefore, no grounds for the oft-repeated error wherein the “moral law” (the ethical) is in some way distinguished from the “ceremonial law” (the cultic) in Israel’s values system. There can be no such distinction! That which is ethical is right because God has declared it so; the cultic portions of the Law likewise determine what is right for the same reason. Because of this, cult and ethics often appear fused in the Bible, as in Cain’s admission of guilt for a faulty sacrifice and the murder of his brother ( Gen 4:13 ); a similar fusion of the cultic and the ethical occurs in Genesis 15:16 (“the sin of the Amorites”), where idolatry and unethical activity are considered as one.

If God is the definer of what is good ( 2 Sam 10:12 ; Mark 10:18 ; Luke 18:19 ), right ( Gen 18:25 ), and just ( Job 34:12 ), it is not surprising that the Bible never attributes moral or cultic evil to him ( Job 34:10 ). Indeed, he hates evil ( Psalm 5:6 ) and is the avenging judge who punishes those who practice it ( Isa 31:2 ; Micah 2:1 ).

On the other hand, what ethicists term physical evil (or, natural evil) is often connected with the activities of God, and thus demonstrates the importance of defining these categories before discussing the subject further. An ethicist may distinguish these two types of evil thus: (1) moral evil, which is real if any intellectual being knowingly does anything he or she ought not to have done without being compelled to do it; and (2) physical evil, which is real if some beings have suffered in situations caused by nonrational beings, or through actions of rational beings acting nonrationally.

Matthew Halstead, in my understanding, gives a satisfactory biblical understanding of the nature of evil (I recommend a read of this entire article online):

A Definition of Evil

Defining “evil” is a bit more difficult.  One might be tempted to think that citing examples of evil might be easier than producing a definition of it.  But for our purposes, this will not do.  In examining the Problem of Evil, we need some sort of definition to run with.  What, then, is evil?

There are two types of evil.  First, there is moral evil.  This is the product of an action (or inaction), which was initiated by a moral agent toward another person, who, in turn, may suffer from such action (or inaction).  An example of this would be murder, which could be defined as “active moral evil.”  By way of contrast, an example of “passive moral evil” would be watching a person drown in a bathtub, all the while not doing anything to prevent it.

The second type of evil is that of natural evil.  This is where a moral agent is not involved.  Examples of this could be earthquakes, hurricanes, or tsunamis.  Clearly, moral agents are not involved in such natural occurrences.

Halstead reaches this:

Conclusion

Sin is willful rebellion against God.  Originating within the ranks of the angelic hosts, evil sought its way into God’s image-bearers—mankind.  After having chosen to disobey God’s command, Adam and Eve (and the entire human race) experienced suffering for the first time.  Sin spread, and so suffering spread—all due to man’s choice.

But was Adam’s choice to sin a direct result of God “making” him sin?  This is certainly not the case.  If it were, then God would be the author of sin, thus making himself a sinner.  But he is not.  James reminds us that God cannot even be tempted to sin (James 1:13).

But again, was Adam’s choice to sin a result of some spontaneous, uninhibited will beyond God’s control?  This could not have been the case for reasons spelled out previously.

But how do we reconcile all of this?  Our goal as Christians should be to learn to affirm what the Bible affirms and deny what the Bible denies, for it is our highest authority.  The Bible affirms God’s sovereignty over man’s actions (Genesis 50:20), and yet at the same time the Bible denies that God is the author, or doer, of sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; James 1:13).

So somehow God is able to ordain that evil exist, all the while abstaining from any spot of sinfulness.  How all this works is a mystery.  But let there be no mistake that it works.  And that is what we have attempted to show.

Let there be hope, then.  God is in control of all things, no matter the circumstance.  This truth should give rise to joy and utter happiness in the heart of the Christian.  All things will truly work out for our good and his glory, since “our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

Soli Deo Gloria!

So evil, from a biblical perspective, has dimensions that are different from the person’s statement above that ‘evil is really nothing. It is the emptiness that is left when good is rejected. Evil “exists” because good was rejected’. The Scriptures take a very different line as Halstead has demonstrated.

The beginning of evil

How did evil commence? The Bible is very definite about the origin of evil as described in Genesis 2:16-17. Here is the temptation that was presented to the first man,

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 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” (ESV).

The future of the human race depended on what Adam, the man, did with this prohibition, ‘You shall not eat’. There were not 10 commandments or multiple laws for Adam to obey. There is just one and the whole human race was affected by what the man did here. The prohibition, ‘you shall not eat’, uses the strongest form of Hebrew prohibition, which H. C. Leupold translated to render this Hebrew grammatical construction according to its emphasis: ‘Thou must not eat’. Leupold explains of what happened when the man violated this prohibition and it happened ‘in the day’ that he did it:

For the thought actually to be expressed is the instantaneous occurrence of the penalty threatened, which is also again expressed in part by the imperfect with absolute infinitive, “dying though shalt die” = “certainly die.” This at once raises the question, “Why was this penalty not carried out as threatened?” We answer: “It was; if the Biblical concept of dying is kept in mind, as it unfolds itself ever more clearly from age to age.” Dying is separation from God. That separation occurred the very moment when man by his disobedience broke the bond of love. If physical death ultimately closes the experience, that is not the most serious aspect of the whole affair. The more serious is the inner spiritual separation. Oehler … rightly maintains: “For a fact, after the commission of sin man at once stepped upon the road of death.” The contention that the Old Testament does not know spiritual death, because it does not happen to use that very expression, is a rationalizing and shallow one, which misconstrues the whole tenor of the Old Testament….

It is a good thing to observe how definitely the account teaches that the first man was gifted with freedom of will. The moral sense must not first develope (sic) later; it is a part of the original heritage of man (Leupold 1942:128, 129).

God gave the man a symbolic representation of the knowledge of good and evil in the tree. We must never forget that Adam did not live in a sinful twenty-first century world. He was a sinless human being in a sinless world. It was in this condition that Adam, with his free will, received God’s warning, ‘You shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’. So the nature of evil in these perfect circumstances was for the first man to seek after what God prohibited.

Adam (and, thus, all human beings) made in the image of God

What would cause God to take this kind of action? We need to understand that Adam was made in God’s image (see Genesis 1:26), so Adam had the God-given ability to choose, investigate, analyse, to be rational. Being made in God’s image, it should have been obvious to this man, Adam, what was contrary to what God’s nature was and required. Genesis 1:26 states that God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’ (ESV). Leupold explained:

The double modifying phrase, “in our image, after our likeness,” requires closer study. It is in the last analysis nothing more than a phrase which aims to assert with emphasis the idea that man is to be closely patterned after his Maker….

To sum up from a slightly different angle we should like to append the thought that the spiritual and inner side of the image of God is, without a doubt, the most important one. It will hardly be safe to say that the body of man is also patterned after God, because God, being an incorporeal spirit, cannot have what we term a material body. Yet the body of man must at least be regarded as the fittest receptacle for man’s spirit and so must bear at least an analogy to the image, of God, an analogy that is so close that God and His angels choose to appear in human form when they appear to men (Strack). In fact, we are justified to go even so far as to say that whatever this man is said to have is in a far more real sense a reality in God. Here lies the basis for the propriety of all anthropomorphisms. If man has a hand, an ear, an eye, a heart, not only may these also be possessions of the Almighty; in a far truer sense such potentialities lie in God. Yet, let it be well marked, in saying this we in no sense ascribe corporeality to the Eternal One (Leupold 1942: 88, 90).

Evil must be contrasted with God’s holiness.

Holiness

Holiness is given a prominent rank among God’s attributes. We see this in examples such as:

Leviticus 11:44-45,

For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. 45 For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy (ESV).

Ezekiel 39:7,

And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned any more. And the nations shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel (ESV).

The holiness of God is also evident in other Old Testament passages: Josh 24:19; 1 Sam 6:20; Ps 22:3; Isa 40:23, and Hab 1:12. What about the NT? This emphasis is less frequent but it is certainly to be found in the NT in passages such as

1 Peter 1:15-16,

but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (ESV).

See also John 17:11; Heb 12:10, and Rev. 4:8. God’s throne is established on the basis on his holiness as Psalm 47:8 affirms: ‘God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne’. This emphasis also is found in Psalm 89:14 and 97:2.

But what is holiness?

By the holiness of God we mean that He is absolutely separate from and exalted above all His creatures, and that He is equally separate from moral evil and sin. In the first sense His holiness is not really an attribute that is coordinate with the other attributes, but is rather coextensive with them all. It denotes the perfection of God in all that He is. In the second sense it is viewed as the eternal conformity of His being and His will. In God we have purity of being before purity of willing. God does not will the good because it is good, nor is the good good because God wills it; else where would be a good above God or the good would be arbitrary and changeable. Instead, God’s will is the expression of his nature, which is holy.

Holiness occupies the foremost rank among the attributes of God (Thiessen 1949:128-129).

Conclusion

So, this evil action that Adam performed was the opposite of a good action, from God’s perspective. As we saw (above), this choice was against the very nature of the absolute holiness of God. In choosing against God, Adam would be adopting actions contrary to God’s instructions (disobedience), but the choice was utter contamination (evil) with the ultimate consequence of death – death as defined by God.

The contamination of sin which emanated from Adam polluted the whole human race. We see this demonstrated in these scriptural statements:

designRed-small Job 15:14, ‘What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous? (ESV)

designRed-small Psalm 51:5, ‘Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

designRed-small Jeremiah 17:9, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?’

designRed-small Romans 3:9-18, ‘What then? Are we Jews[a] any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15  “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

designRed-small Romans 3:23, ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’.

designRed-small Romans 6:23, ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’.

So the Bible speaks of evil in terms of sin. And sin is both an internal condition, emanating from Adam, and a situation of committing acts against God’s law. God cannot do everything and anything. He can only make decisions that are consistent with his holiness. Therefore, evil actions cannot be part of God’s regime. That does raise the issue of God’s judgment and evil. However, since God by nature cannot commit sin and evil, all of his judgments are consistent with his holiness and justice/righteousness.

Works consulted

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

Leupold, H C 1942. Exposition of Genesis, vol 1 (online). London: Evangelical Press. Available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/leupold/genesis.iii.html?bcb=right (Accessed 6 August 2013).

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

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘Why does evil exist? – moved from the Philosophy forum’, juvenissun #4, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7764645/#post63863104 (Accessed 6 August 2013).

[2] I presented some of this information in ibid., OzSpen #10.

[3] This is based on Thiessen (1949: 126).

[4] I recommend a full read of this excellent article.

 

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

Why would a Presbyterian denomination reject Jesus’ atoning sacrifice as propitiation?

Monday, August 5th, 2013

Presbyterian cross (image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

Why would a couple of hymn writers not change their lyrics for Presbyterians?

According to this news item from ABC News (USA), 31 July 2013, ‘Hymn writers won’t change lyric for Presbyterians‘, the Presbyterian Church (USA) was wanting to change lyrics that deleted Christ’s propitiation to replace it with the love of God. This is the change that PCUSA was wanting. It wanted to change the words, ‘On that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied’ to ‘the love of God was magnified’. The ‘hymn writers Keith Getty and Stuart Townend refused to change the lyrics’.

I posted this link to Christian Forums with my comment that I understand the Presbyterian Church USA has a strong theological liberal dimension, but this story just about tops it all for me to show how far off the biblical base this denomination has become in its Christology. Is this denomination not advocating a move away from biblical truth about the atonement?[1]

A PCUSA member replied. Part of that reply was:

Historically there are a number of different theological descriptions of the atonement. The early Church, and today’s Eastern Church, didn’t accept penal satisfaction. My understanding of Calvin is that he didn’t have a single theory of the atonement, but most often used something based on the beginning of Rom 6.

Here’s the PCUSA’s most recent detailed confession of faith: A Declaration of Faith – Introduction. This confession was adopted by the GA but was not made part of the constitution. There is a slightly later one that was, but it’s not as detailed. I think they’re consistent in approach, so it makes sense to look at the longer Declaration when you want more specifics. Note that this confession tends to stick with Biblical terminology, including its description of the atonement. My understanding is that it doesn’t mandate any particular theory of the atonement, an approach that I think is wise.

We certainly believe that Jesus died for us. We don’t assert, and many (it begins to appear most) of our members don’t believe, that he died because God couldn’t forgive us without someone of infinite value dying. That is not a Scriptural doctrine.

This controversy goes back to the late 19th Cent, so I doubt many here have first-hand experience of its origin. Wikipedia has a reasonable article on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundame…st_Controversy. Despite the title, this article is mostly about the early 20th Cent Presbyterian debates. I don’t think there’s been a significant change between 1903 and now, but there has been a departure of folks who want to stick with 16th and 17th Cent theology, and that has probably shifted the balance. My understanding of the 1903 revision of the Westminster Confession is that it effectively rejects double predestination.[2]

Then he replied in more detail. Here is part of what he wrote (I recommend a complete read of the content of this post by Hendrick):

There are of course different varieties of liberalism, as there are different varieties of conservatism. I am a “sola scriptura” liberal, meaning that I’m committed to a Scriptural theology. There are liberals who for reasons that I can explain aren’t as strongly committed as I am to Scripture. From being a Presbyterian and looking at discussions within the Church, I would say that almost all of the PCUSA is liberal in the sense of accepting the best current understanding of Scripture, not in the sense of having abandoned it as an authority. When you see conservative Presbyterians attacking the majority of the Church for “abandoning Scripture”, don’t take that seriously. What they have abandoned is certain traditional understandings of what Scripture says, because the best evidence is that those understandings aren’t in accordance with the intent of the authors. There certainly are Christians who have given up on Scripture. I don’t believe most of the PCUSA falls into that category. (In fact one reason I’m a Presbyterian is precisely because I believe the PCUSA follow Scripture, and that its preaching is typically Scriptural.)

There are four confessional documents from 1967 and later. See Presbyterian Creedal Standards. There is also a resource paper accepted by the GA on scripture, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – Resources – Presbyterian Understanding and Use of Holy Scripture. I believe the general view is expressed by the Declaration of Faith:

33 Led by the Spirit of God
34 the people of Israel and of the early church
35 preserved and handed on the story
36 of what God had said and done in their midst
37 and how they had responded to him.
38 These traditions were often shaped and reshaped
39 by the uses to which the community put them.
40 They were cherished, written down, and collected
41 as the holy literature of the people of God.

I think a reasonable summary is that God revealed himself by what he did with Israel and with Christ. Scripture is a human witness to that revelation.

Because that is God’s only public revelation, we accept it as our primary way of knowing God, and as authoritative. However as human documents, we understand them in light of historical and literary scholarship.[3]

My response[4]

I read his post thoroughly but I did not see anything that would indicate that the PC(USA) believed in vicarious atonement of Christ for our sins and that his death propitiated the wrath of God. Surely this lack is what led to rejecting this statement from the song in my original post, ‘On that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied’ and wanting to replace it with ‘the love of God was magnified’. This sure sounds to me like the PC(USA)’s rejection of Christ’s propitiation.

While I admit that to define ‘theological liberalism’ or ‘modernism’ can become a slippery topic, it does represent a major shift in theological thinking in the church, led by theological colleges and seminaries.

Critical realism

At the outset, I need to state that I am essentially a critical realist in my epistemology. Tom (N T) Wright has described this:

I propose a form of critical realism. This is a way of describing the process of ‘knowing’ that acknowledges the reality of thing known, as something other than the knower (hence realism), whilst also fully acknowledging that the only access we have to this reality lies along the spiralling path of appropriate dialogue or conversation between the knower and thing known(hence ‘critical). This path leads to critical reflection on the products of our enquiry into ‘reality’, so that our assertions about ‘reality’ acknowledge their own provisionality. Knowledge, in other words, although in principal concerning realities independent of the mid of the knower, is never itself independent of the knower (Wright 1992:35).

Why I am not a theological liberal

Roger Olson wrote an article that he titled, ‘Why I am not a “liberal Christian”’. I am in essential agreement with many of the emphases of this article in explaining theological liberalism to which he and I speak and reject. Olson wrote:

Gary Dorrien, professor of theology at Union Theological Seminary and author of a magisterial three volume history of liberal theology in America, defines liberal religion as rejection of any authority outside the self. However, when I read his three volume history of liberal theology in America I discern that all these theologians have one thing in common—recognition of the authority of “modern thought” alongside or above Scripture and tradition….

Liberal theologian Delwin Brown describes the essence of liberal Christianity as granting authority to “the best of contemporary thought” in his dialogue/debate with Clark Pinnock entitled Theological Crossfire.

I use the term ‘theological liberalism’ to describe modernism and postmodernism and their influence on the interpretation of Scripture and its application in the church.

By modernism/theological liberalism, I refer to these major distinctives:[5]

(1) The adaptation of Christian ideas to modern culture and contemporary ways of thinking;

(2) There is a rejection of Christian faith/belief based on God’s authority alone. All beliefs need to be examined under the light of human reason and experience.

(3) God’s immanence is core to theological liberalism with its emphasis of God in the present and acting in the world in the now. Immanence seems to be elevated above God’s transcendent Being.

(4) As a result, the doctrine of sin is de-emphasised as liberal theology sees God’s divine immanence as moving towards the optimistic, positive, humanistic implementation of the kingdom of God on earth.

Theological postmodernism

Emeritus Professor David Clines

David J A Clines (The University of Sheffield)

By ‘theological postmodernism’, I refer to these emphases by David Clines:

I want to propose a model for biblical interpretation that accepts the realities of our pluralist context…. First comes the recognition that texts do not have determinate meanings…. The second axis for my framework is provided by the idea of interpretative communities…. There is no objective standard by which we can know whether one interpretation or other is right; we can only tell whether it has been accepted…. There are no determinate meanings and there are no universally agreed upon legitimate interpretations.

What are biblical scholars then to be doing with themselves? To whom shall they appeal for their authorisation, from where shall they gain approval for their activities, and above all, who will pay them?… If there are no ‘right’ interpretations, and no validity in interpretation beyond the assent of various interest groups, biblical interpreters have to give up the goal of determinate and universally acceptable interpretations, and devote themselves to interpretations they can sell – in whatever mode is called for by the communities they choose to serve. I call this ‘customised’ interpretation.

Such an end-user approach could entail recycling old waste interpretations which were thought to have been superseded by the progress model of modernity. Now these discarded interpretations could be revived in a post-critical form to stock afresh the shelves of the interpretational supermarket (Clines 1993:78-80, emphasis added).

J.G.Machen.jpg

J Gresham Machen (Wikipedia)

A Presbyterian Church (USA) theological professor left the denomination over its theological liberalism in 1936. I’m referring to J Gresham Machen. He wrote in his 1923 seminal publication, Christianity and Liberalism (Eerdmans) this explanation of ‘liberalism’ as applied to the Christian faith:

the present time is a time of conflict; the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology. This modern non-redemptive religion is called “modernism” or “liberalism.” Both names are unsatisfactory; the latter, in particular, is question-begging. The movement designated as “liberalism” is regarded as “liberal” only by its friends; to its opponents it seems to involve a narrow ignoring of many relevant facts. And indeed the movement is so various in its manifestations that one may almost despair of finding any common name which will apply to all its forms. But manifold as are the forms in which the movement appears, the root of the movement is one; the many varieties of modern liberal religion are rooted in naturalism – that is, in the denial of any entrance of the creative power of God (as distinguished from the ordinary course of nature) in connection with the origin of Christianity. The word “naturalism” is here used in a sense somewhat different from its philosophical meaning. In this non-philosophical sense it describes with fair accuracy the real root of what is called, by what may turn out to be a degradation of an originally noble word, “liberal” religion (Machen 1923:2, emphasis added).

Machen also wrote that

two lines of criticism, then, are possible with respect to the liberal attempt at reconciling science and Christianity. Modern liberalism may be criticized (1) on the ground that it is un-Christian and (2) on the ground that it is unscientific. We shall concern ourselves here chiefly with the former line of criticism; we shall be interested in showing that despite the liberal use of traditional phraseology modern liberalism not only is a different religion from Christianity but belongs in a totally different class of religions. But in showing that the liberal attempt at rescuing Christianity is false we are not showing that there is no way of rescuing Christianity at all; on the contrary, it may appear incidentally, even in the present little book, that it is not the Christianity of the New Testament which is in conflict with science, but the supposed Christianity of the modern liberal Church, and that the real city of God, and that city alone, has defenses which are capable of warding of the assaults of modern unbelief. However, our immediate concern is with the other side of the problem; our principal concern just now is to show that the liberal attempt at reconciling Christianity with modern science has really relinquished everything distinctive of Christianity, so that what remains is in essentials only that same indefinite type of religious aspiration which was in the world before Christianity came upon the scene (Machen 1923:7, emphasis added).

Machen noted three points of difference between liberalism and Christianity: (1) Presuppositions of the Christian message; (2) the view of God, and (3) the view of man (human beings). ‘In their attitude toward Jesus, liberalism and Christianity are sharply opposed’ (p. 80).

I think I am poles apart with this fellow in my understanding of biblical Christianity that is opposed to theological liberalism, whether that be modernism or postmodernism. Postmodernism’’s deconstruction is a country mile from a biblical understanding of the world.

His rejoinder

Hendrik came back with:

Vicarious atonement yes. Propitiating the wrath of God depends upon how you mean it. If you want official theology, not my personal view, I don’t think there’s a mandated model of the atonement. I.e. that view is permitted, and in fact is common. The Confession of 1967 mentions it as one of a number of descriptions of the atonement given in the Bible.
Personally, I think God hates sin but not sinners (a view that Calvin took as well, I note). But I think the committee saw more than that, that he hated sinners until Christ died for them, and they may well have seen propitiation as either representing a false concept of how his death worked, or at least felt that it was likely to be misunderstood as in that way. I agree with them, though as I’ve noted I would still have accepted it, because I think it’s a view that is acceptable under our standards, and that many of our churches think it’s important.[6]

Calvin & Packer on propitiation

My further response was:

John Calvin did believe in propitiation, as appeasing the wrath of God. He wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion,

I will quote a passage of Augustine to the same effect: “Incomprehensible and immutable is the love of God. For it was not after we were reconciled to him by the blood of his Son that he began to love us, but he loved us before the foundation of the world, that with his only begotten Son we too might be sons of God before we were any thing at all. Our being reconciled by the death of Christ must not be understood as if the Son reconciled us, in order that the Father, then hating, might begin to love us, but that we were reconciled to him already, loving, though at enmity with us because of sin. To the truth of both propositions we have the attestation of the Apostle, ‘God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,’ (Rom. 5:8). Therefore he had this love towards us even when, exercising enmity towards him, we were the workers of iniquity. Accordingly in a manner wondrous and divine, he loved even when he hated us. For he hated us when we were such as he had not made us, and yet because our iniquity had not destroyed his work in every respect, he knew in regard to each one of us, both to hate what we had made, and love what he had made.” Such are the words of Augustine (Tract in Jo. 110) [John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.16.4, emphasis added).

Calvin further explained:

The free favour of God is as fitly opposed to our works as is the obedience of Christ, both in their order: for Christ could not merit anything save by the good pleasure of God, but only inasmuch as he was destined to appease the wrath of God by his sacrifice, and wipe away our transgressions by his obedience: in one word, since the merit of Christ depends entirely on the grace of God (which provided this mode of salvation for us), the latter is no less appropriately opposed to all righteousness of men than is the former.

2. This distinction is found in numerous passages of Scripture: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish,” (John 3:16). We see that the first place is assigned to the love of God as the chief cause or origin, and that faith in Christ follows as the second and more proximate cause. Should any one object that Christ is only the formal cause, he lessens his energy more than the words justify. For if we obtain justification by a faith which leans on him, the groundwork of our salvation must be sought in him. This is clearly proved by several passages: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” (1 John 4:10). These words clearly demonstrate that God, in order to remove any obstacle to his love towards us, appointed the method of reconciliation in Christ. There is great force in this word “propitiation”; for in a manner which cannot be expressed, God, at the very time when he loved us, was hostile to us until reconciled in Christ. To this effect are all the following passages: “He is the propitiation for our sins;” “It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell, and having made peace by the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself;” “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them;” “He has made us accepted in the Beloved,” “That he might reconcile both into one body by the cross.” The nature of this mystery is to be learned from the first chapter to the Ephesians, where Paul, teaching that we were chosen in Christ, at the same time adds, that we obtained grace in him. How did God begin to embrace with his favour those whom he had loved before the foundation of the world, unless in displaying his love when he was reconciled by the blood of Christ? As God is the fountain of all righteousness, he must necessarily be the enemy and judge of man so long as he is a sinner. Wherefore, the commencement of love is the bestowing of righteousness, as described by Paul: “He has made him to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” (2 Cor. 5:21). He intimates, that by the sacrifice of Christ we obtain free justification, and become pleasing to God, though we are by nature the children of wrath, and by sin estranged from him. This distinction is also noted whenever the grace of Christ is connected with the love of God (2 Cor. 13:13); whence it follows, that he bestows upon us of his own which he acquired by purchase. For otherwise there would be no ground for the praise ascribed to him by the Father, that grace is his, and proceeds from him (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.17.1-2, emphasis added).

Another Reformed writer, J I Packer, wrote in Knowing God (1973):

(image courtesy Hodder & Stoughton)

If, however, you look at the RSV or NEB versions of the four texts quoted above [Rom 3:21-26; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:1f.; 1Jn 4:8-10], you will find that the word ‘propitiation’ does not appear. In both1 John passages, NEB has ‘remedy for the defilement’ of our sins; elsewhere, these versions replace the thought of propitiation by that of expiation. What is the difference? The difference is that expiation means only half of what propitiation means. Expiation is an action that has sin as its object; it denotes the covering, putting away, or rubbing out of sin so that it no longer constitutes a barrier to friendly fellowship between man and God. Propitiation, however, in the Bible, denotes all the expiation means, and pacifying the wrath of God thereby. So, at any rate, Christian scholars have maintained since the Reformation, when these things first began to be studied with precision, and the case can still be made compellingly today….

What manner of thing is the wrath of God which was propitiated at Calvary? It is not the capricious, arbitrary, bad-tempered, and conceited anger that pagans attribute to their gods.  It is not the sinful, resentful, malicious, infantile anger that we find among humans.  It is a function of that holiness which is expressed in the demands of God’s moral law (“be holy, because I am holy” [1 Peter 1:16]), and of that righteousness which is expressed in God’s acts of judgment and reward.… God’s wrath is “the holy revulsion of God’s being against that which is the contradiction of his holiness”; it issues in “a positive outgoing of the divine displeasure.”  And this is righteous anger – the right reaction of moral perfection in the Creator toward moral perversity in the creature.  So far from the manifestation of God’s wrath in punishing sin being morally doubtful, the thing that would be morally doubtful would be for him not to show his wrath in this way.  God is not just – that is, he does not act in the way that is right, he does not do what is proper to a judge – unless he inflicts upon all sin and wrongdoing the penalty it deserves….

In paganism, man propitiates his gods, and religion becomes a form of commercialism and, indeed, of bribery. In Christianity, however, God propitiates his wrath by his own action. He set forth Jesus Christ, says Paul, to be the propitiation of our sins. It was not man, to whom God was hostile, who took the initiative to make God friendly, nor was it Jesus Christ, the eternal Son, who took the initiative to turn His Father’s wrath against us into love. The idea that the kind Son changed the mind of His unkind Father by offering Himself in place of sinful man is not part of the gospel message – it is a sub-Christian, indeed an anti-Christian idea, for it denies the unity of will in the Father and the Son and so in reality falls back into polytheism, asking us to believe in two different gods. But the Bible rules this out absolutely by insisting that it was God Himself who took the initiative in quenching His own wrath against those whom, despite their ill desert, He loved and had chosen to save.

The doctrine of the propitiation is precisely this: that God loved the objects of His wrath so much that He gave His own Son to the end that He by His blood should make provision for the removal of His wrath. It was Christ’s so to deal with the wrath that the loved would no longer be the objects of wrath, and love would achieve its aim of making the children of wrath the children of God’s good pleasure (John Murray, The Atonement, p. 15)    (Packer 1973:205-205, emphasis added).

Packer cites R V G Tasker: ‘It is inadequate to regard this term (wrath) merely as a description of the “inevitable process of cause and effect in a moral universe” or as another way of speaking of the results of sin. It is rather a personal quality without which God would cease to be fully righteous and His love would degenerate into sentimentality’ (New Bible Dictionary, s.v. ‘Wrath’). Then Packer adds: ‘The wrath of God is as personal and as potent, as His Love; and, just as the blood-shedding of the Lord Jesus was the direct manifestation of His Father’s love towards us, so it was the direct averting of His Father’s wrath against us‘ (Packer 1973: 204, emphasis added).

See also:

cubed-iron-sm Roger E Olson, ‘Evangelicalism and Postmodernism’;

cubed-iron-sm Zane C Hodges, ‘Post-evangelicalism confronts the postmodern age’;

Works consulted

Clines, D J A 1993. Possibilities and priorities of biblical interpretation in an international perspective, in Biblical Interpretation, no 1 (online), 67-87.

Machen, J G 1923. Christianity and liberalism. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Packer, J I 1973. Knowing God. London, Sydney, Auckland, Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton. Also available, but with different page numbers, as a partial Google book online at, ‘Knowing God‘.

Pierard, R V 1983. Liberalism, Theological, in W A Elwell (ed), Evangelical dictionary of theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 631-635.

Wright, N T 1992. The New Testament and the people of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. (Series in Christian origins and the question of God, vol 1).

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Soteriology, ‘Hymn writers won’t change lyrics for Presbyterians’, OzSpen #1. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7764331/ (Accessed 5 August 2013).

[2] Ibid., Hendrick #4.

[3] Ibid., Hendrick #8.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen #10.

[5] These emphases are from Pierard (1983:631-635.

[6] Christian Forums, Soteriology, ‘Hymn writers won’t change lyrics for Presbyterians’, Hendrick #11, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7764331-2/#post63857029 (Accessed 5 August 2013).

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 August 2016.

Some Calvinistic antagonism towards Arminians

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

James Arminius 2.jpg

Jacobus Arminius (Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

Why can the following be said of those who believe in an Arminian view of salvation?

  • You can’t be a biblical Christian and believe that.
  • It has been judged as heresy in the past and is consigned to heresy today.
  • It’s an oxymoron.
  • No such beast exists.
  • It is not what God says about salvation.
  • They are playing with fire.
  • They are dying with their false gospel; it is another gospel.
  • They are demons from hell.
  • There is no spiritual life in Arminian salvation.
  • Since Arminians think contrary to God’s word, they go to the second death in the fire of falsehood and will be in death for eternity.

That is a summary of what a Calvinistic promoter of monergism wrote to me, an Arminian promoter of synergism, on a Christian forum on the Internet (see below).

It’s a hotly contested topic

In Christian circles, monergism versus synergism can be a provocative and passionately debated topic, as we’ll see below. This is terminology that has not been used frequently. In my older theology books, I cannot find the language used. It is not in the indices of Charles Hodge , Louis Berkhof, Henry Thiessen or H. Orton Wiley. Even some modern theologians don’t use this language, examples being Wayne Grudem and Millard Erickson. However, it is in John Miley’s Systematic Theology, first published in 1893:

We have no power of self-regeneration. The nature of inherited depravity precludes its possibility. As a subjective state it is as really in us and of us as if original to our nature. Hence a power of self-regeneration would be the same as a power of changing one’s own nature. There can be no such power. It is the sense of Scripture respecting our natural state that we have no such power. In this moral impotence lies the necessity for the economy of redemption. Regeneration is a true sphere of the divine monergism.

There is also a sphere of synergism. Regeneration is not an absolute work of the Spirit. We have already shown its conditionality. There are prerequisites which cannot be met without our own free agency. There must be an earnest turning of the soul to God, deep repentance for sin, and a true faith in Christ. Such are the requirements of our own agency. There is no regeneration for us without them. Yet they are not possible in the unaided resources of our own nature. Hence there must be a helping work of the Spirit prior to his work of regeneration. There is such help. The Holy Spirit enlightens, awakens, and graciously draws us. All this may be without our consent. And even despite our resistance. We may finally resist, or we may yield to the gracious influences, and be born of the Spirit. Here is the sphere of synergism.[1]

Here’s how my opponent began:

Listen you have to know that a synergistic view of Salvation is not even Biblically Christian. It was judged a heresy at the synod of Dordt and it is a heresy today. You place yourself in Gal 1:6-9 Arminianism is another gospel which is NO gospel= no salvation.[2]

What is monergism regarding Christian salvation?

This article from Wikipedia, ‘Monergism’, gives a good, summary definition:

Monergism describes the position in Christian theology of those who believe that God, through the Holy Spirit, works to bring about effectually the salvation of individuals through spiritual regeneration without cooperation from the individual. Monergism is most often associated with Calvinism (like many American Presbyterians and Dutch Reformed) and its doctrine of irresistible grace and in particular with historic doctrinal differences between Calvinism on the one hand and Arminianism on the other.

What is synergism in relation to Christian salvation?

For fairness, I would like to use the Wikipedia article on synergism to define the theology, but the article is too slanted in favour of Calvinism for a balanced perspective.

Simply stated, ‘Synergism [is] any system that affirms some kind of cooperative interaction between the divine and the human in the process of salvation…. It is entirely possible for one to affirm the cooperative interaction of both divine and human while still affirming that the process of salvation begins entirely with God’s salvific (not common) grace’.[3]

See Norman Geisler’s ‘Monergism vs. Synergism’. His summary statements are that monergism:

  1. It is not supported by the Bible;
  2. It is not supported by the church fathers;
  3. It is not supported by the attribute of God’s omnibenevolence;
  4. It is not supported by man’s God-given free will.
  5. It is inconsistent.

Monergistic antagonism

Untimely Words

ChristArt

A person responded to me on Christian Forums (online) with some inflammatory antagonism towards my Arminian/synergistic views. He wrote:

You say: “Synergistic Christian” That name is an oxymoron, no such animal. It doesn’t matter what anyone says, what does God say? Look, this is more important than a heart attack okay? You have no idea what you’re doing. You’re playin (sic) with fire. All of you in this “synergistic safe house” are like a smokers emporium, you’re all dieing (sic) with your false gospel. Isa 8:20 And I come in and all the demons of hell are screaming “have you come to disturb us before our time?” Matt 8:29 Yeh I am, are you able to get up and get out of there? You will have to be “quickened” Eph 2:1 to do it. There is no spiritual life in believing as you do. “as a man thinks so is he” If you think contrary to God’s word you get death, the second death the lake of fire. Rev 22:18 The fire of falsehood you so loved in life, you’ll have in death for eternity Rev 14:11.[4]

[5]See what he does with his presuppositional imposition on me for my theology? His presuppositions include:

  1. Synergist Christians do not fit his Calvinistic soteriology, so they are wrong.
  2. What does God say? That means, ‘What do Calvinists say?’
  3. Only Calvinists (non-synergists) know the biblical teaching on the gospel and salvation.
  4. I have no idea what I’m doing in supporting synergism, but Calvinistic supporters of monergism know what they are doing. They are the only people who can get the doctrine of salvation correct.
  5. Synergism is a false gospel according to Calvinistic monergism.
  6. There is no spiritual life in understanding the Scriptures from a synergistic perspective.
  7. Those who believe in synergism are ‘the demons of hell’.
  8. The fire of falsehood of synergism sends people to damnation.

He confuses his interpretation of what the Scriptures say and calls it what God says. He is absolutist in his view that monergists are correct and synergists (as he understands synergism) are wrong and are going to hell. He doesn’t seem to be able to differentiate between what God says and his interpretation of the biblical text.

After his and my responses above were deleted, he came back to me with a similar kind of language:

A synergistic view of salvation that is two or more agents (in this case the sinner and God) to effect the result of salvation is a false gospel or another gospel as Paul calls it in Gal 1:6-9 faith of this sort is not the “faith of God’s elect” Titus 1:1 but rather a self conjured faith in the idol of imagined free-will, producing no salvation but eternal damnation.[6]

Is monergism vs synergism creating a wrong antithesis?

Ben Henshaw explains how the terms synergism and monergism get confused in his article, ‘Is Arminian Theology Synergistic?[7]

For some, the debate between Arminianism and Calvinism boils down to whether salvation is monergistic or synergistic. I believe the term “synergism” is not always accurately applied to the Arminian position. The word comes from the Greek synergos, which essentially means “working together”. While monergism (to work alone) may be an acceptable label for what Calvinists believe (God does all the work in salvation), synergism does not always rightly portray what Arminians have historically believed.

The word itself, when taken in a grammatically strict sense, is not a very good description of what Arminians believe regarding salvation. Arminians do not believe that both God and man “work” together in salvation. We believe that we are saved “by faith from first to last” (Rom. 1:17). Since faith is antithetical to works (Rom. 3:20-28; 4:2-5; 9:32; 10:5, 6; Gal. 2:16; 3:2, 5; Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 3:9), it is a misnomer to label Arminian soteriology as synergistic in the strictest sense of the word.

Arminian theology, when rightly understood, teaches that salvation is monergistic. God alone does the saving. God alone regenerates the soul that is dead in sin. God alone forgives and justifies on the merits of Christ’s blood. God alone makes us holy and righteous. In all of these ways salvation is entirely monergistic. The difference between Calvinism and Arminianism is whether or not God’s saving work is conditional or unconditional. Arminians believe that God will not save until we meet the God ordained condition of faith. Faith may be understood as synergistic only in the sense that God graciously enables us to believe, but we are the ones who must decide whether or not we will believe.

F. Leroy Forlines put it well in The Quest for Truth when he said,

“I believe that saving faith is a gift of God in the sense that the Holy Spirit gives divine enablement without which faith would be impossible (John 6:44). The difference between the Calvinistic concept of faith and my concept of faith cannot be that theirs is monergistic and mine is synergistic. In both cases it is synergistic. Active participation in faith by the believer means it must be synergistic. Human response cannot be ruled out of faith. Justification and regeneration are monergistic. Each is an act of God, not man. Faith is a human act by divine enablement and therefore cannot be monergistic.” (Forlines 2001:160).

If faith were monergistic then it would not be the person believing, but God believing for the person. Faith is the genuine human response to God’s call, and the means by which we access His saving grace (Rom. 5:1, 2). It is still God’s grace that saves, but that grace must be received by faith, and the nature of faith is such that it can never be properly called a “work”.

Does this mean that man is the determiner of salvation and not God? Absolutely not. God has determined that those who believe in His Son shall be saved, and that determination is absolute and unchangeable (Jn. 3:16-18, 36). We simply determine whether or not we will meet the God ordained condition of faith.

See the article on the Society of Evangelical Arminians website, ‘The False Antithesis Between Monergism and Synergism: A Lesson from Historical Theology’.

Conclusion

Gratefully, there are not many like the hostile person I met on Christian Forums who is prepared to announce my damnation in the hell of fire because I believe in a synergistic view of salvation. When I asked a Lutheran on the Forum, who believes in monergism, if he would say that there is no eternal salvation for those who believe in a synergistic view of salvation through Christ, his response was:

Of course not. That would be works-righteousness, placing the onus of salvation in the power and capacity of man. Grace being grace, however, must mean that the onus is on the saving power of Christ, who by His Means creates faith in us—not a mental assent to doctrine, but a saving, justifying faith. Such faith even the unlearned and the infant can have—according to the gracious work of Christ alone.

Making such doctrinal minutia intrinsic to our eternal salvation ignores the whole point of what makes Grace Grace; and further draws focus away from Christ and His Cross toward ourselves and our ability.[8]

Ben Henshaw’s view (as above) is to the point and is as good and brief as any I have read recently:

The word itself [synergism], when taken in a grammatically strict sense, is not a very good description of what Arminians believe regarding salvation. Arminians do not believe that both God and man “work” together in salvation. We believe that we are saved “by faith from first to last” (Rom. 1:17). Since faith is antithetical to works (Rom. 3:20-28; 4:2-5; 9:32; 10:5, 6; Gal. 2:16; 3:2, 5; Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 3:9), it is a misnomer to label Arminian soteriology as synergistic in the strictest sense of the word.

Arminian theology, when rightly understood, teaches that salvation is monergistic. God alone does the saving. God alone regenerates the soul that is dead in sin. God alone forgives and justifies on the merits of Christ’s blood. God alone makes us holy and righteous. In all of these ways salvation is entirely monergistic. The difference between Calvinism and Arminianism is whether or not God’s saving work is conditional or unconditional. Arminians believe that God will not save until we meet the God ordained condition of faith. Faith may be understood as synergistic only in the sense that God graciously enables us to believe, but we are the ones who must decide whether or not we will believe.

See my other articles:

arrow-small An Arminian view of faith in Christ;

arrow-small Is prevenient grace amazing grace?

arrow-small Calvinists, free will and a better alternative;

arrow-small Does regeneration precede faith in Christian salvation?

arrow-small What is the nature of human free will?

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

arrow-small Calvinistic excuses for rejecting Jesus’ universal atonement;

arrow-small Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again?

References:

Forlines, F L 2001. The quest for truth: Answering life’s inescapable questions. Nashville, Tennessee: Randall House Publications.

Notes:


[1] John Miley 1893. Systematic Theology (online), vol 2. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, available at: www.lcoggt.org/General/Miley/REGENERATION_MILEY.doc (Accessed 19 July 2012).

[2] Christian Forums, Theology (Christians Only), Christian Scriptures, ‘Did God stop “dictating” his Word after the Book of Revelation?’, kevinmccue #43, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7554361-5/#post61004583 (Accessed 19 July 2012).

[3] Marc Cortez,‘Synergism is not semi-Pelagianism’, Everyday Theology, available at: http://marccortez.com/2010/11/20/synergism-is-not-semi-pelagianism/ (Accessed 19 July 2012).

[4] Ibid #46. This post has since been removed from the thread after I complained about the inflammatory nature of the post and a moderator of the Forum advised me that this poster was using ‘flaming’ language and the post was deleted.

[5] This was my response a OzSpen, ibid. #47. However, since #46 has been removed, so has been my response at #47.

[6] Ibid., kevin mccue #56.

[7] Available at: http://evangelicalarminians.org/is-arminian-theology-synergistic/. Also available from kangaroodort, Arminian Perspectives, July 25, 2007, available at: http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/07/25/is-arminian-theology-synergistic/ (Accessed 1 August 2013). Could kangaroodort be Ben Henshaw? At the time of posting this article to my homepage, Ben Henshaw’s article was no longer available online from the Society of Evangelical Arminians. I wrote them to inquire why it had been removed and am awaiting a reply.

[8] ViaCrucis, Christian Forums, #53, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7554361-6/ (Accessed 19 July 2012).

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.