Archive for July, 2014

Continue in the faith to guarantee eternal life

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

Great advice. I'm a master at second guessing and ruminating. Just need to let go and trust my intuition.

Image result for "Perseverance of the saints" clipartBy Spencer D Gear

There is often interaction (banter) on Christian forums among those who believe in unconditional eternal security and those who don’t. I engage in some of this as a convinced Reformed Arminian. I had stated that these verses support the view that salvation can be lost:[1]

Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV) is clear enough for me:

4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

We also have 1 Timothy 1:18-20,

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

So by rejecting faith and a good conscience, some have shipwrecked their faith. Is that too difficult to understand?

Then we have John 3:36,

Whoever believes [continues believing] in the Son has [continues having] eternal life; whoever does not obey [continues not obeying] the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains [continues remaining] on him.

What I have inserted in square brackets [ ] indicates the meaning of the Greek present tense. There is only eternal life for those who continue believing in the Son, Jesus, and continue to remain in him. There is no eternal life for those who continue not to obey the Son.

Meaning of ‘in the faith’

There was this reply to another person:

Yes, continuing in the faith is the overriding necessity to finally receive eternal life.

For salvation is a life-long process, not an instantaneous one.
Now, it is necessary to ascertain really what “in the faith” really entails.
I still continue to think it means the same as “in Christ”, but I could be wrong.
Still tryin’ to recover … the Extra.[2]

[3]I agree that continuing in the faith is the necessity for receiving final eternal life. That’s why I prefer the language of ‘perseverance of the saints’ rather than ‘eternal security’.
The ESV translates 1 Tim 1:19 as ‘holding faith’ and John 3:36 as continuing to believe. Second Corinthians 13:5 uses the language this person mentioned of being ‘in the faith’:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (ESV).

I find R C H Lenski’s commentary on this verse to be helpful:

The Corinthians are to apply the right tests to themselves as to ‘whether they are in the faith.’ We do not see how ‘the faith’ can be anything but objective faith: the Christian doctrine and the confession which all believers have. The subjective feature is found in the copula and in the preposition ‘whether you are in.’ One is ‘in’ the objective faith when he has personal, subjective faith and with his whole heart believes the objective faith. The assertion that ‘the faith’ is never used objectively must be challenged as being incorrect.
To try and test oneself is simple enough. A few honest questions honestly answered soon reveal where one stands. There is ‘the faith’ itself, the gospel with its contents. Does my heart receive that, receive it in toto, receive it without change of any kind? Do I reject that or any part of it? Does my heart truly believe this gospel of Christ? Do I trust it? Is my confidence full and strong? (Lenski 1937/1963:1338).

Lenski’s translation of 2 Cor 13:5 is, ‘Start trying your own selves whether you are in the faith, start putting your own selves to the proof! Or do you not fully know your own selves (namely this about yourselves), that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless you, indeed, are disproved! Moreover, I hope that you will know that we on our part are not disproved’ (Lenski 1937/1963:1331-1332).

Conclusion

In spite of the emphasis of Calvinists to support eternal security or once saved, always saved, the biblical stress is on perseverance of the saints. Christians are those who continue to believe and persevere in the faith. Those who don’t continue to believe are lost.

Hebrews 6:4-6 presents very sobering theology: It is impossible for those who have once been saved (the language is ‘enlightened’, ‘tasted’, ‘shared’) and then have fallen away, to repent again. They have committed apostasy by crucifying the Son of God again and holding him up to contempt.

One of the saddest of such cases is seen in the apostasy of Charles Templeton who in the 1940s was an evangelistic colleague of Billy Graham in Youth for Christ and then departed from the faith [see ‘Charles Templeton (1915-2001)’]. His story is told in his book Farewell to God (1996. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart).

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(Courtesy Worldcat)

Or, was it apostasy? Michael Patton has written this sad but challenging article, ‘Billy Graham and Charles Templeton: A Sad Tale of Two Evangelists’.

Could it be that Templeton may never have been a true believer in Jesus Christ and was preaching a superficial Gospel that sounded like the real thing, but it wasn’t? One comment by another person at the end of this Michael Patton article was to point to

the interview former atheist, Lee Strobel … conducted with Templeton. When Strobel asked him about Jesus, he said, ‘he’s the most important thing in my life.’ He stammered: ‘I . . . I . . . I adore him . . . Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus.’ Strobel was stunned. He listened in shock. He says that Templeton’s voice began to crack. He then said, ‘I . . . miss . . . him!’ With that the old man burst into tears; with shaking frame, he wept bitterly (see Strobel 2000:21-22).

Recommended

These are some brief articles on the topic that I have written:

Works consulted

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, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers  (limited edition by special permission of Augsburg Fortress).

Strobel, L 2000. The case for faith: A journalist investigates the toughest objections to Christianity. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Notes


[1] OzSpen#46, Christian Forums, ‘What Christians must do to keep their salvation’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7828815-5/#post66025716 (Accessed 21 July 2014).

[2] extraordinary#47, ibid.

[3] OzSpen#49, ibid.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 October 2016.

Elected to salvation and/or damnation?

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Green Salvation Button  Man falling

(images courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D. Gear

What is the biblical teaching on election?

Does it matter whether you or I differ in our beliefs on how ‘election’ or ‘predestination’ to salvation works? You might think this has no relevance to the people in the pew or on the street. However, what your view is on election / predestination will have a practical impact on your approach to evangelism.

I used to preach for a Calvinistic church that was not growing, but was diminishing in the number of people who attended. I asked the pastor about his view on evangelism. His response was: ‘God will bring them in’. This had a very practical impact on the lack of evangelism in that church. His view of unconditional election caused that church and him to go silent on evangelism in their community. Why? To use the pastor’s words, ‘God will bring them in’. How was it that God was not bringing them in to that church?

Let’s check into the two most prominent views of election.

What’s the difference between election and predestination? Not much! Kevin DeYoung (a Calvinistic Reformed pastor) explained:

The terms election and predestination are often used interchangeably, both referring to God’s gracious decree whereby he chooses some for eternal life. In Romans 8:30 Paul speaks of those whom God has predestined, called, justified, and (in the end) glorified. In 8:33 Paul references “the elect,” apparently a synonym for the predestined ones described a few verses earlier.

A sharp distinction between the two words is not warranted from Scripture, but if there is a distinction to be made, predestination is the general term for God’s sovereign ordaining, while election is the specific term for God choosing us in Christ before the foundation of the world. That is, predestination is the broader category of which election is the smaller subset (DeYoung 2010).

In this brief article, I’ll be treating election and predestination as interchangeable terms.

Why bother about the differences between Arminians and Calvinists in their theological understandings of how salvation happens? Here’s how they differ:

 

John Calvin by Holbein.png

John Calvin (image courtesy Wikipedia)

Calvinism: Matthew Slick explains,

Unconditional Election:
God does not base His election on anything He sees in the individual. He chooses the elect according to the kind intention of His will (Eph. 1:4-8; Rom. 9:11) without any consideration of merit within the individual. Nor does God look into the future to see who would pick Him. Also, as some are elected into salvation, others are not (Rom. 9:15, 21) (Slick 2012).

James Arminius 2.jpg

Jacob Arminius (image courtesy Wikipedia)

Arminianism: The Society of Evangelical Arminians states:

The FACTS of Salvation C: Conditional Election

Desiring the salvation of all, providing atonement for all people, and taking the initiative to bring all people to salvation by issuing forth the gospel and enabling those who hear the gospel to respond to it positively in faith (see “Atonement for All” and “Freed to Believe” above), God chooses to save those who believe in the gospel/Jesus Christ (John 3:15-16, 36; 4:14; 5:24, 40; 6:47, 50-58; 20:31; Rom 3:21-30; 4:3-5, 9, 11, 13, 16, 20-24; 5:1-2; 9:30-33; 10:4, 9-13; 1 Cor 1:21; 15:1-2; Gal 2:15-16; 3:2-9, 11, 14, 22, 24, 26-28; Eph 1:13; 2:8; Phil 3:9; Heb 3:6, 14, 18-19; 4:2-3; 6:12; 1 John 2:23-25; 5:10-13, 20). This clear and basic biblical truth is tantamount to saying that election unto salvation is conditional on faith. Just as salvation is by faith (e.g., Eph 2:8 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith”), so election for salvation is by faith, a point brought out explicitly in 2 Thes 2:13 – “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (NASB; note: “God has chosen you . . . through . . . faith in the truth”; on the grammar of this verse, see here) (Society of Evangelical Arminians 2013).

So there is quite a difference in these two views of election. They could be summarised as: God picks people for salvation and they cannot refuse; his election is unconditional (Calvinism) versus God picks people for salvation and they can accept or reject the offer of salvation because they are freed to believe or refuse God’s offer, based on God’s grace (Arminianism). In election God determined what would happen before the foundation of the world (Calvinism), while in Arminianism God has foreknowledge of what will happen but human beings’ free will is not removed.

A blaze of disagreements

If you want to enter a firestorm of theological controversy, start talking about election and predestination in a church group or in an online Christian forum. The sparks are likely to fly both ways. Here are a few prominent proponents who are coming from different sides of the theological fences to demonstrate how conflicting the views can be:

Roger E Olson is an avid and convinced Arminian. He wrote of

the controversy between Calvinism and Arminianism. While both are forms of Protestantism (even if some Calvinists deny that Arminianism is authentically Protestant), they take very different approaches to the doctrines of salvation (soteriology). Both believe in salvation by grace through faith alone (sola gratia et fides) as opposed to salvation by grace through faith and good works. Both deny that any part of salvation can be based on human merit. Both affirm the sole supreme authority of Scripture (sola sciptura) and the priesthood of all believers. Arminius and all of his followers were and are Protestants to the core. However, Arminians have always opposed belief in unconditional reprobation – God’s selection of some persons to spend eternity in hell. Because they oppose that, they also oppose unconditional election – the selection of some persons out of the mass of sinners to be saved apart from anything God sees in them. According to Arminians the two are inextricably linked; it is impossible to affirm unconditional selection of some to salvation without at the same time affirming unconditional selection of some to reprobation, which, Arminians believe, impugns the character of God (Olson 2006:14-15; also HERE).

Dr. Olson

Roger E. Olson (photo courtesy George W. Truett Theological Seminary)

In another context, Olson stated:

All that is required for full salvation is a relaxation of the resistant will under the influence of God’s grace so that the person lets go of sin and self-righteousness and allows Christ’s death to become the only foundation for spiritual life. Was Arminius’s soteriology then synergistic? Yes, but not in the way that is often understood. Calvinists tend to regard synergism as equal cooperation between God and a human in salvation; thus the human is contributing something crucial and efficacious to salvation. But this is not Arminius’s synergism. Rather, his is an evangelical synergism that reserves all the power, ability and efficacy in salvation to grace, but allows humans the God-granted ability to resist or not resist it. The only ‘contribution’ humans make is non-resistance to grace. This is the same as accepting a gift.  Arminius could not fathom why a gift that must be freely received is no longer a gift, as Calvinists contend (Olson 2006:165; also HERE).

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

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Henry C Thiessen (photo courtesy Wheaton College)

Henry C Thiessen does not identify himself as an Arminian, but his views are sympathetic with those of Arminianism. I used his text when in a Bible college in the early 1970s in Australia where the teacher of theology was an Arminian. Thiessen provided this definition:

  1. The Definition of Election. By election we mean that sovereign act of God in grace whereby he chose in Christ Jesus for salvation all those he foreknew would accept him. This is election in its redemptive aspect. The Scriptures also speak of an election to outward privileges (Luke 6:13, Judas; Acts 13:17; Rom. 9:4; 11:28, Israel) to sonship (Eph. 1;4, 5; Rom. 8:29, 33), and to a particular office (Moses and Aaron, Ps. 105:26; David, 1 Sam. 16:12; 20:30; Solomon, 1 Chron. 28:5; and the Apostles, Luke 6:13 – 16; John 6:70; Acts 1:2, 24; 9:15; 22:14). But we are here concerned with election as related to salvation, and so we analyze the above definition more fully.

(1) Election and Foreknowledge. Election is a sovereign act of God; He was under no obligation to elect anyone, since all had lost their standing before God. Even after Christ had died, God was not obliged to apply that salvation, except as He owed it to Christ to keep the agreement with him as to man’s salvation. Election is a sovereign act, because it was not due to any constraint laid upon God. It was an act in grace, in that He chose those who were utterly unworthy of salvation. Man deserved the exact opposite; but in His grace God chose to save some. He chose them ‘in Christ.’ He could not choose them in themselves because of their ill-desert; so He chose them in the merits of another. Furthermore, He chose those who He foreknew would accept Christ. The Scriptures definitely base God’s election on His foreknowledge: ‘Whom he foreknew, he also foreordained,… and whom He foreordained, them He also called’ (Rom. 8:29, 30); ‘to the elect… according to the foreknowledge of God the Father’ (1 Pet. 1: 1, 2). Although we are nowhere told what it is in the foreknowledge of God that determines His choice, the repeated teaching of Scripture that man is responsible for accepting or rejecting salvation necessitates our postulating that it is man’s reaction to the revelation that God has made of himself that is the basis of His election. May we repeat: Since mankind is hopelessly dead in trespasses and sins and can do nothing to obtain salvation, God graciously restores to all men sufficient ability to make a choice in the matter of submission to Him. This is the salvation-bringing grace of God that has appeared to all men. In His foreknowledge He perceives what each one will do with this restored ability, and elects men to salvation in harmony with His knowledge of their choice of Him. There is no merit in this transaction, as Buswell has clearly shown in his allegory of the captain who is beaten into unconsciousness by the crew on the deck of his vessel, if that captain is revived by restoratives and then accepts the proffered leadership of a captain from another vessel who has come to his rescue[1] (Thiessen 1949:344; also HERE).

But the Calvinist takes a very different view of election to salvation:

R. C. Sproul (cropped).jpg

R. C. Sproul (photo courtesy Wikipedia)

R C Sproul stated his view clearly:

What predestination means, in its most elementary form, is that our final destination, heaven or hell, is decided by God not only before we get there, but before we are even born. It teaches that our ultimate destiny is in the hands of God. Another way of saying it is this: From all eternity, before we even existed, God decided to save some members of the human race and to let the rest of the human race perish. God made a choice – He chose some individuals to be saved into everlasting blessedness in heaven and others He chose to pass over, to allow them to follow the consequences of their sins into eternal torment in hell….

The Reformed view holds that, left to himself, no fallen person would ever choose God. Fallen people still have a free will and are able to choose what they desire. But the problem is that we have no desire for God and will not choose Christ unless first regenerated. Faith is a gift that comes out of rebirth. Only those who are elect will ever respond to the gospel in faith.

The elect do choose Christ, but only because they were first chosen by God (Sproul 1992:161-162: also HERE).

At least Sproul admitted that most Christians do not accept his view. He stated that ‘the non-Reformed view, held by the vast majority of Christians, is that God makes that choice on the basis of His foreknowledge. God chooses for eternal life those whom he knows will choose Him. This is called the prescient view of predestination because it rests on God’s foreknowledge of human decisions or acts’ (Sproul 1992:161, emphasis in original).

Ji-packer

J. I. Packer (photo courtesy Regent College, Vancouver)

J I Packer, another Calvinistic Reformed stalwart, put it in terms of election:

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

The doctrine of election, like every truth about God, involves mystery and sometimes stirs controversy. But in Scripture it is a pastoral doctrine, brought in to help Christians see how great is the grace that saves them, and to move them to humility, confidence, joy, praise, faithfulness, and holiness in response (Packer 1993:149; also HERE).

What about those who are damned to hell (the reprobate)? Packer explained:

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

Reprobation is a biblical reality (Rom. 9:14-24; 1 Pet. 2:8), but not one that bears directly on Christian behavior. The reprobates are faceless so far as Christians are concerned, and it is not for us to try to identify them. Rather, we should live in light of the certainty that anyone may be saved if he or she will but repent and put faith in Christ.

We should view all persons that we meet as possibly being numbered among the elect (Packer 1993:150-151; also HERE).

Disagreement on a Christian forum

This article will touch down on only a few issues. This response was provoked by an initial comment I received from an advocate of ‘free grace’ theology[2] on a large Christian forum. Here is our interchange:

He stated,

‘There are NO verses that specifically and clearly state that God elects anyone to salvation. None at all. Which is why the Calvinist doctrine of election is in error.

To be elected is to be chosen for special privilege and service, not chosen for salvation. Those who equate the 2 are in error.

The Bible gives at least 6 categories of election that have nothing to do with being chosen for salvation, including Judas, one of the 12 chosen (Jn 6:70)’.[3]

Evidence for election to salvation or not?

Therefore, a logical question for me to ask was, ‘So do you believe that there is biblical evidence for people being predestined to salvation/justification?’[4]

His anticipated response was:

No, I believe that there is NO Biblical evidence for people being predestined to salvation unconditionally.

Unless you understand that God chooses ALL (unconditionally) believers for salvation. Even the stinky ones.

The problem is that the logical conclusion from Calvinism is that per their view of election, God has chosen who will believe, completely removing the free response of man, which is unbiblical.

Yes, God chooses who He will save. And that is believers ONLY. No doubt about it. But Calvinism’s view results in God choosing who will believe, which is rejected as truth.[5]

Hence my reply:

In essence I agree with what you said because I believe in conditional salvation (i.e. human beings make a response) and not the Calvinistic unconditional salvation.
However, my question to you was: ‘So do you believe that there is biblical evidence for people being predestined to salvation / justification?’

I was asking about predestination / election and not unconditional predestination / election. By your response you have indicated that you do not believe in the unconditional election of Calvinism – neither do I as I don’t find it taught in Scripture.

For a better understanding of predestination/election, I recommend, ‘The FACTS of Salvation C: Conditional Election‘ (Society of Evangelical Arminians).[6]

His comeback was: ‘Correct. Calvinism’s election is foreign to Scripture. Election isn’t even about salvation. It’s about being chosen or elected to special privilege and service, as all 6 categories illustrate, even including ol’ Judas (Jn 6:70)’.[7]

There is no concept of election in salvation, he said

He then chose to reply to my statement: ‘For a better understanding of predestination/election, I recommend, ‘The FACTS of Salvation C: Conditional Election‘ (Society of Evangelical Arminians)’.

I just looked over the site you cited. The opening statement was this:

There are two main views of what the Bible teaches concerning the concept of election unto salvation: that it is either conditional or unconditional.

I disagree that there is any concept of election unto salvation. The reason is that of the 3 related Greek words translated “elect/election”; ekloge (noun), eklektos (adjective), and eklegomai (verb), none of these words are used in conjunction with salvation.

In Rom 9:11, Paul notes there is a “purpose in election (ekloge)”.

Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad – in order that God’s purpose in election might stand:

So we know there is a purpose in God’s election. But is it choosing who will be saved? No, for there are no verses that use any of the 3 Greek words in relation to salvation.

The ISBE [The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia] defines election as being selected for special privilege and service. While some may argue that being chosen for salvation IS being chosen for special privilege and service, they have no point or defense, since even Judas was elected (Jn 6:70) and Jesus even described him as a devil.

However, we clearly see that Judas’ election was about special privilege and service, even though he was not saved. To be with Jesus easily qualifies to be a special privilege. And as for “service”, he was the one who betrayed Jesus. Not the kind of service we generally think of, but he did fulfill the plan of God by doing so.

So, when one encounters any of the 3 Greek words, the question needs to be asked, “chosen for what special privilege and service?”.
Also, since the nation of Israel was a chosen nation, and it is quite obvious that many were not believers, this election had nothing to do with salvation.[8]

Election: It’s Greek to me!

I asked:[9]

Can you read NT Greek and the tools or not? If you read and understood NT Greek, you would not come to such a conclusion. Going to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) is not the place to go to learn how to exegete the Greek NT. I suggest that you use these tools:

  • Arndt & Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.
  • Colin Brown (ed), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (3 vols).[10]
  • Kittel & Friedrich (eds), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (10 vols).[11]

I’m not going to do the exegesis for you from these Greek tools that I use. But if you went to Arndt & Gingrich, you would find that the definition of ‘election’ on the site of the Society of Evangelical Arminians is correct and that the view you are promoting on this forum is incorrect.

Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives only two meanings for the noun he ekloge (the elect). They are,

1. Active use, which means selection, election as choosing. Examples are a chosen instrument (Acts 9:16), especially of God’s selection of Christians (2 Peter 1:10; 1 Thess 1:4); with the accusative verb, ‘to selection by grace = selected by grace (Rom 11:5); the purpose of God which operates by selection (Rom 9:11); ‘as far as (their) selection or election (by God) is concerned beloved’ (Rom 11:28); there is an outside source from the NT that means, ‘make a selection from among some people’ (MPol 20:1).

2. Passive use, a NT example being Rom 11:7, which means of persons, ‘those selected’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:242)

Arndt & Gingrich give the meaning of the adjective eklektos (masculine declension) as:

1. Chosen, select

a. Generally of angels (1 Tim 5:21); of the Messiah (Lk 23:35);

b. ‘Especially of those whom God has chosen from the generality of mankind and drawn to himself’ (Mt 20:16; 22:14). ‘Hence of the Christians in particular (as in the OT of Israelites)…. chosen (Mk 13:20, 22, 27; 1 Pt 1:1; 2 Tim 2:10; elect of God (Lk 18:7; Rom 8:33; Col 3;12; Tit 1:1, etc.

2. ‘Since the best is usually chosen, choice, excellent … Rufus ‘chosen in the Lord’, ‘the outstanding Christian‘. ‘Of a stone choice‘ (1 Pt 2:4, 6) [Arndt & Gingrich 1957:242}.

I did not have the time to go through the other Greek resources to demonstrate that this person’s perspective was incorrect when compared with the Greek meanings, gained through exegesis.

Election does refer to salvation!!!

He went to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia to try to gain support for his view of election. However, when I go to the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Walter Elwell ed, 1984), this is what I find about the meaning of …

Elect, Election. Scripture employs a rich vocabulary to express several aspects of God’s sovereign election, choice, and predestination. Five types of election call for distinction. (1) There is only one reference to “the elect angels” (1 Tim. 5:21; cf. 1 Cor. 6:3; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). (2) Election to service or office is evident in God’s sovereign choice of David as Israel’s king (1 Sam. 16:7–12) and in Jesus’ choosing of the disciples and apostles (Luke 6:13; John 6:70; 15:16; Acts 9:15; 15:7). (3) The election of Abraham’s descendants to form the theocratic nation of Israel is a common biblical theme (Deut. 4:37; 7:6–7; 10:15; 1 Kings 3:8; Isa. 44:1–2; 45:4; 65:9, 15, 22; Amos 3:2; Acts 13:17; Rom. 9:1–5). The election of Israel originated in God’s sovereign choice, expressed his covenantal love, and served the goal of redemptive history culminating in Jesus Christ. (4) The election of the Messiah is a fourth type of election. Isaiah referred to the servant of the Lord as “my chosen one” (42:1; cf. Matt. 12:18). Of the Synoptics only Luke refers to Jesus as the Chosen One (9:35; 23:35). Peter echoes another Isaiah reference (28:16) in 1 Peter 1:20 and 2:4, 6. These references indicate the unique mediatorial office of Christ and the Father’s pleasure in him. It is an election basic to the final type, (5) election to salvation, with which the rest of this article is concerned.

The most common NT reference to election is God’s eternal election of certain persons to salvation in Jesus Christ. The subject is dealt with comprehensively in Ephesians 1:3–11 and Romans 8:28–11:36 (Elwell 1984:348; also HERE).

If you go to the 1996 revised edition of Elwell’s dictionary (online) you will find that ‘elect, election’ has these emphases: ‘The term “elect” means essentially “to choose.” It involves discriminatory evaluation of individuals, means, ends, or objects with a view to selecting one above the others, although not necessarily passing negative judgment on those others’. These are the meanings of ‘elect, election’, based on the exposition of Scripture that is documented in Elwell:

  • God’s Election of Angels;
  • God’s Election of Israel;
  • God’s Election of the Place of Worship;
  • God’s Election of People to an Office;
  • God’s Election of Individuals for Various Reasons;
  • God’s Election of the Messiah;
  • God’s Election of Means to Accomplish Ends;
  • God’s Election to Salvation of Believers and the Believing Community.

This Elwell exposition harmonises with the biblical material and not with the view this person on the Christian forum was promoting that ‘election isn’t even about salvation. It’s about being chosen or elected to special privilege and service’. Yes, there is election to a special privilege and service, but there also is election to salvation. The biblical emphasis is that this election is effected by God’s initiation and the human being’s free will response to that call. I cannot find the Calvinistic determinism in relation to unconditional election and double-predestination in Scripture.

R C Sproul defines the Calvinistic Reformed doctrine of double-predestination: ‘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’ (Sproul, Double’ Predestination, Ligonier Ministries).

The good God and creation of evil

If God is doing everything in the world according to his sovereignty, then God is responsible for all its evil. That would be a horrifying thought. However, I see a different picture in Scripture:[13]

We know from Jesus that,

  • Many are called, but few are chosen’ (Matt 22:14 ESV).
  • Acts 13:48 (ESV) confirms that ‘as many as were appointed to eternal life believed’. So, from God’s point of view, only the elect will believe.
  • However, the Lord is ‘not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (2 Pet 3:9 NIV). We obtain a similar message from 1 Tim 2:4 (NIV) that God our Saviour ‘wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth’.
  • Therefore, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son’ (John 3:16 NIV).
  • Why was this? That Jesus would be ‘the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2 ESV).
  • So God has provided salvation for all, but how do people receive it? ‘Now he commands all people everywhere to repent’ (Acts 17:30 ESV) and believe (Acts 16:31 (ESV).

It would be outrageous for God to command all people to be saved and not make salvation available for all people.

We know that God is not the creator of evil (sending the damned to hell) because God is the good God and not the evil God:

  • Psalm 25:8 (ESV), ‘Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way’.
  • Psalm 136:1 (ESV), ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good’.
  • Psalm 100:5 (ESV), ‘For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures for ever, and his faithfulness to all generations’.
  • Mark 10:18 (NIV), ‘“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone”‘.

Richard Bargas (2006) has written an article that does not support double predestination, ‘Double trouble: Is double predestination biblical?

I, the author of this article, accept the Arminian understanding of election. See my articles on this subject:

clip_image003 God’s foreknowledge and predestination/election to salvation

clip_image003 Jesus died for those who will be damned

clip_image003 Sent to hell by God: Calvinism in action?

clip_image003 Conflict over salvation

clip_image003 Did John Calvin believe in double predestination?

clip_image003 The injustice of the God of Calvinism

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[12] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Brown, C (ed) 1975-1978. The new international dictionary of New Testament theology, 3 vols. Exeter: The Paternoster Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Corporation.

Buswell, J O 1937. Sin and atonement. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

DeYoung, K 2010. What is the difference between election and predestination? The Gospel Coalition (online). Available at: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2010/08/13/what-is-the-difference-between-election-and-predestination/ (Accessed 1 May 2013).

Elwell, W A (ed) 1984. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Kittel, G & Friedrich, G 1964-1977. Tr & ed by G W Bromiley. Theological dictionary of the New Testament, 10 vols. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

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

Packer, J I 1993. Concise theology: A guide to historic Christian beliefs. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Slick, M 2012. The five points of Calvinism, Calvinist Corner (online). Available at: http://www.calvinistcorner.com/tulip.htm (Accessed 2 May 2014).

Society of Evangelical Arminians 2013. The FACTS of Salvation C: Conditional Election (online). Available at: http://evangelicalarminians.org/the-facts-of-salvationc-conditional-election/ (Accessed 2 May 2014).

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

Notes


[1] Here he acknowledged Buswell’s publication on sin and atonement (Buswell 1937:112-114).

[2] Another free grace theology proponent defined it this way: ‘Free Grace is the view that “salvation is by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ”. 1 Cor 15:3-4. Good works and discipleship ought to follow salvation but are separate and distinct from salvation itself. This is contrasted with Lordship Salvation which views good works as essential to “final salvation”. John MacArthur [is] arguably Lordship Salvation’s best known modern proponent’ (Free Grace Theology, Frequently Asked Questions, ‘What is free grace?’ available at: http://free-grace-theology.blogspot.com.au/, accessed 1 May 2014).

[3] FreeGrace2#54, 28 April 2014, Christian Forums, Soteriology DEBATE, ‘I believe that arminianism and calvinism are both true at the same time’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7816600-6/ (Accessed 1 May 2014).

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#55.

[5] Ibid., FreeGrace2#56.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#57.

[7] Ibid., FreeGrace2#58.

[8] Ibid., FreeGrace2#60.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#61.

[10] Bibliographical details in ‘Works consulted’ at the bottom of this article.

[11] Bibliographical details in ‘Works consulted’ at the bottom of this article.

[12] 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 and augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

[13] I made this post to Christian Forums.net, Apologetics & Theology, ‘Predestination and Calvinism’, OzSpen#541, 26 May 2016. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/predestination-and-calvinism.64471/page-28 (Accessed 26 May 2016).

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 May 2016.

Can people lose their Christian salvation?

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Free Gift

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

This has been a controversial subject throughout Christian history, but especially since the time of the Reformation. We have the Calvinists who defend the position that salvation cannot be lost and those who no longer continue to believe were not saved in the first place. Arminians respond, as I have below, that salvation can be lost when people commit apostasy.

Matt Slick’s view as a Calvinist is that ‘a Christian cannot lose his salvation’. And the author of Arminian Perspectives states that ‘we see that life abides in the Son and only those who presently “have” the Son “have” the life that abides in Him’.

What is apostasy?

Commit what? We don’t hear the word much these days. What is apostasy? In the English language, the definition given by dictionary.com is, ‘a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc’.

A Christian-based definition is that apostasy is ‘a deliberate repudiation and abandonment of the faith that one has professed (Heb. 3:12). Apostasy differs in degree from heresy…. Perhaps the most notorious NT example is Judas Iscariot. Others include Demas (II Tim. 4:10) and Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:20)’ (Whitlock, Jr. 1984:70).

Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV) is clear enough for me:

4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

We also have 1 Timothy 1:18-20,

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

So by rejecting faith and a good conscience, some have shipwrecked their faith. Is that too difficult to understand?

Then we have John 3:36,

Whoever believes [continues believing] in the Son has [continues having] eternal life; whoever does not obey [continues not obeying] the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains [continues remaining] on him.

What I have inserted in square brackets [ ] indicates the meaning of the Greek present tense. There is only eternal life for those who continue believing in the Son, Jesus, and continuing to remain in him. There is no eternal life for those who continue not to obey the Son.

That’s Bible and I cannot arrive at the position you advocate while these verses are in Scripture.

My understanding is that if a person deliberately chooses to apostasize from the Christian faits, he/she loses salvation. See my articles:

See also,

If you don’t agree that salvation can be lost, take a read of Charles Templeton’s, Farewell to God (1996. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart).

Farewell to God : my reasons for rejecting the Christian faith

(Courtesy Worldcat)

Works consulted

Whitlock, Jr., L G 1984. Apostasy, in Elwell, W A (ed), Evangelical dictionary of theology, 70. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 19 November 2015.

Christians and their use of logical fallacies

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Fallacies

By Spencer D Gear

If you want to get a sample of how Christians can use logical fallacies to hamper logical discussion, take a visit to an Internet Christian forum. I frequent four of them[1] and too many Christians use them without knowing what they are doing. Most often I encounter Red Herring and Straw Man fallacies.

Let’s pursue a few examples:

The Hasty Generalization Fallacy

Here a person stated:

Personally I find problems with any and all of the early “Church Fathers”, they do say and teach a lot of wonderful stuff, but on occasion do not seem to reach the most likely interpretation of a passage. Since they are dead I really cannot questions them about how they came to some of their conclusions.

If we agree that any of these “scholars” could be wrong in their interpretation of some verse then how could we rely on their interpretation of any particular verse?

You might look to these scholars to see what others are thinking, but can you count on them 100% for being perfectly correct (I do not think they would want you to do that)?[2]

My response was[3]: Here you seem to have engaged in some illogical reasoning with a Hasty Generalization Fallacy: ‘This fallacy is committed when a person draws a conclusion about a population based on a sample that is not large enough….The fallacy is committed when not enough A’s are observed to warrant the conclusion. If enough A’s are observed then the reasoning is not fallacious. Small samples will tend to be unrepresentative’ (The Nizkor Project).

When a person wants to write off the church fathers because that person disagrees with a small sample, an interpretation of a verse or two, this Hasty Generalization Fallacy has been committed and logical discussion on the topic is impeded.

The response was:

The problem is we are trying to establish a “rule” or “Law” or as you say: “measure it”, by which we determine truth. If the “measuring” tool we are using is wrong one time it could be wrong other times, so we cannot be “sure” we have the truth by using a measuring stick that could be wrong?

I do not have to determine all the “Church Fathers” are wrong all the time, just some are wrong some of the time to make that system invalid.

When it comes to truth can we even say: “the majority of scholars” would voice the correct interpretation on any Bible verse?

By their fruits we shall know them. I am looking for people that have the fruits Jesus produced and right off Jesus did not write a letter or a book, so I have to look further. Jesus taught the masses, but the masses are a fickle group and cannot be counted on, while mentoring to a small group over time can produce disciples like the Messiah. If you can produce Christ like people that can allow Christ to live through them mentoring their small groups over time you wind up with a world movement of truly Christ like people teaching others and not a group being “led” by some charismatic leader.[4]

Note what is included here.

  • This person’s determination of what is the correct ‘measuring tool’ – what this person considers is correct;
  • When Church Fathers are wrong some of the time, it makes that system invalid. I ask: If a few motor vehicle mechanics make errors regarding certain vehicles that does not eliminate the use for qualified and generally competent mechanics.
  • Try speaking about ‘the majority of scholars’ when that includes modernists, postmodernists and evangelicals.
  • He has some views about mentoring small groups, but the concept seems to need some further explaining.

haystack by mcol -

openclipart

The Straw Man Fallacy

See an arguing back and forth about the use of a ‘straw man’ or otherwise HERE.[5] But what is a straw man fallacy? The Nizkor Project gives this explanation:

The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of “reasoning” has the following pattern:

1. Person A has position X.

2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).

3. Person B attacks position Y.

4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person (Fallacy: Straw man).

I often see this kind of fallacy in Arminian versus Calvinistic discussions where one side does not understand some aspects of the other. I, a Reformed Arminian, often see this in Calvinists accusing me of being Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian. Pelagianism ‘denies original sin and elevates natural and moral human ability to live spiritually fulfilled lives’ while semi-Pelagianism ‘embraces a modified version of original sin but believes that humans have the ability, even in their natural or fallen state, to initiate salvation by exercising a good will toward God’ (Olson 2006:17-18). Roger Olson has addressed many of the misrepresentations (straw men) against Arminianism by others (especially by Calvinists) in Arminian theology: Myths and realities (2006).

This is something that I urge all Christians to watch for in conversations, whether in the mass media or among Christians. Are the statements about Christianity that are being criticised accurate or not? Watch for evidence for the straw man fallacy.

The Red Herring Fallacy

(1) A person asked, ‘If you knew there was a way to have eternal life. would you take it?’[6] I replied, ‘Firstly, I would need to know if the evidence was reliable?’[7] His response was, ‘Do you know Christ as your savior’.[8]

My comeback was: ‘That does not answer my question: “Firstly, I would need to know if the evidence was reliable?”[9]

When this person came back with a response that was totally unrelated to what I wrote, he had committed a Red Herring logical fallacy, which is ‘a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic…. This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim’ (The Nizkor Project).

(2) In another example, a person wrote:

God hardens for purpose, not arbitrarily. I do not suggest arbitrary yet you think that?

Whom He wills He hardens, well those He hardens He wants destroyed.

20 For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that He might utterly destroy them, and that they might receive no mercy, but that He might destroy them, as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Part of believing in being predestined is the verse in Romans 11,

36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

God is not capriciously mischievous, God hardens for His eternal purposes, known only to God.
Ephesians says of God’s will how He works all things.[10]

The reply to this person was, ‘Okay – you just totally ignored my post’.[11]

My response[12] was that if that is what is done, I urge you to call it for what it is, a red herring logical fallacy.

‘A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic…. This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim’.

If people ignore your post and give a reply of their own making on a different topic, we cannot have a logical conversation with them because it is a promotion of illogical thinking with a Red Herring fallacy.

Three Circular Interlocking Arrows by JoBrad - Three arrows interlocking in a circular pattern.

openclipart

Begging the question or circular reasoning

A person responded to me in a forum:

Please explain to me how a person who is going to die has eternal life.

You didn’t address any of the passages I posted. Jesus explicitly stated aionios [Greek aiwnios] life is in the age to come. How do you reconcile the passages I posted?[13]

This person had been pressing the point in previous posts:

  • ‘One can know they are in the faith, however, one doesn’t receive eternal life until they are resurrected. I think we can all agree that Christians die, one who has eternal life doesn’t die’.[14]
  • ‘My statement isn’t contradicted, it’s pretty straight forward that eternal life means one doesn’t die, if one dies he doesn’t have eternal life.
  • What is there that is not correct. A claim that one is now in possession of eternal life is in contradiction with other passages of Scripture’.[15]
  • ‘My point is that it’s not a done deal when one believes as many would suggest. Ultimately, salvation is the resurrection and receiving eternal life. Until that happens one is not truly saved. Paul in Ephesians, tells us that the holy Spirit is given to the believer as a “down payment” until the redemption of the purchased possession’.[16]

When a person states, ‘Please explain to me how a person who is going to die has eternal life’, that person is perpetrating a begging the question (circular reasoning) logical fallacy. In his begging the question fallacy, his premise is that people who die do not have eternal life. Then, what doe he conclude? His conclusion is that this is indeed so. We can’t have a logical discussion when he does this ‘because simply assuming that the conclusion is true (directly or indirectly) in the premises does not constitute evidence for that conclusion’ (source).

Conclusion

Keep on the look out for how Christians and others use logical fallacies in their conversations. When they do that, it becomes impossible to have a logical conversation.

This does mean that you need to become fluent with a bunch of frequently committed logical fallacies. I have found this list and description to be very helpful at The Nizkor Project.

clip_image002

However, I issue a warning. You will not be seen as the most popular person around when you start to isolate the logical fallacies that people commit. I find it helpful to state the name of the fallacy and then explain why it is such a fallacy – briefly. I hope I have done that above.

Some of the most common logical fallacies are:

Works consulted

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

Notes


[1] These are Christian Forums.com, Christian Forums.net, Christian Fellowship Forum (Compuserve), and UK Christian Web.

[2] bling#34, Christian Forums.com, Salvation (Soteriology), ‘Let’s keep salvation simple!’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7816364-4/#post65463786 (Accessed 25 April 2014).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#35.

[4] Ibid., bling#36.

[5] It started with this post by SavedByGraceThruFaith#280, Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7804923-28/ (Accessed 9 May 2014).

[6] twin1954#4 citing ddrgkd, Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘If you knew there was a way’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7808843/ (Accessed 25 April 2014).

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#22.

[8] Ibid., ddrgkd#23.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#24.

[10] sdowney717#7, Christian Forums, Soteriology DEBATE, ‘Scriptures misinterpreted to prove reprobation’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7816884/ (Accessed 25 April 2015).

[11] Ibid., janxharris#8.

[12] Ibid., Ozspen#13.

[13] Butch5#260, available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/losing-salvation-after-getting-saved.54616/page-13#post-956261 (Accessed 16 July 2014).

[14] Ibid., Butch5#242.

[15] Ibid., Butch5#246.

[16] Ibid., Butch5#235.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 19 November 2015.

Does a Christian experience eternal life NOW?

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

(courtesy public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

Do you have to wait until death or Christ’s second coming (the resurrection of all people) to know you have

eternal life and can experience it? That’s how some on a Christian forum as seeing the issue. Here are a couple of examples:

There’s a difference between knowing one has it and actually being in possession of it. A child with a million dollar trust fund has a million dollars, however, until he meets the conditions of that fund he doesn’t have possession of that fund. If you take notice, John is the only one who uses eternal life in the present tense, I believe this is significant.

My statement isn’t contradicted, it’s pretty straight forward that eternal life means one doesn’t die, if one dies he doesn’t have eternal life. What is there that is not correct. A claim that one is now in possession of eternal life is in contradiction with other passages of Scripture.[1]

Another responded:

That’s the rub, right here. We can know that we have been saved and believe it (You better!), and the enemy will whisper to you that you don’t, not good enough and so forth…and we shouldn’t listen to this…but at the same time we shouldn’t be lackadaisically over confident and should continue to seek to be closer to God, walk after the Spirit, OBEY, and witness for Him, all of the things that God wants and commands. Because you never know for sure until you are in possession of it, right?[2]

Eternal life now or later?

My first response to Butch was:[3]

I notice you didn’t use any Scriptures to support your position. I did.

That John should use the present tense is what God, the author of Scripture (2 Tim 3:15-16 ESV), states. You stated: ‘There’s a difference between knowing one has it and actually being in possession of it’. This is not true in my case. I know I have one Toyota Camry and do you know what? I’m actually in possession of it.
Perhaps we are dealing with two different issues. We can continue to know NOW that we have eternal life (as 1 John 5:13 affirms) and we have the ultimate consummation of eternal life at Christ’s second coming.

[4]But 1 John 5:13 ESV says we are in possession now. We will have a new experience of eternal life when we are ‘absent from the body and present with the Lord’ at death and then at Christ’s second coming it will be the ULTIMATE.

His response was to come back with a few Scriptures. The post began:

If you worked today you earned money, correct? However, I’ll bet you have to wait until the check is written to obtain that money that is yours. You quoted 2 Tim 3:16, when Paul wrote that the Scriptures were the OT.

I didn’t post Scripture because I didn’t think it was necessary since by definition eternal life means one won’t die and we know Christians die. However, I can post Scripture.[5]

Contemporary analogies are not helpful

[6]My reply was that using another analogy is not helpful as I can come back with another view. If I work as a backpacker picking oranges, I get my wages the day I pick the oranges because he may not need me tomorrow or for the rest of the week. Analogy after analogy does not answer the issue.

So what if 2 Tim 3:16 (ESV) does refer to the Scriptures of the OT as theopneustos (breathed out by God)? They do refer to the OT. However, are you inferring that the Scriptures of the NT are not breathed out by God? We know what Peter said about Paul’s writings:

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures (2 Pt 3:15-16).?

Peter put Paul’s writings on the same level as ‘the other Scriptures’, presumably referring to the OT.

Meaning of eternal

So what’s the meaning of eternal? There are a couple different meanings in Scripture. When applied to God, eternal means that God has no beginning, no end and no succession of moments in his being. Yet God sees events in time and acts in time and eternity (Grudem1994:168). Psalm 90:2 ESV puts it as ‘from everlasting to everlasting you are God’.

This we know about eternal life: ‘And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life’ (I John 5:11-12 ESV).?

If we are ‘in his Son’, we currently have eternal life. The one who ‘has the Son’ currently has eternal life and the one who does not currently ‘have the Son of God does not have eternal life’.

I’m indeed grateful that when I was saved and Jesus gave me new life (2 Cor 5 17), my eternal life began. The coming of eternal life into my being changed me from the inside out.

Henry Thiessen gives a wonderful summary of the biblical material:

By the eternity of God we mean His infinity in relation to time; we mean that He is without beginning or end; that He is free from all succession of time; and that He is the cause of time. That He is without beginning or end may be inferred from the fact of His necessary existence: He who exists by means of his nature rather than his volition must always have existed and must continue to exist for ever. That God is eternal is abundantly taught in Scripture. He is called “the eternal God” (Gen. 21:33); the Psalmists say: ‘From everlasting to everlasting thou art God’ (Ps 90:2) and ‘thou are the same, and they years have no end’ (Ps. 102:27). Isaiah represents God as ‘the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity’ (Isa. 57:15); Paul says He ‘only hath immortality’ (1 Tim. 6:16.

He is free from all succession of time. Time is, as commonly understood, duration measured by succession (Thiessen 1949:122).

But the nature of that ‘eternal life’ is different from when I speak of the ‘eternal God’ who is from everlasting to everlasting. I expect to bask in the full benefits of that eternal life at death and in the eternal kingdom of God.

So, eternal life for the Christian has a beginning when I repent of my sin and receive Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. Eternal damnation for unbelievers is confirmed at death and it goes on forever and ever. We know this from a verse such as

Matthew 25:46, ‘And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life’ (ESV).

Works consulted

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

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

Notes


[1] Butch5#246, 15 July 2014, Christian Forums, ‘Losing salvation after getting saved’. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/losing-salvation-after-getting-saved.54616/page-13#post-956314 (Accessed 15 July 2014).

[2] Edward#248, ibid.

[3] OzSpen#251, ibid.

[4] OzSpen#253, ibid.

[5] Butch5#255, ibid.

[6] OzSpen#257, ibid.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 19 November 2015.

Can people KNOW they have eternal life in this life?

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

John 3:36

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

Try some Internet Christian forums to get a taste of what’s out there in evangelical Christian land. I met one fellow who claimed:

One can know they are in the faith, however, one doesn’t receive eternal life until they are resurrected. I think we can all agree that Christians die, one who has eternal life doesn’t die.[1]

My response was as follows:[2] That is not what 1 John 5:13 states: ‘I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life’ (ESV).

  • ‘believe’ = the believing ones = a present tense participle, which means ‘the ones continuing believing in the present’.
  • ‘may know’ = perfect tense subjunctive mood = action in the past with continuing results in the present = may continue knowing.
  • ‘have’ = present tense = continuing to have in the present.

Therefore, it is very clear from the Greek tenses in this verse that any person who continues to believe in the name of the Son of God, Jesus, may continue to know that he/she continues to have eternal life – in this life.

One does not have to wait until the resurrection to know if one has eternal life. It can be known NOW in our present experience of believing in Jesus alone for salvation.
1 John 5:13 contradicts your statement that ‘one who has eternal life doesn’t die’.

People may KNOW in this life that they have eternal life. The ultimate will come in the next life when there is no more sin. I think this writer on the Forum is confusing knowledge of present experience of eternal life AND the ULTIMATE experienced at the resurrection of all people at Christ’s second coming.

The response was:

There’s a difference between knowing one has it and actually being in possession of it. A child with a million dollar trust fund has a million dollars, however, until he meets the conditions of that fund he doesn’t have possession of that fund. If you take notice, John is the only one who uses eternal life in the present tense, I believe this is significant.

My statement isn’t contradicted, it’s pretty straight forward that eternal life means one doesn’t die, if one dies he doesn’t have eternal life. What is there that is not correct. A claim that one is now in possession of eternal life is in contradiction with other passages of Scripture.[3]

There were some who supported the position I was challenging, but my reply was:

I notice you didn’t use any Scriptures to support your position. I did.

That John should use the present tense is what God, the author of Scripture (2 Tim 3:15-16 ESV), states. You stated: ‘There’s a difference between knowing one has it and actually being in possession of it’. This is not true in my case. I know I have one Toyota Camry and do you know what? I’m actually in possession of it.

Perhaps we are dealing with two different issues. We can continue to know NOW that we have eternal life (as 1 John 5:13 affirms) and we have the ultimate consummation of eternal life at Christ’s second coming.[4]

After some more back and forth, I stated:[5]

Using another analogy is not helpful as I can come back with another view. If I work as a backpacker picking oranges, I get my wages the day I pick the oranges because he may not need me tomorrow or for the rest of the week. Analogy after analogy does not answer the issue.
So what if 2 Tim 3:16 ESV does refer to the Scriptures of the OT as theopneustos (breathed out by God)? They do refer to the OT. However, are you inferring that the Scriptures of the NT are not breathed out by God? We know what Peter said about Paul’s writings:

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures (2 Pt 3:15-16 ESV).?

Peter put Paul’s writings on the same level as ‘the other Scriptures’, presumably referring to the OT.

So what’s the meaning of eternal? There are a couple different meanings in Scripture. When applied to God, eternal means that God has no beginning, no end and no succession of moments in his being. Yet God sees events in time and acts in time and eternity (based on Grudem 1994:168). Psalm 90:2 ESV puts it as ‘from everlasting to everlasting you are God’.

Cross Button by wordtoall.org - For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

(Courtesy openclipart)

This we know about eternal life:

1 John 5:11-12 NET ‘And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. The one who has the Son has this eternal life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have this eternal life’.?

If we are ‘in his Son’, we currently have eternal life. The one who ‘has the Son’ currently has eternal life and the one who does not currently ‘have the Son of God does not have eternal life’.

I’m indeed grateful that when I was saved and Jesus gave me new life (2 Cor 5:17) my eternal life began. But the nature of that ‘eternal life’ is different from when I speak of the ‘eternal God’ who is from everlasting to everlasting. I expect to bask in the full benefits of that eternal life at death and in the eternal kingdom of God.

He continued:[6]

Can you show me where eternal is in the Bible?
Please explain to me how a person who is going to die has eternal life.
You didn’t address any of the passages I posted. Jesus explicitly stated aionios life is in the age to come. How do you reconcile the passages I posted?

My reply was:

All you have to do to find out the number of times that ‘eternal’ is in the Bible is to go to Strong’s Concordance. My edition of the KJV Strong’s provides 47 examples of the use of ‘eternal’ in the Bible and only 2 of those are in the OT.

‘Please explain to me how a person who is going to die has eternal life’. That’s a begging the question (circular reasoning) logical fallacy. In your begging the question fallacy, your premise is that people who die do not have eternal life. Then, what do you conclude? Your conclusion is that this is indeed so. We can’t have a logical discussion when you do this ‘because simply assuming that the conclusion is true (directly or indirectly) in the premises does not constitute evidence for that conclusion’ (source).

Why didn’t I specifically address the passages you posted? The main reason is because we can’t have a logical discussion when you engage in a circular reasoning fallacy.

So what’s the meaning of eternal? There are a couple different meanings in Scripture. When applied to God, eternal means that God has no beginning, no end and no succession of moments in his being. Yet God sees events in time and acts in time and eternity (Grudem1994:168). Psalm 90:2 ESV puts it as ‘from everlasting to everlasting you are God’.

This we know about eternal life: ‘And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his  Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life’ (I John 5:11-12 ESV ).?

If we are ‘in his Son’, we currently have eternal life. The one who ‘has the Son’ currently has eternal life and the one who does not currently ‘have the Son of God does not have eternal life’.

I’m indeed grateful that when I was saved and Jesus gave me new life (2 Cor 5 17 ESV), my eternal life began. The coming of eternal life into my being changed me from the inside out.

Works consulted

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

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

Notes


[1] Butch5#242, ‘Losing salvation after getting saved’, Christian Forums. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/losing-salvation-after-getting-saved.54616/page-13#post-956261 (Accessed 15 July 2014).

[2] This is my response as OzSpen#245 at ibid.

[3] Ibid., Butch5#246.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#251.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#257.

[6] Ibid., Butch5#260.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 19 November 2015.

 

Church growth or decline in the United Kingdom

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

Have you read the article from The Telegraph [UK] with the heading, ‘Former archbishop of Canterbury: We are a post-Christian nation‘?[1] It began:

Exclusive: Former archbishop of Canterbury [Lord Rowan Williams] says Britain is no longer a nation of believers, as Telegraph poll reveals Christians are reluctant to express their faith.

Britain is now a “post-Christian” country, the former archbishop of Canterbury has declared, as research suggests that the majority of Anglicans and Roman Catholics now feel afraid to express their beliefs.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Lord Williams of Oystermouth says Britain is no longer “a nation of believersand that a further decline in the sway of the Church is likely in the years ahead.

While the country is not populated exclusively by atheists, the former archbishop warns that the era of regular and widespread worship is over (emphasis in original).

But do the statistics support such a negative view?

This article from The Telegraph states that Williams’ comments are a ‘stark assessment’ after Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron, ‘urged Christians to be “more evangelical” about their faith’. Cameron dared to state that ‘Britain should be a more confidently Christian country’.

Well that’s sure to put the cat among the theological pigeons. And when did Cameron make such comments? Just prior to Easter 2014. As expected, according to this article, atheist and secular groups were furious about the Cameron comments. The leader of the Liberal Democrats in the UK, Nick Clegg, even called for ‘the disestablishment of the Church of England’.

This is a summary of The Telegraph poll:

clip_image001

 

Source: The Telegraph [UK], 26 April 2014[2]

Is Rowan Williams giving an accurate picture of a post-Christian UK?

Williams was reported in The Telegraph as saying:

“But [Britain is] post-Christian in the sense that habitual practice for most of the population is not taken for granted,” he said. “A Christian nation can sound like a nation of committed believers, and we are not that.”

The former archbishop, who remains a member of the House of Lords, continued: “It’s a matter of defining terms. A Christian country as a nation of believers? No.

“A Christian country in the sense of still being very much saturated by this vision of the world and shaped by it? Yes.”

Lord Williams suggested that there may be “a further shrinkage of awareness and commitment” as a result of a lack of knowledge about Britain’s Christian legacy among younger generations, under the age of 45.[3]

There is a different view: Widespread church growth

But there is a different response to Christianity in the UK that emerged in 2012 that provides a divergent perspective to that of Rowan Williams.

The Church of England Newspaper of 2 May 2014 (but it is a rolling date) had an article by David Goodhew of Cranmer Hall, Durham University, ‘Startling academic research shows widespread Church growth in Britain (originally reported in 2012).[4] This research states that:

An international team of leading researchers, based at Cranmer Hall, Durham, have just published a study entitled Church Growth in Britain from 1980 to the Present. Here are just a few of the extraordinary statistics that have been unearthed:
– There are 500,000 Christians in black majority churches in Britain. Sixty years ago there were hardly any
– At least 5,000 new churches have been started in Britain since 1980 – and this is an undercount. The true figure is probably higher
– There are one million Christians in Britain from black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities
– The adult membership of the Anglican Diocese of London has risen by over 70 per cent since 1990.
Research Endorsed by Bishops and Leading Academics
This research has been endorsed by a range of senior academics and church leaders – from Justin Welby, the new Bishop of Durham, to Archbishop Vincent Nicholls, head of the Roman Catholic Church. Professor David Bebbington, the leading historian of evangelicalism comments: “This is excellent research. It is commonly supposed that the Christian church in Britain is moribund, but the essays in this volume all demonstrate, from different angles, that in the recent past there are signs of vitality and growth”.

I recommend a read of this second article online to see the results of this research. It is contrary to Rowan Williams opinion. Would that surprise you?

This newspaper story is only a grab of a few highlights from a church newspaper. If you want to find more complete details of the research at Durham University, I’ll leave it to you to search out the research document. But this newspaper source does state that:

An international team of leading researchers, based at Cranmer Hall, Durham, have just published a study entitled Church Growth in Britain from 1980 to the Present. Here are just a few of the extraordinary statistics that have been unearthed:

So this is not research by some Mickey Mouse researchers trying to demonstrate something that is not there. I’m not here to defend what they found. That’s for other researchers to critique. I’m simply reporting what I found in a newspaper that provided some drop down examples of what was found:

Where you look affects what you find. The real picture for the last 30 years looks something like this:

– Roughly the same number of churches have closed as have opened

– Some denominations have seen serious decline – notably the ‘mainline’ denominations – Anglican, Methodist, URC, Catholic

– Some churches have seen major growth; especially churches rooted in ethnic minority communities and newer denominations

– Some parts of the mainline churches are seeing growth – Anglican growth centres on the Diocese of London (the one Anglican diocese which has consistently grown over the last 20 years) and new Anglican churches/fresh expressions.

This research from 2012 has been resurrected to gain fresh publicity at about the same time as this statement from Rowan Williams, ‘Former archbishop of Canterbury [Lord Rowan Williams] says Britain is no longer a nation of believers, as Telegraph poll reveals Christians are reluctant to express their faith’. It shows that some churches saw major growth while mainline churches showed serious decline. Overall, there is another picture to provide a divergent view to that of Rowan Williams.

What do the online critics say?

I put some of the above information on a Christian forum[5] and received these kinds of sceptical comments:

  • ‘Can’t speak for the entire country, but at least locally, church attendance has been on the decline’ (Britain).[6]
  • ‘Those data points look a bit all over the place and cherry picked to me’ (Germany).[7]
  • ‘Rowan Williams is an incredibly intelligent man and has nothing to gain by lying about Christianity in Britain to portray it negatively’ (Britain).[8]
  • ‘The established Churches such as CoE expect its members to accept the whole package, if you will, the good and the tough ones. Whereas people in liberal democracies are tough consumers who prefer choice and freedom to choose, instant gratification, convenience, reinforcement and echo chambers for their personal world views and values.
    Then there’s the “entertainment” factor, for instance, “low church” churches vs. solemn or “boring” same old same old liturgy of “old” Churches. Handsome English cathedrals are a selling point: 41% said the cathedral building was the attraction’ (Finland).[9]
  • ‘The link you gave is really vague and doesn’t seem to tell me whether the number of people at church has gone up or down overall. eg: The same number of churches shutting as opening doesn’t show anything. The new churches could be half the size.
    In many polls, most British people consider themselves to be non-religious, and only a small percentage (~10%) go to church regularly. In the census an abnormally high number say they are Christian (compared to other polls); I’m guessing because they just want to put something down, and they feel that Christian is the default. I put that I was Christian on the last census, though I wouldn’t now.
    Looking at how people act in society, and how few people go to church regularly, I’d say Britain isn’t a Christian country’ (Britain).[10]

Here are some of my edited responses:

  • Here in Queensland, wherever theological liberalism has affected lots of Anglican churches, I observe decline. But there is a flourishing Anglican church locally that is very evangelical and has an outreach focus. But most of the Anglicans in Qld are infected with liberalism, whether that is modernism or postmodernism.
    I have a close friend who is a recently retired evangelical Anglican clergyman in Qld and he tells me of the demise of churches across the state under liberalism and their acceptance or promotion of homosexuality. That’s what is happening locally for me.
    But I was quoting research from the UK that was released today, 2 May 2014 (I’ve since found it was from June 2012).[11]
  • Have you investigated the research methodology and conclusions from the research? I haven’t. The CoE Newspaper is giving a summary of the research and is not giving the research document.[12]
  • But he’s also liberal in his theological views. Intelligence doesn’t exclude liberalism. George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, was an evangelical. Was he intelligent or not?[13]

My investigation for an assessment of the Australian 2011 census found these details regarding the Anglican Church: It is

the main protestant religion in Australia, most Anglicans naturally have their ancestry in England. This group declined significantly over the past 20 years. Traditionally dominant in the more affluent suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, these are the main areas where Anglicans have lost adherents to “No Religion”.  Anglican remains a dominant religion in many rural areas, particularly northern NSW and regional Queensland, the WA wheatbelt, most of Tasmania and parts of Perth with large UK-born populations. At a state level, Tasmania has by far the highest proportion, with 26.0%, followed by NSW with 19.9%.[15]

ABC News, religion and ethics, reported that ‘the number of Australian Anglicans has decreased sharply by 5.2% over the last twenty years from 23.9% of the population in 1986 to 18.7% in 2006’.[16]

Liberalism and decline of church attendance

That is not surprising to me. The history of theological liberalism has led to decline in church attendance. The president of the Uniting Church in Australia has admitted this in an article in the Eternity magazine in 2012 :

clip_image003The new President of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA), Reverend Professor Andrew Dutney says that liberal theology is in decline.

Andrew Dutney speaks to Eternity on the decline of liberal theology, and an update from UCA’s national assembly

“There is no question that the liberalism with which the Uniting Church and its predecessors were associated with in the past is very much in decline,” Dutney told the ABC’s Andrew West.

“As horizons have been broadened by the contact that different kinds of Christians are having with each other, people who might formerly have been liberal are discovering that there are other ways of reading the Bible that are not liberal. That you don’t try to explain away all the difficult stuff, but you can sit with some of the paradoxes and read the Bible more directly into your own life and your own situation.”

Dutney became President of the UCA at a meeting of its national assembly in Adelaide last month.[17]

What are other assessments?

The negative of the mainstream media: Or is it the truth?

  • The UK newspaper, Daily Mail Australia (online), had these headlines:

clip_image005 Just 800,000 worshippers attend a Church of England service on the average Sunday

clip_image005[1] Numbers in the pews have fallen to less than half the levels of the 1960s

clip_image005[2] Census evidence shows a widespread fall in allegiance to Christianity

clip_image005[3] Numbers of Christians has fallen more than four million in a decade (Daily Mail, 22 March 2014).

  • Calum Brown has written a provocative assessment of what has been happening in, The death of Christian Britain: Understanding secularisation, 1800-2000 (Brown 2009). At the conclusion of this study he wrote:

The death of Christian British culture, or the rupture in Christianity as McLeod puts it, was a real and – I would argue – a cataclysmic event of the 1960s. Sweeping as it may seem, the conclusion of the first edition of this book still stands. I wrote … that the churches will not die, but would continue to exist in some skeletal form (which is what seems to be suggested by most British Christian sociologists). What I did write is that ‘the culture of Christianity has gone in the Britain of new millennium. Britain is showing the world how religion as we have known it can die’. The emphasis here is upon ‘religion as we have known it’, and should not be taken as a statement that the rest of the world will follow Britain or that religion itself is ending. From what even my most strident critics are saying, based on the present evidence, mutation is precisely the best the Christian faith can hope for in the circumstances of British secularisation (Brown 2009: 232-233).

Thus, for me as a committed evangelical Christian, the only hope for the UK is for it to get back to the core of the Gospel which it once spread to much of the rest of the world. There is no cure to the decline of Christianity, other than this God-sent conviction returning: ‘This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12 ESV).

But you won’t get that message from theologically liberal pulpits where the preachers do not believe the Bible or the Gospel.

Works consulted

Brown, C G 2009. The death of Christian Britain: Understanding secularisation, 1800-2000, 2nd ed (online). Abingdon, Oxon/New York NY: Routledge. Available at: http://www.evolbiol.ru/large_files/secular.pdf (Accessed 10 July 2014).

Notes


[1] This article was written by Tim Ross, Cole Moreton and James Kirkup, 26 Apr 2014.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] However, this research was originally reported in this newspaper on 7 June 2012 and is available online at Anglican Mainstream, 7 June 2012, available at: http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/2012/06/07/startling-academic-research-shows-widespread-church-growth-in-britain/ (Accessed 3 May 2014).

[5] OzSpen#1, Christian Forums, News & Current Events, ‘Rowan Williams ignorant of church growth in the UK’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7819828/ (Accessed 3 May 2014).

[6] Ibid., PyGame#2.

[7] Ibid., Nithavela#3.

[8] Ibid., PyGame#4.

[9] Ibid., Kalevalatar#8. This woman gave a more detailed exposition of her views compared to the others.

[10] Ibid., Paradoxum#9.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#5.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#6.

[13] Ibid., OzSpen#7.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#11.

[15] Glenn – the census expert 2012. ‘Census 2011 – The geographic distribution of religion’, September 13. Available at: http://blog.id.com.au/2012/australian-census-2011/census-2011-the-geographic-distribution-of-religion/ (Accessed 12 June 2014).

[16] Peter Kurti 2011. It’s Anglicanism, Jim, but not as we know it, ABC, Religion and ethics, 2 September. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2011/09/02/3308163.htm (Accessed 12 June 2014).

[17] John Sandeman 2012. Liberal theology in decline says new UCA president, Bible Society Live Light. Available at: http://www.biblesociety.org.au/news/liberal-theology-in-decline-says-new-uca-president (Accessed 12 June 2014).

 

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

Jesus died for those who will be damned

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Reformation Wall in Geneva; from left to right:

William Farel, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, and John Knox (courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

This is a typical Calvinistic line against Arminians: ‘Why did God send Christ to die for those He foreknew would not believe?’[1] On of the key differences between Arminians and Calvinists is their understanding of free will. Roger Olson explains:

The nature of free will is another point where Calvinism and Arminianism diverge and where no middle ground seems possible. Because of their vision of God as good (loving, benevolent, merciful), Arminians affirm libertarian free will. (Philosophers call it incompatibilist free will because it is not compatible with determinism.) When an agent (a human or God) acts freely in the libertarian sense, nothing outside the self (including physical realities within the body) is causing it; the intellect or character alone rules over the will and turns it one way or another. Deliberation and then choice are the only determining factors, although factors such as nature and nurture, and divine influence come into play. Arminians do not believe in absolute free will; the will is always influenced and situated in a context. Even God is guided by his nature and character when making decisions. But Arminians deny that creaturely decisions and actions are controlled by God or any force outside the self.

Calvinists, on the other hand, believe in compatibilist free will (insofar as they talk about free will at all). Free will, they believe, is compatible with determinism. This is the only sense of free will that is consistent with Calvinism’s vision of God as the all-determining reality. In compatibilist free will, persons are free so long as they do what they want to do – even if God is determining their desires. This is why Calvinists can affirm that people sin voluntarily and are therefore responsible for their sins even though they could not do otherwise. According to Calvinism God foreordained the Fall of Adam and Eve, and rendered it certain (even if only by an efficacious permission) by withdrawing the grace necessary to keep them from sinning. And yet they sinned voluntarily. They did what they wanted to do even if they were unable to do otherwise. This is a typical Calvinist account of free will (Olson 2006:75).[2]

https://i1.wp.com/www.ivpress.com/img/book/XL/9780830828418.jpg?resize=190%2C293&ssl=1

Courtesy IVP Academic

Olson’s comment was that ‘it is difficult to see how a hybrid of these two views of free will could be created’ (Olson 2006:75).

My immediate response to the post on Christian Forums was: You are giving me your Calvinistic presuppositions with that kind of question.
I could ask you: Why did God send Christ to die only for the elect who he coerced into the kingdom by irresistible grace and damned the rest? Why did he bother to create them when he knew they would be damned eternally?[3]

I added: ‘To give them the opportunity, through unlimited atonement, prevenient grace and free will, to say yea or nay to the Gospel offer. Isn’t that simple enough to understand?’[4]

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

John Sanders.2009

Dr John E Sanders, open theist, (photo courtesy Hendrix College, AR, USA)

 

The comeback was:

“”’Why can’t you just answer the question? Consistent Arminians are Open Theists. Open Theists deny that God is omniscient. Therefore, they escape the question.
But you cannot escape the question because you believe that God foreknows all things. So, if God foreknows who will not believe, then the only reason for Christ’s dying for them would be to provide a basis for their judgment, not to provide an opportunity for salvation’.[5]

My reply was:[6]

Consistent Arminians are Reformed/Classical Arminians who maintain the integrity of Scripture and that includes the omniscience of God, unlimited atonement, prevenient grace and free will in relation to salvation.

You have misjudged the ‘only reason for Christ’s dying’. He died for them to provide the opportunity for salvation through prevenient grace and free will. God in his wisdom and omniscience knows that salvation should be offered to all and that ALL have the opportunity to say yea or nay to salvation.
That’s what the Scriptures teach and that’s why I maintain such a position. We have debated this over and over on Christian Forums and I don’t plan to go through the verses again.
I refer you to my articles:

The Calvinistic reply was:

First, the scripture no where says that Christ died to give men the “opportunity” to be saved. It consistently says that He died “TO SAVE” men.
Second, your position is totally illogical. If God foreknows who will not believe, then there can be no “opportunity” for them to be saved. Christ’s dath [sic] is nothing more than the basis of their judgment.[7]

My Arminian response was:

Mine is the logical position for these reasons:

  1. God loved the world (Jn 3:16) and not your view of only loving the elect;
  2. God gave all human beings free will as they are part of the ‘whoever believes’ (Jn 3:16). To be ‘whoever believes’, they must have the ability to say, ‘No to the offer’. The corollary this is that this is the ‘opportunity’ to be saved that is offered to ALL people.
  3. Jesus died for the whole world (1 Jn 2:2).
  4. To have the opportunity to receive Christ, people must hear the Gospel (Rom 10:17);
  5. The omniscient God has determined that only those who choose to believe receive eternal life (Jn 3:16).
  6. Those who choose to reject this offer are damned/they perish (Jn 3:16).
  7. The final destiny of all human beings is based on how logically God has provided such salvation as here explained.

You promote an illogical Calvinistic position where

  1. God’s injustice is exposed. He does not love the whole world (contrary to John 3:16) and does not offer ALL people the opportunity to respond to the Gospel.
  2. Instead, people are coerced into the kingdom by unconditional election and irresistible grace. And for some Calvinists, the rest are actively damned by an act of God (hardly the actions of the God of love for the whole world).

I don’t fall for the line that mine is the illogical position and yours is the paragon of logic.

Calvinists: God caused kidnap, rape and murder

Roger E Olson, an Arminian, wrote:

As I read Mark Talbot’s chapter on God and suffering in Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor) a thought occurred to me:

Since most Calvinists are harshly critical of the novel The Shack (which takes a similar approach to theodicy as Greg Boyd in Is God to Blame?) because of its alleged undermining of God’s glory and sovereignty, why don’t they (or one of them) write a similar novel in which God explains to Mack (or someone like him) why his daughter was kidnapped, raped and murdered–and avoid language about God permitting or allowing it (which is really Arminian language)? I challenge a consistent “high Calvinist” such as Piper or Talbot to produce such a novel. I would like to see what the popular Christian reaction would be to what God would have to say about such atrocities in such a novel. Talbot pulls no punches; he says that God foreordains such events and is their ultimate cause; they are willed by God and not merely allowed or permitted by God (although even he occasionally uses such language–as do all Calvinists in my experience). At crucial points he pulls back a little and uses language such as God “governs” such events, but the context makes clear he means God renders them certain because they fit into his plan and purpose and are necessary for the full accomplishment of his will.

I look forward to the publication of such a novel; I think it would go far toward turning people away from Calvinism (Olson 2013).

Works consulted

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

Olson, R E 2013. A challenge from Roger Olson for Calvinists, Society of Evangelical Arminians (online), March 2. Available at: http://evangelicalarminians.org/a-challenge-from-roger-olson-for-calvinists/ (Accessed 27 April 2014).

Peterson, R A & Williams, M D 1992. Why I am not an Arminian. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

 

Notes:


[1] The Boxer#381, Christian Forums, ‘Soteriology DEBATE’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7815138-39/#post65479174 (Accessed 27 April 2014).

[2] At this point Olson footnoted Peterson & Williams (1992:136-161).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#383.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#386.

[5] Ibid., The Boxer#384.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#387.

[7] Ibid., The Boxer#389.

 

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

Ecclesiastes 9:5 and what happens at death

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

nuclear explosion by tzunghaor - atomic bomb, bomb, clip art, clipart, explosion, explosive, mushroom cloud, nuclear, nuke, weapon,

(courtesy Openclipart)

By Spencer D Gear

A Seventh-Day Adventist fellow with whom I’ve been in dialogue online for years on a Christian forum continues to push his SDA view of annihilation of the unbeliever at death. Or, he will say that there is nothing at death for the non-Christian.

This is what he wrote to me:

Eccl. 9:5 “for the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing.” and 10 “Whatsoever they hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” Refute those.[1]

We can make these points about Eccl. 9:5, based on the text: [2]

1.  There is here noted one advantage that the living have. They ‘know that they shall die’. This does not seem to be a sarcastic comment by the Preacher (the Koheleth) of Ecclesiastes. The thought is that a living human being has a distinct advantage that he/she will will day die and do you know what? He/she is then able to arrange  a lot of things in his/her life on earth to prepare to meet the issue of death.

2.   But ‘the dead know nothing’. All opportunities for them for action and achievement are gone after death. It’s a thing of the past and the dead now know nothing. They don’t have any reward in the after-life (yet) and their memory is forgotten.

3.   So is this an absolute denial of all hope for them after death? That is what his SDA church promotes for unbelievers. However, that is not what this verse teaches. We have no right to think that this is a statement about the state of the dead in the afterlife. The Preacher is only expressing the relation of the dead to this life. How do we know? The next verse tells us. That’s why it is always good to look at the verse in context and not to quote an isolated verse, as Harold have done.

4.   Eccl 9:6 tells us, ‘Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and for ever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun’ (ESV). So what the dead have experienced in this life – love, hate, envy – has gone. It has perished. And the dead are not sharing what has happened for them when they were alive on earth – their life ‘under the sun’. The dead do not have a higher reward than what they had in their life ‘under the sun’. They are out of this life, have no reward, and all of the ‘under the sun’ emphases have perished.

5.   This ‘under the sun’ emphasis also appears in this chapter in Eccl. 9:3.

6.   Harold, by taking an isolated verse like Eccl 9:5 to support his doctrine of annihilation and pushing it to the limit of his kind of extremist, negative interpretation is not satisfactory exegesis of the text. He has NOT obtained his annihilation doctrine and nothingness-after-death for the unbeliever from this text. He has imposed the SDA annihilationist view on the text. This is called eisegesis and is an illegitimate way of obtaining the meaning from any text, whether that be the local newspaper or the Bible.

7.   In fact, Eccl 12:7 presents a contrary view to Harold’s SDA interpretation of Eccl 9:5 with this statement, ‘And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it’ (Eccl 12:7 ESV).

8. Eccl. 9:5-6 demonstrates, according to the Preacher of Ecclesiastes, how hopeless life is when anyone confines herself/himself to life ‘under the sun’ for satisfaction. She/he is faced with a hopeless situation.

9.   There is not a word in Eccl 9:5 that supports his emphasis on annihilation. He gets it from his Seventh-Day Adventist church. And Eccl 12:7 clarifies the meaning of Eccl 9:5 and clearly refutes his interpretation.

At death, the dust of the decayed human body returns to the earth and the spirit of the holistic being returns to God who gave the spirit at birth.

So there you have what I consider is a careful, but brief, refutation of Harold, the SDA’s, view on this one verse.

To refute the false doctrine of annihilation, see my articles:

ARE YOU READY?

Grim Reaper

(courtesy ChristArt)

Works consulted

Leupold, H C 1969. Exposition of Ecclesiastes. London: Evangelical Press (This is based on a 1969 reprint by Baker Book House Company of the 1952 edition by The Wartburg Press).

Notes:


[1] harold.fair#43, Christian Fellowship Forum, Fellowship Hall, ‘Soul sleep’. Available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?msg=123149.43&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship (Accessed 4 June 2014).

[2] This was my response at ibid., ozspen#45. Much of what I’ve written here is based on the exegesis and exposition of H C Leupold on Ecclesiastes (Leupold 1969:211-212).

 

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

Arminius on perseverance of the saints

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

James Arminius 2.jpg

Jacob Arminius (courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

This is straight from the Works of James Arminius, vol 1 (online):

V. THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS

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

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

So Arminius’ view was that:

1. It is not possible for Christian believers, through the work of Satan, to be dragged out of their salvation in Christ. So a true Christian believer can never finally fall away from the faith.

2. BUT, there are some passages of Scripture that give us the aspect of falling away from the faith.

3. BUT, there are also some passages that support the unconditional perseverance that are worthy of much consideration.

His writings that follow the above statement give some further clarity on his views. But from his own exposition on ‘Perseverance of the saints’, he was not prepared to state categorically that a person can fall away from the faith, but there were verses that indicate both ways – conditional perseverance and unconditional perseverance. I find that fence-sitting view not to be helpful. But I have more work to do on understanding Arminius’ views on continuation of salvation – especially on how he understood the Scriptures.

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

 

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