Archive for January, 2014

Calvinist misrepresents the Reformed

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Courtesy Google (public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

It is not unusual to read or hear of Calvinists and Arminians who misrepresent the theological views of each other. I met one on a Christian forum when he wrote:

Historically speaking, the word Reformed was first used of the movement spreading out because of Calvin’s work in Geneva, and the influence of his many editions of the Institutes….

So, OP (original poster). I would say to you that it would be almost impossible to find a Reformed Church that isn’t Calvinistic because the two go hand in hand historically speaking.[1]

The OP had asked:

I am looking for a Baptist type church that isn’t calvinist but preaches and takes God’s word and makes Christ so important that never does it seem like just a secular community meeting. I hear to often in sermons a self-help seminar message.

Basically if I can simplify it I am looking for a Non- Calvinist or Arminian version of Paul Washer lol. If someone can direct me to some audio, video, or way to find local churches, I would greatly appreciate it.[2]

Calvinist vs Arminian antagonism

       

            Calvin (Google public domain)                 Arminius (Google, public domain)

I am of Reformed (Classical) Arminian persuasion,[3] and we are found in many denominations. I referred this person to Dr Stephen M. Ashby, as an example, who was teaching at Asbury Theological Seminary, where there is a Wesleyan emphasis, when he wrote a chapter as a Reformed Arminian (he is now at Ball State University).[4] Dr Ashby contributed the chapter, ‘A Reformed Arminian View’ of eternal security (Ashby 2002) in this edited book by J Matthew Pinson (2002)

Ashby begins his article in this publication,

A couple of years ago I had a conversation with a Presbyterian pastor in the city where I work. Upon hearing that I had graduated from a Calvinist seminary, he waited for the appropriate moment and said, “So you are one of those rare birds who was educated in Reformed thought … but just didn’t get it.” My response was, “Oh, I’m very Reformed; in fact, I call myself a Reformed Arminian.” To which he laughed incredulously and said, “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard of that.”

No doubt, many people who might pick up this book will ask themselves, “What is Reformed Arminianism?” The answer that that question is simple: It is the view of Jacobus Arminius himself. Arminius always considered himself to be Reformed, right up until his death. And there were many within the Dutch Reformed movement who held his approach to theology. Of course, given the popular usage of the term Reformed today – it is probably not surprising that my Presbyterian friend reacted so strongly to the thought of Reformed Arminianism. However, if we get beneath the surface of handy and well-worn labels and compare the actual substance of the views held by those within my community with views typically thought to be Reformed, it will become clear that this is not a contradiction of terms but an accurate description (Ashby 2002:137, emphasis in original).

Jacob Arminius, as a Dutch Reformed minister, considered himself Reformed to his dying day. Those who are Reformed Arminian are spread throughout various denominations. So historically, Arminius was Reformed before the time of his followers, The Remonstrants, and he was not Calvinistic in his overall theology. However, Arminius’ doctrine of Total Depravity was in harmony with that of Calvinism. See, ‘Do Arminians Believe in Total Depravity?’ where there are ample quotes from Arminius and Arminians to demonstrate their view of total depravity is similar to that of Calvinists.

Jacob Arminius wrote concerning total depravity and free will:

THIS is my opinion concerning the free-will of man: In his primitive condition as he came out of the hands of his creator, man was endowed with such a portion of knowledge, holiness and power, as enabled him to understand, esteem, consider, will, and to perform the true good, according to the commandment delivered to him. Yet none of these acts could he do, except through the assistance of Divine Grace.  But in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good. When he is made a partaker of this regeneration or renovation, I consider that, since he is delivered from sin, he is capable of thinking, willing and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine Grace (Works of James Arminius, vol 1, 5.3, The free will of man).

Roger Olson’s understanding is that, ‘Arminians together with Calvinists affirm total depravity because of the fall of humanity in Adam and its inherited consequence of a corrupted nature in bondage to sin. A common myth about Arminianism is that it promotes an optimistic anthropology’ (Olson 2006:55-56).

Arminians and Calvinists in the same denomination

For many years I’ve been associated with a Baptistic denomination that includes both Calvinistic, Reformed Arminian and Wesleyan Arminian pastors.[5]

This misunderstanding of the misunderstanding between Calvinists and Arminians is acknowledged by a Calvinist, R C Sproul,

In the perennial debate between so-called Calvinism and Arminianism, the estranged parties have frequently misrepresented each other. They construct straw men, then brandish the swords of polemics against caricatures, not unlike collective Don Quixotes tilting at windmills. As a Calvinist I frequently hear criticisms of Calvinistic thought that I would heartily agree with if indeed they represented Calvinism. So, I am sure, the disciples of Arminius suffer the same fate and become equally frustrated. Arminius himself came from a Calvinistic framework and embraced many tenets of historic Calvinism. He frequently complained, in a mild spirit, of the manifold ways in which he was misrepresented. He loved the works of Augustine and in many ways earnestly sought to champion the Augustinian cause.

[A citation] from one of Arminius’s works demonstrates how seriously he regards the depths of the fall. He is not satisfied to declare that man’s will was merely wounded or weakened. He insists that it was ‘imprisoned, destroyed, and lost.’ The language of Augustine, Martin Luther or John Calvin is scarcely stronger than that of Arminius (Sproul 1997:125-126).

Interesting label by Sproul. He calls the Calvinists and Arminians ‘estranged parties’. That seems very accurate to me. If you don’t believe me, take a read of the topics in the ‘Soteriology’ directory of Christian Forums. To me (and I’ve participated there as a Reformed Arminian many times), the description is more like ‘hostile parties’ than ‘estranged parties’.

What’s the truth?

So I’m not surprised that this person[6] made a statement that ‘it would be almost impossible to find a Reformed Church that isn’t Calvinistic’. Sproul described this as an example of how ‘the estranged parties have frequently misrepresented each other. They construct straw men, then brandish the swords of polemics against caricatures’.

So, to set the record straight. It is very possible to find a Reformed pastor in a denomination that is not Calvinistic. That pastor, like Stephen Ashby, others, and me, could believe the teachings of Jacob Arminius and be known as Reformed Arminians.

Why don’t you take a read of Roger E. Olson’s article in Christianity Today (September 6, 1999) from 15 years ago, ‘Don’t hate me because I’m Arminian’?

 

Works consulted

Ashby, S M 2002. A Reformed Arminian view, in J M Pinson (gen ed) 2002. Four views on eternal security. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 135-205.

Olson, R E 2006. Arminian theology: Myths and realities. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic.

Pinson, J M (gen ed) 2002. Four views on eternal security. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

Sproul, R C 1997. Willing to believe: The controversy over free will. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Reformed church that is not Calvinist’ (online), branchofthevine#53. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7799143-6/#post64937247 (Accessed 31 January 2014).

[2] Ibid., Awaken4Christ#1. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7799143/ (Accessed 31 January 2014).

[3] Much of this response is in ibid, OzSpen#54, but I have made some changes, including additions.

[4] Dr Ashby also is an adjunct professor at Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College, Moore OK. See: http://www.hc.edu/page.aspx?id=188951 (Accessed 31 January 2014).

[5] I’m an ordained minister with The Christian & Missionary Alliance of Australia.

[6] Op cit branchofthevine#53.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

The failures of defacto relationships

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Symbols Sex Clip Art(courtesy clker.com)

By Spencer D Gear

 It is not unusual to hear people advocating sex before marriage and the benefits of defacto relationships – cohabitation. Why do people decide to shack up together without marriage? There are many reasons for it that I have heard in general and relationship counselling over many years.

I encountered this fellow, who states he is a non–Christian, on a Christian forum online. He stated:

It IS all about sex.  All objections about shacking up, from time immemorial, are fundamentally based on the belief that sex outside of marriage is wrong.

What else about a couple living together would someone have objections to?  Sharing meals together?  Sharing housework?  The man seeing the woman early in the morning without her makeup on?  Let’s at least be honest:  a romantically involved couple who decide to live together are announcing to the world that they’re having sex, and this is fundamentally what upsets so many people.[1]

How should I respond? Here goes:[2]

I have two objections to cohabitation before marriage:

(1)   God says it is wrong (see 1 Corinthians 7) and I want to please him. And,
(2)  The statistical information is clear that cohabitation does not lead to long-term relationships, and marriage after cohabitation leads to a high level of break down of marriage.

Let’s look at some basic statistical information:

Take a read of these articles

The second article (Fitzgibbons 2005-2011) states:

In the U.S., cohabitation, not divorce, now poses the biggest challenge to marriage. In 1960: 500,000 and in 2010: 7,529,000 couples cohabitate. More than 60% of marriages are now preceded by cohabitation (Wilcox et al. 2011).

A 2013 report on cohabitation from the National Center for Health Statistics was based on in-person interviews conducted between 2006 and 2010 with 12,279 women, ages 15-44. It demonstrated:

as a first union, 48% of women cohabited with their male partner, up from 43% in 2002 and 34% in 1995;

designQuiltsmall 22 months was the median duration of first cohabitation, up from 20 months in 2002 and 13 months in 1995;

designQuiltsmall 19% of women became pregnant and gave birth in the first year of a first premarital cohabitation and

designQuiltsmall 70% of women without a high school diploma cohabited as a first union, compared with 47% of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher (Jayson 2013).

About 40 percent of children spend time in a cohabiting household, while 21% of children are born into cohabiting unions (Fitzgibbons 2005-2011).

Also, from the same article:

A. The Harmful Effects of Cohabitation in Relationships

Red Heart

(courtesy i2clipart)

  • A 1992 study of 3,300 cases found that couples who cohabited prior to marriage have a risk for divorce that is about 46% higher than for non-cohabiters (Journal of Marriage and the family: February 1992).
  • Annual rates of depression among cohabiting couples are more than three times what they are among married couples (Journal of Health and Social Behavior: September 2000).
  • Women cohabiting relationships are more likely to suffer physical and sexual abuse than married women (National Marriage Project, Rutgers University: 2002).
  • The more months of exposure to cohabitation, the less enthusiastic couples are about marriage and childbearing (Journal of Marriage & Family: 59, 1997).
  • Cohabiting couples report lower levels of happiness, lower levels of sexual exclusivity and satisfaction, and poorer relationships with their parents (Journal of Family Issues: January 1995).
  • Cohabiters tend to not have an ethic of commitment that is as strong as non-cohabiters.  This could explain the high rates of divorce among couples that cohabited prior to marriage (Journal of Marriage and the Family: August 1997).
  • Cohabiting unions tend to weaken the institution of marriage and pose special risks to children (Just Living Together: Implications of Cohabitation on Families, Children and Social Policy.  New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: 2002).
  • By 2000, the total number of unmarried couples in America was almost 4.75 million, up from less than half a million in 1960 (U.S. Census Bureau: 2001).
  • Cohabitation increases acceptance of divorce among young people (Journal of Marriage & Family: 59).
  • Cohabitation can contribute to selfishness and later a lack of openness to children.
  • Respondents who cohabited after divorce or cohabited with their partner in a subsequent marriage reported, on average, lower levels of happiness in the remarriage than remarried respondents who did not cohabit at after the initial divorce (Journal of Marriage and Family: Vol. 68, Number 2. May, 2006).
  • Compared with peers who had not cohabited prior to marriage, individuals who had cohabited reported higher levels of depression and the level of depression also rose with the length of cohabitation. (Alabama Policy Institute: August 2006).
  • The longer couples cohabited before marrying, the more likely they were to resort to heated arguments, hitting, and throwing objects when conflicts arose in their subsequent marriage. A longer length of cohabitation was linked to a greater frequency of heated arguments, even when controlling for spouses’ age. (Alabama Policy Institute: August, 2006)
  • Women in cohabiting relationships are nine times more likely to be killed by their partner than were married women. Within cohabiting relationships, middle-aged women were at greatest risk of being killed. (Shackelford, T.K. & Mouzos, J., 2005. Partner Killing by Men in Cohabiting and Marital Relationships: A Comparative, Cross-National Analysis of Data from Australia and the United States.  Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol.30, number 10, 1310-1324.)

The above details are from Richard Fitzgibbons (2005-2011).

Did you notice the first point of this last list? ‘A 1992 study of 3,300 cases found that coupled (sic) who cohabited prior to marriage have a risk for divorce that is about 46% higher than for non-cohabiters (Journal of Marriage and the family: February 1992)’. And that’s a 1992 study.

Cohabitation is NOT a good way to go with relationships and marriage. The statistics are out there for all to see.

The Fitzgibbons (2005-2011) article tells of the harmful effects of cohabitation on children. Why don’t people take a read and contemplate the harm that cohabitation is doing to the couples in our nations. My friend’s marriage ended in divorce a few years ago (she is in her 30s). Since then she has cohabited with 3 different fellows. Only a few weeks ago the third fellow, whom she would have liked to marry, walked out on her, leaving her devastated. She thought the relationship was going well, but he did not want the commitment she was wanting.

What would the stats be like in 2013? We do have some more recent statistical information. See, ‘Is Living Together Before Marriage a Good Idea?

B. Effects of cohabitation on children

This Fitzgibbons (2005-2011) article tells of the harmful effects of cohabitation on children. Why don’t people take a read and contemplate the harm that cohabitation is doing to the couples in our nation.

1. The defacto results

Those who cohabit have relationships that don’t last very long. Those who cohabit and then marry also have limited relationship longevity.

The statistics should scream at us that shacking up together in a defacto relationship is a bad idea.

C. The claim that porneia did not mean sex before marriage

Red Heart(courtesy 12clipart)

In this same thread on the same forum, I was somewhat shocked to read this kind of statement on a Christian forum about sex before marriage.

“Fornication” was an English word. The Greeks used the word “porneia” which meant “whoremonger, audultery (sic), idolatry.” It never meant sex before marriage.[3]

My counter punch was:[4]

I don’t know where you are obtaining your information about the Greeks and their use of porneia. I suggest that you go to Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon for the NT (I read and teach NT Greek) and you will find that porneia means ‘prostitution, unchastity, fornication, of every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:699, emphasis in original).

We know from what Paul wrote to the Corinthians that he was dealing with the problem of unlawful sexual intercourse outside of marriage. He wrote:

‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. But because of the temptation to sexual immorality [porneia], each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband’ (1 Cor 7:1-3 ESV).

It is clear from this passage that God’s requirement was against unlawful sexual intercourse – fornication (porneia) – outside of marriage. Therefore, Paul urged the Corinthians ‘concerning the matters about which you wrote’ (1 Cor 7:1) to marry and not have illicit sex outside of marriage. Therefore, it is against God’s Word to advocate sex outside of marriage.

Let me be very practical about the implications. I have just retired after 34 years as a counsellor and counselling manager, mostly with secular Australians. I have spent the last 17 years in a full-time counsellor / counselling manager position and also supervising counsellors.

I wish I did not have to deal with the consequences of illicit sex and what it does to a relationship and marriage. A significant portion of my counselling would have been eliminated if I didn’t have to deal with porneia (fornication) before and after marriage.

I could not begin to tell you of the damage that multiple sexual partners does to a relationship and the impact of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) on a person and relationship. Only 2 weeks ago I was in the emergency department of a major Brisbane public hospital being treated for a collapse associated with my heart disease. In the bed beside me, only separated by a curtain, I heard the horrific screams of woman that went on and on. I overheard an emergency nurse ask her: How many sexual partners have you had in the last 12 months? She had many and the nurse told her that she could have an STD. These are the practical consequences of the practice of porneia (fornication).

What happens with anal sex and the diseases caused? See my articles; (1) Reasons to oppose homosexual marriage and (2) The dangers of anal sex and fisting

I hope you understand by now that there are practical reasons why God tells Christians to avoid fornication, adultery, sex outside of marriage.

And we haven’t dealt with what God says that happens when a man and a woman join in sex – the effects of bonding. See my article, God’s view of sex.

There are biblical and practical reasons why God forbids sex outside of marriage – porneia.

D. Sex outside of marriage not forbidden, she says! Really?

Male Female Symbols Clip Art

(courtesy clker.com)

This person wrote:

I wouldn’t place the idea of sex before marriage in the same category as murderers. No where in the Bible was a personed (sic) punished for having sex out of wedlock, nor does the Bible say a single word about unwed mothers sinning. Mary became pregnant with Jesus before she was married (emphasis added). [5]

This is factually untrue.[6]

1. Old Covenant consequences

I suggested that this person should go back to reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation where she will find the truth about illicit sex outside of marriage.
Take a read of Leviticus 20:10-14,

‘“If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbour, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. 11 If a man lies with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 12 If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have committed perversion; their blood is upon them. 13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 14 If a man takes a woman and her mother also, it is depravity; he and they shall be burned with fire, that there may be no depravity among you (ESV).

Here, under the Old Covenant, the punishment for illicit sex outside of marriage was death for both perpetrators.

Why, therefore, did this person promoted the lie that nowhere in the Bible was a person  punished for having sex out of wedlock?

As for Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus, it was not caused by a joining of a man and a woman so could not be regarded as porneia (illicit sex).

Also, take a read of Leviticus 18:20, ‘You shall not lie sexually with your neighbor’s wife and so make yourself unclean with her’ (ESV).

2. What about the New Covenant?

I encouraged this person to be accurate in what she wrote about this subject on the forum.

E. God’s view of sex before marriage

Google (public domain)

 

See my articles,

bronze-arrow-small  God’s view of sex.

bronze-arrow-small  Cooch grass and a biblical view of sex

bronze-arrow-small Sex at its best

bronze-arrow-small  Conned by the Condom

bronze-arrow-small  Why should we oppose homosexual marriage?

 

In summary: Do you want sex at its best?

clip_image002 Wait for the sexual relationship until marriage.

clip_image002[1] If that is too late, confess your sin and remain chaste.

clip_image002[2] Be faithful in marriage.

First Corinthians 7:2-5 (NLT) is a key passage in understanding God’s view of sex at its best (in marriage):

But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.

3 The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. 4 The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.

5 Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

All of that sounds all fashioned, but sex at its best comes with God’s approval and research supports it.

F.  Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the NewTestament and other early Christian literature.[7] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Jayson, S 2013. Cohabitation first is new norm for unmarrieds with kids (online), USA Today, April 4. Available at: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/04/04/cohabitation-families-pregnancy/2050073/ (Accessed 30 January 2014).

Fitzgibbons, R P 2005-2011. The risks of cohabitation (online). maritalhealing.com, available at: http://www.maritalhealing.com/conflicts/risksofcohabitation.php (Accessed 30 January 2014).

G.  Notes


[1] Jim Odom #19, 6 November 2013, Christian Fellowship Forum, Christian Morals, ‘Shacking up before marriage’. Available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=11&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=122551 (Accessed 27 November 2013).

[2] Ibid., Ozspen #41, 27 November 2013.

[3] Ibid., Melissa #34.

[4] Ibid., ozspen #39.

[5] Ibid., Melissa #34.

[6] I wrote the follow as ozspen #40, ibid.

[7] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

Prop it for what?

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Waves of Affliction

(courtesy ChristArt.com)

By Spencer D Gear

Who’s propping it up?

This is a pointer to a theological term that is not on the top of the seeker-sensitive theological hit parade. It’s out of favour even among some evangelicals. It has caused considerable controversy in theological circles.

Dr Gary Long introduced the controversy reasonably well:

 In discussing the design or extent of the atonement, there are three key doctrinal terms which are related to the priestly sacrifice of Christ on earth, that is, to the finished work of Christ. These terms are redemption, propitiation and reconciliation. Evangelical Arminians and Calvinistic “four point” universalists or modified Calvinists hold that there is a universal design of the atonement which provides salvation for all mankind without exception or which places all of Adam’s posterity in a savable state. They contend that there is a twofold application of these three doctrinal terms — an actual application for those who believe, a provisional application for those who die in unbelief. The historic “five point” or consistent Calvinist2 asserts that these terms have no substitutionary reference with respect to the non-elect. In contrast to the former who hold to an indefinite atonement, the consistent Calvinist, who holds to a definite atonement, sees no purpose, benefit or comfort in a redemption that does not redeem, a propitiation that does not propitiate or a reconciliation that does not reconcile, which would be the case if these terms were applicable to the non-elect (Propitiation in 1 John 2:2’).

First John 2:1-2 reads in the ESV,

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

In 1 John 2:2, the Greek noun used that the ESV translates as ‘propitiation’ is hilasmos, which the NIV translates as ‘atoning sacrifice’. There has been much debate among Greek scholars as to the meaning of the noun form which is found in one other place in the NT and that’s in 1 John 4:10. The verbal form is in a few other verses.

What’s the meaning of ‘propitiation’ in 1 John 2:2?

I’m relying on I Howard Marshall’s commentary summary of the controversy (Marshall 1978:117-120).
Here are some of the issues with this word:
1.  When it is used outside of the Bible, it conveys the meaning of ‘an offering made by a man in order to placate the wrath of a god whom he has offended. It was a means of turning the god from wrath to favorable attitude’ (Marshall 1978:117).
2.  However, in the Septuagint (the Greek version of the OT) – the LXX – the meaning has been debated. Westcott and Dodd argued that in the OT, ‘the scriptural conception … is not that of appeasing one who is angry, with a personal feeling, against the offender; but of altering the character of that which from without occasions a necessary alienation, and interposes an inevitable obstacle to fellowship’ (in Marshall 1978:117). Therefore, they concluded that
3.  In secular sources, the word means ‘propitiation’ (placating an offended person), but in the Bible it means ‘expiation’ (a means of neutralising and cancelling sin (Marshall 1978:117). However, neither of these words is in common use in the English language so modern translations offer a paraphrase. The NIV and NRSV use, ‘atoning sacrifice’, which tries to combine two ideas: an atonement for sin and an offering to God (a sacrifice). The TEV used ‘the means by which our sins are forgiven’ while the NEB used ‘the remedy for the defilement of our sins’, the latter seeming to be closer to the meaning of expiation (Marshall 1978:117-118). The ESV, NKJV and NASB retain ‘propitiation’.
4.  L Morris and D Hill objected to the Westcott and Dodd interpretation and showed that in the OT ‘the idea of placating the wrath of God or some other injured party is often present when the word-group in question is used…. The meaning in the present passage would then be that Jesus propitiates God with respect to our sins [the Greek preposition peri]. There can be no real doubt that this is the meaning’ (Marshall 1978:118).
5.  In 1 John 2:1, the thought of Jesus as our advocate [NIV: ‘One who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One’] is of one who is pleading the cause of the guilty sinners before a judge in order to obtain pardon for ‘acknowledged guilt’. ‘In order that forgiveness may be granted, there is an action in respect of the sins which has the effect of rendering God favorable to the sinner. We may, if we wish, say that the sins are cancelled out by the action in question. This means that the one action has the double effect of expiating the sin and thereby propitiating God. These two aspects of the action belong together, and a good translation will attempt to convey them both’ (Marshall 1978:118).
6.  How does one find an English word that combines expiation and propitiation? ‘Atoning sacrifice’ is an attempt but I find that it de-emphasises the propitiation too much. I can’t see a way around this except for a preacher to make sure he/she explains 1 John 2:1-2 together and that needs to include both the advocate and the propitiation. A ‘propitiatory advocate’ could be a way around that, but the English language is too clumsy to put it that way as many people don’t understand the meaning of ‘propitiatory’ as it is not used in contemporary English in my part of the world.

Some other views on the meaning of propitiation

clip_image002 1. Leon Morris refers to hilasmos related words in Rom 3:25, Heb 2:17 and 1 John 2:2; 4:10. His exegesis of the word indicates that it means,

the turning away of wrath by an offering…. Outside the Bible the word group to which the Greek words belong unquestionably has the significance of averting wrath…. Neither [C H] Dodd nor others who argue for “expiation” seem to give sufficient attention to the biblical teaching….

The words of the hilaskomai group do not denote simple forgiveness or cancellation of sin which includes the turning away of God’s wrath (e.g. Lam. 3:42-43)….

The whole of the argument of the opening part of Romans is that all men, Gentiles and Jews alike, are sinners, and that they come under the wrath and condemnation of God. When Paul turns to salvation, he thinks of Christ’s death as hilasterion (Rom 3:25), a means of removing the divine wrath. The paradox of the OT is repeated in the NT that God himself provides the means of removing his own wrath. The love of the Father is shown in that he “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10)….

The consistent Bible view is that the sin of man has incurred the wrath of God. That wrath is averted only by Christ’s atoning offering. From this standpoint his saving work is properly called propitiation (Morris 1984:888).

clip_image002[1] 2. Henry Thiessen wrote that

the New Testament represents Christ’s death as appeasing God’s wrath. Paul says, God set Him forth as a “propitiatory” (sacrifice) (Rom. 3:25); and Hebrews represents the mercy seat in the tabernacle and temple of the “propitiatory (place) (9:5). John declared that Christ is the “propitiation” for our sins (1 John 2:2:4:10); and Hebrews declares that Christ “propitiates” the sins of the people (2:17) (Thiessen 1949:326)

Thiessen quotes W G T Shedd in support of this view – based on the Old Testament:

The connection of ideas in the Greek translation appears therefore to be this: By the suffering of the sinner’s atoning substitute, the divine wrath at sin is propitiated, and as a consequence of this propitiation the punishment due to sin is released, or not inflicted upon the transgressor. This release or non-infliction of penalty is ‘forgiveness’ in the biblical representation (Shedd II:391, in Thiessen 1949:326).

clip_image002[2] 3. Wayne Grudem:

Romans 3:23 tells us that God put forward Christ as a “propitiation” (NASB) a word that means “a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath to the end and in so doing changes God’s wrath to favor.” Paul tells us that “That this was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25-26). God had not simply forgiven sin and forgotten about the punishment in generations past. He had forgiven sins and stored up his righteous anger against those sins. But at the cross the fury of all that stored-up wrath against sin was unleashed against God’s own Son.

Many theologians outside the evangelical world have strongly objected to the idea that Jesus bore the wrath of God against sin.[1] Their basic assumption is that since God is a God of love, it would be inconsistent with his character to show wrath against the human beings he has created and for whom he is a loving Father. But evangelical scholars have convincingly argued that the idea of the wrath of God is solidly rooted in both the Old and New Testaments: “the whole of the argument of the opening part of Romans is that all men, Gentiles and Jews alike, are sinners, and that they come under the wrath and the condemnation of God.”

Three other crucial passages in the New Testament refer to Jesus’ death as a “propitiation”: Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; and 4:10. The Greek terms (the verb hilaskomai, “to make propitiation” and the noun hilasmos, “a sacrifice of propitiation”) used in these passages have the sense of “a sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God – and thereby makes God propitious (or favorable) toward us.” This is the consistent meaning of these words outside of the Bible where they were well understood in reference to pagan Greek religions. These verses simply mean that Jesus bore the wrath of God against sin.

It is important to insist on this fact, because it is the heart of the doctrine of the atonement. It means that there is an eternal, unchangeable requirement in the holiness and justice of God that sin be paid for. Furthermore, before the atonement ever could have an effect on our subjective consciousness, it first had an effect on God and his relation to the sinners he planned to redeem. Apart from this central truth, the death of Christ really cannot be adequately understood (Grudem 1994:575).

I hope this helps to clarify the fact that both Old and New Testaments affirm the necessity of a blood sacrifice to appease the wrath of God. Jesus’ death was that propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). However, that propitiation is only potential until a person chooses to believe in Jesus to receive God’s propitiation.

This free will choice (human responsibility) in salvation is only possible because God provides prevenient grace to all people, enable them to respond in faith when the Gospel is proclaimed to them. Salvation (repentance and faith) is available only because God takes the initiative.

Works consulted

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Marshall, I H 1978. The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Epistles of John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Morris, L 1984. Propitiation. In W A Elwell (ed), Evangelical dictionary of theology, 88. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

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

Notes:


[1] Grudem’s footnote was: ‘See the detailed linguistic argument of C. H. Dodd, The Bible and the Greeks (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1935), pp. 82-95. Dodd argues that the idea of propitiation was common in pagan religions but foreign to the thought of Old Testament and New Testament writers (Grudem 1994:575, n. 11).
Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 November 2015.

Sent to hell by God: Calvinism in action?

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Heaven or Hell

(courtesy ChristArt.com)

By Spencer D Gear

How would you respond to these kinds of claims?

6pointShinny-small God ‘chooses to have mercy on some, and chooses to let the others go down their own rebellious path and get the justice that is owed them’.

6pointShinny-small ‘God views all humanity as sinful and guilty and deserving of hell’.

6pointShinny-small ‘Nobody receives injustice at God’s hands’.

6pointShinny-small ‘Why does God decree through TULIP that a large section of humanity will be forced into hell because they cannot believe? Would you treat anyone that way?’

6pointShinny-small ‘If God had not chosen to save some, nobody would be saved’.

6pointShinny-small ‘Why does God choose to save some and damn the rest, according to Calvinism?’

6pointShinny-small ‘Reformed Calvinistic theology does not teach that anyone is forced to do anything. But rather, it teaches that people always do what they desire to do’.

6pointShinny-small ‘It’s not the injustice of the God revealed in Scripture, it’s the injustice (as I see it) in the ULI of TULIP’.

For a summary of the Reformed Calvinistic view of TULIP, see R C Sproul’s explanation:

Total Depravity

Unconditional Election

Limited Atonement

Irresistible Grace

Perseverance of the Saints

On a Christian forum, a Calvinist asked: ‘Perhaps you’d like to answer why God throws anyone in Hell for eternity simply because they don’t believe in Him? Would you treat anyone that way?’[1]

My response was: ‘Or would it be better to ask as a Calvinist: ‘Why does God decree through TULIP that a large section of humanity will be forced into hell because they cannot believe? Would you treat anyone that way?’[2]

His reply was: ‘I guess that’s a good question if you like building straw men [fallacies]’.[3] It was no logical fallacy and it seemed to be his way of backing off from the consequences of the TULIP theology, and I told him.[4]

He continued his straw man allegation:

Since your question doesn’t reflect anything about what I, or any Calvinist I know, believes, it’s a straw man. So, it’s not the consequence of my position. But if you think that’s what Calvinism teaches, then I think I know why you dislike it so much.

If you’d like, I can link you to some resources.[5]

He proceeded to make the allegation to others of my creating a straw man fallacy in my question re TULIP implications, so I book him up on it after he stated, ‘If you want to know what Calvinism teaches, read the Canons of Dort. If you do so, you will know that Oz’s question was a straw man’.[6] I replied:[7]

Since you are quoting my statement to others, it seems as though I need to make a clarification or further explanation. This was my interaction at #179:
coil-gold-sm A Calvinist:

Perhaps you’d like to answer why God throws anyone in Hell for eternity simply because they don’t believe in Him? Would you treat anyone that way?

coil-gold-sm I, as a Reformed (Classical) Arminian:[8]

Or would it be better to ask as a Calvinist: ‘Why does God decree through TULIP that a large section of humanity will be forced into hell because they cannot believe? Would you treat anyone that way?’

You are claiming my response is a straw man. It is NOT, for the following reasons:

  • Unconditional election means that SOME people are forced (decreed) into the kingdom of God by God’s immutable choice.
  • Limited atonement (LA) means that Jesus died for SOME people, but not for the rest. They have no possibility of entering eternal life because of God’s unchanging determination of limited atonement (others call it particular redemption).
  • Irresistible grace means that SOME people are forced (decreed) into the kingdom because there is no possibility of saying ‘No’ to salvation.

But what about the rest of humanity? They are forced (decreed) to endure damnation by God, not for a lifetime, but for eternity. Double predestination is a logical conclusion of such theology.

Would you or I treat anyone that way? I wouldn’t. It seems to be a theology of injustice and I would never choose to treat people that way.
Therefore, I am not creating a straw man logical fallacy. I am providing an example of the meaning and implications for eternal damnation for a large section of humanity by Calvinistic theology.

H

(courtesy ChristArt.com)

Starting point: All humanity deserves hell

Another person, not the person to whom I responded, replied:

Reformed theology does not believe God pre-damns innocent people. It believes that God views all humanity as sinful and guilty and deserving of hell, and from that starting point, chooses to have mercy on some, and chooses to let the others go down their own rebellious path and get the justice that is owed them.

Thus, the first group gets mercy, unto the praise of God’s glorious grace.

The second group gets justice, for the display of God’s power and wrath (Rom 9).

As you can see, nobody receives injustice at God’s hands.

We believe that because of fallen man’s sinful nature and hostile attitude towards God, if God had not chosen to save some, nobody would be saved.
Thus, I hope you can see why we (the reformed) feel that God’s choosing of people for salvation is necessary if anyone at all is going to be saved.

Further, reformed theology does not teach that anyone is forced to do anything. But rather, it teaches that people always do what they desire to do. But because of the fall, nobody desires God, thus chooses accordingly. Thus, out of grace, God enters the scene and takes off our blindfold and changes our hearts, so that we are now willing to do what previously we were unwilling to do (submit to the gospel). This is why the Bible describes salvation as being “by grace”.[9]

One of the difficulties with responding to posts on Internet forums is that many do not deal with the exact points raised and that was the case here. I tried to pick up some of his issues in this reply:[10]

The injustice promoted by Calvinism

Vice Clamp

(courtesy ChristArt.com)

I asked him: Why do you choose not to deal with the matters as I raised? You did not choose to deal with my objections to TULIP. You gave me another round of your Calvinism, instead of interacting with me on the issues I raised.

Nowhere did I suggest that God pre-damns innocent people.

By the way, your view of ‘Reformed’ is limited. I, as a Reformed Arminian, am Reformed in my theology. To his dying day, Jacob Arminius was a Reformed minister of the Dutch Reformed Church. Why do you continue to use Reformed in a restricted way?

I agree with you that God views all humanity as sinful and guilty and deserving of hell, as you stated. But this is where you miss a dynamic that seems to elude you: Since ALL are deserving of hell, why are not ALL sent to hell by God? That would be justice. Why does God choose to save some and damn the rest, according to Calvinism?

Your language is that God ‘chooses to let the others go down their own rebellious path and get the justice that is owed them’. But that’s not what TULIP teaches.

It teaches that God chooses some unconditionally and leaves the rest to damnation – sounds like injustice to me. Also God chooses to allow Jesus to provide atonement for some and let the rest be damned – sounds like injustice to me. And, God chooses to irresistible draw some reprobates and let the rest be damned – sounds like injustice to me.

However, this is not the injustice of God. He is absolutely just / righteous. The problem is with ULI of TULIP – as I see it.

You say: ‘As you can see, nobody receives injustice at God’s hands’. That’s absolutely true, from God’s perspective. But from ULI theology, the damned who go to hell get injustice because they could NEVER, EVER BE SAVED because of ULI theology.

You want me to believe, ‘Thus, I hope you can see why we (the reformed) feel that God’s choosing of people for salvation is necessary if anyone at all is going to be saved’, and that Reformed refers to Calvinists. I, as a Reformed Arminian, understand that God’s choosing of people for salvation is not according to the ULI of Calvinism.

You want me to believe that ‘reformed theology does not teach that anyone is forced to do anything. But rather, it teaches that people always do what they desire to do’. ULI teaches that people have no say in responding to the offer of salvation; human responsibility in salvation is not part of the equation when God offers salvation and initiates salvation.

That sure sounds like forcing to me.

Maybe I’ve missed something here about ULI theology. Where in ULI theology is there any statement of the need for human responsibility in salvation, i.e. ‘You believe on the Lord Jesus Christ’ where the ‘you believe’ really does include ‘you’?

How would a Calvinist reply?

This was his comeback:[11]

I’m having trouble reconciling these two statements, perhaps you can help me [and he gave these 2 quotes allegedly from me]:

‘I agree with you that God views all humanity as sinful and guilty and deserving of hell’

‘God chooses to irresistibly draw some reprobates and let the rest be damned – sounds like injustice to me’ [quoting OzSpen]

As you can see, I am confused, because on the one hand, you agree that all men deserve hell, but on the other hand, you express that if some men are left to perish, that is injustice.

You say: ‘As you can see, nobody receives injustice at God’s hands’. That’s absolutely true, from God’s perspective. But from ULI theology, the damned who go to hell get injustice because they could NEVER, EVER BE SAVED because of ULI theology’ [quoting OzSpen].

Again, here you express that if God lets people go to hell, that is injustice. Even though above, you affirmed that men deserve hell. Are you suggesting that if God saves some people, that somehow means that the rest, suddenly, are not deserving of hell any longer?

‘That sure sounds like forcing to me’ [quoting OzSpen]

Oz if you are unconscious and dying, and I give you CPR and resuscitate you, would you say that I “forced” you survive, as if somehow, I was doing something against your will? A better way of wording this would be, would I be overcoming some kind of resistance on your part, thus doing something “against” your will?
As you can see, an unconscious person is not putting up any resistance. He is simply the recipient of the life-saving technique being applied to him. In the same way, a dead person is not putting up a resistence [sic] against being resurrected. In fact since he is dead, his volition is not involved at all, regarding whether or not he is resurrected. In spiritual matters, the analogy works the same way. This is why the Holy Spirit described regeneration, in John chapter 3, as being His work alone, like the “wind”, it “blows wherever it wishes”.

‘Maybe I’ve missed something here about ULI theology. Where in ULI theology is there any statement of the need for human responsibility in salvation, i.e. “You believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” where the ‘you believe’ really does include ‘you’?’ [Quoting OzSpen]

In the Bible, the only thing a person contributes to his/her salvation is the sin that makes it necessary.

Yes, faith in Christ is mandatory for salvation, but praise God, He provided me what is necessary for salvation. (ie, I didn’t bring it to the table.) Thus, all praise and glory goes to Him. Salvation truly is, “all of grace”.

Over and over again

Round And Round Clip Art

(courtesy clker.com)

 

I replied:[12]

You are having trouble reconciling the two statements because you are quoting:

Flower18 My Reformed Arminian view: ‘God views all humanity as sinful and guilty and deserving of hell Calvinistic view: God chooses to irresistible draw some reprobates. I added: ‘and let the rest be damned – sounds like injustice to me’. AND….

Flower18 Your Calvinistic view: ‘As you can see, I am confused, because on the one hand, you agree that all men deserve hell, but on the other hand, you express that if some men are left to perish, that is injustice’.

The issue I’m raising is that Irresistible Grace, guaranteeing grace for salvation to some reprobates and no grace for salvation to the rest of the reprobates (as in TULIP), sure sounds like injustice to me. Grace for some and no grace for the rest for salvation. The problem is with TULIP and not with God.

Let’s agree: You and I are not going to agree on this one. You believe in irresistible grace and I don’t. [See my understanding in, ‘Is prevenient grace still amazing grace?’]

Flower18 Reformed Arminian: ‘You say: “As you can see, nobody receives injustice at God’s hands”. That’s absolutely true, from God’s perspective. But from ULI theology, the damned who go to hell get injustice because they could NEVER, EVER BE SAVED because of ULI theology’.

Flower18 Calvinistic view: ‘Again, here you express that if God lets people go to hell, that is injustice. Even though above, you affirmed that men deserve hell. Are you suggesting that if God saves some people, that somehow means that the rest, suddenly, are not deserving of hell any longer?’

That is your false understanding of what I stated. My view, as I stated, was that from God’s perspective, NOBODY gets injustice from Him. But ULI promotes injustice – in my view – as it promotes partiality. God is gracious to some but ungracious to the rest – he damns the rest. That’s not a problem with my theology of God; it’s an issue with TULIP theology.

‘Oz if you are unconscious and dying, and I give you CPR and resuscitate you, would you say that I “forced” you survive, as if somehow, I was doing something against your will? A better way of wording this would be, would I be overcoming some kind of resistance on your part, thus doing something “against” your will?’

That’s an invalid illustration as I’m talking of the ULI of Calvinistic theology and its unfairness to a large chunk of humanity as it excludes salvation from them by ULI decree.

You stated: ‘In the Bible, the only thing a person contributes to his/her salvation is the sin that makes it necessary’. That is not what the Bible states. This is biblical: ‘[You] believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household’ (Acts 16:31 ESV). There is no salvation unless there is co-operation by an individual person and he/she believes. That’s Bible.

‘Yes, faith in Christ is mandatory for salvation, but praise God, He provided me what is necessary for salvation. (ie, I didn’t bring it to the table.) Thus, all praise and glory goes to Him. Salvation truly is, “all of grace”’.

But he did not make that faith available to a large chunk of humanity because of the ULI of TULIP theology. That’s the injustice about which I write. It’s not the injustice of the God revealed in Scripture, it’s the injustice (as I see it) in the ULI of TULIP. The problem is not with God but with that brand of theology (Calvinism).

Calvinists on the merry-go-round

(courtesy Google public domain)

When Calvinists don’t want to deal with the consequences of their TULIP theology in relation to God sending some people to heaven and others to hell, what do they do? On this forum, I received these kinds of answers when they wouldn’t respond to my challenges:

  • ‘Your explanation was just a bigger straw man’.[13]
  • ‘I am still confused, because if all men deserve hell, how is it injustice to save some of them while letting the rest perish into hell? Don’t they deserve hell?’[14]
  • ‘The only way that could be a problem is if the damned don’t deserve to be damned’.[15]
  • ‘the only way it could be “problematic” or “unjust” is if those that are damned don’t deserve to be damned. But you’ve already admitted that they deserve to be damned, therefore, I do not see how you can call it injustice for God to damn them. Can you clarify this please?’[16]
  • ‘But now you’re dodging this issue I raising’.[17]
  • ‘There’s no injustice in the ULI [of TULIP]’.[18]
  • ‘There’s no injustice in ULI, because in ULI, all men deserve hell, and God saves some, but lets the perish [sic] go to hell. Since they deserve hell in the first place (something you affirm), it cannot be injustice for God to let them go to hell’.[19]
  • ‘Partiality is not necessarily unjust…
    Ex. 4:11: Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (ESV).
    Mankind is guilty or a Saviour was needless cruelty’.[20]

Consequences of Calvinistic theology

Speak good words and you will enjoy the consequences

(courtesy  ChristArt.com)

 

When a group does not want to see the consequences of TULIP theology, we are supplied with the excuses or rationalisations of what is summarised in ‘Calvinists on the merry-go-round’.

So is TULIP theology partial? Does it discriminate against the reprobate? It most definitely does when it only promotes salvation by Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, and Irresistible Grace for those who are elected to salvation. The discrimination takes place when a large chunk of humanity does not get an opportunity to respond to Christ because they are excluded by ULI theology of TULIP.

My claim is that in regard to eternal salvation, TULIP promotes partiality, i.e. injustice. It promotes a view that, even though all people deserve damnation because of their sin, God only elects a certain group to eternal salvation and the rest to eternal damnation. Double predestination (some elected / predestined to salvation and the rest predestined to damnation) does not sit well with some Calvinists, as this interaction demonstrated.

1. Scriptures: God is not partial

God's Love and Justice are brought together by the Cross(courtesy ChristArt.com)

Acts 10:34-35 states, ‘So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him’ (ESV).

Romans 2:11, ‘For God shows no partiality’.

2. Scriptures: Salvation available for all

Free Gift(courtesy ChristArt.com)

This topic is NOT promoting universalism – that all people will be saved – but that God has made salvation AVAILABLE to everyone. There is no partiality with the elect.

One Calvinist made this accusation: ‘I accept that God chooses to show mercy to some. You seem to have an issue with that’.[21] My response is basic and fundamental.[22] I DO NOT have an issue with God showing mercy to some. You have misinterpreted me. The issue is with HOW God shows mercy to some.
It’s the EDICT of ULI of TULIP vs the Scriptures which state that

‘The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance‘ (2 Peter 3:9 ESV).

ULI of TULIP shows favourites to SOME (the elect) while 2 Peter 3:9 demonstrates that God is not willing that any should perish. There is no partiality with God, but there are favourites / there is partiality with ULI in Calvinistic theology.

Even in the Old Testament, indicates that God does not show partiality against the wicked: ‘Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?’ (Ezek 18:23). And this theme continues in Ezekiel 18:32, ‘For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live’, and Ezekiel 33:11, ‘ Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?’

I know that this applied to Israel, but the OT is clear that God does not want any of Israel to die in their sins (‘the death of the wicked’).

The New Testament continues with this theme in 1 Timothy 2:3-4, ‘This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’.

God desires ALL to be saved. There is no partiality with God and special treatment of the elect of God. The truth is that God desires salvation for all people. He does not provide unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace for some and let the rest – either actively or passively – go to eternal damnation. God does not send people to hell because of ULI Calvinistic theology. Some Calvinists don’t like the implications of double predestination, but John Piper is not afraid to state such – as indicated below.

So I’ve stated on this Forum that TULIP Calvinism:

  • ‘promotes injustice through partiality’.[23] A Calvinistic reply was:
  • ‘That would only be true if God’s choice of election caused someone to be punished in hell’.[24]

My response was:[25]

And that is exactly what John Piper, a Calvinist, believes.

Matt Perman, of Desiring God Ministries (John Piper), explains: ‘What does Piper mean when he says he’s a seven-point Calvinist?‘. As to double predestination, Perman explains what this means for the Calvinist, John Piper:

The “sixth” point, double predestination, is simply the flip side of unconditional election. Just as God chooses whom He will save without regard to any distinctives in the person (Ephesians 1:5-6; Acts 13:48; Revelation 17:8), so also he decides whom He will not save without regard to any distinctives in the individual (John 10:26; 12:37-40; Romans 9:11-18; 1 Peter 2:7-8). By definition, the decision to elect some individuals to salvation necessarily implies the decision not to save those that were not chosen. God ordains not only that some will be rescued from his judgment, but that others will undergo that judgment.

So I’m creating no straw man. This is what a leading Calvinist, John Piper, teaches in his support of double predestination. God ordains judgment for the non-elect. In other words, God sends people to hell with no possibility of access to salvation. That is the teaching of Calvinism by statement (John Piper and other double predestination supporters) or implication.

But another leading Calvinist and double predestination supporter, R C Sproul, does not like this John Piper kind of emphasis that ‘God ordains not only that some will be rescued from his judgment, but that others will undergo that judgment’. So Sproul tries to get around it this way by use of the label of ‘distortion’:

The distortion of double predestination looks like this: There is a symmetry that exists between election and reprobation. God WORKS in the same way and same manner with respect to the elect and to the reprobate. That is to say, from all eternity God decreed some to election and by divine initiative works faith in their hearts and brings them actively to salvation. By the same token, from all eternity God decrees some to sin and damnation (destinare ad peccatum) and actively intervenes to work sin in their lives, bringing them to damnation by divine initiative. In the case of the elect, regeneration is the monergistic work of God. In the case of the reprobate, sin and degeneration are the monergistic work of God.[26]

So Sproul calls it a ‘distortion’ to state that ‘God WORKS in the same way and same manner with respect to the elect and to the reprobate’. So what does he believe is the Reformed Calvinistic emphasis of double predestination? He claims that this is

the classic position of Reformed theology on predestination. In this view predestination is double in that it involves both election and reprobation but is not symmetrical with respect to the mode of divine activity. A strict parallelism of operation is denied. Rather we view predestination in terms of a positive-negative relationship.
In the Reformed view God from all eternity decrees some to election and positively intervenes in their lives to work regeneration and faith by a monergistic work of grace. To the non-elect God withholds this monergistic work of grace, passing them by and leaving them to themselves. He does not monergistically work sin or unbelief in their lives….

Thus, the mode of operation in the lives of the elect is not parallel with that operation in the lives of the reprobate. God works regeneration monergistically but never sin. Sin falls within the category of providential concurrence.

Another significant difference between the activity of God with respect to the elect and the reprobate concerns God’s justice. The decree and fulfillment of election provide mercy for the elect while the efficacy of reprobation provides justice for the reprobate. God shows mercy sovereignly and unconditionally to some, and gives justice to those passed over in election. That is to say, God grants the mercy of election to some and justice to others. No one is the victim of injustice. To fail to receive mercy is not to be treated unjustly. God is under no obligation to grant mercy to all — in fact He is under no obligation to grant mercy to any. He says, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy” (Rom. 9).[27]

This sounds awfully like rationalisation to try to cover the charge against Calvinism of injustice in its view of election. Sproul explains:

If God foreordains reprobation does this not mean that God forces, compels, or coerces the reprobate to sin? Again the answer must be negative.
If God, when He is decreeing reprobation, does so in consideration of the reprobate’s being already fallen, then He does not coerce him to sin. To be reprobate is to be left in sin, not pushed or forced to sin. If the decree of reprobation were made without a view to the fall, then the objection to double predestination would be valid and God would be properly charged with being the author of sin.[28]

But it still does not avoid the promotion of God showing partiality to the elect and not offering the same treatment to the non-elect. Thus, Calvinism demonstrates that it promotes something that is contrary to Scripture – God’s partiality (see Acts 10:34-35; Rom 2:11). God’s mercy and justice will never be in conflict with God’s actions that are alleged to show partiality or favouritism. I find TULIP Calvinism, while promoting God’s mercy and justice (according to Sproul), to be promoting a view of salvation that is in conflict with God stating that God acts in an impartial way.

Calvinistic preterition

Man's Way

 

 

 

 

 

(courtesy ChristArt.com)

 

For a Calvinistic Reformed view of God sending the damned to hell, see Edwin Palmer, ‘Twelve theses on reprobation’. He stated here:

Romans 9 is clear in asserting that both election and preterition [reprobation, damnation] are unconditional. Their ultimate foundation is in God: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Reprobation as condemnation is conditional in the sense that once someone is passed by, then he is condemned by God for his sins and unbelief. Although all things, unbelief and sin included, proceed from God’s eternal decree, man is still to blame for his sins. He is guilty. It is his fault and not God’s.

So, according to Palmer, God condemns unbelievers to damnation, but it is the sinner’s fault and not God’s. What gobbledygook! God does it but human beings are responsible.

According to Calvinism, Preterition is the act by which a person is left out of the will of God, or more specifically, left out of the saving will of God, and has been passed by’ (‘Preterition’, Examining Calvinism).

A better alternative to TULIP

Since there are holes in the TULIP argument that are so large one could drive a theological truck through them, I have found the Arminian alternative to represent a more consistent understanding of the biblical data. I refer you to the FACTS (acronym) of salvation (an Arminian response to Calvinism):

Freed by Grace (to Believe)
Atonement for All
Conditional Election
Total Depravity
Security in Christ[29]

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Society of Evangelical Arminians).

Some further reading

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Does God hate anyone?’ Hammster#165, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7792201-17/ (Accessed 22 January 2014).

[2] OzSpen#179, http://www.christianforums.com/t7792201-18/ (Accessed 22 January 2014).

[3] Ibid., Hammster#180.

[4] OzSpen#181, http://www.christianforums.com/t7792201-19/ (Accessed 22 January 2014).

[5] Ibid., Hammster#180.

[6] Hammster#207, http://www.christianforums.com/t7792201-21/ (Accessed 22 January 2014).

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#208.

[8] This link is to an article by Stephen Ashby, ‘A Reformed Arminian View’, available at: http://www.onthewing.org/user/Arm_Reformed%20Arminianism%20-%20Ashby.pdf (Accessed 23 January 2014).

[9] Ibid., Skala#209. All Hammster could say to my post of explanation was to give me another round of his spin – a false allegation, ‘Skala has give an excellent reply to your straw man logical fallacy’ (Hammster#213,

[10] OzSpen#215, http://www.christianforums.com/t7792201-22/ (Accessed 22 January 2014).

[11] Ibid., Skala#219.

[12] OzSpen#221, http://www.christianforums.com/t7792201-23/ (Accessed 22 January 2014).

[13] Hammster#220, http://www.christianforums.com/t7792201-22/ (Accessed 22 January 2014).

[14] Skala#222, http://www.christianforums.com/t7792201-23/ (Accessed 22 January 2014).

[15] Ibid., Hammster#224.

[16] Ibid., Skala#225.

[17] Ibid., Hammster#228.

[18] Hammster#242, http://www.christianforums.com/t7792201-25/ (Accessed 22 January 2014).

[19] Skala#250, http://www.christianforums.com/t7792201-25/ (Accessed 22 January 2014).

[20] drsteveJ#255, http://www.christianforums.com/t7792201-26/#post64885524 (Accessed 22 January 2014). My response to this comment was: ‘I’m discussing partiality regarding eternal salvation or eternal damnation. Why are you changing the topic?’ (OzSpen#258).

[21] Hammster#283, http://www.christianforums.com/t7792201-29/#post64888221 (Accessed 23 January 2014).

[22] Some of this response is at ibid., OzSpen#284.

[23] Ibid., OzSpen#251.

[24] Ibid., Hammster#253.

[25] Ibid., OzSpen#256.

[26] This is from the R C Sproul article, ‘Double predestination’, available at: http://www.the-highway.com/DoublePredestination_Sproul.html (Accessed 23 January 2014).

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] ‘An outline of the FACTS of Arminianism vs. the TULIP of Calvinism’, Brian Abasciano and Martin Glynn, February 28, 2013, Society of Evangelical Arminians, available at: http://evangelicalarminians.org/an-outline-of-the-facts-of-arminianism-vs-the-tulip-of-calvinism/ (Accessed 22 January 2014).

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

Marketing the church

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

clip_image002

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

I read my local free weekly newspaper-magazine, The Messenger (North Lakes, Qld., Australia), 16 November 2013. At page 3, there was a full-page advertisement for a local North Lakes church, Axis Church, with the theme, ‘We do LIFE together’.[1]

This theme was with the backdrop of a smiling middle-aged man (the church’s Facebook page says it is a photo of Pastor Greg Luckey), holding a plate that contains food (it seems). The pastor’s image dominated the advertising. Contact details and service times for the church were at the foot of the advertisement.

What does this theme in advertising mean for this local church in North Lakes, Qld? What message is it meant to convey in relation to the church’s message for the general public? Which other media are being used by this church and other churches in the region to promote their activities? I am writing as a Christian living in North Lakes who generally quickly browses that newspaper-magazine. Advertising is meant to catch my attention with a message. I’m a former radio and TV advertising copywriter (and DJ, interviewer and newsreader).

Three thoughts went through my mind as I read this advertisement. I am responding as a committed evangelical Christian to this church’s ad:

(1) I was encouraged to see a local church with an evangelical reputation promoting itself through a local, secular newspaper. It was a full page advt and not some almost unseen advt in the ‘Community Notice Board’ at the rear of the magazine. Big money would have been spent to get an advt that size. That church was meaning to grab people’s attention. I ask: What kind of attention?

(2) The theme of the advertisement greatly disappointed me because of what seemed like a superficial message being communicated, ‘We do LIFE together’. That’s a bland, self evident statement.

(3) Could this be an example of what the apostle Paul spoke about: ‘Become all things to all people that by all means you might win some’ (1 Cor 9:22)?

This promotional advertisement was for a Wesleyan Methodist Church, called Axis Church, not too far from where I live.

Could you imagine the apostle Paul, John Chrysostom, Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, or John Stott promoting their churches with such an innocuous theme as this?

The content of advertising for businesses is critical. It needs to be accurate to represent the product that is being sold. It doesn’t matter whether it is advertising of a supermarket, department store, car dealership or government. The advertising needs to accurately represent the product being sold.

Church advertising should also have a face that accurately portrays the ‘product’ being ‘sold’ by the church. ‘We do LIFE together’ is hardly profound with its call to the Gospel and to follow Christ. What would A W Tozer have thought of such a downgrade[2] of biblical content? This is an advertisement for a church and not a gymnasium.

clip_image004

A W Tozer (courtesy Wikipedia)

A. W. Tozer on the battleground

In an article A W Tozer wrote on ‘this world: playground or battleground?’ his ideas were not far from my thinking. His perspective was that ‘our attitude towards things is likely in the long run to be more important than the things themselves’ (Tozer 1989:3). While his immediate context was the early days of Christianity in what became the USA, his comments have contemporary application in the 21st century.

He wrote of when Christianity had a dominant influence on thinking and ‘men and women conceived the world to be a battleground. Our fathers believed in sin, and the devil and hell as constituting one force, and they believed in God and righteousness and heaven as the other’. Tozer explained that ‘by their very nature, these forces were opposed to each other forever in deep, grave, irreconcilable hostility’. Therefore, people had to choose which side they belonged to. There was no neutral position. For Christians, ‘it must be life or death, heaven or hell, and if they chose to come out on God’s side, they could expect open war with God’s enemies. The fight would be real here below. People looked forward to heaven as a return from the wars, a laying down of the sword to enjoy in peace the home prepared for them’ (Tozer 1989:3-4).

Tozer explained that the sermons and songs of those days often had an appropriate martial quality to them as they were homesick for something better. ‘Christian soldiers thought of home and rest and reunion, and their voices grew plaintive as they sang of battle ended and victory won’. They reached this kind of thinking as dealing with the enemy’s guns and dreaming of the end of hostilities, war coming to an end, and the heavenly Father welcoming them home. ‘They never forgot what kind of world they lived in – it was a battleground, and many were wounded and slain’. Tozer found this to be a scriptural way of expressing the battle with figures and metaphors that are throughout Scripture. His language is that ‘it is still a solid Bible doctrine that tremendous spiritual forces are present in the world. Humanity, because of its spiritual nature, is caught in the middle. The evil powers are bent upon destroying us, while Christ is present to save us through the power of the gospel’ (Tozer 1989:4-5).

His analysis was that to obtain deliverance from these, ‘we must come out on God’s side in faith and obedience’. That is what the founding Christian fathers of the USA nation believed ‘and that, we believe, is what the Bible teaches’ (Tozer 1989:5).

Tozer exclaimed: ‘How different today. The fact remains the same but the interpretation has changed completely. People think of the world not as a battleground, but as a playground. We are not here to fight; we are here to frolic. We are not in a foreign land; we are at home. We are not getting ready to live, but we are already living, and the best we can do is rid ourselves of our inhibitions and our frustrations and live this life to the full’ (1989:5). He continued:

The idea that this world is a playground instead of a battleground has now been accepted in practice by the vast majority of fundamentalist Christians. They might hedge around the question if they were asked bluntly to declare their position, but their conduct gives them away. They are facing both ways, enjoying Christ and the world, gleefully telling everyone that accepting Jesus does not require them to give up their fun – Christianity is just the jolliest thing imaginable. The ‘worship’ growing out of such a view of life is as far off center as the view itself – a sort of sanctified night club without the champagne and the dressed-up drunks….

A right view of God and the world to come requires that we have a right view of the world in which we live and of our relationship to it. So much depends upon this that we cannot afford to be careless about it (Tozer 1989:5-6).

In another editorial, Tozer wrote about our motives in what we do:

THE BIG QUESTION AT LAST WILL not be so much, ‘What did you do?’ but ‘Why did you do it?’ In moral acts, motive is everything. Of course it is important to do the right thing, but it is still more important to do the right thing for a right reason. Intention is a large part of the action, whether done by good or bad people….

We should carefully consider our motives. Some day soon they will be there to bless us or curse us. And from them there will be no appeal, for the Judge knows the thoughts and intents of the heart (Tozer 1989:38-39).[3]

This was from one of Tozer’s editorials in the Alliance Weekly (now known as Alliance Life), ‘This world: Playground or battleground?’ It was originally published on January 23 1952 (see Tozer 1964:2). Tozer died in 1963 at the age of 66.

What would he say of the church in the 21st century with its Gospel lite and topical, contemporary soft-sell messages from evangelical pulpits, rock bands to entertain the people of God, and singing songs that are not meant for congregational singing for a general audience, but are rock music for a modern-day performance.

For further exposition of what I see as a downgrade in the evangelical churches, see my articles:

clip_image006

B. Now to that advertisement

These are some of my thoughts about this advertising as an evangelical Christian living in a country that is very secular and has little time for God and his son, Jesus Christ, in the public arena:

clip_image007There was not a word in the advertisement about Jesus and his birth, death and resurrection. And this was at a time when we were only 5.5 weeks away from the celebration of the greatest event in human history – God becoming man at the first Christmas. The incarnation of the Son of God! There could be no crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ without his becoming a human being (the God-man) at the first Christmas.

clip_image007[1] What on earth was this advertising theme meant to communicate about the meaning of Jesus’ coming to earth that eventually led to his crucifixion and resurrection? Perhaps that was not what was on the minds of that church’s leadership team that authorised the ad.

clip_image007[2]Is this a seeker-sensitive approach to entice secular people into a friendly church that has meals together, under the theme, ‘We do LIFE together’? This is hardly a profound theme about the most momentous intervention in human history – God becoming man as an infant in a manger!

clip_image007[3]There is absolutely nothing in this advertisement about Mary being pregnant with the son of God, Jesus: ‘She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:22 ESV, emphasis added).

clip_image007[4]What would the apostle Paul think of this kind of theme? It was he who wrote to the Galatian Christian church with this thunderous meaning of the incarnation: ‘But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons’ (Galatians 4:4-5).

clip_image007[5]Isaiah 7:14 prophesied this event: ‘Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel’. ‘Immanuel’ means ‘God is with us’. So Christmas time is the season to celebrate the birth of Immanuel, to affirm that ‘God is with us’ through the person of the God-man, whom we celebrate at Christmas time.

But this church in North Lakes, Qld., had the marketing expertise to miss this proclamation, ‘God is with us’ and replace it with, ‘We do LIFE together’. It is true that the Church of the Lord Jesus is a wonderful place of fellowship, but doing life together is hardly a focus on the excellent church fellowship that can exist in some churches.

clip_image007[6]What is it going to take to get a prominent, growing church in this burgeoning northern suburb of Brisbane to get back to core Christian teaching about the Christ who came at the first Christmas – in its public advertising?

clip_image007[7]This is the apostle Paul’s view of the Gospel and what ought to be proclaimed: ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek’ (Romans 1:16).

The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. Shouldn’t that be what is promoted by a local evangelical church, especially at Christmas time when there is so much hoopla about Santa Claus, gifts, Christmas cards, smells and bells? Or does that not have a marketing appeal to secular people?

C. Advertising with honest clout

(courtesy Google, public domain)

A significant issue is: What should decide the content of our church’s advertising? I put it to you that that soft-sell, like, ‘We do LIFE together’, should be abandoned for something that points to the incarnation, and especially to the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God. This needs to be stated in terms that do not camouflage the content of the incarnation and the passion-resurrection of Jesus.

‘We do LIFE together’ is hardly a way to announce the Gospel that is ‘the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes’.

I can hear the opponents: You are being too harsh! Don’t you understand that it was the apostle Paul said, ‘To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings’ (1 Corinthians 9:22-23)?

I’m in no way opposed to putting some contemporary emphasis on the advertising to gain secular people’s attention. After all, this local advertising was in a secular, weekly, free newspaper distributed in my suburb. However, we must not disguise the true content of the Gospel and the truth of the incarnation that we celebrate at Christmas time.

What is the reason for the church’s existence? To agree with secular people that ‘we live life together’. That’s hardly a profound statement. Jesus was clear as to the reason for the church’s existence in his command to his disciples:

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:18-20).

There are three essential elements to this Jesus’ kind of church:

  1. Go and make disciples.
  2. Baptize[4] them.
  3. Teach them.

Here is my suggested series of advertising in the lead-up to Christmas, each run as half-page coloured ads in a local paper (also appearing online on the church’s website). The identification of the church, with service times, at the base of the advertisement is appropriate for this promotion to get to the truth of Christmas or the Gospel. But such a promotion was not in the advertisement to which I refer – as this reader understood the ad. My suggested theme could be:

Truth at Christmas

clip_image009 Truth suffers at Christmas time – there is more!

clip_image009[1] Santa the cover-up – truth is needed at Christmas!

clip_image009[2] Christmas and God’s colossal event – there is more!

clip_image009[3] The baby in the manger means “God with us”

clip_image009[4] Jesus became the God-man at the first Christmas. Why?

clip_image009[5] The baby in the manger clip_image011 the cross and resurrection of Jesus clip_image012 getting you and Australia out of this God-damned mess

clip_image009[6] Jesus changes lives for the best. Phone or visit us to discuss

D. Am I being too harsh about this theme?

Two weeks prior to the above advertisement, this was the theme that Axis Church promoted in a full-page ad in which a man and a woman were hugging each other, with the theme at the top of the page: ‘A Warm WELCOME HOME’ (The Messenger, 2 November 2013, p. 9).

The church’s website indicates that in October-November 2013, there was an 8-week series (presumably a sermon series), ‘LET’S BE the CHURCH’. Of this series, it was stated:

Join us as we launch a powerful new series and take a close look at the characteristics of the very first Church that gathered.  This will be an 8 week series entitled, “Let’s Be The Church”, and will open up the book of Acts 2:42-48 in a way you have never seen before. After this series you will be convinced that the local Church fully alive in the power of the Holy Spirit is exactly what this world desperately needs.  And you will discover practical ways that you can be a special part of God’s great redemptive plan for the world through the Church.

A similar message is on its Facebook page: ‘This 8 week series will convince you that the local Church fully alive in the power of the Holy Spirit is exactly what our world desperately needs. Discover practical ways that you can be a unique part of God’s great redemptive plan for the world’.

There are many preachers on the Internet who have preached on, ‘Let’s be the church’. See:

There’s even a theme, Let’s be the church – together; Let’s be Christ centered’ (sounds like an Axis Church theme). I did note that

  • Clontarf Beach Baptist Church, Qld, not too far from Axis Church, North Lakes, has an identical theme for its youth: ‘Come and meet some awesome guys and girls as we do life together. Meeting Fridays 7-9pm’ (emphasis added).
  • Forest Lake Baptist Church in Queensland also has a similar theme in promoting its small groups, known as ‘life groups – information. It states: ‘The main thing that happens at a life group is that we do life together!’ (emphasis added)
  • Cells-church Consultants International has the theme, ‘Small Groups are where we do life together!’; so many churches have ‘life groups’.
  • And this YouTube video gives an example of what a couple understands by ‘we do life together’.
  • We do life together’ is a daily devotional online.
  • Harvest Christian Fellowship Church, Calgary AB, Canada, has the motto, ‘We do life together’.
  • Use your favourite search engine to explore how many churches around the world are using ‘we do life together’ as a theme for various aspects of their ministries.

Here are some emphases from the Axis Church’s website, including the church’s list of values:

  • ‘At Axis Church everything revolves around Jesus. He is the Axis upon which our lives revolve.’ [I did not pick that up in the two ads mentioned above.]
  • ‘The world we live in seems like it’s spinning out of control. Life speeds up each day, and many spend their life spinning aimlessly. It begs the question, “What is at the center[5] [sic] of it all for you?” Is it the abundant life of God? Or does it turn up empty in the end, leaving you dizzy and without true meaning?’
  • ‘At Axis Church, Jesus is the centre of it all. He holds it all together perfectly and in balance. The Bible says in Galatians 2:20, “It’s no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me”’.
  • ‘When we invite Jesus to take his place at the very center [sic] of our lives, everything revolves around his forgiveness, love and purpose – no longer spinning aimlessly. It’s not that life is without it’s [sic] challenges, but now God becomes the Axis upon which we build our lives. It’s this truth that redeems us from the inside out, changing our hearts, transforming our families and communities, and shaping our world’.
  • ‘Axis Church is a safe place to discover God in an authentic way, and experience his love in a powerful way. We have experienced a truly powerful movement of God’s healing and love in North Lakes, Brisbane’.
  • ‘We look forward to welcoming you into the middle of a movement of God’s great love’.

There are some strong statements in this set of values with which I heartily agree:

  • In the church, everything revolves around Jesus.
  • Jesus is the centre of it all.
  • For Christians, Christ lives in us.
  • When Jesus is at the church’s centre, everything revolves around forgiveness, love and purpose. Jesus gives aim (direction) in life.

Perhaps this advertising series in the local newspaper is designed to focus on the fellowship that people need in our conflicted society. However, the absence of the public proclamation of Jesus is inadequate, particularly when it states on its website that one of its values is: ‘‘At Axis Church, Jesus is the centre of it all. He holds it all together perfectly and in balance’. He was not ‘the centre of it all’ in this advertisement.

I met a friend in a local store, who attends this church, and he said that the advertisement was meant to communicate the fellowship among people who attend this church. If that is so, I would have thought that a focus on breaking down the hostility between sinner and Christ was the first step. Fellowship with one another as Christians comes after reconciliation of sinners with God.

E. ‘This little church went to market’

(courtesy Google public domain)

 

What I read about this local church reminded me of the warning and challenge that Gary Gilley gave in his book, This little church went to market: Is the modern church reaching out or selling out? (2005). This book is available in pdf from The Berean Call HERE. See a review of this book HERE.

Part of Gilley’s concern is expressed in these words,

The most successful arm of the evangelical church in recent years, in terms of growth, money and prestige, has been the market-driven (seeker-sensitive, new-paradigm, user-friendly) church. Because of this success these churches are being mimicked all over the country, and indeed, the world. But is this church fully dressed? Is she outfitted in the biblically prescribed robes of evangelism, edification, worship and instruction? Or, is she wrapped in rags composed of empty human philosophy stitched together with bits and pieces of truth? If the latter is true, why have so few seemed to notice?…

Growing churches are creating an atmosphere, an environment of fun. So fun has replaced holiness as the church’s goal. Having a good time has become the criterion of an excellent, growing church, since fun and entertainment is [sic] what consumers want. Yet Bible references encouraging churches to become havens of fun are, as one may suspect, lacking. John MacArthur observes, ‘Many Christians have the misconception that to win the world to Christ we must first win the world’s favor. If we can get the world to like us, they will embrace our Savior. That is the philosophy behind the user-friendly church movement’[6]….

History tells us that it would not be many years after the liberals of early 1900s ‘won’ their war against the Fundamentalists that their churches went into a decline from which they have not yet recovered. It did not take people long to realize that if the church was not offering anything significantly different from what the world offered then apparently the church was unnecessary. The liberal church marginalized itself through compromise with modernism. It ceased to be a light and became a reflection of the secular philosophies of the times.

The new paradigm church of today is following the same pattern. Flushed with success she is rushing headlong down the slope of secularism. It will only be a matter of time before it is realized that this modern church having lost its message, having compromised the faith, having mistaken numerical success for the blessing of God, will implode, for there will be nothing left to sustain it. The fallout will undoubtedly harm many but hopefully God will raise a stronger church, a church serious about truth, a church that is more concerned about feeding the sheep than entertaining the goats, a church that knows the difference between worship and amusement, a church willing to be despised by the world for the sake of the cross — a church not ashamed of the true gospel, for it will know that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Gilley 2005:13, 19, 116-117).

F. Become all things to all people

The Barna Research organisation in the USA (September 28, 2011) has found that ‘nearly three out of every five young Christians (59%) disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15’. This is research from the USA.

Read its articles:

Could these statistics be influencing the seeker-sensitive, rap music, topical message, Bible-lite churches?

Also, could I be in error and over-reacting? Is it possible that I have misinterpreted the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:22, ‘To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some’ (ESV, emphasis added).

I sent the introductory portion of this article to a friend and he replied that he could find half a dozen biblical verses in as many minutes to support exactly what that advertisement pictures. He provided no verses, but could he have been thinking of 1 Corinthians 9:22 as the advertisement could seem to comply with what Paul is teaching? Is that so?

What does this verse mean in context of 1 Corinthians 9?

1. Who are the weak? He is probably returning to the argument he was presenting up to 1 Cor 9:1 and now continues. In chapter 8 Paul was probably dealing with those with whom there was a conflict in Corinth – the Jews. He seems to be ‘reflecting on his differing conduct in Jewish and Gentile settings, the central issue being questions of Jewish law’ (Gordon Fee 1987:427).[8] The social setting issues of chapter 9 included:

(a) To win his fellow Jews (9:20);

(b) Specifically, those under the law (9:20);

(c) To those ‘outside the law’ (9:21);

2. The ‘weak’ are mentioned in 1 Cor 8:7-13 as those who were former idolaters with weak consciences who were eating food offered to idols. Paul would not eat food offered to idols so it would not make his brother in Christ stumble (8:13). He would refrain from eating.

3. In 4:8-13, Paul spoke of apostles who were ‘weak’. Even earlier in the epistle he wrote of the Christians: ‘God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God’ (1:27-29). So,

4. ‘To the weak, I became week’ probably refers ‘to a more purely sociological category than a socio-religious one’ (Fee 1987:431). But I can’t be dogmatic. Fee’s comment is insightful: ‘Whereas he is intransigent [uncompromising] on matters that affect the gospel itself, whether theological or behavioral (e.g., 1:18-25; 5;1-15, etc.), that same concern for the saving power of the gospel is what causes him to become all things to all people in matters that don’t count’ (Fee 1987:431, emphasis added).

5. So becoming ‘all things to all people’ meant that Paul was adapting to different Jewish and Gentile situations, but never contrary to God’s commands. He did this to win people to Christ.

How can this be applied to the advertisement in my local paper? Jesus and Paul could have contact with prostitutes, tax collectors, Pharisees, idolaters, and other prominent sinners, but Jesus and Paul would not compromise with these to ‘win them’. In his comments on 1 Cor 9:22, Lutheran commentator, R C H Lenski, warned: ‘The danger is always present that we may either yield too much to love, which then ceases to be love, or that we may forget something of wisdom, which then lands us in folly’ (Lenski 1937:381).

‘We do LIFE together’ sounds too much like a flattering approach to the world’s standards to try to gain a hearing. It is missing the point of dealing with the alienation from God that needs to be solved before ‘LIFE together’ in fellowship with God and one another is possible. To me, a better approach would be: ‘We all suffer from the same misery – sin. Come to Axis Church to hear the Jesus’ solution’. ‘We do LIFE together’ is too safe to hit the Gospel mark upfront. However, ‘we do LIFE together’, sounds politically correct, which is a way of admitting conformity to the world’s marketing standards.

Now we are back to Tozer’s challenge: Will we present the truthful issues in a transparent, accurate way? This world is a battleground, not a playground. And we dare not disguise that challenge when we present the public face of the church to a very secular society in Australia.

G. Conclusion

The core message that a local church gives in its advertising is critical to understand the nature of what that church represents. The public, advertised theme from an evangelical church, ‘We do LIFE together’, is hardly earth-shattering in its content. Where is the reconciliation of sinners to God through Jesus Christ’s forgiveness? This is advertising a couple months before Christmas. Where is the reason for the baby in the manger? The Church could say, ‘That was not the reason for this theme’, but a Christmas theme contrary to the world’s standards should be presented.

The market-driven church is ‘flushed with success’ and it is ‘rushing headlong down the slope of secularism. It will only be a matter of time before it is realized that this modern church having lost its message, having compromised the faith, having mistaken numerical success for the blessing of God, will implode, for there will be nothing left to sustain it’ (Gilley 2005:116-117).

Bill hybels photo.jpg

Bill Hybels admits seeker-sensitive failure

Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, Chicago, one of the gurus of the seeker-sensitive, market-driven church, has admitted, ‘We made a mistake’, with their kind of seeker-sensitive emphasis that has been exported around the world. This is how he put it:

Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back, it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for….

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own (Willow Creek repents? Out of Ur, October 18, 2007).

Greg Hawkins, an executive pastor of Willow Creek, admitted:

Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover what God is doing and how he’s asking us to transform this planet (Willow Creek repents? Out of Ur, October 18, 2007).

You can read more of these admissions in Greg Hawkins & Cally Parkinson, Reveal: Where are you? The answer will transform your church (2009). You may be interested in Matt Branaugh’s assessment of ‘Reveal’, in Christianity Today, ‘Willow Creek’s “Huge Shift”’ (15 May 2008). Bradley Wright (a sociologist) has his evaluation of the ‘Reveal’ research in, ‘A review of “Reveal: Where are You?” by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson’.

See Gary Gilley’s assessment of the Willow Creek ‘reveal’ assessment and ‘huge shift’ in ‘Willow Creek’s big adventure (December 2007). Part of his conclusion is:

Having discerned that the old way of the seeker movement failed to produce the spiritual product they desired, Willow is fast-forwarding to the newest wave that now promises what they did 30 years ago – ‘authentic, Acts 2 communities of faith.’[9] This, however, is an even more tragic step, for while the seeker movement has gone astray in many areas in their attempt to change the way we ‘do’ church, the majority within the movement at least gave lip-service to the fundamentals of the faith. The emergent church, however, seeks not to change how we ‘do’ church but to change the church itself by challenging the non-negotiable doctrines of the faith. Combining the emergent deconstructive philosophy with Willow Creek’s influence and money could prove to be a powerful force for destruction. What may be written on this next ‘clean sheet of paper’ in the future is far more concerning than the one that is being thrown away today.

Is the seeker-sensitive, market driven church really getting it yet? Has it woken up to what Bill Hybels stated, ‘We made a mistake…. We should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become “self feeders”’? Is that really biblical anyway? What about ‘making disciples of all nations’ (Mt 28:19)? Is that talking about becoming ‘self feeders’ or of churches demonstrating that their mission should be dominated by discipling Christians? That cannot be done without Paul’s exhortation to Timothy,

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound[10] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:1-4).

Scripture informs the church what it is to do. But the seeker-sensitive, approach wants to be informed by research and Scripture. Is this saying that Scripture alone is inadequate in determining how to develop a healthy, disciple-making church? It should be noted that research is valuable in helping churches discern whether they are being successful in making Christian disciples. See the article, ’12 reasons why your church doesn’t produce spiritual growth’, by Tony Morgan.

The Willow Creek assessment surely should cause any seeker-sensitive church to rethink its market-driven strategy in drawing people into the church. ‘We do LIFE together’ is a country mile from an overt statement like Paul’s: ‘‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes’ (Rom 1:16).

Works consulted

Fee, G D 1987. The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First Epistle to the Corinthians. F F Bruce (gen ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Gilley, G E 2005. This little church went to market: The church in the age of entertainment (online), rev edn.[11] Darlington, England: Evangelical Press. Available from The Berean Call at:https://www.thebereancall.org/sites/2011.thebereancall.org/files/This%20Little%20Church%20Went%20to%20Market%20%28final%20edition%20–Word%29_0.pdf (Accessed 16 November 2013).

Hawkins, G & Parkinson, C 2009. Reveal: Where are you? The answer will transform your church. South Barrington, IL; Willow Creek Association.

Lenski, R C H 1937/1963. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.[12]

MacArthur, Jr., J F 1994. Reckless faith: When the church loses its will to discern. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

Tozer, A W 1964. This world: Playground or battleground. Alliance Weekly, January 23, 1952, in The Alliance Witness, March 16 1964, 2. Available at: http://www.cmalliance.org/resources/archives/alifepdf/AW-1964-03-18.pdf#search=%22Playground%20or%20battleground%22 (Accessed 18 November 2013).

Tozer, A W 1989. H Verploegh (ed), This world: Playground or battleground? Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: Christian Publications. Also available online at: http://www.neve-family.com/books/tozer/world/index.html (Accessed 18 November 2013).

Notes


[1] Available at: http://www.northlakesmessenger.com.au/mags/2013/Nov16.pdf (Accessed 24 November 2013).

[2] ‘Downgrade’ is the language that C H Spurgeon used in ‘The down-grade controversy’ in the late 19th century. Available at: http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/dwngrd.htm (Accessed 19 November 2013). For Spurgeon, he was addressing false doctrine in his era. In 1887, he wrote: ‘We have had enough of The Down-Grade for ourselves when we have looked down upon it. What havoc false doctrine is making no tongue can tell. Assuredly the New Theology can do no good towards God or man; it, has no adaptation for it. If it were preached for a thousand years by all the most earnest men of the school, it would never renew a soul, nor overcome pride in a single human heart’. I am not using downgrade in this sense of false doctrine, but as the compromise used by the seeker-sensitive approach, which tends to give a marketing face to the 21st century approach to the Gospel and Christian doctrine.

[3] This is taken from a Tozer editorial in Alliance Witness, ‘Motive is all-important), which is the title of this chapter in Tozer (1989:38).

[4] The Anglicised (Australian) spelling is ‘baptise’.

[5] ‘Center’ is the USA spelling, but the Australian spelling is ‘centre’. This set of values is not consistent in its spelling of centre, using both American and Australian spelling in the one online document.

[6] Here he references MacArthur (1994:52).

[7] ‘The millennial generation is the generation of children born between 1982 and 2002’. See: ‘Who are the millenials?’ at: http://www.cpcc.edu/millennial (Accessed 2 December 2013).

[8] This was Fee’s comment on 1 Cor 9:20.

[9] Here he referred to an earlier edition of:  http://www.willowcreek.org.au/aboutus (Accessed 19 November 2013). The earlier edition is not available now online.

[10] Or healthy.

[11] This was first published in 2002 (Gilley 2005:4).

[12] This is a limited edition printed in 2001 by Hendrickson Publishers, licensed by special permission of Augsburg Fortress.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

Politicians, morality and a just society

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Tipped Scales

(courtesy ChristArt.com)

By Spencer D Gear

If the Australian politicians continue to get it right (I live in Brisbane, Qld), they will persist in upholding biblical morality – and heterosexual marriage (no matter what the polls are saying about homosexual marriage). What about abortion rates, defacto relationships and gambling? There are many moral issues that are eating at the fabric of our nation.

In August 2012, Galaxy Research found that ‘Almost two in three (64%) of Australians believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry (and one in three 32% strongly agree with this)’. Should the public vote be that which determines moral standards.

A.  Australian Prime Ministers against same-sex marriage

One of our recent Australian Prime Ministers, Julia Gillard, was against homosexual marriage, as is the current Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

Julia Gillard 2010.jpg

(Julia Gillard, 27th Australian Prime Minister, courtesy Wikipedia)

arrow-right-purple benji 01 clip art Julia Gillard she said so publicly. The Sydney Daily Telegraph reported her as saying that Ms Gillard (when Prime Minister)

was “on the conservative side” of the gay marriage issue “because of the way our society is and how we got here”….

“I think that there are some important things from our past that need to continue to be part of our present and part of our future,” she said. “If I was in a different walk of life, if I’d continued in the law and was partner of a law firm now, I would express the same view, that I think for our culture, for our heritage, the Marriage Act and marriage being between a man and a woman has a special status.

“Now, I know people might look at me and think that’s something that they wouldn’t necessarily expect me to say, but that is what I believe.

“I’m on the record as saying things like I think it’s important for people to understand their Bible stories, not because I’m an advocate of religion – clearly, I’m not – but once again, what comes from the Bible has formed such an important part of our culture”.[1]

Tony Abbott - 2010.jpg

Tony Abbott (28th Australian Prime Minister, courtesy Wikipedia)

arrow-right-purple benji 01 clip art Tony Abbott’s statement about homosexual marriage is:

“(My objection) is purely a legal one. I think the constitution should be adhered to,” he said.

Mr Abbott said his sister Christine, who became engaged to her long term partner Virginia this week, “chews his ear off” on the subject of gay marriage regularly.

But she was unlikely to change his mind.

“She’s a terrific advocate,” he said.

“If there is a ceremony of some kind, yes I’ll be there, with a present. I’ll do the right thing. But I am a traditionalist”.[2]

Kevin Rudd official portrait.jpg

Kevin Rudd (26th Australian Prime Minister, courtesy Wikipedia)

arrow-right-purple benji 01 clip art But another recent Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has announced to the nation, ‘Kevin Rudd announces he now supports same-sex marriage’ (The Australian, May 21, 2013). In his official statement on his website, ‘Kevin connects’ (20 May 2013), he wrote:

I have come to the conclusion that church and state can have different positions and practices on the question of same sex marriage. I believe the secular Australian state should be able to recognise same sex marriage. I also believe that this change should legally exempt religious institutions from any requirement to change their historic position and practice that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman. For me, this change in position has come about as a result of a lot of reflection, over a long period of time, including conversations with good people grappling with deep questions of life, sexuality and faith.[3]

What caused him to change his mind? In this statement, these are some of the reasons he gave:

One Saturday morning in Canberra, some weeks ago, a former political staffer asked to have a coffee. This bloke, who shall remain nameless, is one of those rare finds among political staffers who combines intelligence, integrity, a prodigious work ethic, and, importantly, an unfailing sense of humour in the various positions he has worked in around Parliament House. Necessary in contemporary politics, otherwise you simply go stark raving mad.

And like myself, this bloke is a bit of a god-botherer (aka Christian). Although a little unlike myself, he is more of a capital G God-Botherer. In fact, he’s long been active in his local Pentecostal Church.

Over coffee, and after the mandatory depressing discussion about the state of politics, he tells me that he’s gay, he’s told his pastor (who he says is pretty cool with it all, although the same cannot be said of the rest of the church leadership team) and he then tells me that one day he’d like to get married to another bloke. And by the way, “had my views on same sex marriage changed?”.[4]

However, all is not plain sailing for Kevin in his family with his view of homosexuality. Back in 2011, it was announced to the nation, ‘Kevin Rudd’s sister quits Labor over gay marriage policy’ (The Brisbane Times, December 13, 2011). Why? According to this article, it was because

Kevin Rudd’s sister [Loree, age 61] has quit the Australian Labor Party, saying she cannot back a party that supports “homosexuals marrying”….

“I don’t believe gay marriage is good for the community,” she said.

“Homosexuals should be loved and treated right and they should not be discriminated against.

“It is a horrible thing for them to be discriminated against and that’s why my brother introduced laws so they are not discriminated against.

“But to make that huge leap from their rights to breaking a commandment of Moses, to say homosexuals’ relationships is marriage, is utter nonsense.”

However, this is about 2 years before Kevin’s re-born view to support homosexual marriage.

arrow-right-purple benji 01 clip art Loree Rudd takes a strong view on homosexuality. It was reported that

KEVIN Rudd’s sister wants Australia to introduce a Vladimir Putin-style ban on schoolchildren being taught about homosexuality.

Loree Rudd – who says she is unlikely to help her brother on election day because she opposes his support for gay marriage – believes the maverick Russian leader’s hardline view on homosexuality is more enlightened than Western leaders.

“It’s like he (Putin) can see the problem ahead,” Ms Rudd, 62, who has just returned from a visit to Russia, said.

“I think that there should be a law (in Australia) protecting children from the propaganda of homosexuality as normal. They’re trying to build their family life and structure in Russia and people in the West don’t seem to understand our family life and structures are breaking down.[5]

Now Kevin Rudd has resigned from federal Parliament. See, ‘Former prime minister Kevin Rudd quits federal politics with emotional speech to Parliament’ (ABC News, 14 November 2013).

The homosexual marriage issue is but one in which government discussions are wavering from the biblical mandate. See my articles:

B.  Which Australian laws are based on God’s justice

https://i0.wp.com/www.biblepicturegallery.com/free/Pics/10_Comm.gif?resize=404%2C340

Bible Picture Gallery

This is what Aussie politicians will support if they want a stable and well-ordered nation. These values are based on Scripture:

  • Honour your father and mother (honouring parents instead of rebelling against them is something many of us promote with enthusiasm in Australia).
  • Murder is wrong.
  • Stealing is wrong.
  • Bearing false witness (i.e. lying) against another person, government agency, etc is wrong.
  • Marriage is between a man and a woman.

All of these Australian laws are based on Scripture (the 10 commandments –Exodus 20) and Genesis 2:24-25 (heterosexual marriage).

This is God’s view of the role of government:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour (Romans 13:1-7 NIV).

However, a few questions need to be asked and answered from these verses?

  • What about unjust governments such as those under Nero, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, etc? Are all governments established by God? Yes, they are. Some for promoting justice and goodness and some for executing God’s judgment on a nation. I find that a hard one to swallow when I consider the 11 million who were slaughtered during the Nazi Holocaust (6 million Jews and 5 million others) at the hands of an unjust government led by Hitler.
  • Those who ‘do right’ are those who have ‘right’ defined by God’s law in Scripture.
  • Those who ‘do wrong’ are those who effect actions contrary to God’s law in Scripture.

And we know how the country is badly affected because it has abandoned these laws for human-made laws:

  • You shall not commit adultery (marriage between a man and a woman is God’s design for families and the best arrangement for the health of families in the nation). Homosexual marriage and defacto relationshps are not God’s design for the best family arrangement.
  • If people would give up coveting other people and property, the nation would be better off.
  • Giving up the gods of materialism, sport, stone images, etc would lead to better national health.

C.  The God of justice revealed

Love and justice

(courtesy ChristArt.com)

‘By the righteousness and justice of God we mean that phase of God’s holiness which is seen in his treatment of the creature. Repeatedly, these qualities are ascribed to God (2 Chron. 12:6; Ezra 9:15; Neh. 9:33; Isa. 45:21; Dan. 9:14; John 17:25; 2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 16:5). In virtue of the former [the righteousness of God] He has instituted moral government in the world, imposed just laws upon the creatures, and attached sanctions thereto. In virtue of the latter, he executes his laws through the bestowal of rewards and punishments. The distribution of rewards is called remunerative justice, and is mentioned in such Scriptures as the following: Deut. 7:9-13; 2 Chron. 6:15; Ps. 58:11; Matt. 25:21; Rom. 2:7; Heb. 11:26. The infliction of punishment is called punitive justice [the expression of divine wrath] and is mentioned in such Scriptures as these: Gen. 2:17; Exod. 34:7; Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 1:32; 2:8, 9; 2 Thess. 1:8’ (Thiessen 1949:129-130).

So a moral and just Australian government will be one that sanctions and upholds God’s law for all people. A just government bases its laws on the absolutes of Scripture. Therefore, killing children in the womb will not be pursued. Murder of human beings in the womb will be forbidden. See my article: Exodus 21:22-23 and abortion. See also, ‘Images of aborted children‘ and Abortion and life: A Christian perspective.

Making ‘marriage’ inclusive of homosexuality and sanctioning defacto relationships will be rejected. I refer you to my article links above.

Euthanasia will be forbidden by a government promoting justice. I refer you to my article: Voluntary active euthanasia: A compassionate solution to those in pain;

A sample from these verses in support of God’s righteousness and justice includes:

arrow 2 SE clip art Psalm 89:14, ‘Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you’.

arrow 2 SE clip art Daniel 9:14, ‘Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice’.

arrow 2 SE clip art 2 Timothy 4:8, ‘Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing’.

arrow 2 SE clip art Revelation 16:5, ‘And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgements’

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

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

D.  God’s absolutes guarantee justice

I refer you to my article, God’s absolutes are absolutely true. What is the outworking of this in a nation?

Only recently I heard an Indian Christian who was visiting Australia and spoke only a few kilometres from where I live. He has written a magnificent book to demonstrate how the Scripture has been the foundation of healthy Western nations. He admitted this health is waning because of our movement away from the biblical foundation.

I’m speaking of Vishal Mangalwadi and his publication, The Book that made your world: How the Bible created the soul of western civilization (2011).

clip_image001My Photo

(Courtesy Thomas Nelson; Vishal Magalwadi blog)

He shows how the Bible had created the foundation of western civilisation. His first chapter is: ‘The soul of Western civilization’. In his preface, he wrote:

A cursory glance may give an impression that this is a book about the Bible.  Those who actually read it will know that this is about great literature and great art; great science and liberating technology; genuine heroism and nation building; great virtues and social institutions.  If you have a zillion pieces of a puzzle, would you begin assembling them into one picture, without knowing what that picture is supposed to look like?  The Bible created the modern world of science and learning because it gave us the Creator’s vision of what reality is all about.  This is what made the modern West a reading and thinking civilization.  Postmodern people see little point in reading books that do not contribute directly to their career or pleasure.  This is a logical outcome of atheism, which has now realized that the human mind cannot possibly know what is true and right.  This book is being published with a prayer that it will help revive a global interest in the Bible and in all the great books (Mangalwadi 2011:XXI).

What about the collapse of Rome, the rise and fall of Europe? Mangalwadi explains:

Rome’s collapse meant that Europe lost its soul—the source of its civilizational authority–and descended into the ‘Dark Ages.’ The Bible was the power that revived Europe. Europeans became so enthralled with God’s Word that they rejected their sacred myths to hear God’s Word, study it, internalize it, speak it, and promote it to build the modern world. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the West is again losing its soul. Will it relapse into a new dark age or humble itself before the Word of the Almighty God? (Mangalwadi 2011:401).

What Mangalwadi noted about the impact of the Bible and truth on a culture is as true for my country of Australia as it is for the United States, Germany, the Central African Republic or Argentina. He asked:

What happens to a culture that is clueless about what is true, good, and just? Pilate answered that question when he declared: ‘I have the power to crucify you or set you free.’ When we believe truth is unknowable, we rob it of any authority. What is left is brute power wielding arbitrary force. Whether a person or an ethnic minority is guilty or innocent becomes irrelevant. His or her right to life depends exclusively on the whims of whoever has power. Any nation that refuses to live under truth condemns itself to live under sinful man (Magalwadi 2011:392).

And this is from a man, Vishal, who was born and raised and lives in India, where he has seen the destructive influences of another worldview.

The more Australian politicians get back to the foundation of Scripture, the healthier this Aussie nation will be. If they continue down the present path we are doomed.

E.  Conclusion

A just and righteous human government will base its laws on the absolutes of Scripture. The Almighty God is the only absolutely just and holy One to provide absolutes to govern a nation with righteousness.

What about for human beings who live in a country, like I do in Australia, that does not make God’s absolutes the basis of God’s law?

We obey the laws of human government, except when they conflict with the law of God. So when governments promote euthanasia, abortion, taking mind-altering illicit drugs, homosexual marriage, and refusing to allow freedom of religion, I will disobey government.

 

Jeremiah warned:

How lonely sits the city
that was full of people!
How like a widow has she become,
she who was great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces
has become a slave (
Lamentations 1:1 ESV).

Works consulted

Mangalwadi, V 2011, The Book that made your world: How the Bible created the soul of western civilization. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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

Notes:


[1] The Daily Telegraph, ‘Australian PM Julia Gillard: Gay marriage against my upbringing’, March 21, 2011, available at: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/pm-julia-gillard-gay-marriage-against-my-upbringing/story-e6freuy9-1226025009815 (Accessed 9 January 2014).

[2] Samantha Landy 2013. Abbott government to challenge ACT’s move to gay marriage (online), Herald Sun, October 23. Available at: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/abbott-government-to-challenge-acts-move-to-gay-marriage/story-fni0fit3-1226745078206 (accessed 9 January 2014).

[3] Kevin Connects 2013. ‘Church and State are able to have different positions on same sex marriage’ (online), 20 May. Available at: http://www.kevinruddmp.com/2013/05/church-and-state-are-able-to-have.html (Accessed 28 May 2014).

[4] Ibid.

[5] ‘Exclusive: Rudd’s sister wants Putin-style homosexuality ban’ (online). news.com.au,, 14 July 2013, available at: http://www.news.com.au/national/exclusive-rudd8217s-sister-wants-putinstyle-homosexuality-ban/story-fnho52ip-1226678897017 (Accessed 28 January 2014).

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

Christians stuck for answers

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

lightning icon clip artBy Spencer D Gear

Why are some Christians overpowered by non-Christians with difficult questions? I have met some of these Christians on Internet Christian forums. Whether these questions are genuine or to stir up Christians will unfold only as the discussion proceeds.

I’ve noticed that Christians can be overcome by questions about:

3d-red-star-small The talking serpent that tempted the first woman(Genesis 3:1-5);

3d-red-star-small Why Christianity and not Islam?

3d-red-star-small How did the canon of Scripture come to be formed?

3d-red-star-small Why doesn’t God stop all of the evil in the world?

3d-red-star-small Who made God?

3d-red-star-small John Calvin supported the killing of an opponent. Why?

A. Non-Christian questions for believers

 

On a Christian forum, I interacted with an unbeliever who had questions about a number of Christian subjects. He wrote:

Any number of topics interest me: the authorship of the gospels; how the books of the Bible came to be chosen and why certain others were not included; the nature of morality,; the way the three Abrahamic religions split into three very different, distinct religions (Judaism, Islam, Christianity); Biblical archaeology; comparing the flood story in Genesis with the flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh; how Jesus has been interpreted and misinterpreted (thinking of books like Wills’s fascinating, What Jesus Meant, and Aslan’s, Zealot, the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which I am currently reading). I enjoy studying history and literature, and the Bible is one of the books that underpins Western Civilization — that’s why I have enjoyed studying it.[1]

A Christian responded:

Most of the things you want to discuss are beyond the expertise of the vast majority of people in this forum. I suggest you check with seminaries to see if there are discussion forums attended by scholars who have done the research to answer you with authority. I suggest that you investigate both liberal and conservative sources. (Graduate Theological Union in Berkley, Ca. And Dallas Theological Seminary perhaps.)

If you are looking for scholarly responses to your inquiries then you need to consult scholars with expertise in the areas which interest you. Looking for that level of expertise in specific areas of Christian theology in this forum is a bit like asking the mailman for a diagnosis of an illness.[2]

The non-believer did not like that response as his reply indicates:

You replied to that with the astonishingly elitist comment, “Most of the things you want to discuss are beyond the expertise of the vast majority of people in this forum.”

You dodged my follow-up questions. Why do you think those topics are only to be tackled by experts? You really don’t think the membership here is up to discussing how Jesus has been interpreted or misinterpreted?[3]

Another non-believer jumped in:

I have brought up many of those same topics and others and I didn’t have any better luck than you seem to be having. Some people just feel like these topics are threatening to their faith, but these discussions are important and can be fruitful. I wish that I could have an open discussion with someone who didn’t ignore my remarks and hurl insults at me when I didn’t agree with them. But sadly that is just the way things are. So don’t take it personally when you find it difficult to have a discussion about who you believe wrote the Bible or the Flood, or any other topic. There are Christians who can easily have such discussions and there are those who can’t. 🙁

This is a Christian forum so it is understandable that there might be some resistance, but still…[4]

My response was[5] that I agree with Melissa that it is a shame when she and others raise topics for which it is difficult to have a discussion with Christians on this forum.

B. Many Christians are not equipped for apologetics

Leap of Doubt

(image courtesy ChristArt)

As a Christian, this is no rationalisation of what happens, but I think I can understand why the laity on Christian forums on the Internet are not responding to difficult questions posed by non-Christians. When unbelievers antagonistically attack unbelievers or try to expose holes in Christianity, I can comprehend why some Christians duck for cover. Here’s some of my assessment:

1. Many churches have not equipped their people with answers to some of the apologetic questions you are asking – valid questions. I’ve had to educate myself in these areas. Therefore, many Christians will not respond or give glib answers when they don’t know the answers themselves. Don’t expect them to give in-depth answers. It would be like asking me to give reasons for the nature and need of JavaScript for computers (my son is an IT professional and he gets rather frustrated with his Dad’s inability to understand geek language and concepts).

2. For many Christians whose lives have been changed by the Christ who lives in them, topics like the intricacies surrounding Noah and the Flood, historical origins of the canon of Scripture, the Gilgamesh Epic, etc are not of interest, so they avoid these topics or give light-hearted responses.

3. For me, I don’t have the time to get into details about some of these topics, so I tend to refer to other resources. I contribute on 2 Christian forums on the Internet and if I replied to all of the difficult questions addressed to me, I’d be at this computer for much of the day. I am helped by the fact that I took one of my wife’s touch-typing courses at college many years ago so am a touch typist. That helps me zoom through the typing.

4. So when it comes to historical reasons for the resurrection of Jesus, I refer to substantive research publications such as N T Wright, The resurrection of the Son of God (2003 Minneapolis: Fortress Press).

5. For research on the reliability of the OT and NT, I refer to:

(a) Walter C Kaiser Jr 2001. The Old Testament documents: Are they reliable & relevant? Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press;

(b) K A Kitchen 2003. On the reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company;

(c) Craig Blomberg 1987. The historical reliability of the Gospels. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

6. In addition, there are considerable numbers of issues on apologetics topics that can be pursued. I can refer you to some resources if you are interested. For quality research on the text of the New Testament, see Bruce M Metzger 1992. The text of the New Testament: Its transmission, corruption, and restoration, 3rd edn. New York / Oxford: Oxford University Press.

7. For information on the formation of the canon of the Scripture, see F F Bruce 1988. The canon of Scripture. Glasgow: Chapter House.

8. However, some Christians find non-Christians come onto Christian sites to be argumentative and they don’t want to go down that route.

9. For me, I would love to provide replies to some of the penetrating questions concerning the Christian faith and engage in a back and forth, but when I get to be a really old man (instead of just an old man), I might be able to do that for only then might I have the time.

10. I urge non-Christians to please be patient with those who don’t have the depth of answers for the depth of questions asked.

11. To this person on the forum, I stated that Jim, the Christian, was telling the truth. Most of the topics the non-Christian wanted to discuss were out of the league of the laity. They are specialist subjects in the Christian community. Please contact a Christian seminary or university with these questions. Why don’t you try these topics on faculty at Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL? Please ask for a faculty member with the expertise dealing with your inquiry.
Most of the laity in my church would not be equipped to answer your questions, nor have the interest. Therefore, if you are serious, I urge you to contact a Christian specialist in these fields. TIU would be a good starter.
Please let us know how you got on when you contacted TIU.

12. There is a further issue that this non-Christian has demonstrated on this forum with some of his answers. Even if I or another provided answers to questions that he asked, there is every possibility he won’t like what I write. But we could at least enjoy the interaction.

C. Churches need challengingWarning

Vehicle equipment construction backhoe

 

 

 

 

 

It’s time for churches to wake up. Equip your people for apologetics or they will drown in the quagmire of questions and allegations by secular folks. This will happen at school, university, on the job, and even at church. Many sit in the pews who have significant issues with the Christian faith. I have met and spoken with them.

There are exceptions to this. Take a read of schedules by apologists Norm Geisler, Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, Steve Kumar, and Ross Clifford[6]. They do include speaking and training at churches.

This whole discussion is a sad indictment on the evangelical churches especially. They have not equipped their people to answer some of the difficult questions that arise from the Bible – questions of interpretation and of dealing with issues in the real world. I’m thinking of these kinds of questions:

  • Is the Book of Genesis a reliable document in a world dominated by the Darwinian paradigm of evolution?
  • Science mutilates the Bible.
  • You can’t trust the Bible.
  • Why Christianity and not Islam, Hinduism or the occult?
  • Christianity is promoting nonsense.
  • ‘When you die you rot’ (Bertrand Russell). There is nothing after death.
  • You can’t trust anything from history. There is so little information about Jesus. To believe in him is to practise irrationality.

In my approximately 50 years as a Christian believer, I have never attended any church in Australia (or Canada & the USA where I lived for 7 years) that equipped its people in apologetics topics. I’ve had to obtain training in this area from Christian institutions of higher learning.

D. It’s a shame

smiley embarrassed clip artIt’s a disgrace that youth face topics that attack their faith in high school and especially university, but the local church is not equipping them. Well, that’s my experience in 50 years as a Christian. It’s still the problem in the churches in my region. I’m raising awareness among them.

I’m of the view that training in apologetics is neutered by distance education. Apologetics needs the argy bargy of classroom debate as well as input in areas of need. Classroom and workshops are the place for apologetic training.

I refer you to my articles:

I’d also recommend that Christians become competent public speakers and debaters by joining public speaking clubs such as Toastmasters and Rostrum. Since I’m an Aussie living in Queensland, those are Australian links.

Notes


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, The Fellowship Hall, ‘Why I avoid discussing life after death’ (online), David Woodbury#121, January 18 2014, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=113&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=122769 (Accessed 29 January 2014).

[2] Ibid., Jim Parker#128.

[3] Ibid., David Woodbury#183.

[4] Ibid., Melissa#184.

[5] Ibid., ozspen#194.

[6] Because Rev Dr Ross Clifford is president of Morling College (Baptist), Sydney, Australia and is an active apologist, apologetics subjects are available for pastors in training as a week-long intensive. See: http://www.morlingcollege.com/events/christian-apologetics (Accessed 30 January 2014). I’d be interested to see how that apologetic training translates into the local Baptist churches through these pastors and others who attend the intensive.

 

Copyright (c) 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 8 July 2016.

God created the universe out of nothing (ex nihilo)

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

NASA IMAGES - a service of the Internet Archive

(image courtesy Pinterest)

By Spencer D Gear

Some Christians struggle with the view that God created the universe ex nihilo, which is the Latin phrase that means ‘out of nothing’. The Bible begins, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (Gen 1:1). From what did God create the universe?

Saint Augustine Portrait.jpg

St Augustine of Hippo (image courtesy Wikipedia)

3d-gold-star St Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430) wrote that ‘though God formed man of the dust of the earth, yet the earth itself, and every earthly material, is absolutely created out of nothing; and man’s soul, too, God created out of nothing, and joined to the body, when He made man’ (City of God 14.11).

Norm Geisler explains:[1]

The world must have been made out of nothing because it had a beginning; it came to be. It did not always exist; God did. The world is finite, temporal, and changing, while God is none of these. Hence, the world cannot be made out of God’s substance or essence. It must, then, have come into existence out of nothing by God’s power (Geisler 2003:431).

Carlo Crivelli 007.jpg

Thomas Aquinas (image courtesy Wikipedia)

3d-gold-star Thomas Aquinas (AD1224-1274) wrote on the topic, ‘Whether to create is to make something from nothing?’ He admitted that one of the objections is: ‘To create is not to make something from nothing’, to which his response was:

On the contrary, On the text of Gn. 1, “In the beginning God created,” etc., the gloss has, “To create is to make something from nothing.”

I answer that, As said above (Q[44], A[2]), we must consider not only the emanation of a particular being from a particular agent, but also the emanation of all being from the universal cause, which is God; and this emanation we designate by the name of creation. Now what proceeds by particular emanation, is not presupposed to that emanation; as when a man is generated, he was not before, but man is made from “not-man,” and white from “not-white.” Hence if the emanation of the whole universal being from the first principle be considered, it is impossible that any being should be presupposed before this emanation. For nothing is the same as no being. Therefore as the generation of a man is from the “not-being” which is “not-man,” so creation, which is the emanation of all being, is from the “not-being” which is “nothing” (Summa Theologica, I.45).[2]

For an examination of this topic of God’s creating the universe from nothing (ex nihilo), we move from the sophisticated Aquinas in the thirteenth century to an everyday person on a Christian Internet forum in the 21st century.

Difficult to comprehend creation ex nihilo

A poster on a Christian Forum wrote:

I can’t comprehend ex nihilo. I can’t comprehend the “nothing” that God created the world out of. First I think of space as nothing but space is something. God created the universe, everything, out of NOTHING!’[3]

So do I.[4] But I struggle to even begin to reach a beginning understanding of the nature of the Almighty, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal God who bothers to provide salvation to a puny person like me.

As for creating out of ‘nothing’, let’s try. The Hebrew verb bara (created) in Genesis 1:1 expresses ‘something great, new and “epoch-making,” as only God can do it’ (Leupold 1942:40-41), but the verb does not have to eliminate existing material as we know from Isa 65:18b as an example. However, creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing) is indicated by passages such as Rom 4:17; Heb 11:3. See also Psalm 33:6, 9; Amos 4:13.

For my understanding, to create out of nothing is associated with the Kal use of bara create, which is only associated with divine creation and refers to the production of something (in this case, the universe – the heavens and the earth) that had no existence before this (Keil & Delitzsch n d:47). There was no word in Hebrew for ‘universe’ so ‘the heaven and the earth’ was the phrase God used. Keil & Delitzsch stated it this way, ‘There is nothing belonging to the composition of the universe, either in material or form, which had an existence out of God prior to this divine act in the beginning’ (Keil & Delitzsch n d:47).

I find it difficult to get my head around this concept, but when God has revealed that this happened this way, I accept it for the way it was because of who God is. The important thing for me to remember is: The universe (heaven and earth, and the first human beings) had a beginning. The universe is not eternal and the Lord God created them. He called the universe into existence because of who he is and the power he exerts.

By the way, this universe at the end of time will be destroyed by the same power of Almighty God (see 2 Peter 3:7; Rev 21). That’s hard to comprehend as well. It’s as certain to happen as the creation out of nothing was.

The person on the Christian forum continued:

It doesn’t make a difference to me as far as my faith is concerned whether God chose to create humans directly, like Adam as a full adult, or whether God chose evolution to develop the physical human body and then put an immortal soul into the body at some point.[5]

Same here. But when God has not told us that he used macro evolution, but created ex nihilo, I believe him rather than the God-denying evolutionists, especially with Darwin’s eminent promotion. We are dealing with the truthfulness of God. Since he is correct about eternal salvation, he is also correct about how he made the universe (limited though the details may be in Scripture).

The poster continued:

I always liked science. I was a biology major with minors in math and geology (long time ago) but I still try to keep up on things by subscribing to some magazines like Scientific American, etc. That stuff fascinates me because I can see the Hand of God in it,[6]

I’m a maths and science major from high school but didn’t pursue it further, although I went into university to become a science teacher but didn’t finish the course. It’s encouraging that you see the hand of God in science. Many scientists do not. In my recent 5th valve replacement heart surgery and an ICD (like a pacemaker) implant revealed the intricate nature of the heart’s electrical system. One nurse told me: ‘The heart has an amazing electrical system but there is no motor to drive it’. My response was that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, but that zoomed right past her.

The poster brought Darwin and God into the conversation:

I realize Darwin wanted to remove God from the equation but that’s just Darwin’s opinion. What counts — to me anyway — is that God won’t remove ME from God’s Equation![7]

It’s not just Darwin who wanted to remove God from the creation equation. Many other scientists and journalists do it, Richard Dawkins[8] and Christopher Hitchens[9] are overt examples of this anti-God attempt in the scientific world. Let’s check out what Dawkins and Hitchens thing.

Richard Dawkins Cooper Union Shankbone.jpg

Richard Dawkins (photograph courtesy Wikipedia)

6pointblue Richard Dawkins wrote: ‘I never take part in debates with creationists’. His footnote at this point was, ‘I do not have the chutzpah to refuse on grounds offered by one of my most distinguished scientific colleagues, whenever a creationist tries to stage a formal debate with him (I shall not name him, but his words should be read in an Australian accent): “That would look great on your CV; not so good on mine”’ (Dawkins 2006:318).

So what’s Dawkins’ view of God and creation since he is the one who wrote The God delusion (2006)? Of natural selection of Darwinian evolution, Dawkins wrote that ‘it shatters the illusion of design within the domain of biology, and teaches us to be suspicious of any kind of design hypothesis in physics and cosmology as well’ (2006:143). Dawkins endorses other authors in what they write about God and creation. He favourably cited physicist Leonard Susskind who wrote, ‘Modern cosmology really began with Darwin and Wallace. Unlike anyone before them, they provided explanations of our existence that completely rejected supernatural agents’ (in Dawkins 2006:143).

He also referred to the prose poetry of Peter Atkins’ hypothesis of a ‘lazy God’, Dawkins summarised: ‘Step by step, Atkins succeeds in reducing the amount of work the lazy God has to do until he finally ends up doing nothing at all: he might as well not bother to exist’. Then Dawkins added what I, as an evangelical Christian, consider is a blasphemous statement, ‘My memory vividly hears Woody Allen’s perceptive whine: “If it turns out that there is a God, I don’t think that he’s evil. But the worst that you can say about him is that basically he’s an under-achiever’ (in Dawkins 2006:144).

Opposition to the Dawkins’ view of god

Alister McGrath.jpg

Alister McGrath (photograph courtesy Wikipedia)

6pointblue Alister & Joanna McGrath examined the validity of Dawkins’ arguments in The God Delusion (Dawkins 2006) in The Dawkins Delusion? (McGrath & McGrath (2007). Their comments include these:

Whereas [Stephen Jay] Gould[10] at least tries to weigh the evidence, Dawkins simply offers the atheist equivalent of slick hellfire preaching, substituting turbocharged rhetoric and highly selective manipulation of facts for careful, evidence-based thinking. Curiously, there is surprisingly little scientific analysis in The God Delusion…. Dawkins preaches to his god-hating choirs….

Many have been disturbed by Dawkins’s crude stereotypes, vastly oversimplified binary oppositions (science is good; religion is bad), straw men and hostility toward religion…. Dawkins relies so excessively on rhetoric rather than the evidence that would otherwise be his natural stock in trade clearly indicates that something is wrong with his case. Ironically the ultimate achievement of The God Delusion for modern atheism may be to suggest that this emperor has no clothes to wear. Might atheism be a delusion about God? (McGrath & McGrath 2007:11, 97).

Christopher Hitchens crop 2.jpg

Christopher Hitchens (photograph courtesy Wikipedia)

6pointblue This was Christopher Hitchens’ view:

It’s, as I say in my book, it’s an optional belief now. It’s been optional ever since LaPlace, when demonstrating the workings of the universe, was asked well, there doesn’t seem to be a God in this design of yours, he said well, it actually operates perfectly well without that assumption. So you can make it if you want, but it’s completely superfluous. It can’t be integral to it. It doesn’t explain anything. Einstein did say he was not an atheist, but he went on to say that he had no belief whatever in a personal God. He was a spinozist, which is a very exact way of saying that you do not believe that God intervenes in human affairs….

It seems to me, though, that the really unbelievable thing, the thing that cannot be believed, is that we on this very tiny speck of a planet in a solar system that has otherwise only dead planets, and the death of which we can all anticipate almost to the hour, the heat death of our known universe, that it’s on the very, very edge of a whirling, unimaginable space with other galaxies, that we are the point of all this creation. It’s just not possible for me, at any rate, to believe that….

Many people of high intelligence and fervent conscience have been devout believers. I say that I think the belief is stupid and unfounded and false, and potentially, latently, always wicked, because it is both servile in one way, and arrogant in another. And that’s why I dare to say that it’s ab initio, a poison. But I certainly do not say of people who have faith that they are dumb. Isaac Newton was practically a spiritualist. Alfred Russel Wallace, who did a lot of Darwin’s work for him, had weird, supernatural beliefs as well. These things are compatible with high intelligence and great morality. But we would be better off if we left them behind….

You know, if there’s a God, why have I got cancer? What a silly question. It would be, I wouldn’t have any idea why He would want that. I would just have to accept it. But I mean, I don’t, I do not go in for this game at all, and I don’t know why anybody does. (Roberts 2007).

Mark D Roberts (photograph courtesy Patheos)

In his debate with Christopher Hitchens, Dr Mark Roberts concluded:

I think what I would want to say is that we can look at the wonder of Creation, or that’s perhaps begging the question, of the universe as it is, and we can get to the point of saying either that’s all there is, and it is wonderful, or we can get to the point of saying there must be something beyond this, some sort of God, can’t be proved, but one can’t say that it doesn’t matter whether there is that God or not (Roberts 2007).

portrait of R. Douglas Geivett

(R Douglas Geivett, photograph courtesy Talbot School of Theology)

6pointblue Christian apologist, William Lane Craig debated Christopher Hitchens at Biola University, California, on April 5, 2009. Christian apologist, Doug Geivett was at that debate and recorded his comments on the night of the debate in, ‘William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens: First Report’. The topic of the debate was, ‘Does God exist?’ These are a few grabs from Geivett’s early assessment:

  • In the rebuttal, cross-examination, and response portions of the debate that followed, Bill Craig pressed Christopher Hitchens on his conception of atheism, his reasons for being an atheist, and his responses to the arguments presented in Craig’s opening speech. In this respect, Craig was in greater control of themes in the debate. This was helped immensely by the clear progression, crisp identification, and repetition of his original arguments. Hitchens resisted Craig’s efforts to extract a more precise definition of Hitchens’s atheism than his simple denial that there is adequate evidence for theism. Hitchens claimed that if you believe the universe is designed, then you also have to believe the designer is short on the excellence attributed by theists to God. There is a tension between there being a god who is completely indifferent to human suffering, or a god who provides a bizarre remedy in the form of having “someone tortured to death during the Bronze Age” and Roman rule, a god who demands conformity to his requirements in order to be saved from damnation, and, in any case, who leaves countless individuals without opportunity to hear about and accept this remedy.
  • The most noteworthy difference between these debaters consists in this: preparation. One may agree or disagree with Bill Craig’s claims, but there can be no question that he was thoroughly prepared for every aspect of the debate and never faltered in his response to objections by Hitchens. Christopher Hitchens, on the other hand, dropped several of Craig’s opening arguments, and seriously misunderstood or distorted the moral argument, the argument from the resurrection of Jesus, and Craig’s appeal to experience. I think Craig was most successful in demonstrating the error in Hitchens’s discombobulated rendition of Craig’s moral argument. Whether the audience followed the competing interpretations of N. T. Wright’s historical argument concerning the probability of the resurrection is another matter. But I can vouch for Craig’s construal of Wright’s argument, and, for that matter, for Hitchens’s confusion on the point. As for the appeal to experience of God (and the witness of the Holy Spirit), I might have put the point differently than Craig did and treat it as a kind of evidence that serves the subject of the experience without the need for argument. But Bill Craig and I may have a different view of the epistemology of such experience….
  • Returning, finally, to something I mentioned previously, this debate exposed a difference in preparation on the part of these two debaters. This is far more significant than it might seem at first. William Lane Craig has debated this topic dozens of times, without wavering from the same basic pattern of argument. He presents the same arguments in the same form, and presses his opponents in the same way for arguments in defense of their own worldviews. He’s consistent. He’s predictable. One might think that this is a liability, that it’s too risky to face a new opponent who has so much opportunity to review Craig’s specific strategy. But tonight’s debate proves otherwise. Hitchens can have no excuse for dropping arguments when he knows—or should know—exactly what to expect. Suppose one replies that William Craig is a more experienced debater and a trained philosopher, while Christopher Hitchens is a journalist working outside the Academy. That simply won’t do as a defense of Hitchens. First, Hitchens is no stranger to debate. Second, he is clearly a skillful polemicist. Third—and most important—Hitchens published a book, god Is Not Great, in which he makes bold claims against religion in general and Christianity in particular. With his book, he threw down the challenge. To his credit, he rose to meet a skillful challenger. But did he rise to the occasion? Did he acquit himself well? At one point he acknowledged that some of his objections to the designer argument were “layman’s” objections. His book, I believe, is also the work of a layman. It appears to have been written for popular consumption and without concern for accountability to Christians whose lives are dedicated to the defense of the Gospel (Geivett 2009a).

6pointblue Elsewhere, Geivett reviewed Hitchens’ book, god is not great (Hitchens 2007). Part of that review stated:

Ignoring Reasonable Christianity. To begin chapter 5, Hitchens quotes (without attribution) several Christian thinkers to the effect that Christianity is opposed to reason. He quotes Thomas Aquinas as saying, “I am a man of one book” (63), for example, and includes other similar quotes. This misleads the unsuspecting reader into thinking that Christianity always pits religious faith against reason. This is laughably false in the case of Aquinas, who is famous for his rational arguments for God’s existence. There may be rough strands and pockets of anti-intellectualism in Christian history, but there also is a rich and deep current of vigorous intellectualism, as evidenced by historic Christian thinkers such as Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Pascal, and Edwards, as well as by modern intellectuals such as G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, J.P. Moreland, and William Lane Craig. Rather than engaging Christian theism (or any other religion) at its rational best,8 however, Hitchens scavenges around for the worst examples of illogic, ignorance, and outright stupidity in religion. The straw man makes many loud-mouthed appearances in god Is Not Great (Geivett 2009b).

Peterhitchens.jpg

(Peter Hitchens, photograph courtesy Wikipedia)

There is an interesting perspective that is provided by Peter Hitchens, Christopher’s brother and a Christian. I encourage you to read this article, ‘Old Answers to the New Atheism: An Interview with Peter Hitchens’ (Ligonier Ministries 2014). On the death of his brother, Christopher, on 16 December 2011, the British newspaper, Mail Online, published Peter’s article, ‘In Memoriam, my courageous brother Christopher, 1949-2011’. In this article, Peter recounts:

Here’s a thing I will say now without hesitation, unqualified and important. The one word that comes to mind when I think of my brother is ‘courage’. By this I don’t mean the lack of fear which some people have, which enables them to do very dangerous or frightening things because they have no idea what it is to be afraid. I mean a courage which overcomes real fear, while actually experiencing it….

People sometimes tell me that I have been ‘courageous’ to say something moderately controversial in a public place. Not a bit of it. This is not courage. Courage is deliberately taking a known risk, sometimes physical, sometimes to your livelihood, because you think it is too important not to.

My brother possessed this virtue to the very end, and if I often disagreed with the purposes for which he used it, I never doubted the quality or ceased to admire it. I’ve mentioned here before C.S.Lewis’s statement that courage is the supreme virtue, making all the others possible. It should be praised and celebrated, and is the thing I‘d most wish to remember.

God’s plan for the present and future

God doesn’t remove any human being from the equation (we all will have to answer to him), but the new heavens and new earth also are in God’s plan for our future. The person on the Christian forum stated:

Theories change. New ideas pop up and people work on them and research them and argue them. Some are proven and some can never be proven. God doesn’t change. God is, was and always will be.[11]

I say, ‘Amen’, to the last 2 sentences. But I agree that theories change but God doesn’t. That’s why I’m so pleased that God has revealed his nature and actions – past, present, and future – in Scripture, on a limited scale.
To this person, I stated that this sure reads like she is convinced by the awesome revelation of God in creation and Scripture. I urged her to continue promoting it on the forum.

Dr Norman Geisler responds

6pointblue I checked what Norman Geisler said of ‘creation out of nothing’ as his understanding of issues has had input from Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, since the time of Geisler’s PhD in philosophy that he earned from Loyola University, Chicago. Geisler wrote:

Aquinas argued that creation must be out of nothing. By definition, “Nothing is the same as non-being.” However, “when anything is said to be made from nothing, the preposition from does not signify a material cause, but only an order” (Summa Theologica 1.45.2). Likewise, we speak of midday coming from morning, meaning after morning but not literally out of it.
To create from nothing is really a negative concept: “The sense is … it is not made from anything; just as if we were to say, He speaks of nothing, because he does not speak of anything” (ibid., 1.45.2). The ancient dictum that “nothing comes from nothing” is not to be understood absolutely: It means that something cannot be caused by nothing, but not that something cannot come after nothing. That is, something can be created from nothing but not by nothing (Geisler 2003:432-433).

I had never thought of and understood creation ex nihilo that way, but this helped me get a better understanding on some of its meaning, thanks to Aquinas and Geisler.

Works consulted

Aquinas, T 1947. Summa Theologica (online). Tr English Dominican Province. Bensinger Bros edition, available at: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/ (Accessed 28 January 2014).

Dawkins, R 2006. The God delusion. London: Black Swan (Transworld Publishers).

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

Geivett, D 2009a. Doug Geivett’s Blog, ‘William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens: First Report’ (online), April 5. Available at: http://douggeivett.wordpress.com/2009/04/05/william-lane-craig-vs-christopher-hitchens-first-report/ (Accessed 28 January 2014).

Geivett, D 2009b. god is not great: How religion poisons everything (book review), Christian Research Journal, June 11. Available at: http://www.equip.org/articles/god-is-not-great-how-religion-poisons-everything/ (Accessed 28 January 2014).

Hitchens, C 2007. god is not great: How religion poisons everything. New York, NY: Twelve (Hachette Book Group, Inc.).

Keil, C F & Delitzsch, F n d. Commentary on the Old Testament: The Pentateuch, vol 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Leupold, H C 1942. Exposition of Genesis, vols 1 & 2. London: Evangelical Press (The Wartburg Press USA)
McGrath, A E & McGrath, J C 2007. The Dawkins delusion? Atheist fundamentalism and the denial of the divine. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Books.

Roberts, M D 2007. Christopher Hitchens: Our three-hour debate (online). Patheos. Available at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/christopher-hitchens-our-three-hour-debate/ (Accessed 28 January 2014).

Notes


[1] On the homepage of Dr Norman L Geisler, it states:

Dr. Norman Geisler, PhD, is a prolific author, veteran professor, speaker, lecturer, traveler, philosopher, apologist, evangelist, and theologian.  To those who ask, “Who is Norm Geisler?” some have suggested, “Well, imagine a cross between Thomas Aquinas and Billy Graham and you’re not too far off.” Norm has authored/coauthored over 80 books and hundreds of articles. He has taught theology, philosophy, and apologetics on the college or graduate level for over 50 years.  He has served as a professor at some of the finest Seminaries in the United States, including Trinity Evangelical Seminary, Dallas Seminary, and Southern Evangelical Seminary.  He now lends his talents to Veritas Evangelical Seminary in Murrieta, California, as the Distinguished Professor of Apologetics (available at: http://www.normgeisler.com, accessed 28 January 2014).

[2] This is from Aquinas’s ‘Treatise on the creation [Qs 44-49]. Question 45, ‘The mode of emanation of things from the first principle (eight articles)’, St. Thomas Aquinas 1947. Summa Theologica, transl. by Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Benziger Bros.edn. Available at: http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/aquinas/summa/index.htm (Accessed 28 January 2014).

[3] Christian Fellowship Forum, The Fellowship Hall, ‘Dinosaurs’, charma#36, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?msg=122590.36&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&redirCnt=1 (Accessed 28 January 2014).

[4] The following includes my response as ozspen#41, ibid.

[5] Op cit., charma#36.

[6] Ibid., charma#36.

[7] Ibid., charma#36.

[8]From 1967 to 1969, Richard Dawkins, a scientist, was an assistant professor of zoology at the University of California, Berkeley. From 1995-2008, he was the Charles Simonyi Professor for Public Understanding of Science, Oxford University. At the time of writing The God delusion, Dawkins also was a fellow of New College (Dawkins 2006:1). Alister McGrath (D. Phil., Oxford University) is the primary author of a response to Dawkins’ atheism, The Dawkins Delusion? (McGrath & McGrath 2007). McGrath is professor of historical theology at Oxford University. ‘After studying chemistry at Oxford, he did research in molecular biophysics, developing new methods for investigating biological membranes. He then studied Christian theology, specializing in the history of Christian thought and especially in issues of science and religion’ (McGrath & McGrath 2007: inside back flap).

[9] The late Christopher Hitchens was an author, polemicist and journalist. He died in 2011 at the age of 62. He was a prolific writer and prominent in his promotion of the evolutionary cause. One of his most famous books was titled, god is not great: How religion poisons everything (Hitchens 2007).

[10] According to The New York Times, Gould, a Harvard University evolutionary theorist, died in 2002 of cancer at the age of 60. See ‘Stephen Jay Gould, 60, Is Dead; Enlivened Evolutionary Theory’ (Accessed 28 January 2014). Hitchens labels Professor Stephen Jay Gould as a ‘celebrated atheist’ (Roberts 2007).

[11] Op cit., charma#36.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 September 2016.

If Jesus’ atonement is for all, should all be saved?

Monday, January 27th, 2014

(courtesy clker.com)

By Spencer D Gear

If you visit some Christian forums on the Internet, you are likely to encounter some Calvinists who support limited atonement and oppose unlimited atonement (that is promoted by Arminians)? Why? Because the limited atonement folks think that if Jesus died for all, then all would be saved.

I encountered this a few times when I was interacting.[1] You might like to read some of the interaction in, ‘The effects of limited atonement’.

Take a read of these Scriptures that support Jesus’ dying for the world and providing the righteousness of God to those who believe:

blue-arrow 1 John 2:2: ‘He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’ (ESV).

blue-arrow 2 Corinthians 5:21: ‘For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (ESV).

blue-arrow Romans 5:15-19:

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgement following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

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

Norm Geisler comments about these verses:

The salvation of everyone was not immediately applied; it was simply purchased. All persons were made salvable, but not all persons were automatically saved. The gift was made possible by the Savior, but it must be received by the sinner (Eph. 2:8-9; cf. John 1:12). In short, the salvation of all sinners from God’s eternal wrath is possible, but only those who accept Christ’s payment for their sins will actually be saved from it.

To put it another way, this objection presupposes universalism (that all will be saved), for which there is no sound biblical, theological, or historical basis (Geisler 2003:405).

This is one of the finest, brief statements I’ve read that provides a summary of Jesus’ death providing atonement for all, but salvation only for those who receive the gift of salvation by faith.

Works consulted

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

Notes

[1] I am OzSpen on Christian Forums, Soteriology directory.


 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

Is Jesus coming soon or quickly?

Monday, January 27th, 2014

(courtesy Google, public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

Do the Scriptures lie about the second coming of Jesus or have the translators got it wrong? Is he coming soon or quickly?

1.  One man’s vision of the final day

On Youtube there is an interview with a David Jones by Sid Roth on his TV program, ‘It’s supernatural’. The title of the interview is ‘The final day’. Jones claims to have received an open vision of the final day on earth, a visionary experience of the day of the Lord in which he was exposed to the terror of the Lord. This was revealed in Isaiah13:6-9 and the Book of Revelation (Rev 6:15-17).

Now David Jones claims to have seen this final day as an open vision and that time is running out. He claims to have seen the coming of the Son of God.

Why don’t you watch the interview? I have a couple of issues with the TV program:

(1) It’s in a TV interview where there is drama and it is made to have a Hollywood touch of the dramatic and commercialism. Why should I believe David Jones when Isaiah and Revelation have already revealed the nature of that day?

(2) Jesus told us that nobody knows when he will return, including Jesus himself. Only the heavenly Father knows when that will be.

(3) It requires a premillennial end-times (eschatological) perspective.

This we know from Mark 13:32-33: ‘But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come (ESV).

Why should it be revealed to a contemporary human being that the final day of the Lord is soon and that time has run out and it is too late? Jesus himself did not know this. We have the warnings in Isaiah and the Book of Revelation. Why do we need David Jones’ warning?

2.  Soon or quickly? Does it matter?

Revelation 22:7 (courtesy Bible Hub) states in these versions:

New International Version
“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”
New Living Translation
“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.”
English Standard Version
“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
New American Standard Bible
“And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”
King James Bible
“Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.”
Holman Christian Standard Bible
“Look, I am coming quickly! The one who keeps the prophetic words of this book is blessed.”

The NIV, NLT and ESV state that Jesus is coming ‘soon’, but the NASB, KJV, HCSB state he is coming ‘quickly’. Which one is it? Are the translators confused or is something else going on? If Jesus was said to be ‘coming soon’ and that was about 2,000 years ago with the composition of the Book of Revelation, it seems as though John the Revelator did not get an accurate message from God. He got it wrong!

But is that a correct conclusion?

3.  ‘Soon’ in English

What does ‘soon’ mean in English? According to dictionary.com, it means, ‘within a short period after this or that time, event, etc.; we shall know soon after he calls; before long; in the near future; at an early date; promptly or quickly; readily or willingly; early in a period of time; before the time specified is much advanced’.[1]

So to English speakers, ‘soon’, as applied to Jesus’ second coming and the day of the Lord, would generally mean within a short period of time after John the Revelator revealed this.

4.  ‘Quickly’ in English

Dictionary.com gives the meaning of the adverb ‘quickly’ as: ‘with speed; rapidly; very soon’.[2]

So even in English there can be a difference between saying something will happen soon and it happens quickly. If it happens soon, it means in the near future. Quickly can mean rapidly.

Therefore in Revelation 20:7, was John stating that Jesus was coming in the near future or that when he comes it will happen quickly? Let’s check the original language of the New Testament.

5.  ‘Soon’ or ‘quickly’ in New Testament Greek

Which Greek word is used in Revelation 22:7? The ESV translation of this verse states, ‘And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book’. Is ‘soon’ the correct translation?

By the way, the same word is repeated in Rev 22:12, 20 and other verses in the Book of Revelation. The adverb translation ‘soon’ or ‘quickly’ is the Greek, tachu, from the verb, tachus. Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning of tachus in Rev. 2:5, 16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:7, 12, 20 as ‘without delay, quickly, at once’ but they note that ‘it is not always possible to make a clear distinction between this meaning’ and ‘in a short time, soon’ as in Mark 9:39 (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:814-815).

Greek exegete, George Eldon Ladd, in his commentary on the Book of Revelation wrote of Rev 22:7,

The word may mean ‘quickly’ (AV) or ‘soon’ (RSV). The Christian community should always live under the expectancy of the imminent coming of the Lord. No man knows the day nor hour (Matt. 24:36) and no one can set dates or calculate the time of his coming; but every generation must be awake as though the coming of Christ was at the threshold (Matt. 24:42-44). The biblical warnings involve a spiritual and moral tension of expectancy and perspective (Ladd 1972:290).

Lutheran commentator, R C H Lenski, confirms this understanding of Rev 22:7, ‘That Jesus is coming quickly is, indeed, Jesus’ own word as v. 20 shows. The angel quotes it twice, here and in v. 12’ (Lenski 1943/1963:659).

The passage of time has spoken as to which is the meaning in the verses in the Book of Revelation that use tachu associated with the second coming of Christ. It could not mean soon, meaning without delay or at once. It surely means ‘quickly’ because that is how Jesus stated his return will be.

  • ‘You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’ (Luke 12:40 ESV).

6.  False predictions have come and gone

Image result for Ellen G White photograph public domain
(courtesy ellenwhitelibrary.new)

 Ellen White held a special place in the ministry of the Seventh-Day Adventists. Arthur L White in his brief biography of Ellen White stated:

Seventh-day Adventists believe that Mrs. White was more than a gifted writer; they believe she was appointed by God as a special messenger to draw the world’s attention to the Holy Scriptures and help prepare people for Christ’s second advent. From the time she was 17 years old until she died 70 years later, God gave her approximately 2,000 visions and dreams. The visions varied in length from less than a minute to nearly four hours. The knowledge and counsel received through these revelations she wrote out to be shared with others. Thus her special writings are accepted by Seventh-day Adventists as inspired, and their exceptional quality is recognized even by casual readers (Arthur White: 2000).

Arthur White wrote that Ellen White’s writings included ‘prophecy’ and that ‘this remarkable woman who, meeting all the tests of a true prophet as set forth in the Holy Scriptures, helped found the Seventh-day Adventist church’ (Arthur White: 2000).

Here are a couple of online paragraphs from Ellen White’s, ‘The Mark of the Beast‘:

In a view given June 27, 1850, my accompanying angel said, “Time is almost finished. Do you reflect the lovely image of Jesus as you should?” Then I was pointed to the earth and saw that there would have to be a getting ready among those who have of late embraced the third angel’s message. Said the angel, “Get ready, get ready, get ready. Ye will have to die a greater death to the world than ye have ever yet died.” I saw that there was a great work to do for them and but little time in which to do it.

Then I saw that the seven last plagues were soon to be poured out upon those who have no shelter; yet the world regarded them no more than they would so many drops of water that were about to fall. I was then made capable of enduring the awful sight of the seven last plagues, the wrath of God. I saw that His anger was dreadful and terrible, and if He should stretch forth His hand, or lift it in anger, the inhabitants of the world would be as though they had never been, or would suffer from incurable sores and withering [65] plagues that would come upon them, and they would find no deliverance, but be destroyed by them. Terror seized me, and I fell upon my face before the angel and begged of him to cause the sight to be removed, to hide it from me, for it was too dreadful. Then I realized, as never before, the importance of searching the Word of God carefully, to know how to escape the plagues which that Word declares shall come on all the ungodly who shall worship the beast and his image and receive his mark in their foreheads or in their hands. It was a great wonder for me that any could transgress the law of God and tread down His holy Sabbath, when such awful threatenings and denunciations were against them (emphasis added).

Language such as ‘time is almost finished’, ‘little time’, ‘soon to be poured out’, ‘get ready, get ready, get ready’, regarding the outpouring of God’s wrath, and that was 163 years ago, suggests that Ellen White, the SDA prophetess, got it badly wrong in her supposed prophecy. She was a false prophetess.

I shared this passage with posters on a Christian forum and how do you think an SDA promoter would respond? He wrote:

Do we throw out all prophets that say things like that?

Rev.22:12 “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”

That was about 2000 years ago. I guess you are missing something. Like what is 168 years compared to 2000??

You KNOW that there are more prophecies in the Bible just like that one. What is a thousand years more or less when
you are talking about eternity??[3]

My response was: ‘Are you saying that the Apostle John, under the inspiration of the Spirit, got it wrong? Are you prepared to admit that Ellen White got it wrong in 1850?[4] His reply was off at a tangent. He didn’t want to deal with Ellen White’s false prophecy so here is what he stated:

Got what wrong? That Jesus is coming back? I think every
church should be teaching that. Don’t you? I posted Rev.22
just to make the point. That prediction is about 2000
years old. Does that make it a false prophecy??

Nobody knows when He is coming.

Look over your library of SDA writings and find me one
time when anyone set a date. Preachers all over, today,
are preaching the same message. GET READY. Jesus is coming,
SOON. Do we know when? Of course not.
[5]

That is a red herring logical fallacy, where an unrelated comment is designed to divert attention from the topic being discussed. What is there to say to challenge him when he used such illogic? A reasonable conversation is not possible. I pursued the discussion regarding the topic of Ellen White prophesying that time is almost finished and we are to get ready:

Language such as ‘time is almost finished’, ‘little time’, soon to be poured out’ and that was 163 years ago [back in 1850], suggests that Ellen White, the SDA leader and prophetess, got it badly wrong in her supposed prophecy.

The facts are that White stated, ‘Time is almost finished…. Get ready, get ready, get ready’. She was dead wrong. She was a false prophetess.
Why don’t you admit it and quit the SDAs who continue to promote this false prophetess?

This thread deals with Ellen White’s false prophecy that time is running out and we are to ‘get ready, get ready, get ready’ – it was so urgent she repeated it 3 times. That false prophecy was given in 1850.[6]

His come back did not address Ellen White’s ‘get ready, get ready, get ready’ and Jesus coming back in a ‘little time’. He wrote:

Ellen White never set any dates. She is warning people, as any good Christian should, that when Jesus comes, that is the end of probation. If you are not ready, you will not go. Will He be here tomorrow, next week, month?? YOU nor I know the answer to that one. Are you ready?

So, is He coming soon or in another century more or less? Tell us.[7]

Harold is correct. Ellen White did not set any dates, BUT she might as well. Her warning was that there was ‘little time’ and that one should ‘get ready’ for the coming of the day of the Lord. Failing to give a specific date does not obliterate her prophetic expectation that she was warning people to get ready for the coming of the Lord as there was ‘little time’ to go. This kind of expectancy given in a prophecy amounts to a false prophecy as it has not taken place since 1850.

7.  Conclusion

Since tachu, the adverb, in Rev 22:7 may be translated as either ‘soon’ or ‘quickly’, the fact that it is 2,000 years since Christ’s death and resurrection and he has not returned, the meaning must therefore be ‘quickly’. The Book of Revelation was not lying because God, the originator of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17), cannot lie (see Num 23:19; Titus 1:2; Heb 6:18). Luke 12: 40 confirms that Christians should be ready for Jesus is coming again ‘at an hour you do not expect’ and when he comes, it will be ‘quickly’ (Rev 22:7).

The warning is that Jesus’ second coming will come quickly (suddenly) and all people need to be ready. That can never be for unbelievers. They will be caught unawares. It will happen quickly. They need to be warned of the horrific nature of what will when the day of the Lord comes.

Isaiah 13:6-9 

New Living Translation (NLT)

6 Scream in terror, for the day of the Lord has arrived— the time for the Almighty to destroy.
7 Every arm is paralyzed with fear. Every heart melts,
8 and people are terrified. Pangs of anguish grip them, like those of a woman in labor.They look helplessly at one another, their faces aflame with fear.

9 For see, the day of the Lord is coming— the terrible day of his fury and fierce anger. The land will be made desolate, and all the sinners destroyed with it.

Works consulted

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

Ladd, G E 1972. A commentary on the Revelation of John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Lenski, R C H 1943/1963. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. John’s Revelation. Minneapolis MN: Augsburg Publishing House (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. edn.).

White, A L 2000. Ellen G. White: A brief biography. The Ellen G. White Estate, Inc., available at: http://www.whiteestate.org/about/egwbio.asp (Accessed 25 January 2014).

Notes


[1] ‘Soon’, Dictionary.com, available at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/soon?s=t (Accessed 25 January 2014).

[2] Dictionary.com, ‘quickly’, available at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/quickly?s=t (Accessed 25 January 2014).

[3] Christian Fellowship Forum, Contentious Brethren, ‘Ellen White: Time is almost finished’, Harold#12, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=11&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=122828 (Accessed 25 January 2014).

[4] Ibid., ozspen#13.

[5] Ibid., Harold#14.

[6] Ibid., ozspen#15.

[7] Ibid., Harold#17.

[8] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 October 2016.