Archive for the 'Free will' Category

Choose does not mean choice! Joshua 24:15

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

Image result for clipart Choice public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Does this verse mean choice for or against God or gods?

‘And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:15 ESV).

A. When choose does not mean choice

I was sitting in the congregation of North Pine Presbyterian Church on Sunday, 11 September 2016, when the minister, Rev Paul Cornford, preached on Joshua 24. The title of his message was ‘The Covenant at Shechem’. When he got to Joshua 24:15, he stated, ‘“Choose this day” is a choice between false gods…. It is not a case of coming to the best God’.[1]

So ‘choose this day whom you will serve’ does not mean a choice as to which god/God you will choose to worship. It only applies to choosing among false gods, according to Rev Cornford. Below we will check to examine whether this preacher accurately engaged in correct exegesis of this Scripture in context.

After the service, I challenged the preacher over his failure to exegete the verse in context. He engaged in eisegesis, imposing his Calvinistic meaning on the text.

What is exegesis?  ”Exegesis is the process of interpreting a text of Scripture” (Grudem 1994:109).  The problem any interpreter of the Bible faces is that “everyone who interprets a passage of the Bible stands in a present time while he examines a document that comes from a past time.  He must discover what each statement meant to the original speaker or writer and to the original hearers or readers, in their own present time” (Mickelsen 1963:55).  This is the process of exegesis.  It is critical for the understanding of any text written in the past.

What is eisegesis? See Exegesis v. Eisegesis. Here is a quote from Dr. James White’s forth-coming book “Pulpit Crimes” on eisegesis, which indicates that it means:

The reading into a text, in this case, an ancient text of the Bible, of a meaning that is not supported by the grammar, syntax, lexical meanings, and over-all context, of the original. It is the opposite of exegesis, where you read out of the text its original meaning by careful attention to the same things, grammar, syntax, the lexical meanings of the words used by the author (as they were used in his day and in his area), and the over-all context of the document. As common as it is, it should be something the Christian minister finds abhorrent, for when you stop and think about it, eisegesis muffles the voice of God. If the text of Scripture is in fact God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) and if God speaks in the entirety of the Bible (Matt. 22:31) then eisegesis would involve silencing that divine voice and replacing it with the thoughts, intents, and most often, traditions, of the one doing the interpretation. In fact, in my experience, eisegetical mishandling of the inspired text is the single most common source of heresy, division, disunity, and a lack of clarity in the proclamation of the gospel. The man of God is commended when he handles God’s truth aright (2 Tim. 2:15), and it should be his highest honor to be privileged to do so. Exegesis, then, apart from being a skill honed over years of practice, is an absolutely necessary means of honoring the Lord a minister claims to serve. For some today, exegesis and all the attendant study that goes into it robs one of the Spirit. The fact is, there is no greater spiritual service the minister can render to the Lord and to the flock entrusted to his care than to allow God’s voice to speak with the clarity that only sound exegetical practice can provide (in Reformation Theology, emphasis added).

James White is a Calvinist and among the chief proponents of eisegesis are Calvinists who impose their Reformed Calvinistic meaning on a text with doctrinaire repetition.

If one wants to convey this message to a contemporary audience, the speaker engages in the discipline of exposition, but exegesis precedes exposition: “He must see what meaning these statements had in the past, but he must also show what is their meaning for himself and for those to whom he conveys these ideas” (Mickelsen 1963:55).

B. Calvinism and no choice in choosing God

Image result for Calvinism public domainTo understand why Rev. Cornford takes this line, it is consistent with his 5-point Calvinist theology. You can listen to his sermons on TULIP Calvinism on the church’s website.

However, this article is not designed to respond to the following teaching of Calvinism, but to examine Joshua 24:15 in context. What does it teach regarding a person’s ability or inability to choose to serve God?

What does Calvinism believe about choice in salvation and/or serving God? These are only a few examples from leading Calvinists:

clip_image002 ‘In order for one who is dead to the things of God to come alive to God, something must be done to him and for him. Dead men cannot make themselves come alive’ (Sproul 1986:114). Norman Geisler describes this comment as an example of ‘the extreme Calvinists’ view’ (Geisler 1999:57).

I have responded to the extreme Calvinistic position in:

clip_image004 Who can be reconciled to God?

clip_image002[1] Loraine Boettner, a leading Calvinist of the past, could not state the Calvinistic position clearer:

Man is a free agent but he cannot originate the love of God in his heart. His will is free in the sense that it is not controlled by any force outside of himself. As the bird with a broken wing is “free” to fly but not able, so the natural man is free to come to God but not able. How can he repent of his sin when he loves it? How can he come to God when he hates Him?…

We read that that “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned,” I Cor. 2:14. We are at a loss to understand how any one can take a plain common sense view of this passage of Scripture and yet contend for the doctrine of human ability’ (Boettner 1932:62, 63).

These articles of mine cover some of this opposition to ‘whosoever will may come’ (John 3:16).

clip_image004[1] Do Arminians believe in election and total depravity?

clip_image004[2] Does regeneration precede faith?

clip_image002[2] In this one paragraph, John Calvin emphasised double-predestination twice:

‘The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death’….

‘Each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death’ (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.21.5, emphasis added).

My replies to this view are in,

clip_image004[3] Did John Calvin believe in double predestination?

clip_image004[4] God’s foreknowledge and predestination/election to salvation

Based on this kind of Calvinistic theology, there could be no way that any human being would be able to choose to follow God. That’s because of Calvinism’s bias against it with its unusual understandings of,

  • The meaning of ‘dead in trespasses and sin’;
  • Regeneration precedes faith;
  • Total depravity;
  • Unbelievers are all predestined to damnation (not all Calvinists accept this view that is endorsed by John Calvin himself).

C. What does Joshua 24:15 teach?

Let’s develop a textual outline of Joshua 24:14-28 so that we obtain some context. The heading for this section in the English Standard Version is ‘Choose Whom You Will Serve’. When I prepare to preach an expository sermon (which is my normal approach to preaching from any biblical section), I begin by preparing a textual outline,

1. Textual outline: Joshua 24:14-28

This is based on the ESV text:

1. (A command to the Israelites) fear the Lord and serve him (v. 14);

2. (Command to) put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River (v. 14);

3. (Command to) serve the Lord (v. 14);

Vector drawing of the God Ganesha4. If it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve (v 15)

5. Choose the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites (v 15);

6. But as for me [i.e. Joshua] and my house, we will serve the Lord (v 15).

7. The people’s answer was: ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods’ (v 16);

8. The Lord our God brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of slavery, and who performed the great signs in our sight and preserved us (v 17);

9. The Lord drove out all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God (v. 18);

10. Joshua said: You are not able to serve the Lord for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God. He will not forgive your transgressions or your sins (v. 19).

11. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good (v. 20);

12. The people said to Joshua, ‘No, we will serve the Lord’ (v. 21).

13. Joshua said: ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him’. The Israelites agreed: ‘We are witnesses’ (v. 22).

14. Joshua said: ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel’ (v. 23);

15. The people said to Joshua: ‘The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey’ (v. 24);

16. Joshua made a covenant with the Israelite people that day at Shechem to put in place statutes and rules (v. 25);

17. Joshua wrote words in the Book of the Law of God and set it up with a stone (v. 26);

18. Joshua said to all the people that the stone would be a witness against us/you lest you deal falsely with your God (v. 27).

19. Joshua sent the people away to their own inheritance (v.28).

2. Homiletical outline: Joshua 24:14-28

This is designed to summarise what the text is saying and grab the attention of the congregation or readers with relevant information that comes directly out of the text. This is the outline for a sermon that I will preach (not prepared yet) on this text. It may take 2 sermons of 30 minutes each to cover this material.

a. God does not deceive you: A command means you can do it (v. 14)

  • Fear the Lord
  • Serve him
  • Put away the other gods.

God would not be commanding you to do it if you were incapable of acting on the instruction.

b. Honest! You can choose today which God or gods you will serve (v. 15)

  • The choice is yours: Choose gods or THE GOD

c. They chose the Lord (vv. 15-18)

d. You are not able to serve the Lord (v 19)

  • Is this a contradiction? (You can choose the Lord, v. 15; you can’t serve the Lord, v. 19? You have chosen the Lord, v. 22)
  • Why this inability? (v. 19)
  • Why it happens – when you forsake the Lord (v. 20)

e. We will serve the Lord (v. 21)

f. KEY VERSE FOR INTERPRETATION: You have chosen the Lord (v. 22)

g. You can put away the foreign gods and serve the Lord (vv. 23-24)

h. Signing the covenant to serve the Lord (vv. 25-28)

D. Choosing God or gods

Image result for picture of Canaanite gods public domain(El, the Canaanite creator god, courtesy wikimedia.commons)

 

What does this outline demonstrate regarding the ability to choose God or other gods?

1.   The command to fear the Lord, serve Him and put away the other gods infers that people are able to choose to do it (v. 14).

2.   You can choose to serve other gods or the Lord (v. 15).

John Calvin’s commentary on Joshua 24:15 is:

By giving them the option to serve God or not, just as they choose, he loosens the reins, and gives them license to rush audaciously into sin. What follows is still more absurd, when he tells them that they cannot serve the Lord, as if he were actually desirous of set purpose to impel them to shake off the yoke. But there is no doubt that his tongue was guided by the inspiration of the Spirit, in stirring up and disclosing their feelings. For when the Lord brings men under his authority, they are usually willing enough to profess zeal for piety, though they instantly fall away from it. Thus they build without a foundation (Calvin’s Commentaries: Joshua 24, Bible Hub).

Calvin gives them the ‘option’ to serve God or not – as they choose – but he considers this one where Joshua ‘loosens the reins’, giving them the opportunity to rush into sin.

3.   They chose the Lord (vv. 15-18).

4.   After the previous and following verses, verse 19 seems like a contradiction, ‘You are not able to serve the Lord’. This is especially a paradox in light of verse 22, ‘You have chosen the Lord’. Verse 19 is an irony with Joshua 24:31 (ESV) in view, ‘Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel’. Keil & Delitzsch (n d, vol 2:231) consider that ‘“ye cannot serve Jehovah” … in the state of mind in which ye are at present, or “by your own resolution only, and without the assistance of divine grace, without solid and serious conversion from all idols, and without true repentance and faith” (J. H. Michaelis)’. What also is puzzling is the statement, ‘He will not forgive your transgressions’, because there are many affirmations in the OT that God is a forgiving God. See Exodus 34:6-7a where the Lord revealed to Moses, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty….’ Surely this is meant to be hyperbole to demonstrate that God will not deal lightly with sin.[2]

5.   Verse 22 gets to the crux of interpretation for this passage. It leaves no doubt as to what the meaning is in context: ‘You have chosen the Lord’. No matter what the opposition from the Calvinistic camp, anybody anywhere can choose to serve pagan gods or the Lord God.

However,

  • since Christ’s death on Golgotha for the sins of the world (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2), people need to be drawn by God the Father:
  • ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day’ (John 6:44 ESV).
  • How many will be drawn and how many will be forsaken? Jesus was clear about that: ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’ (John 12:32 ESV).

So, since Christ’s death and resurrection, all people are drawn to Jesus but many reject his offer of salvation. Why?

  • ‘So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak?’ (Heb 2:3 NLT).
  • Romans 1:18 (NLT) gives us further insight into why people reject God’s evidence: ‘But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness’.

How did John Calvin understand Joshua 24:22. In his commentary on this verse he stated:

We now understand what the object was at which Joshua had hitherto aimed. It was not to terrify the people and make them fall away from their religion, but to make the obligation more sacred by their having of their own accord chosen his government, and betaken themselves to his guidance, that they might live under his protection. They acknowledge, therefore, that their own conscience will accuse them, and hold them guilty of perfidy [i.e. deceitfulness], if they prove unfaithful…. But although they were not insincere in declaring that they would be witnesses to their own condemnation, still how easily the remembrance of this promise faded away, is obvious from the Book of Judges. For when the more aged among them had died, they quickly turned aside to various superstitions. By this example we are taught how multifarious are the fallacies which occupy the senses of men, and how tortuous the recesses in which they hide their hypocrisy and folly, while they deceive themselves by vain confidence (Calvin’s Commentaries: Joshua 24:22, Bible Hub).

He did not deny that the Israelites were in a situation of ‘having of their own accord chosen his [God’s] government’.

6.   The Israelites could choose to put away the foreign gods in their midst and serve the Lord. This they did and signed a covenant of commitment (Josh 24:23-28).

D. Conclusion

A doctrinaire, Calvinistic, presuppositional view of no choice in salvation is what drove Rev Paul Cornford, an evangelical Presbyterian, to reject the clear teaching of Joshua 24:15 in context. ‘Choose this day whom you will serve’ means that the Israelites could choose to serve other gods or the Lord God.

Joshua 24:22 drives the interpretation home, ‘You have chosen the Lord, to serve him’ (ESV). Other translations are as affirmative:

clip_image006 ‘You have chosen to serve the Lord’ (NLT);

clip_image006[1] ‘Ye have chosen you the Lord, to serve him’ (KJV);

clip_image006[2] ‘You have chosen for yourselves the Lord, to serve Him’ (NASB);

clip_image006[3]’You have chosen the Lord, to serve him’ (NRSV);

clip_image006[4]’You have chosen to serve the Lord’ (NIV);

clip_image006[5]’You have chosen the Lord for yourselves’ (NKJV);

clip_image006[6]’You have chosen to serve the Lord’ (ISV).

Image result for clipart salvationExegesis and exposition are clear for Joshua 24:15 and its context. Norman Geisler reached a consistent position on this verse and related verses:

God desires that all unsaved people will change their mind (i.e., repent), for “he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Like the alternatives of life and death that Moses gave to Israel, God says, ‘Choose life’ (cf. Deut. 30:19). Joshua said to his people: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15). God sets morally and spiritually responsible alternatives before human beings, leaving the choice and responsibility to them. Jesus said to the unbelievers of His day: “If you do not believe that I am … you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24), which implies they could have and should have believed.

Over and over, “belief” is declared to be something we are accountable to embrace: “We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:69); “Who is he sir? … Tell me so that I may believe in him” (John 9:36); “Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe, ‘ and he worshiped him” (John 9:38); “Jesus answered, ‘I did tell you but you do not believe’” (John 10:25). This is why Jesus said, ‘Whoever believes in [me] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18) [Geisler 2004:130, emphasis in original].

E.   Works consulted

Boettner, L 1932. The reformed doctrine of predestination. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.

Delitzsch, F. n.d., Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon in C. F. Keil & F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes (vol. 6). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William E. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Geisler, N 1999. Chosen but free. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

Geisler, N 2004. Systematic theology: Sin, salvation, vol 3. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

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

Keil, C F & Delitzsch, F n d. Commentary on the Old Testament: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, two vols in 1, vol 2. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Madvig, D H 1992. Joshua, in F E Gaebelein (gen ed), The expositor’s Bible commentary, vol 3, 239-371. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Mickelsen, A B 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Sproul, R C 1986. Chosen by God. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

F.   Notes


[1] I take notes in an exercise book for sermons I hear and these comments are based on the notes I took for the sermon on 11 September 2016, 9.00am service, North Pine Presbyterian Church, 55 Old Dayboro Rd., Petrie Qld. 4502, Australia. My wife and I have attended this church for 5 years at the time of writing this article (8 October 2016).

[2] This was the interpretation by Madvig (1992:369).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 8 October 2016.

Is God absolutely sovereign?

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

(image courtesy clker.com)

By Spencer D Gear

When we see the wickedness in our world, we could be tempted to say that God, the Almighty One, is not in absolute, sovereign control of our world. I’m thinking of:

How do we deal with God’s sovereignty and these kinds of atrocities? One way to process these abhorrent events is to state that….

A.  God is not absolutely sovereign

I met a fellow on a Christian forum who stated, ‘God is NOT absolutely sovereign’.[1]

His comments were made in a theological context in which his context was that

all of the five points of Calvinism were deduced from the concept that God became absolutely sovereign when Adam sinned in the garden and man lost his free will.

God is NOT absolutely sovereign.

All five points of Calvinism are based on a false premise.

Indeed, in previous … posts I have used the example of Joshua 24:15 to document that man retained his free will after the fall.[2]

Joshua 24:15 states, ‘And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (ESV).

In my view, there is a better alternative:

B.  God’s sovereignty and free will

I disagree with this fellow’s perspective.[3] I consider that the biblical teaching is that God is absolutely sovereign and that sovereignty includes the free will decisions of human beings. This is a brief overview of God’s sovereign attributes:
clip_image002God is before all things (Ps 90:2; Col 1:17);
clip_image002[1]All things were created by God (Jn 1:3);
clip_image002[2]God sustains all things (Heb 1:3);
clip_image002[3]God is above and over all things ( Eph 4:6);
clip_image002[4]God is all knowing (Ps 139:4-6; Heb 4:13);
clip_image002[5]God is all-powerful (Gen 18:4);
clip_image002[6]God’s sovereignty implies that He does what He wills (Isa 14:24, 27).
This sovereignty means that
clip_image002[7]God is the ruler over all things (1 Chron 29:11-12);
clip_image002[8]God does whatever He pleases (i.e. is in control of everything) (Ps 115:3);
clip_image002[9]Earthly kings are controlled by God (Prov 21:1);
clip_image002[10]God’s control extends to human events (Isa 55:11);
clip_image002[11]Good and evil angels are under God’s control (Col 1:15-16; Eph 1:21; 1 Ki 22:19-22);
clip_image002[12]God controls Satan (Job 1:6; 2:1; Rev 20:10).

C.  The most difficult concept to grasp

This is the one we find most difficult to understand:

clip_image004God sovereignly controls our free choices, including our salvation (Eph 1:4, 11; 1 Pt 2:8). Yes, he is sovereign, but that does not eliminate human free will decisions.

God’s sovereignty does not make free choice and human responsibility to be fakes. God is not a sovereign Puppet Master who pulls the strings of life for all people and nations. One of the great mysteries of God’s sovereignty is that He is absolutely sovereign but human responsibility is genuine in the midst of this mystery.

The apostle Paul affirms the depth of the riches in God’s wisdom and knowledge in Romans 11:33. Long before Paul, Moses stated it profoundly,

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of the law (Deut 29:29 ESV).

Therefore the person who stated that he does not believe in God’s absolute sovereignty sounds like a promoter of open theism. Open theism is defined by one of its promoters, Clark Pinnock, as,

a relational view of God. [pause] Because the thing is that, in the past, with a high doctrine of predestination and timelessness and changeability, it’s hard to see how God was relational….

So our view is not that God knows everything that can be known and is therefore omniscient without qualification, but that some aspects of the future are settled and other aspects are not settled. The world is such that certain things are still being settled by the agents in the world, by us and by God, so God knows things as possible as well as certain.

Traditionally, God knows everything that will ever happen certainly, so it must happen exactly that way. Whereas we’re saying that God appears in the Bible to know some things for certain because he planned them or because they’re going to happen definitely, but aspects of the future may surprise him.

I think that’s a point that’s gotten people scared, the idea that God takes risks and is vulnerable. The same thing with the impassibility of God….

We’re saying that omniscience doesn’t mean that the future is exhaustively foreknown because God’s made a world the future of which would be decided by himself and human agents. So it’s really the reality of the human agents as to whether they make any difference for the future. If they do, then it means that certain things are not yet settled, because they haven’t made their choices, or done their thing (from Clark Pinnock’s interview with Homiletics online, ‘Does Prayer Change Things? Yes, if you’re an Open Theist’).

D.  Conclusion

I can conclude that some people can and do refuse to do God’s will. However, that is to be understood as included in a biblical understanding of the sovereignty of God.

Therefore, I cannot accept this person’s statement that ‘God is NOT absolutely sovereign’. God is absolutely sovereign and in that sovereignty human beings take responsibility for various issues in their lives.

Suggested for further reading

Notes


[1] PrincetonGuy#12, 8 October 2014. Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Question arising from the Calvinism/predestined threads’. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7843483-2/#post66437993 (Accessed 8 October 2014).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#13.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 November 2015.

Conflict over salvation

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

(courtesy Google, public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

Does God decree which persons should receive God’s salvation? Or, does God invite people to Christ and then let them take human responsibility in saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the offer of salvation?

These two questions have caused theological heartache from the time of the Reformation until today. Does God open the human heart for salvation? Do human beings have the opportunity to receive or reject salvation? It’s the debate over free will and salvation.

I met this challenge in the thread, ‘Acts 16:14’ on Christian Forums. It involves the regular conflict between Arminians and Calvinists over the nature of how salvation through Christ is received by human beings.

Calvinistic interpretation

  

(Terry cloth)

This fellow started the thread,

Acts 16:14


A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 16:14 NASB)

Why was it necessary for Jesus to open her heart? What was wrong with her in the first place? Did she not have the free will to choose prior to that?[1]

Others replied:

  • ‘To respond. Could she have still responded negatively?’[2]
  • ‘God caused her to respond, so the result was predetermined’ (this is a Calvinistic reply’.[3]

However, after 20 replies he as a Calvinist was not receiving the responses from the Arminian opposition that he wanted. So he wrote again:

Heck, I’m still trying to find out why it’s even necessary.
I always figure when the regular non-Calvinists avoid a thread, it must have hit a nerve.
[4]

Some Arminian opposition [5]

After 100 posts I responded.

I find it amazing that you have come to this view that ‘it must have hit a nerve’. What do you do?

You started the thread this way:

Acts 16:14

A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 16:14 NASB)

Why was it necessary for Jesus to open her heart? What was wrong with her in the first place? Did she not have the free will to choose prior to that?

The ‘nerve’ for me is this: I knew this fellow’s Calvinistic agenda when he started this thread, that he has pushed over and over on this very large Christian forum. He seems to want to try to disprove Arminianism. I contemplated not responding to him as his imbalanced view is not what the Bible teaches in its totality. I knew he would be persistent in trying to corner others and me in his Calvinistic gymnastics.

Calvinistic imbalance?

The very chapter of the Bible that he used, Acts 16, provides the balance (not the contradiction) to Acts 16:14. The Lord opened Lydia’s heart to respond to what Paul preached. But what is stated in Acts 16:31? It is a command for human beings to believe: ‘And they said, “[You] Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household”’.

The Lord opens the heart but he does not do it without the person believing. That is, the person has a free-will choice to believe salvation or reject it.

Lutheran commentator, R C H Lenski, explained this balanced view in his exegesis and exposition of Acts 16:14:

We must combine the two duratives ‘she kept hearing’ and ‘to be heeding,’ for they imply that Lydia was not converted on that very first Sabbath. From the beginning, however, she heard with a heart that was opened wide (dia in the verb) by the Lord. Little did she dream that Saturday morning what a treasure she was to find in the little retreat by the riverside; but she heard the great Apostle of the Gentiles himself set forth the blessed gospel of Jesus Christ with all fervor and all conviction, and this gospel was corroborated by these three companions. She was finding the pearl of great price.

The Lord opens the heart, but the hand with which he lifts the latch and draws the door is the Word which he makes us hear, and the door opens as we heed, prosechein, keep holding your mind to what you hear. No man can open the door of his heart (kardia is the center of thought and will) himself, nor can he help the Lord to open it by himself lifting the latch and moving the door. The one thing he can do is to bolt the door, i.e., refuse to hear and to heed; and thus he can keep the door closed and bar it even more effectually than it was at first. This prevents conversion (Lenski 1934:658).

So the biblical evidence from Acts 16 (not just v. 14) is that it is the Lord who opens the heart but human beings believe (and refuse to believe). This has been God’s approach from the OT into the NT and today.

We read from the OT:

clip_image001 ‘Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live’ (Deut 30:19).

and again from the OT,

clip_image001[1] ‘Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (Josh 24:15).

The Lord opening the heart

photo of burning lit candle with flame and pink heart(public domain)

 

Why was it necessary for the Lord to open Lydia’s heart?[6] There is no salvation outside of the Lord’s working in us.

What was wrong with her? She was a sinner who needed justification, reconciliation and all that salvation can provide. She needed the application of Christ’s shed blood and resurrection.

As I’ve tried to demonstrate in this brief article, salvation is from the Lord but God demonstrates in Acts 16:31 that human beings need to respond by believing. Why? Because human beings can resist such offers of salvation.

We know from the very first sin in the Garden (Genesis 2-3) that God did not take away human beings’ free will to hear God and obey or disobey his instructions (Gen 3:2:9, 17; 3:5-13).

What kind of response do you think that might generate from the Calvinist who started this thread? Here are some samples

clip_image003 ‘If you aren’t going to address the OP [original post], I’m not sure why you even posted. Seems like a waste of time’.[7] (Note, this is a red herring logical fallacy as he refused to address the content of what I wrote above.) This is how I replied to the red herring:

Ah, exactly what I expected. I addressed the post and you didn’t like what I wrote so you give me this red herring.

When will you wake up to the fact that this kind of response is what drives people away from pursuing the Calvinism that you want to define on CF. I provided evidence to refute your view; you didn’t like it so you make it look like I didn’t address the post. I addressed the post directly and came to a conclusion different to yours.
If people continue to use logical fallacies, I disengage in conversation with them. Why?  When they use a logical fallacy, it prevents a logical discussion.[8] He further added:

clip_image003[1] ‘So until the Lord opened her heart, there was no way she could respond positively to the gospel?’[9] And again:

clip_image003[2] ‘Why did you avoid answering my question? You aren’t obligated to do so, but this dodging gets us nowhere’.[10]

How should I respond? Here it is: ‘I addressed your post directly. This is a false accusation. False accusations are called straw man fallacies. And we cannot have a logical discussion when you do this. I find that you are harassing me and this is against the rules of this forum’.[11]

clip_image003[3] ‘I have no problems with disagreements. And since you don’t, perhaps you’d like to answer this question that I posed to you. So until the Lord opened her heart, there was no way she could respond positively to the gospel?’[12]

There is further interaction between the Calvinist and me, a Reformed Arminian, in this thread.

Conclusion

So I’m not restricted to pushing a one-sided agenda when the Bible provides both sides in Acts 16. It is the Lord who opens Lydia’s heart and it is Lydia who chooses to respond to the offer of salvation and not to reject it. This is the message of 1 Timothy 2:3b-4, ‘God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (ESV).

It has nothing to do with ‘it must have hit a nerve’ for a non-Calvinist like me. It has everything to do with being giving the balance in biblical presentation. God saves, God opened Lydia’s heart, but human beings have the free will to respond in faith to the offer of salvation. Otherwise we have God the dictator and human beings the robots. I do not find that view consistent with biblical Christianity.

For further explanations of my views see:

Works consulted

Lenski, R C H 1934. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers (based on Lutheran Book Concern 1934; The Wartburg Press 1944; Augsburg Publishing House 1961).

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Acts 16:14’, Hammster #1, 16 February 2014. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7804942/ (Accessed 23 February 2014).

[2] Ibid., Steeno7 #2.

[3] Ibid., abacabb #9, http://www.christianforums.com/t7804942/ (Accessed 23 February 2014).

[4] Ibid., Hammster #22, http://www.christianforums.com/t7804942-3/ (Accessed 23 February 2014).

[5] Ibid., OzSpen #103, 20 February 2014, http://www.christianforums.com/t7804942-11/ (Accessed 23 February 2014).

[6] This is a further explanation that I made in ibid., #104.

[7] Ibid., Hammster #105. That was all he wrote – not one letter more than this.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen #109.

[9] Ibid., Hammster #107.

[10] Ibid., Hammster #114, http://www.christianforums.com/t7804942-12/ (Accessed 23 February 2014).

[11] Ibid., OzSpen #116.

[12] Ibid., Hammster #131, http://www.christianforums.com/t7804942-14/ (Accessed 23 February 2014). I told him that I had already answered this above and that he was continuing his harassment of me with this response, which is against the rules of this forum (ibid., OzSpen#135).

 

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

Controversies: Once saved, always saved

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Ribbon Salvation Button Blue Salvation Button

By Spencer D Gear

It is predictable that in discussions on Christian themes in person and online, that there will be a dialogue, pro and con, regarding eternal security (often called once saved, always saved – OSAS) or perseverance of the saints. Sometimes this discussion can become somewhat heated.

In fact, Roger Olson, an Arminian, is of the view that there will be continuing Calvinistic-Arminian conflict in Christian theology. He wrote:

Whatever the future of the story of Christian theology brings forth, it is bound to be interesting. It always has been. And there are as-yet unresolved issues for theological reformers to work on. The major one, of course, is the old debate between monergists and synergists over God’s relationship with the world. New light from God’s Word is badly needed as the extremes of process theology and resurgent Augustinian-Calvinism polarize Christian thought as never before. While I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, I predict (with fear and trembling) that this issue will be the all-consuming one in Christian theology in the twenty-first century and that new insights and suggestions for resolving it will come from non-Western Christian thinkers. All the options of Western (European and North American) thought seem to have been proposed and have led only to reactions rather than resolutions. If this particular problem of theology is ever to be solved – even in part – the crucial insights will almost certainly need to come from outside of Western culture, with its dualistic mindset that insists on seeing divine and human agencies as in competition with one another (Olson 1999:612).

Double-Headed

(courtesy ChristArt)

 

A. Doubts about Arminians even being Christian

I encountered this and entered into some discussions with advocates of the OSAS position in a Christian online forum. Arminians have come under some provocative attacks (I write as a Reformed Arminian). Here are a couple of challenging examples:

(1) Kim Riddlebarger has stated, ‘Arminianism is not simply an alternative for evangelicals who are uncomfortable with certain doctrinal tenets of Calvinism. Taken to its logical conclusion, Arminianism is not only a departure from historic orthodoxy, but a serious departure from the evangel itself’ (Riddlebarger 1992:5, emphasis added).[1]

(2) Michael Horton has stated:

There will doubtless be Roman Catholics, Arminians, and others in Paradise who were saved by God’s grace even if they, like me, did not understand or appreciate that grace as much as they should have. Nevertheless, if we are going to still use “evangelical” as a noun to define a body of Christians holding to a certain set of convictions, it is high time we got clear on these matters. An evangelical cannot be an Arminian any more than an evangelical can be a Roman Catholic. The distinctives of evangelicalism were denied by Rome at the Council of Trent, by the Remonstrants in 1610, were confused and challenged by John Wesley in the eighteenth century, and have become either ignored or denied in contemporary “evangelicalism” (Horton 2013, emphasis added).[2]

Some do not want to use the dichotomy of synergism vs monergism. See:Monergism Versus Synergism: Beware, Kobayashi Maru Ahead!(John Kebbel, Society of Evangelical Arminians). However, for plying these definitions apart, Terrance L Tiessen, wrote:

Calvinism is monergistic in its soteriology, as evidenced particularly in two points in the well known acronym, TULIP – unconditional election and irresistible (or efficacious) grace. These points identify salvation as God’s sovereign work, in which God chose to glorify himself by saving particular people, in Christ, without any conditions on their part except those which God himself efficaciously enables them to fulfill, so that salvation is God’s work from beginning to end, even though it does not come about without human response.

By contrast, though Arminians also insist that salvation is a work of God’s grace, God does not determine who will be saved by it. His prevenient grace enables people to meet the conditions (repentance, faith, and obedience) which they could never have met on their own, but whether or not that grace eventuates in their salvation is determined by the individuals, not by God. So Arminianism has been dubbed “synergistic.”

In both of these understandings of salvation, God’s grace is essential, and in both of them people are not saved apart from their response to God’s grace. But because God determines the outcome in the Calvinist construct, it has been called “monergistic,” though it is clear that God is not the only actor. The key point is that God is the decisive actor, the one whose action determines the outcome.[3]

B. John 10:28-29 and eternal security

These verses read:

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand (ESV).

In responding to an Arminian who wrote about the falling away of believers in Hebrews 6:4-6, a Calvinist wrote on Christian Forums:

Let me put it another way.

Jesus said: “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” -John 10:29 (KJV)

If sin, causes you to come out of the Father’s hand, if you, choosing to sin, takes you out of the Father’s hand, and costs you your salvation, then God ceases to omnipotent (all powerful). Sin, and man (namely you) are able to overpower and take yourself from His care.

Now which is corect (sic)?

No man, not even yourself can take you out of God’s hand, or is sin and man more powerful than God?

Either Jesus and scriptures are correct, or Jesus told a lie and subsequently the scriptures lie also, which means sin and man are more powerful than God.[4]

Another responded, ‘The problem is: in this church age, once you are saved by God, there is no way YOU can unsave yourself no matter what you do’.[5] DeaconDean’s reply was, ‘Sure there is. Haven’t you read the thread?’[6] I’d recommend a read of this online thread to see the back and forth between eternal security supporters – unconditional eternal security – and those who believe in conditional eternal security for Christian believers, i.e. between Calvinists and Arminians.

My reply to DeaconDean[7], who cited the Calvinist, John Gill, on John 10:28, Kittel and others. was:[8]

This is what happens when you read John 10:28-29 in isolation from the rest of John’s Gospel. It is true that ‘I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand…. no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand’ (emphasis added).

BUT this is what can happen. Take a read of John 15:6. This is in the context of being in the vine – God’s vine – and Jesus being the true vine and God the Father being the vinedresser (John 15:1). This is what John 15:6 states, ‘If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned (ESV, emphasis added).

The gracious power of God is comprehensively sufficient to protect every born-again Christian believer forever. But a believer can in the end be lost, because salvation is conditional. None of our enemies will be able to snatch us out of the Father’s/Jesus’ hands.
BUT … BUT, any Christians can turn from Jesus, enter into disbelief, commit apostasy and perish by wilful acts of their own. That’s what John 15:6 teaches: ‘‘If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away….’.

Therefore, John 10:28-29 is not an absolute that guarantees once-saved-always-saved (which, by the way, is not biblical language). Eternal life is granted to those who continue to believe. We know this from verses in John such as John 3:36; 6:47,

Whoever believes [Gk present tense – continues believing] in the Son has [Gk present tense – continues to have] eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36 ESV)

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes [Gk present tense – continues to believe] has [Gk present tense – continues to have] eternal life (John 6:47 ESV).

 

1. People can commit apostasy

Thus, eternal life only continues as long as a person continues to believe. He or she can commit apostasy by not continuing to believe in Christ for eternal life.

 Chuck Templeton (from Brad Templeton’s photo site)

I know people for whom this has happened and is continuing to happen – apostasy – and they were once vibrant Christians. Consider Charles Templeton, one of Billy Graham’s associates in Billy’s early days of ministry with Youth for Christ. See ‘Death of an apostate’.

Lee Strobel interviewed Templeton for Strobel’s book The case for faith (2000:9-46). Here is a grab from that interview:

And what about Jesus? I wanted to know what Templeton thought of the cornerstone of Christianity. “Do you believe Jesus ever lived?” I asked.

“No question,” came the quick reply.

“Did he think he was God?”

He shook his head. “That would have been the last thought that would have entered his mind.”

“And his teaching – did you admire what he taught?”

“Well, he wasn’t a very good preacher. What he said was too simple. He hadn’t thought about it. He hadn’t agonized over the biggest question there is to ask.”

“Which is …”

Is there a God? How could anyone believe in a God who does, or allows, what goes on in the world?”

“And how do you assess this Jesus?” It seemed like the next logical question – but I wasn’t ready for the response it would evoke.

Templeton’s body language softened. It was as if he suddenly felt relaxed and comfortable in talking about an old and dear friend. His voice, which at times had displayed such a sharp and insistent edge, now took on a melancholy and reflective tone. His guard seemingly down, he spoke in an unhurried pace, almost nostalgically, carefully choosing his words as he talked about Jesus.

“He was,” Templeton began, “the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I’ve ever encountered in my life or in my readings. His commitment was total and led to his own death, much to the detriment of the world. What could one say about him except that this was a form of greatness?”

I was taken aback. “You sound like you really care about him,” I said.

“Well, yes, he is the most important thing in my life,” came his reply. “I . . . I . . . I . . . ,” he stuttered, searching for the right word, ‘I know it may sound strange, but I have to say . . . I adore him!” . . .

” . . . Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. Yes . . . yes. And tough! Just look at Jesus. He castigated people. He was angry. People don’t think of him that way, but they don’t read the Bible. He had a righteous anger. He cared for the oppressed and exploited. There’s no question that he had the highest moral standard, the least duplicity, the greatest compassion, of any human being in history. There have been many other wonderful people, but Jesus is Jesus….’

“Uh . . . but . . . no,’ he said slowly, ‘he’s the most . . .” He stopped, then started again. “In my view,” he declared, “he is the most important human being who has ever existed.”

That’s when Templeton uttered the words I never expected to hear from him. “And if I may put it this way,” he said as his voice began to crack, ‘I . . . miss . . . him!”

With that tears flooded his eyes. He turned his head and looked downward, raising his left hand to shield his face from me. His shoulders bobbed as he wept. . . .

Templeton fought to compose himself. I could tell it wasn’t like him to lose control in front of a stranger. He sighed deeply and wiped away a tear. After a few more awkward moments, he waved his hand dismissively. Finally, quietly but adamantly, he insisted: “Enough of that” (Strobel 2000:20-21).

https://i0.wp.com/thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/files/2013/05/001.gif?resize=315%2C248

Chuck Templeton, Torrey Johnson and Billy Graham in a publicity photo for the European trip taken in the YFC offices in Chicago, about  March 1946. (Billy Graham Center Archives, Wheaton College) [courtesy Justin Taylor].

However, Hebrews 6:4-6 is very clear about what happens to those who apostatise from the faith: ‘It is impossible to restore [them] again to repentance’ (6:4).

What, then, is apostasy?

Apostasy refers to

defection from the faith, an act of unpardonable rebellion against God and his truth. The sin of apostasy results in the abandonment of Christian doctrine and conduct. With respect to the covenant relationship established through prior profession of faith (passive profession in the case of baptized infants), apostates place themselves under the curse and wrath of God as covenant breakers, having entered into a state of final and irrevocable condemnation. Those who apostatize are thus numbered among the reprobate. Since the resurrection of Christ, there is no distinction between blasphemy against Christ and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt 12:31-32; Heb 6:4-6 ; 10:26-29 ; 1 John 5:16-17) [Karlberg 1996].

John 10:28-29 cannot be read in isolation apart from John 3:36; 6:47 and 15:6.

I have to be honest with what the text says, based on the tenses of the original language.

I do not think that you will like this kind of news (and it shouldn’t be new news for you), but that is what the texts say.

And have a guess what? First Timothy 1:19 and Hebrews 6:4-6 confirm that this can happen. People can continue to believe or to discontinue in belief. They then move from eternal life to eternal damnation. That’s how I see the Bible unfolding.

I have to be honest with the biblical text and in this case, with John’s Gospel.

I replied:[9]

So I respectfully disagree with your ‘accessment’. I do hope you mean assessment and not accessment. Accessment is not a word in my dictionary (also check Dictionary.com).

Also he wrote, ‘Now, regarding the Hebrews passage, I’m sure your (sic) familiar with Kittles (sic)?’ His name is spelled Kittel.
I agree with the Greek exegesis of Kittel (I have the 10 volumes of the Theological Dictionary that he co-edited with Gerhard Friedrich) where he explained that a person who commits apostasy cannot be brought again to repentance. That’s Bible!

See my detailed exposition of Hebrews 6:4-8 in my, ‘Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again? What you have cited from John Gill on Heb. 6:4-6 is not in agreement with the exegesis I have provided in my exposition.

I wrote, that John 10:28-29 should not be read in isolation from John 3:36; 6:47 and 15:6′. What did I notice in his response? He provided not one word to refute the content of John 3:36; 6:47 and 15:6, which teach that eternal life is conditional on people continuing to believe. People will continue to have eternal life if they continue to believe and they continue to remain in the vine. These verses are contrary to the view this person was advocating.

In my understanding of the exegesis, a once saved, always saved view is not taught by these verses that require continuing belief to enter eternal life. And that is taught by John 3:16 as well, ‘whoever believes’ means ‘whoever continues to believe’ because the Greek for ‘believes’ is a present tense Greek participle, indicating continuing action. Thus affirming the other verses that I’ve cited from John that continuing / continuous believing is needed to enter and retain eternal life.

Thus, perseverance of the saints is a much more biblical description of the perspective in Scripture – as I understand the Greek present tense used in the verses I have mentioned – than a once saved, always saved view (based on my understanding of the Greek grammar of the meaning of the present tense).

In the Baptist church in which I was raised, I was taught the view this person advocated of once saved, always saved. But my examination of these Scriptures has brought me to the view I am here sharing. I take seriously the Scriptural injunction:

‘Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers [and sisters], for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness’ (James 3:1 ESV).

The NLT and the new NIV correctly translate adelphoi as brothers and sisters, based on the Greek etymology This is shown in the New Living Translation and the latest NIV. Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon confirms that ‘brother’ as in the singular adelphos means any believer, male or female. Arndt and Gingrich note that ‘Jesus calls everyone who is devoted to him brother Mt 12:50; Mk 3:25, esp. the disciples Mt 28:10; J 20:17. Hence gener. for those in such spiritual communion Mt 25:40; Hb 2:12 (Ps 21:23[22:22), 17 al’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:15-16).

So I respectfully come to a different conclusion to yours.

C. Conditional security in John’s Gospel

Another poster wrote:[10]

John 8:31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you ?abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.

This shows the principle and is why in John 15:6 those branches that are burned do not abide in His word as opposed to those in v7.

John 15:6-7 If anyone does not abide in Me, ??he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. ?7? If you abide in Me, and My words ?abide in you, ?you ?will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you

My response was:[11]

Now let’s do the exegesis to obtain the meaning of John 8:31, which stated in full reads, ‘So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples”’ (ESV).

‘Had believed’ is a perfect tense, active voice, participle. Thus it means that those believed in the past and had continuing results of believing. As for ‘abide’ it is an aorist subjunctive verb. It is the conditional subjunctive and a point action, but it needs to be combined with the perfect tense of ‘had believed’ to understand that the meaning is that these Jews had believed in Jesus but they had continuing results of their believing. As a result, they ‘are’ (present tense, continuous action) continuing to be his disciples.

Therefore, based on this exegesis of the Greek text, eternal security is based on continuing to be a disciple. This is not talking about once saved and no longer serving God. It is talking about once saved and continuing to be saved by continuing to believe. That’s why I find the language of ‘once saved, always saved’ to send a message that does not line up with the biblical message of continuing to believe to attain eternal life (as in John 3:16; 3:36; 6:47; 15:6).

John 15:6-7 affirms the need to continue to abide (believe) to remain in the vine.

His response was somewhat unexpected:[12]

After reading your comments here, without going back rereading all the earlier posts I am confused as to why we have disagreed. Other than these in v30 had believed just as Jesus had spoken in the preceding verses and later on in this chapter we see that it is not leading to their salvation. But as far as your other explanations in this post I would agree that saving faith is a one time event that needs not to be renewed but saving faith is a present tense action that will evidence itself in abiding in His word. God looks at the heart and even know the future so He is not sealing and unsealing His children. They are sealed unto the day of redemption. It is God holding on to us and not us holding on to God, Ps 37:23-24, God is the one performing the action of the holding on to us. That is why I agree with Paul when he said being fully persuaded that He who began the good work in you will perform it unto the end.

I’m not of the view that we are agreeing with the need to continue to believe and that it is possible for a genuine believer to commit apostasy. So I replied:[13]

I’m not so sure that we are in agreement as I have provided verses to confirm that John 10:28-29 is in harmony with John 3:16; 3:36; 6:47; and 15:6 where believers are required to continue to believe to attain eternal life. Thus OSAS, in my understanding, is an improper explanation of this view as apostasy can be committed (1 Tim 1:19; Heb 6:4-6; 1 John 4:1-3).

Is it your understanding that a person can be generally saved, continue to follow Jesus, walk away from the faith and then commit apostasy? And the person who commits apostasy cannot be brought again to repentance (Heb 6:4-6). If this is your view, then we are on the same page. But is that your view?

But the OSAS is what I was raised on and I’ve rejected it because I do not find it taught with a consistent hermeneutic in Scripture.

D. Continuing belief needed for eternal security

I do wish my two friends who have committed apostasy would be able to return to repentance, but Hebrews 6:4-6 says that is not possible as ‘they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt’ (6:6 ESV). Heb. 6:4 is adamant in its teaching about those who commit apostasy: ‘for it is impossible to restore again to repentance’. That’s not the way my limited understanding of compassion and mercy works. But that’s based on the absolute justice, empathy, love and compassion of the absolutely honest Almighty God.

I have an ultimate commitment to the Lord God Almighty who revealed His will in the infallible Scriptures (in the original languages).[14]

Let’s check out …

 

E.  R C H Lenski, a Lutheran, on John 10:28-29

John 10:28 in Lenski’s translation is, ‘And I will give them life eternal, and they shall in no wise perish forever, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand’ (Lenski 1943:754-755). Of this verse, Lenski wrote of the second half of the verse, beginning with ‘they shall in no wise perish forever’:

This is a double and direct promise; the doubling increases the emphasis. “To perish” is to be separated from God, life, and blessedness forever. John and Paul use especially the middle voice [i.e. meaning ‘for oneself’ – SDG] of the verb in this sense…. It is the opposite of being saved…. “Shall in no way perish” would itself be enough, the modifier “forever” is added pleonastically[15]: this dreadful act shall never occur…. This promise holds good from the moment of faith onward. The verb “to perish” never means “to suffer annihilation,” or to cease to exist.

The first part of the promise is stated from the viewpoint of the sheep: they shall never perish. The second part is from the viewpoint of Jesus and of any hostile being that might attack the sheep: No one shall snatch them out of his hand…. The “hand” of Jesus is his power. His gracious power is all-sufficient to protect every believer forever (Lenski 2001:756).

But wait a minute! Are there not New Testament passages that warn about the danger of a true believer falling away? Reading Lenski on John 10:28 it sounds like Jesus’ followers are saved forever and shall never ever experience anything that would cause them to lose their salvation. But that is not what he concludes from John 10:28. He continues, ‘However weak the sheep are, under Jesus they are perfectly safe. Yet a believer may after all be lost (15:6). Our certainty of eternal salvation is not absolute. While no foe of ours is able to snatch us from our Shepherd’s hand, we ourselves may turn from him and may perish wilfully of our own accord’ (Lenski 2001:756).

His translation of John 10:29 is, ‘My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand’ (Lenski 2001:757). He explained that ‘has given’ is in the perfect tense in Greek and ‘has its usual force: a past act when the Son entered on his mission and its abiding effect as long as that mission endures’. In addition, ‘while “greater” is broad, here it must refer especially to power: the Father exceeds in power every being arrayed against the sheep (Satan, demon spirits, human foes however mighty)’ (2001:758).

But what about nobody ‘able to snatch us from our Shepherd’s hand’? Surely that sounds like a sine qua non to affirm once saved, always saved? Lenski explains:

After thus declaring the Father’s might, it might seem superfluous for Jesus to add, “and no one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand,” for this is certainly self-evident. The reason for the addition lies far deeper. Jesus deliberately parallels what he says of himself, “no one shall snatch them out of my hand,” with what he says of his Father, “no one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” The fact that he mentions the detail (“shall snatch”) with reference to himself is due to his being on his saving mission; that he mentions the possibility (“can snatch”) with reference to the Father is due to the Father’s institution of that mission. Both thus belong together; Father and Son, fact and possibility. Does the promise of Jesus, standing there in human form before the Jews, sound preposterous, that no one shall snatch his sheep out of his hand? To snatch them out of his hand is the same as snatching them out of the Father’s hand. Remember the relation of these two hands as his relation centers in the sheep (Lenski 2001:758-759, emphasis in original).

Lenski applies this understanding to John 10:30, his translation being, ‘I and the Father, we are one’. He explains that ‘what is thus prepared [in the preceding verse] is now pronounced in so many words: “I and the Father, we are one”. The equal power to protect the sheep is due to the equality of these two persons. This makes the mighty acts of equal protection perfectly plain. This makes the mighty acts of equal protection perfectly plain’ (Lenski 2001:759).

Lenski has already indicated that John 10:28-29 does not mean that eternal security is affirmed absolutely, ‘Our certainty of eternal salvation is not absolute. While no foe of ours is able to snatch us from our Shepherd’s hand, we ourselves may turn from him and may perish wilfully of our own accord’ (2001:756).

Mountains

(courtesy ChristArt)

 

F. Is any kind of reconciliation possible?

It is evident from these discussions on a Christian online forum that there was no movement by Calvinists affirming unconditional eternal security and my position as a Reformed Arminian, enunciating a conditional eternal security position. The view that one needs to continue to believe to guarantee eternal security (John 3:16; 3:36; 6:47; 15:6) did not make any impact on these people. It is also evident that some Calvinists, who are anti-Arminian (e.g. Riddlebarger & Horton) have doubts about Arminians being evangelical Christians and even align them with a heresy (Arianism).

There seem to be some aspects of Christian theology where there can be no reconciliation between Calvinists and Arminians. Roger Olson, an evangelical Arminian, claims that these include the nature of God and the understanding of free will. He wrote:

Contrary to popular belief, then, the true divide at the heart of the Calvinist-Arminian split is not predestination versus free will but the guiding picture of God: he is primarily viewed as either (1) majestic, powerful, and controlling or (2) loving, good, and merciful. Once the picture (blik) is established, seemingly contrary aspects fade into the background, are set aside as “obscure” or are artificially made to fit the system. Neither side absolutely denies the truth of the other’s perspective, but each qualifies the attributes of God that are preeminent in the other’s perspective. God’s goodness is qualified by his greatness in Calvinism, and God’s greatness is qualified by his goodness in Arminianism.

Arminians can live with the problems of Arminianism more comfortably than with the problems of Calvinism. Determinism and indeterminism cannot be combined; we must choose one or the other. In the ultimate and final reality of things, people either have some degree of self-determination or they don’t. Calvinism is a form of determinism. Arminians choose indeterminism largely because determinism seems incompatible with God’s goodness and with the nature of personal relationships. Arminians agree with Arminius, who stressed that “the grace of God is not ‘a certain irresistible force…. It is a Person, the Holy Spirit, and in personal relationships there cannot be the sheer over-powering of one person by another’” (in Olson 2006:73-74).

Therefore, Olson reaches the conclusion that

the continental divide between Calvinism and Arminianism, then, lies with different perspectives about God’s identity in revelation. Divine determinism creates problems in God’s character and in the God-human relationship that Arminians simply cannot live with. Because of their controlling vision of God as good, they are unable to affirm unconditional reprobation (which inexorably follows from unconditional election) because it makes God morally ambiguous at best. Denying divine determinism in salvation leads to Arminianism (Olson 2006:74).

It was Olson (2006:74, n. 21) who alerted me to what R C Sproul (1986:139-160) addressed the double-predestination issue. Sproul wrote:

DOUBLE predestination. The very words sound ominous. It is one thing to contemplate God’s gracious plan of salvation for the elect. But what about those who are not elect? Are they also predestined? Is there a horrible decree of reprobation? Does God destine some unfortunate people to hell?…

Unless we conclude that every human being is predestined to salvation, we must face the flip side of election. If there is such a thing as predestination at all, and if that predestination does not include all people, then we must not shrink from the necessary inference that there are two sides to predestination. It is not enough to talk about Jacob; we must also consider Esau (Sproul 1986:141).

Sproul regard Romans 9:16 as fatal to Arminianism. He quotes the New King James Version, ‘So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy’. The ESV reads, ‘So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[16]but on God, who has mercy’. Sproul’s commentary is:

Though Paul is silent about the question of future choices here, he does not remain so. In verse 16 he makes it clear. “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” This is the coup de grace[17] to Arminianism and all other non-Reformed views of predestination. This is the Word of God that requires all Christians to cease and desist from views of predestination that make the ultimate decision for salvation rest in the will of man. The apostle declares: It is not of him who wills. This is in violent contradiction to the teaching of Scripture. This one verse is absolutely fatal to Arminianism.

It is our duty to honor God. We must confess with the apostle that our election is not based on our wills but on the purposes of the will of God (Sproul 1986:151).

How does an Arminian respond to such an attack on the Arminian view of election/predestination and human responsibility (free will)? I am in agreement with Olson that

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)…. 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 (Olson 1986:75).

As noted by Olson, the Calvinistic, compatibilist free will (if Calvinists talk of free will at all)

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.[18]

Once again it is difficult to see how a hybrid of these two views of free will could be created. Could people have freely chosen to do something different than they actually did? Some Calvinists (such as Jonathan Edwards) agree with Arminians that people have the natural ability to do otherwise (e.g., avoid sinning). But what about moral ability? Arminians agree with Calvinists that apart from the grace of God all fallen humans choose to sin; their will is bound to sin by original sin manifesting itself as total depravity (Olson 2006:75).

However, Arminians describe it differently to free will. This moral ability that people have is called prevenient grace, given to them by God. Again, Olson:

Arminians do not call this free will because these people cannot do otherwise (except in terms of deciding which sins to commit!). From the Arminian perspective prevenient grace restores free will so that humans, for the first time, have the ability to do otherwise – namely, respond in faith to the grace of God or resist it in unrepentance and disbelief. At the point of God’s call, sinners under the influence of prevenient grace have genuine free will as a gift of god; for the first time they can freely say yes or no to God. Nothing outside the self determines how they will respond. Calvinists say that humans never have that ability in spiritual matters (any possibility in any matters). People always do what they want to do, and God is the ultimate decider of human wants even though when it comes to sin, God works through secondary causes And never directly causes anyone to sin. These two views are incommensurable. To the Arminian, compatibilist free will is no free will at all. To the Calvinist, incompatibilist free will is a myth; it simply cannot exist because it would amount to an uncaused effect, which is absurd[19] (Olson 2006:75-76, emphasis added).

Contrary to Sproul, Romans 9:16 is not fatal to Calvinism. The Calvinistic and Arminian views of free will are not compatible. Sproul’s view seems to involve his imposition of a Calvinistic worldview on Romans 9:16. What about Romans 9:14-18, which reads:

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

This refers back to Exodus 7 and 8. If we note that context, we see that Pharaoh ‘hardened his heart’ (Ex 8:15) and ‘Pharaoh’s heart was hardened’ by God (Ex 8:19). So none of the application in Romans 9 excludes the action of individual responsibility for Pharaoh hardening his own heart and thus God hardened it. Human responsibility was not excluded in God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus, as it is in God’s showing mercy and demonstrating hardening Romans 9. God’s actions and human responsibility go together in God’s super plan for the universe.

Therefore, I find Sproul quite wrong in his wanting to make Romans 9:16 to be ‘absolutely fatal to Arminianism’. Calvinism’s and Arminians’ concept of free will, election and predestination are described very differently, so the finger needs to be pointed to Sproul’s faulty understanding of the differences between Arminianism and Calvinism and making his judgement on a Calvinistic basis instead of reading Arminians on their own terms.

Therefore, there can be no reconciliation on the concepts of free will between Arminians and Calvinists while they maintain the positions as expounded above.

 

G. Conclusion

The conclusion is that none the twain shall meet. Calvinists will continue to believe in unconditional eternal security and Reformed/classical Arminians will continue to believe that it is possible for a person to commit apostasy for whom there is then no repentance possible to return to salvation.

For a biblical explanation of prevenient grace, see my articles,

clip_image002 Is prevenient grace still amazing grace?

clip_image002[1] The injustice of the God of Calvinism

clip_image002[2]Some Calvinistic antagonism towards Arminians

Other writings to confirm conditional security

I have written on this topic elsewhere. See:

clip_image004 Spencer Gear: Conversations with a Calvinist on apostasy

clip_image004[1] Spencer Gear: Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again?

clip_image004[2] Matthew Murphy: Practical Problems with OSAS

clip_image004[3] Spencer Gear: What does it mean to shipwreck your faith?

clip_image004[4] Spencer Gear: Is the Holy Spirit’s seal a guarantee of eternal security?

clip_image004[5]Matt O’Reilly: Eternally secure, provided that…

clip_image004[6] Spencer Gear: What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

clip_image004[7] Spencer Gear: Does God want everyone to receive salvation?

clip_image004[8]Steve Witzki: The Inadequate Historical Precedent for ‘Once Saved, Always Saved

clip_image004[9] Spencer Gear: Does God’s grace make salvation available to all people?

clip_image004[10] Spencer Gear: Calvinists, free will and a better alternative

clip_image004[11] Spencer Gear: Is it possible or impossible to fall away from the Christian faith?

clip_image004[12] Steve Jones: Calvinism Critiqued by a Former Calvinist

clip_image004[13]Roy Ingle: Holding Firmly, I Am Held (An Arminian Approach to Eternal Security)

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House)

Edwards, J n d. Freedom of the will. Christian Classics Etherial Library (CCEL).Available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/will.html (Accessed 28 September 2013).

Horton, M S 2013. Evangelical Arminians: Option or oxymoron?[20] in Reformation online, September 28. Available at: http://www.reformationonline.com/arminians.htm (Accessed 28 September 2013).

Lenski, R C H 2001. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. John’s Gospel. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.[21]

Karlberg, M W 1996. Apostasy, in W A Elwell (ed), Baker’s evangelical dictionary of biblical theology. Available at BibleStudyTools.com, http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/apostasy.html (Accessed 8 July 2013).

Olson, R E 1999. The story of Christian theology: Twenty centuries of tradition and reform. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Academic.

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

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

Riddlebarger, K 1992. Fire and water. Modern reformation, May/June, 1-8 (Archives of Modern reformation, Riddleblog). Available at: http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/from-the-archives/fire%20and%20water.pdf (Accessed 29 September 2013).

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

Notes


[1] I was alerted to this citation by Olson (2006:79).

[2] Olson (2006:81) referred me to a portion of this citation, thus directing me to the original article.

[3] Terrence L Tiessen, Thoughts Theological, Is sanctification synergistic or monergistic? April 9, 2013, available at: http://thoughtstheological.com/is-sanctification-synergistic-or-monergistic/ (Accessed 29 September 2013).

[4] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Eternal security’, DeaconDean#73, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7775412-8/ (Accessed 28 September 2013).

[5] Danv8#74, ibid.

[6] DeaconDean#75, ibid.

[7] His post was at DeaconDean#73, ibid.

[8] OzSpen#79, ibid.

[9] OzSpen#93, ibid.

[10] iwbswiaihl #81 (emphasis in original), ibid.

[11] OzSpen#94, ibid.

[12] iwbswiaihl #96, ibid.

[13] OzSpen#98, ibid.

[14] I wrote the above 2 paragraphs as OzSpen#99, ibid.

[15] This means ‘the use of more words than are necessary to express an idea; redundancy’ (Dictionary.com, accessed 28 September 2013).

[16] Here the ESV footnote is, ‘Greek not of him who wills or runs’.

[17] The online Free Dictionary gives the meaning of coup de grace as, ‘a death blow, esp. one delivered mercifully to end suffering’ and ‘any finishing or decisive stroke’.

[18] Here Olson referred to Peterson & Williams 1992:136-161).

[19] At this point, Olson gave the footnote, ‘The classic Calvinist critique of libertarian free will is found in Jonathan Edward’s treatise “Freedom of the Will”’ (Olson 1986:76, n. 23). For this treatise, see Edwards (n d).

[20] This was originally published in Modern Reformation, 1 (3) May-June 1992, available at: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=776&var3=searchresults&var4=Search&var5=Evangelical_Arminians (Accessed 28 September 2013).

[21] This was originally published in 1943 by Lutheran Book Concern and assigned to Augsburg Publishing House in 1961.

 

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

Choice or determinism in salvation

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Joshua 24:15: ‘Choose this day whom you will serve’

Spencer D Gear

Path Pick

ChristArt

It is common in online forums for Calvinists to push the line that people do not have the choice to choose to serve the Lord God or Jesus, or to reject him. This happened in one thread where I contribute.

There was this statement by a noted Calvinist on the forum: ‘Israel didn’t choose to be chosen by God. God took it upon himself to choose them’.[1]

My brief response was:[2]

You seem to be overlooking Joshua 24:14-15,

14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (ESV)

Israel has a choice as to which God/gods they would serve. That’s Bible!clip_image001

The reply was: ‘What was the list of options Joshua told his listeners to choose between, in that verse?’[3]

I replied: [4]

What was the list of options Joshua told his listeners to choose between, in that verse?

The text is clear. Please read it: Choose…

10tn_.jpg 0.9K ‘whom you will serve’;

10tn_.jpg 0.9K ‘the gods your fathers served’, OR

10tn_.jpg 0.9K ‘the gods of the Amorites;

10tn_.jpg 0.9K ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:15).

The ability of contrary choice is given by God to all people. And it started in the garden with Adam in choosing to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil OR not to choose such.

Why do you find this so difficult to understand when the Scriptures are crystal clear? Well, they are crystal clear in my hermeneutical understanding.

This fellow came back:

Joshua told them to choose from between their false gods. He never asked them to choose between their false gods, or the Real God.

He didn’t say "choose this day whom you will server, whether the gods of the Amorites, or the gods your fathers served, or the Lord".

thus, you are using that verse out of context. you are using it in application for something it doesn’t even support.[5]

Is there real choice for unbelievers and Christians in things of God?

Life Voyage

ChristArt

I responded to the above person:[6]

That is not what it says in context. Joshua 24:14-17 reads:

14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed (ESV, emphasis added)

Note the points in context:

  1. ‘Fear the Lord and serve him’ (v 14). This is a command to fear the Lord God.
  2. ‘Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord’ (v 14). So their fathers served foreign ‘gods’ and they were commanded to fear the Lord God and to put away foreign Gods. The choice was between the Lord God and false gods. Your charge against me is thus shown to be false.
  3. The v. 15 makes the choice clear: Serve the Lord OR the gods your fathers served OR the gods of the Amorites. They were told that they had a choice to make. That’s what this verse states. It’s a similar choice to what Adam had in the garden to choose between the tree of knowledge of good or evil. He chose the evil and we’ve had to struggle with sinful vs godly choices ever since. That’s Bible.
  4. The people chose to not forsake the Lord and serve other gods (v 16). They had a choice. The ‘choose this day whom you will serve’ was as real for them as it is for us today.
  5. Then evidence is given for the nature of the actions of the Lord God and how he had acted on their behalf in the past. Interesting, isn’t it?, of God providing evidence of his actions on their behalf.

I find this person’s charge that Joshua ‘never asked them to choose between their false gods, or the Real God’, to be false – based on the biblical evidence from Joshua 24.

Spin doctors

Image:Bowl Leg Spin Step 1.jpg

Leg spin cricket grip (WikiHow)

There are various other grips in leg spin bowling in cricket (wrong-un, flipper, stock ball) that are designed to deceive the batsman. When people speak spin, they use terminology and description designed to deceive the listener in some way. In my country of Australia it is standard to hear politicians being interviewed and no matter what the question, the standard or populist party line is promoted. When politicians do this kind of thing in interviews, some commentators call it ‘spin’.

Andrew Bolt’s articles often call politicians for the ‘spin’ they use to try to deceive listeners. See:

16tn_.jpg 0.9KRudd’s spin just cooks that goose worse’ (Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun).

16tn_.jpg 0.9KMaking Indonesia spin Labor’s lines’ (Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun).

16tn_.jpg 0.9KMundine slams Rudd’s “political negative spin”’ (Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun).

See the articles:

5tn_.jpg 1.1K Political spin undermines democracy (Sydney Morning Herald);

5tn_.jpg 1.1K Political spin: politicians, journalists and spin doctors (BBC interview);

5tn_.jpg 1.1K Spin doctor exodus as political wheel turns (The Australian);

5tn_.jpg 1.1K Political spin checklist (ABC, The Drum).

Spin doctors in Christianity

This is the kind of thing that some Christians can get up to when promoting a certain theological perspective. And that’s what it is because, no matter what the interviewer asks, the person interviewed gives the same old, pre-programmed answer that the party line requires. It is an unthoughtful response that does not answer the question asked by the interviewed. It simply goes onto the party line and avoids dealing with the issues raised. See:

20tn_.jpg 1.1K Christian spin doctors (Know it’s true);

20tn_.jpg 1.1K Debunking The ‘War On Christianity’: The Dangers Of Out-Of-Control Spin (Americans United);

20tn_.jpg 1.1K A postmodern spin on religion: Pagan Christianity (Albert Mohler, MP3);

20tn_.jpg 1.1K Mortification of Spin is the "best Christian Podcast ever" – Frank Turk, blogger and speaker (Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals);

Some can get quite brazen in what they call ‘spin’ in association with Christianity. One fellow who calls himself, SinfulSaint, wrote: ‘Apologetics is the art of reframing a belief so that it becomes believable; it’s spin doctoring for religion. I hate to inform you good folks but you all are tools of the spin doctors’ (Topix, ‘Christian Spin Doctors’, SinfulSaint#1).  An immediate response was, ‘Careful, your ignorance is showing:-) I’d verture a guess you are not a member of your local Tea Party:-)’ [BarnsWeb]. SinfulSaint’s reply was:

According to the Bible, the sun revolves around the Earth.(Job 9:7 and Joshua 10:12-13, Psalms 93:1, Psalms 96:10, 2 Samuel 22:16) I’m sorry to disappoint you folks; the sun does not revolve around the earth.

Per the Bible, the Earth is flat (Job 28:24, Matthew 4:8, Daniel 4:10-11). The last time I looked, it was round.

Per the Bible, the Earth has pillars (Job 9:6, 1 Samuel 2:8, Job 26:11, Psalms 75:3). Pillars? No comment needed; speaks for itself.

“And the hare, because he cheweth the cud he is unclean unto you.”(Lev. 11:6). Okay, maybe Rabbits evolved a bit since then. Rabbits do not chew their cud. They "re’chew" partially digested droppings in the early morning hours to get more nutrients out of them (SinfulSaint#4).

If you read these verses in, say, the English Standard Version, you’ll find that they do not say what SinfulSaint claims. So SinfulSaint is really using a straw man logical fallacy.

However, I find Calvinists and Arminians can use ‘spin’ on Christian forums. They can give the pre-programmed position of their theological positions to put on an acceptable face for the reader, without engaging in a reasoned response. Thoughtful Christians requires Christians to be renewed in their minds so that they can think Christianly. This also means giving a fair and reasonable interpretation of the biblical text. This is best done when the interpreter has a knowledge of the original languages of Hebrew and Aramaic for the OT and koine Greek for the NT. However, a comparison of excellent modern translations can help to gain the possible differences of interpretation from the original text. I recommend:

2tn_.jpg 1.0K English Standard Version;

2tn_.jpg 1.0K New Revised Standard Version;

2tn_.jpg 1.0K New American Standard Bible;

2tn_.jpg 1.0K New King James Version (unfortunately it uses the Textus Receptus for the Greek text);

2tn_.jpg 1.0K New International Version; and

2tn_.jpg 1.0K New Living Translation.

Thoughtful Christianity

Think

ChristArt

Christians not only have a new spiritual heart because of their regeneration in Christ, but also they are called upon to have a renewed mind. Here is a sample of NT and OT verses from the ESV to encourage us to ‘think about these things’:

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things’.

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K Romans 12:1-2, ‘I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’.

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K 2 Corinthians 4:16, ‘So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day’.

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K Psalm 119:11, ‘I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you’.

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K Ephesians 4:23, ‘And to be renewed in the spirit of your minds’,

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K1 Peter 1:13, ‘Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ’.

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, ‘For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ’.

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K John 8:32, ‘And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (emphases added in the above verses).

Thoughtful Christianity, including an increasing and growing renewing of the mind, is required for all Christians who want to mature in the faith. I find it helpful to have a person with whom I can be accountable to cause me to think about my faith. But be warned! They are as scarce as hens’ teeth. Most of time I have to rely on solid evangelical apologists, theologians and exegetes to help me with the renewing of my mind! My experience is that thinking Christianity that learns to articulate the faith as it relates to issues in our world, is in short supply.

For me, these Christian scholars who have been of considerable help include: Paul Barnett (history), N T Wright (historical Jesus), D A Carson (exegesis, postmodernism), R C H Lenski (NT exegesis), Ravi Zacharias (apologist), Henry C Thiessen (theologian), William Lane Craig (apologist), Norman Geisler(theologian, apologist), Anthony Thiselton (historical Jesus, postmodernism), Kevin Vanhoozer (historical Jesus, postmodernism), Ben Witherington (historical Jesus), Craig Evans (historical Jesus), Gordon Lewis & Bruce Demarest (integrative theology), and other thoughtful evangelicals.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Calvinist Arminian dialog’, Skala#65, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-7/ (Accessed 30 September 2013).

[2] OzSpen#67, ibid.

[3] Skala#76, ibid.

[4] OzSpen#79, ibid.

[5] Skala#83, ibid.

[6] OzSpen#99, ibid.

 

Copyright (c)  2013 Spencer D. Gear.  This document is free content.  You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the OpenContent License (OPL) version 1.0, or (at your option) any later version.  This document last updated at Date: 30 September 2013.

Controversies: Once saved, always saved

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

By Spencer D Gear

Razor

(image courtesy ChristArt)

It is predictable that in discussions on Christian themes online, that there will be a dialogue, pro and con, regarding eternal security (often called once saved, always saved – OSAS) or perseverance of the saints. Sometimes this discussion can become somewhat heated.

In fact, Roger Olson, an Arminian, is of the view that there will be continuing Calvinistic-Arminian conflict in Christian theology. He wrote:

Whatever the future of the story of Christian theology brings forth, it is bound to be interesting. It always has been. And there are as-yet unresolved issues for theological reformers to work on. The major one, of course, is the old debate between monergists and synergists over God’s relationship with the world. New light from God’s Word is badly needed as the extremes of process theology and resurgent Augustinian-Calvinism polarize Christian thought as never before. While I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, I predict (with fear and trembling) that this issue will be the all-consuming one in Christian theology in the twenty-first century and that new insights and suggestions for resolving it will come from non-Western Christian thinkers. All the options of Western (European and North American) thought seem to have been proposed and have led only to reactions rather than resolutions. If this particular problem of theology is ever to be solved—even in part—the crucial insights will almost certainly need to come from outside of Western culture, with its dualistic mindset that insists on seeing divine and human agencies as in competition with one another (Olson 1999:612).

clip_image003

Roger E Olson (Courtesy InterVarsity)

I encountered this and entered into some discussions with advocates of the OSAS position in a Christian online forum. Arminians have come under some provocative attacks (I write as a Reformed Arminian). Here are a couple of provocative examples:

(1) Kim Riddlebarger has stated, ‘Arminianism is not simply an alternative for evangelicals who are uncomfortable with certain doctrinal tenets of Calvinism.Taken to its logical conclusion, Arminianism is not only a departure from historic orthodoxy, but a serious departure from the evangel itself’ (Riddlebarger 1992:5, emphasis added).[1]

(2) Michael Horton has stated:

There will doubtless be Roman Catholics, Arminians, and others in Paradise who were saved by God’s grace even if they, like me, did not understand or appreciate that grace as much as they should have. Nevertheless, if we are going to still use “evangelical” as a noun to define a body of Christians holding to a certain set of convictions, it is high time we got clear on these matters. An evangelical cannot be an Arminian any more than an evangelical can be a Roman Catholic. The distinctives of evangelicalism were denied by Rome at the Council of Trent, by the Remonstrants in 1610, were confused and challenged by John Wesley in the eighteenth century, and have become either ignored or denied in contemporary “evangelicalism” (Horton 2013, emphasis added).[2]

Some do not want to use the dichotomy of synergism vs monergism. See:Monergism Versus Synergism: Beware, Kobayashi Maru Ahead!(John Kebbel, Society of Evangelical Arminians). However, for plying these definitions apart, Terrance L Tiessen, wrote:

Calvinism is monergistic in its soteriology, as evidenced particularly in two points in the well known acronym, TULIP – unconditional election and irresistible (or efficacious) grace. These points identify salvation as God’s sovereign work, in which God chose to glorify himself by saving particular people, in Christ, without any conditions on their part except those which God himself efficaciously enables them to fulfill, so that salvation is God’s work from beginning to end, even though it does not come about without human response.

By contrast, though Arminians also insist that salvation is a work of God’s grace, God does not determine who will be saved by it. His prevenient grace enables people to meet the conditions (repentance, faith, and obedience) which they could never have met on their own, but whether or not that grace eventuates in their salvation is determined by the individuals, not by God. So Arminianism has been dubbed “synergistic.”

In both of these understandings of salvation, God’s grace is essential, and in both of them people are not saved apart from their response to God’s grace. But because God determines the outcome in the Calvinist construct, it has been called “monergistic,” though it is clear that God is not the only actor. The key point is that God is the decisive actor, the one whose action determines the outcome.[3]

In responding to an Arminian who wrote about the falling away of believers in Hebrews 6:4-6, a Calvinist, DeaconDean, wrote on a Christian Forums:

Let me put it another way.

Jesus said: “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” -John 10:29 (KJV)

If sin, causes you to come out of the Father’s hand, if you, choosing to sin, takes you out of the Father’s hand, and costs you your salvation, then God ceases to omnipotent (all powerful). Sin, and man (namely you) are able to overpower and take yourself from His care.

Now which is corect (sic)?

No man, not even yourself can take you out of God’s hand, or is sin and man more powerful than God?
Either Jesus and scriptures are correct, or Jesus told a lie and subsequently the scriptures lie also, which means sin and man are more powerful than God.
[4]

Another responded, ‘The problem is: in this church age, once you are saved by God, there is no way YOU can unsave yourself no matter what you do’.[5] DeaconDean’s reply was, ‘Sure there is. Haven’t you read the thread? clip_image004[6] I’d recommend a read of this online thread to see the back and forth between eternal security supporters – supporters of unconditional security – and those who believe in conditional eternal security for Christian believers, i.e. between Calvinists and Arminians.

My reply to DeaconDean[7], who cited the Calvinist, John Gill, on John 10:28, Kittel and others was:[8]

This is what happens when you read John 10:28-29 in isolation from the rest of John’s Gospel. It is true that ‘I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand…. no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand’ (emphasis added).

BUT this is what can happen. Take a read of John 15:6. This is in the context of being in the vine – God’s vine – and Jesus being the true vine and God the Father being the vinedresser (John 15:1). This is what John 15:6 states, ‘If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned’ (ESV).

The gracious power of God is comprehensively sufficient to protect every born-again Christian believer forever. But a believer can in the end be lost, because salvation is conditional. None of our enemies will be able to snatch us out of the Father’s/Jesus’ hands.
BUT … BUT, any Christians can turn from Jesus, enter into disbelief, commit apostasy and perish by wilful acts of their own. That’s what John 15:6 teaches.

Therefore, John 10:28-29 is not an absolute that guarantees once-saved-always-saved (which, by the way, is not biblical language; neither is it biblical theology – in my view). Eternal life is granted to those who continue to believe. We know this from verses in John such as John 3:36; 6:47,

‘Whoever believes [Gk present tense – continues believing] in the Son has [Gk present tense – continues to have] eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him’ (John 3:36 ESV).

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes [Gk present tense – continues to believe] has [Gk present tense – continues to have] eternal life (John 6:47 ESV).

Thus, eternal life only continues as long as a person continues to believe. He or she can commit apostasy by not continuing to believe in Christ for eternal life and repudiating belief in Jesus.

I know people for whom this has happened and is continuing to happen – apostasy – and they were once vibrant Christians.

John 10:28-29 cannot be read in isolation apart from John 3:36; 6:47 and 15:6.

I have to be honest with what the text says, based on the tenses of the original language.I do not think that this person will like this kind of news (and it shouldn’t be new news for him), but that is what the texts say. And have a guess what? FirstTimothy 1:19 and Hebrews 6:4-6 confirm that this can happen. People can continue to believe or to discontinue to belief. They then move from eternal life to eternal damnation. That’s how I see the Bible unfolding.

I have to be honest with the biblical text and in this case, with John’s Gospel.

I replied:[9]

So I respectfully disagree with your accessment. I do hope you mean assessment and not accessment. Accessment is not a word in my dictionary (also check Dictionary.com).

Also he wrote, ‘Now, regarding the Hebrews passage, I’m sure your familiar with Kittles?’ His name is spelled Kittel.

I agree with the Greek exegesis of Kittel (I have the 10 volumes of the Theological Dictionary that he co-edited with Gerhard Friedrich) where he explained that a person who commits apostasy cannot be brought again to repentance. That’s Bible!

See my detailed exposition of Hebrews 6:4-8 in my,Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again? What you have cited from John Gill on Heb. 6:4-6 is not in agreement with the exegesis I have provided in my exposition.

I wrote, that John 10:28-29 should not be read in isolation from John 3:36; 6:47 and 15:6. What did I notice in his response? He provided not one word to refute the content of John 3:36; 6:47 and 15:6, which teach that eternal life is conditional on people continuing to believe. People will continue to have eternal life if they continue to believe and they continue to remain in the vine. These verses are contrary to the view this person was advocating.

In my understanding of the exegesis, a once saved, always saved view is not taught by these verses that require continuing belief to enter eternal life. And that is taught by John 3:16 as well, ‘whoever believes’ means ‘whoever continues to believe’ because the Greek for ‘believes’ is a present tense Greek participle, indicating continuing action. Thus affirming the other verses that I’ve cited from John that continuing / continuous believing is needed to enter and retain eternal life.

Thus, perseverance of the saints is a much more biblical description of the perspective in Scripture – as I understand the Greek present tense used in the verses I have mentioned – than a once saved, always saved view (based on my understanding of the Greek grammar of the meaning of the present tense).

In the Baptist church in which I was raised, I was taught the view this person was advocating of once saved, always saved. But my examination of these Scriptures has brought me to the view I am here sharing. I take seriously the Scriptural injunction:

‘Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers [and sisters], for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness’ (James 3:1 ESV)

The NLT and the new NIV correctly translate adelphoi as brothers and sisters, based on the Greek etymology This is shown in the New Living Translation and the latest NIV. Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon confirms that ‘brother’ as in the singular adelphos means any believer, male or female. Arndt and Gingrich note that ‘Jesus calls everyone who is devoted to him brother Mt 12:50; Mk 3:25, esp. the disciples Mt 28:10; J 20:17. Hence gener. for those in such spiritual communion Mt 25:40; Hb 2:12 (Ps 21:23[22:22), 17 al’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:15-16).

So I respectfully come to a different conclusion to this person.

Conditional security in John’s Gospel

Another poster wrote:[10]

John 8:31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you ?abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.
This shows the principle and is why in John 15:6 those branches that are burned do not abide in His word as opposed to those in v7.

John 15:6-7 If anyone does not abide in Me, ??he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. ?7? If you abide in Me, and My words ?abide in you, ?you ?will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you

 

My response was:[11]

Now let’s do some exegesis to obtain the meaning of John 8:31, which stated in full reads, ‘So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples”’ (ESV).

‘Had believed’ is a perfect tense, active voice, participle. Thus it means that those believed in the past and had continuing results of believing. As for ‘abide’ it is an aorist subjunctive verb. It is the conditional subjunctive and a point action, but it needs to be combined with the perfect tense of ‘had believed’ to understand that the meaning is that these Jews had believed in Jesus but they had continuing results of their believing. As a result, they ‘are’ (present tense, continuous action) continuing to be his disciples.

Therefore, based on this exegesis of the Greek text, eternal security is based on continuing to be a disciple. This is not talking about once saved and no longer serving God. It is talking about once saved and continuing to be saved by continuing to believe. That’s why I find the language of ‘once saved, always saved’ to send a message that does not line up with the biblical message of continuing to believe to attain eternal life (as in John 3:16; 3:36; 6:47; 15:6).

John 15:6-7 affirms the need to continue to abide (believe) to remain in the vine.

His response was somewhat unexpected:[12]

After reading your comments here, without going back rereading all the earlier posts I am confused as to why we have disagreed. Other than these in v30 had believed just as Jesus had spoken in the preceding verses and later on in this chapter we see that it is not leading to their salvation. But as far as your other explanations in this post I would agree that saving faith is a one time event that needs not to be renewed but saving faith is a present tense action that will evidence itself in abiding in His word. God looks at the heart and even know the future so He is not sealing and unsealing His children. They are sealed unto the day of redemption. It is God holding on to us and not us holding on to God, Ps 37:23-24, God is the one performing the action of the holding on to us. That is why I agree with Paul when he said being fully persuaded that He who began the good work in you will perform it unto the end.

I’m not of the view that this fellow espouses on two items: (a) For eternal security, there is a need to continue to believe, and (2) It is possible for a genuine believer to commit apostasy.

So I replied:[13]

I’m not so sure that we are in agreement as I have provided verses to confirm that John 10:28-29 is in harmony with John 3:16; 3:36; 6:47; and 15:6 where believers are required to continue to believe to attain eternal life. Thus OSAS, in my understanding, is an improper explanation of this view as apostasy can be committed (1 Tim 1:19; Heb 6:4-6; 1 John 4:1-3).

Is it your understanding that a person can be generally saved, continue to follow Jesus, walk away from the faith and then commit apostasy? And the person who commits apostasy cannot be brought again to repentance (Heb 6:4-6). If this is your view, then we are on the same page. But is that your view?

But the OSAS is what I was raised on and I’ve rejected it because I do not find it taught with a consistent hermeneutic in Scripture.

Continuing belief needed for eternal security

I do wish my two friends who have committed apostasy would be able to return to repentance, but Hebrews 6:4-6 says that is not possible as “they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (6:6 ESV). Heb. 6:4 is adamant in its teaching about those who commit apostasy: “for it is impossible to restore again to repentance”. That’s not the way my limited understanding of compassion and mercy works. But that’s based on the absolute justice, empathy, love and compassion of the absolutely honest Almighty God.

I have an ultimate commitment to the Lord God Almighty who revealed His will in the infallible Scriptures (in the original languages).[14]

Let’s check out …

Richard C H Lenski, a Lutheran, on John 10:28-29

Cover of: Commentary on the New Testament by R.C.H. Lenski

Lenski’s NT Commentaries (Courtesy Open Library)

John 10:28 in Lenski’s translation is, ‘And I will give them life eternal, and they shall in no wise perish forever, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand’ (Lenski 1943:754-755). Of this verse, Lenski wrote of the second half of the verse, beginning with ‘they shall in no wise perish forever’:

This is a double and direct promise; the doubling increases the emphasis. “To perish” is to be separated from God, life, and blessedness forever. John and Paul use especially the middle voice [i.e. meaning ‘for oneself’ – SDG] of the verb in this sense…. It is the opposite of being saved…. “Shall in no way perish” would itself be enough, the modifier “forever” is added pleonastically[15]: this dreadful act shall never occur…. This promise holds good from the moment of faith onward. The verb “to perish” never means “to suffer annihilation,” or to cease to exist.

The first part of the promise is stated from the viewpoint of the sheep: they shall never perish. The second part is from the viewpoint of Jesus and of any hostile being that might attack the sheep: No one shall snatch them out of his hand…. The “hand” of Jesus is his power. His gracious power is all-sufficient to protect every believer forever (Lenski 2001:756).

But wait a minute! Are there not New Testament passages that warn about the danger of a true believer falling away? Reading Lenski on John 10:28 it sounds like Jesus’ followers are saved forever and shall never ever experience anything that would cause them to lose their salvation. But that is not what he concludes from John 10:28. He continues, ‘However weak the sheep are, under Jesus they are perfectly safe. Yet a believer may after all be lost (15:6). Our certainty of eternal salvation is not absolute. While no foe of ours is able to snatch us from our Shepherd’s hand, we ourselves may turn from him and may perish wilfully of our own accord’ (Lenski 2001:756).

His translation of John 10:29 is, ‘My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand’ (Lenski 2001:757). He explained that ‘has given’ is in the perfect tense in Greek and ‘has its usual force: a past act when the Son entered on his mission and its abiding effect as long as that mission endures’. In addition, ‘while “greater” is broad, here it must refer especially to power: the Father exceeds in power every being arrayed against the sheep (Satan, demon spirits, human foes however mighty)’ (Lenski 2001:758).

But what about nobody ‘able to snatch us from our Shepherd’s hand’? Surely that sounds like a sine qua non to affirm once saved, always saved? Lenski explains:

After thus declaring the Father’s might, it might seem superfluous for Jesus to add, “and no one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand,” for this is certainly self-evident. The reason for the addition lies far deeper. Jesus deliberately parallels what he says of himself, “no one shall snatch them out of my hand,” with what he says of his Father, “no one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” The fact that he mentions the detail (“shall snatch”) with reference to himself is due to his being on his saving mission; that he mentions the possibility (“can snatch”) with reference to the Father is due to the Father’s institution of that mission. Both thus belong together; Father and Son, fact and possibility. Does the promise of Jesus, standing there in human form before the Jews, sound preposterous, that no one shall snatch his sheep out of his hand? To snatch them out of his hand is the same as snatching them out of the Father’s hand. Remember the relation of these two hands as his relation centers in the sheep (Lenski 2001:758-759, emphasis in original).

Lenski applies this understanding to John 10:30, his translation being, ‘I and the Father, we are one’. He explains that ‘what is thus prepared [in the preceding verse – SDG] is now pronounced in so many words: “I and the Father, we are one”. The equal power to protect the sheep is due to the equality of these two persons. This makes the mighty acts of equal protection perfectly plain. This makes the mighty acts of equal protection perfectly plain’ (Lenski 2001:759).

Lenski has already indicated that John 10:28-29 does not mean that eternal security is affirmed absolutely, ‘Our certainty of eternal salvation is not absolute. While no foe of ours is able to snatch us from our Shepherd’s hand, we ourselves may turn from him and may perish wilfully of our own accord’ (2001:756).

Conclusion

It is evident from these discussions in a Christian online forum that there was no movement by Calvinists affirming unconditional eternal security and my position as a Reformed Arminian, enunciating a conditional eternal security position. The view that one needs to continue to believe to guarantee eternal security (John 3:16; 3:36; 6:47; 15:6) did not make any impact on these people. It is also evident that some Calvinists, who are anti-Arminian (e.g. Riddlebarger & Horton) have doubts about Arminians being evangelical Christians and even align them with a heresy (Arianism).

There seem to be some aspects of Christian theology where there can be no reconciliation between Calvinists and Arminians. Roger Olson, an evangelical Arminian, claims that these include the nature of God and the understanding of free will. He wrote:

Contrary to popular belief, then, the true divide at the heart of the Calvinist-Arminian split is not predestination versus free will but the guiding picture of God: he is primarily viewed as either (1) majestic, powerful, and controlling or (2) loving, good, and merciful. Once the picture (blik) is established, seemingly contrary aspects fade into the background, are set aside as “obscure” or are artificially made to fit the system. Neither side absolutely denies the truth of the other’s perspective, but each qualifies the attributes of God that are preeminent in the other’s perspective. God’s goodness is qualified by his greatness in Calvinism, and God’s greatness is qualified by his goodness in Arminianism.

Arminians can live with the problems of Arminianism more comfortably than with the problems of Calvinism. Determinism and indeterminism cannot be combined; we must choose one or the other. In the ultimate and final reality of things, people either have some degree of self-determination or they don’t. Calvinism is a form of determinism. Arminians choose indeterminism largely because determinism seems incompatible with God’s goodness and with the nature of personal relationships. Arminians agree with Arminius, who stressed that “the grace of God is not ‘a certain irresistible force…. It is a Person, the Holy Spirit, and in personal relationships there cannot be the sheer over-powering of one person by another’” (in Olson 2006:73-74).

Therefore, Olson reaches the conclusion that

the continental divide between Calvinism and Arminianism, then, lies with different perspectives about God’s identity in revelation. Divine determinism creates problems in God’s character and in the God-human relationship that Arminians simply cannot live with. Because of their controlling vision of God as good, they are unable to affirm unconditional reprobation (which inexorably follows from unconditional election) because it makes God morally ambiguous at best. Denying divine determinism in salvation leads to Arminianism (Olson 2006:74).

It was Olson (2006:74, n. 21) who alerted me to what R C Sproul (1986:139-160) addressed the double-predestination issue. Sproul wrote:

DOUBLE predestination. The very words sound ominous. It is one thing to contemplate God’s gracious plan of salvation for the elect. But what about those who are not elect? Are they also predestined? Is there a horrible decree of reprobation? Does God destine some unfortunate people to hell?…

Unless we conclude that every human being is predestined to salvation, we must face the flip side of election. If there is such a thing as predestination at all, and if that predestination does not include all people, then we must not shrink from the necessary inference that there are two sides to predestination. It is not enough to talk about Jacob; we must also consider Esau (Sproul 1986:141, emphasis in original).

Sproul regard Romans 9:16 as fatal to Arminianism. He quotes the New King James Version, ‘So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy’. The ESV reads, ‘So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[16]but on God, who has mercy’. Sproul’s commentary is:

Though Paul is silent about the question of future choices here, he does not remain so. In verse 16 he makes it clear. “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” This is the coup de grace[17] to Arminianism and all other non-Reformed views of predestination. This is the Word of God that requires all Christians to cease and desist from views of predestination that make the ultimate decision for salvation rest in the will of man. The apostle declares: It is not of him who wills. This is in violent contradiction to the teaching of Scripture. This one verse is absolutely fatal to Arminianism.

It is our duty to honor God. We must confess with the apostle that our election is not based on our wills but on the purposes of the will of God (Sproul 1986:151).

clip_image006

R C Sproul (courtesy Wikipedia)

How does an Arminian respond to such an attack on the Arminian view of election/predestination and human responsibility (free will)? I am in agreement with Olson that

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…. 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 (Olson 1986:75).

As noted by Olson, the Calvinistic, compatibilist free will (if Calvinists talk of free will at all)

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.[18]

Once again it is difficult to see how a hybrid of these two views of free will could be created. Could people have freely chosen to do something different than they actually did? Some Calvinists (such as Jonathan Edwards) agree with Arminians that people have the natural ability to do otherwise (e.g., avoid sinning). But what about moral ability? Arminians agree with Calvinists that apart from the grace of God all fallen humans choose to sin; their will is bound to sin by original sin manifesting itself as total depravity (Olson 1986:75).

However, Arminians describe it differently to free will. This moral ability that people have is called prevenient grace, given to them by God. Again, Olson:

Arminians do not call this free will because these people cannot do otherwise (except in terms of deciding which sins to commit!). From the Arminian perspective prevenient grace restores free will so that humans, for the first time, have the ability to do otherwise – namely, respond in faith to the grace of God or resist it in unrepentance and disbelief. At the point of God’s call, sinners under the influence of prevenient grace have genuine free will as a gift of god; for the first time they can freely say yes or no to God. Nothing outside the self determines how they will respond. Calvinists say that humans never have that ability in spiritual matters (any possibility in any matters). People always do what they want to do, and God is the ultimate decider of human wants even though when it comes to sin, God works through secondary causes And never directly causes anyone to sin. These two views are incommensurable. To the Arminian, compatibilist free will is no free will at all. To the Calvinist, incompatibilist free will is a myth; it simply cannot exist because it would amount to an uncaused effect, which is absurd[19] (Olson 1986:75-76, emphasis added).

Contrary to Sproul, Romans 9:16 is not fatal to Calvinism. The Calvinistic and Arminian views of free will are not compatible. Sproul’s view seems to involve his imposition of a Calvinistic worldview on Romans 9:16. What about the context of Romans 9:14-18, which reads:

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

This refers back to Exodus 7 and 8. If we note that context, we see that Pharaoh ‘hardened his heart’ (Ex 8:15) and ‘Pharaoh’s heart was hardened’ by God (Ex 8:19). So none of the application in Romans 9 excludes the action of individual responsibility for Pharaoh hardening his own heart and thus God hardened it. Human responsibility was not excluded in God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus, as it is in God’s showing mercy and demonstrating hardening Romans 9. God’s actions and human responsibility God together in God’s super plan for the universe.

Therefore, I find Sproul quite wrong in his wanting to make Romans 9:16 to be ‘absolutely fatal to Arminianism’. Calvinism’s and Arminians’ concept of free will, election and predestination are described very differently, so the finger needs to be pointed to Sproul’s faulty understanding of the differences between Arminianism and Calvinism and making his judgement on a Calvinistic basis instead of reading Arminians on their own terms.

For a biblical explanation of prevenient grace, see my articles,

clip_image008 Is prevenient grace still amazing grace?

clip_image008[1] The injustice of the God of Calvinism

clip_image008[2]Some Calvinistic antagonism towards Arminians

Other writings to confirm conditional security

I have written on this topic elsewhere. See:

clip_image010 Spencer Gear: Conversations with a Calvinist on apostasy

clip_image010[1] Spencer Gear: Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again?

clip_image010[2] Matthew Murphy: Practical Problems with OSAS

clip_image010[3] Spencer Gear: What does it mean to shipwreck your faith?

clip_image010[4] Spencer Gear: Is the Holy Spirit’s seal a guarantee of eternal security?

clip_image010[5]Matt O’Reilly: Eternally secure, provided that…

clip_image010[6] Spencer Gear: What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

clip_image010[7] Spencer Gear: Does God want everyone to receive salvation?

clip_image010[8]Steve Witzki: The Inadequate Historical Precedent for ‘Once Saved, Always Saved

clip_image010[9] Spencer Gear: Does God’s grace make salvation available to all people?

clip_image010[10] Spencer Gear: Calvinists, free will and a better alternative

clip_image010[11] Spencer Gear: Is it possible or impossible to fall away from the Christian faith?

clip_image010[12] Steve Jones: Calvinism Critiqued by a Former Calvinist

clip_image010[13]Roy Ingle: Holding Firmly, I Am Held (An Arminian Approach to Eternal Security)

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

Bibliography

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House)

Edwards, J n d. Freedom of the will. Christian Classics Etherial Library (CCEL). Available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/will.html (Accessed 28 September 2013).

Horton, M S 2013. Evangelical Arminians: Option or oxymoron?[20] in Reformation online, September 28. Available at: http://www.reformationonline.com/arminians.htm (Accessed 28 September 2013).

Lenski, R C H 2001. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. John’s Gospel. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.[21]

Olson, R E 1999. The story of Christian theology: Twenty centuries of tradition and reform. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Academic.

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

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

Riddlebarger, K 1992. Fire and water. Modern reformation, May/June, 1-8 (Archives of Modern reformation, Riddleblog). Available at: http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/from-the-archives/fire%20and%20water.pdf (Accessed 29 September 2013).

Notes:


[1] I was alerted to this citation by Olson (2006:79).

[2] Olson (2006:81) referred me to a portion of this citation, thus directing me to the original article.

[3] Terrence L Tiessen, Thoughts Theological, Is sanctification synergistic or monergistic? April 9, 2013, available at: http://thoughtstheological.com/is-sanctification-synergistic-or-monergistic/ (Accessed 29 September 2013).

[4] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Eternal security’, DeaconDean#73, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7775412-8/ (Accessed 28 September 2013).

[5] Danv8#74, ibid.

[6] DeaconDean#75, ibid.

[7] His post was at DeaconDean#73, ibid.

[8] OzSpen#79, ibid.

[9] OzSpen#93, ibid.

[10] iwbswiaihl #81 (emphasis in original), ibid.

[11] OzSpen#94, ibid.

[12] iwbswiaihl #96, ibid.

[13] OzSpen#98, ibid.

[14] I wrote the above 2 paragraphs as OzSpen#99, ibid.

[15] This means ‘the use of more words than are necessary to express an idea; redundancy’ (Dictionary.com, accessed 28 September 2013).

[16] Here the ESV footnote is, ‘Greek not of him who wills or runs’.

[17] The online Free Dictionary gives the meaning of coup de grace as, ‘a death blow, esp. one delivered mercifully to end suffering’ and ‘any finishing or decisive stroke’.

[18] Here Olson referred to Peterson & Williams 1992:136-161).

[19] At this point, Olson gave the footnote, ‘The classic Calvinist critique of libertarian free will is found in Jonathan Edward’s treatise “Freedom of the Will”’ (Olson 1986:76, n. 23). For this treatise, see Edwards (n d).

[20] This was originally published in Modern Reformation, 1 (3) May-June 1992, available at: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=776&var3=searchresults&var4=Search&var5=Evangelical_Arminians (Accessed 28 September 2013).

[21] This was originally published in 1943 by Lutheran Book Concern and assigned to Augsburg Publishing House in 1961.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 July 2016.
clip_image011

Stutters on the stairway: Arminianism vs Calvinism (eternal security)

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Stairway To Heaven Spiral

Stairway to Heaven (PublicDomainPictures.net)

By Spencer D Gear

Will there every be unity in the body of Christ on controversial topics on our stairway to heaven? What about,

  • Iinfant vs believers’ baptism?
  • Eternal punishment vs annihilation?
  • Arminianism vs Calvinism on predestination, limited or unlimited atonement, eternal security, free will?
  • Premillennialism, Amillennialism, and Postmillennialism?

On this journey, will there ever be complete agreement on controversial theological topics?

It is not unusual to get some heated discussion online with Christian forums on controversial topics relating to Calvinism and Arminianism, where there are differences of interpretation regarding election, predestination, and eternal security. I write as a convinced evangelical, Reformed Arminian.

What is a Reformed or Reformation Arminian? See the Roger E Olson article, ‘Reformed Arminian‘.

I made this submission to an online Christian forum:

It says the one who is continuing to believe, continues to have eternal life- that’s the meaning of the Greek present tense [John 3:36].

Didn’t you believe that I knew the parsing and meaning of the Greek present tense?

So, eternal security is based on the fact that a person continues to believe in Jesus. It is not a once saved, always saved view, but a perseverance of the saints view – the saints are those who continue to believe. They are not those who once believed and gave up believing? The only guarantee of eternal life is for those who are continuing to believe at the time of death (or at the time of Christ’s second coming if it arrives before the believer dies).[1]

This was the reply:

No, according to scripture, 1 Jn. 2:19, if they depart, stop beliving (sic), they never believed in the first place. Unless you are calling the Apostle John a liar. Are you? And from Jesus’ own mouth, no man, not even yourself can take yourself out of God’s hand. That is, unless Jesus was lying?[2]

To what does 1 John 2:19 refer?[3] It states: ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us’ (ESV).

What’s the context? First John 2:18 states, ‘Children, it is the last hour, as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour’ (ESV).

It is talking about antichrists in our midst.

That is not the discussion point that I’m addressing. I’m talking about people who formerly continued to believe in Jesus and were committed evangelical Christians for a considerable time and who gave up believing in Jesus. They committed apostasy. But you want that to mean that they never believed in the first place. I disagree profoundly! These people did continue to believe for a time and showed fruits of repentance. But then they quit believing (often related to circumstances in their life that left a big negative impact).

Warnings about the need to continue believing

The warning to the children of God in 1 John 2 (the chapter to which you refer) is:

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him (1 John 2:28-29 ESV)

From these two verses, we know that:

clip_image001 ‘abide’ = menete = Greek present tense verb, which means continuing action, i.e. ‘continues to abide’;
clip_image001[1] ‘everyone who practices righteousness’, where ‘practices’ = poiwn (doing) = Greek present tense participle which indicates continuing action, the meaning of which is, ‘who continues doing/practising’.
Verse 29 is clear that the children of God (based on v. 28) are those who continue to do/practice righteousness. It is not dealing with those Christians who used to do righteousness.

I do not believe that sinning willingly means apostasy. So this person created a straw man logical fallacy against my views with his example of Peter and Paul. We cannot have a rational conversation when people respond in this manner in using such fallacies.

Mountains

(Courtesy ChristArt)

Responses to these posts

You might like to take a read of some of the responses to the information I provided above. These are samples:

clip_image003 ‘This is a pretty desperate and contradictory reply, in my opinion’.[4]

clip_image003[1] ‘The problem is on your end, since you do not submit to the scriptures, but only wrest a few to annoy the saints’.[5]

clip_image003[2] ‘Again, the man-centered salvation so prevelant in synergism and Arminianism. That which you so proudly taunt’.[6]

clip_image003[3] ‘So it is impossible for one to backslide, and yet still believe in God? That is the point I take away from all your posts’.[7]

clip_image003[4] ‘according to scripture, 1 Jn. 2:19, if they depart, stop beliving, they never believed in the first place. Unless you are calling the Apostle John a liar. Are you?’[8]

clip_image003[5] ‘So using your standard, we must therefore conclude that since both Peter and Paul sinned willingly, not once, not twice, but at least three times, they lost their salvation, and thusly were not able to “renew them unto repentance”. But tell me, when Peter and Paul both sinned, did they cease to “abide” in Christ? Did they cease to “believe” continuously? Remember, you can “commit apostasy and perish by a willful act of their own.” Who said that? Was it me? Hum…’[9]

clip_image003[6] ‘But notice you say this, without even bothering to acknowledge what the scripture says. What kind of a person sits here telling us these things, but doesn’t bother to respond to points properly? Are you capable of challenging what I have shown is clearly in those verses? If so, then show me, but take on what we say and respond to them specifically. Don’t dance around them as you do, and then get all huffy puffy after making sweeping assertions about it. It seems that you use the word “infallible” not to refer to the scriptures, but to your own point of view, and thus you do not take well to challenges’.[10]

With regard to this last post I made a complaint to the moderators about his emotionally abusive language with language such as:[11]

clip_image005 ‘without even bothering to acknowledge what the scripture says’;

clip_image005[1] ‘What kind of a person sits here telling us these things, but doesn’t bother to respond to points properly?’ (I have spent a lot of time on detailed responses on this forum but I will not continue with interaction with you when you make this kind of false allegation.)

clip_image005[2] ‘Are you capable of challenging’.

clip_image005[3] ‘Don’t dance around them as you do, and then get all huffy puffy after making sweeping assertions about it’.

clip_image005[4] ‘It seems that you use the word “infallible” not to refer to the scriptures, but to your own point of view’.

Petruchio’s response to me was: ‘You keep using this phrase to everything people say to you. I don’t think it means what you think it means. (I can’t post the photo of Inigo until I get a total of 50 posts! clip_image006).[12]

My response was:

Here you give another straw man logical fallacy. When you create a view which I did not state, you have created a straw man logical fallacy.

Here is a description of the straw man fallacy.

If you continue this approach in your responses to me, I will not reply. We cannot have a logical conversation when you use a logical fallacy.[13]

It seems to me from interaction on this Christian forum that I have to be alert to the logical fallacies that others and I use. I will name them as I see and understand them in their posts and also my own. I am not immune to using logical fallacies and I want people to draw my attention to them.

See the Nizkor Project for a description of a reasonably comprehensive list of logical fallacies.

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Logical fallacies

Notes:


[1] OzSpen#113 Christian Forums, Baptists, Eternal Security, OzSpen#113, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7775412-12/ (Accessed 29 September 2013).

[2] DeaconDean#114, ibid.

[3] This is my response as OzSpen#117, ibid.

[4] Petruchio#43, ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] DeaconDean#114, ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] DeaconDean#116, ibid.

[10] Petruchio#121, ibid.

[11] OzSpen#122, ibid. I made a complaint about this post to the moderators. Maybe this could be removed from the forum.

[12] Petruchio#123, ibid.

[13] OzSpen#124, ibid.

 

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

What is the nature of human free will?

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Free Gift

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is not the way Jonathan Edwards saw it:

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

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

1. Free will and the power of God

Power

(image courtesy ChristArt)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Free choice and God’s foreknowledge

Custom Made

(image courtesy ChristArt)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

4. See also my articles:

arrow-smallDid God create evil?

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

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

References

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

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

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

Notes:


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

 

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

How a Calvinist can distort the meaning of 2 Peter 3:9

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

By Spencer D Gear

This verse states, ‘The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (ESV).[1]

A. How one contemporary Calvinist interprets this verse

Calvin.png

John Calvin (image courtesy Wikipedia)

This Calvinist stated,[2]

First, I’m assuming by now you’ve been confronted with the correct understanding of 2 Pet. 3:9 several times since you’ve got ~4700 posts. I guess I’ll do it again!

1. Who is Peter writing to?
This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder… (2 Peter 3:1 ESV)
Ok so he’s writing to Christians.

2. What is the context of chapter 3 and verse 9? What is the topic Peter is addressing?
They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (2 Peter 3:4-7 ESV)
Peter is addressing the fact that scoffers will come along and question the 2nd coming of Christ. But Peter reassures them, the Christians he’s writing to, that the Lord isn’t slow to fulfill his promise:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9 ESV)

Ok so Peter is telling the beloved, Christians, that God is patient toward them by saying “The Lord… is patient toward YOU… who? God’s elect. Peter told them this is the 2nd letter he’s writing to them. In the first letter to them, he says:

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. (1 Peter 1:1-2 ESV)

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

But somehow, you want us to believe Peter is saying that God is not wishing that any person at all perish and that every single human being should reach repentance? How does that convince the Christians he’s writing to that God is patient toward them? Let’s see how that works:
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any person on the face of the earth perish, but that every single human being should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 ASV)

How does that show patience toward the Christians he’s writing to? It doesn’t. Furthermore, if God truly isn’t wishing that any perish, He better wait until the last human being he creates dies to maximize the amount of people who will be in heaven. Then, when there are no people left, he can send Christ! Yeah, your interpretation doesn’t make any sense in context. It makes much more sense to say God is patient toward His elect, not wishing any OF THEM perish, but that they all reach repentance. That is much more encouraging to think about… that God is delaying the 2nd coming of Christ because of his patience toward His elect. When I think about that, it’s encouraging. God isn’t wishing that any of His elect perish. God wants to bring them all to repentance before sending Christ. If I interpret this to be every single human being, it’s really not encouraging. It’s like, ok so God is going to delay the 2nd coming of Christ for how long? He’s not willing that any person on the face of the earth perish, so how does that show God’s patience toward me? It doesn’t follow. Much more encouraging to know that God has his people here, and he’s waiting for them to repent. God knows what he’s doing. He’s not just sitting by waiting to see what his creation is going to do. That’s not encouraging.

B. What are the fundamental errors of this view?

These are examples of an incorrect understanding of 2 Peter 3:9, based on the above post.

1. An incorrect understanding of the meaning of ‘you’.

Griff’s emphasis was that this ‘you’ in ‘patient towards you’ refers to the Christians who are the elect of God. The Greek for ‘you’ is humas, accusative plural. Because 2 Peter is addressed to ‘you’ Christians – the elect – does that mean that the ‘you’ only applies to Christians?

Griff, the Calvinist, is simply following another Reformed writer, R. C. Sproul, and his interpretation of this verse where Sproul stated:

What is the antecedent of any? It is clearly us. Does us refer to all of us humans? Or does it refer to us Christians, the people of God? Peter is fond of speaking of the elect as a special group of people. I think what he is saying here is that God does not will that any of us (the elect) perish. If that is his meaning, then the text would demand the first definition [of God’s will][3] and would be one more strong passage in favor of predestination (Sproul 1986:197; emphasis in original).

R. C. Sproul (photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Yes, it is true that this book of 2 Peter is addressed ‘to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ’ (2 Pt 1:1). But does that mean that all of Second Peter only applies to elect Christians? Here are a few examples of how this God-breathed book addresses issues that apply to people who are not Christians:

  • ‘False prophets also arose among the people….’ (2:1);
  • ‘Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed’ (2:2);
  • ‘In their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep’ (2:3);
  • ‘To keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones’ (2:9-10);
  • 2:12-19 describes blasphemous, sensuous, deceptive human beings for whom’ the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved’ (2:17).
  • ‘Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires’ (3:3); these scoffers will question the promise of Christ’s second coming;
  • ‘Count the patience of our Lord as salvation’ (3;15);
  • ‘Take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability’ (3:17).

While these verses are directed to the Christians who have faith, it deals with people who are godless, lawless and unregenerate. Therefore, writing to Christians does not prohibit instruction to and about the ungodly. Therefore, it is consistent biblical interpretation to conclude that 2 Peter 3:8 is appealing to the unbelievers when it states that the Lord is ‘not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’. The ‘any’ refers to unbelievers who are perishing and the ‘all’ indicates all unbelievers who should repent.

2. He makes ‘perish’ and ‘repentance’ apply to Christians.

Griff stated that ‘God is patient toward you/beloved/Christians/God’s elect, not wishing any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. The whole point is, God is patient towards his elect, not wishing any should perish, but that all of his elect should reach repentance’.

(a) Who will perish?

Things Perish

(image courtesy ChristArt)

Who will ‘perish’ according to the biblical mandate? Here are a few biblical examples:

‘The way of the wicked will perish’ (Psalm 1:6);

  • Jesus spoke of Galilean sinners, telling his audience, ‘I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish’ (Luke 13:3);
  • In John 3:16, Jesus made it clear who would not perish: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’;

The sinners and unbelievers are the ones who will perish according to the OT and Jesus.

(b) Who needs to repent?

Repent

(image courtesy ChristArt)

What about ‘repentance’? Who are the ones who need to repent? Note griff’s language, ‘God is delaying the 2nd coming of Christ until all of his elect reach repentance…. Your interpretation doesn’t make any sense in context. It makes much more sense to say God is patient toward His elect, not wishing any OF THEM perish, but that they all reach repentance’.

The facts are that there is not a word in context of 2 Peter 3:9 that states that God is delaying the second coming of Christ until all of his elect have repented and are in the kingdom. That is the eisegesis that this Calvinist uses. He is following the classic double-predestination view of R C Sproul who stated:

In contrast with the foreknowledge view of predestination, the Reformed view asserts that the ultimate decision for salvation rests with God and not with man. It teaches that from all eternity God has chosen to intervene in the lives of some people and bring them to saving faith and has chosen not to do that for other people. From all eternity, without any prior view of our human behavior, God has chosen some unto election and others unto reprobation. The ultimate destiny of the individual is decided by God before that individual is even born and without depending ultimately upon the human choice. To be sure, a human choice is made, a free human choice, but the choice is made because God first chooses to influence the elect to make the right choice. The basis for God’s choice does not rest in man but solely in the good pleasure of the divine will….

The Reformed view believes that all whom God has thus foreknown he has also predestined to be inwardly called, to be justified, and to be glorified. God sovereignly brings to pass the salvation of his elect and only of his elect (Sproul 1986:136-138).

If this is the way God does it, then griff’s statement makes sense that the second coming of Christ is delayed until all of the elect come in. However, this view suffers from major problems (not discussed here) in that it completely redefines the meaning of ‘a free human choice’, which Sproul wants to mean a sovereign choice by God in eternity past for which ‘the ultimate destiny of the individual is decided by God before that individual is even born and without depending ultimately upon the human choice’. This is manipulating the English language to make ‘free human choice’ the equivalent of God’s deterministic, mandating of human beings without the human beings agreement. ‘Free human choice’ thus becomes a euphemism for God’s sovereign demanding. It is deterministic forcing by God and no squirming out of it by referring to deferring to God’s ‘love and justice’ will alter the fact that God’s love and righteousness amount to God’s bullying people into the kingdom. It is as Norm Geisler put it, ‘The extreme Calvinists’ God is not really all-loving’ (Geisler 1999:85).

We know this view is false because of the numerous times in Scripture that statements are made about human beings, as an act of free will, choosing to believe in Christ. These verses include:

  • John 1:11-12, ‘He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God’. It should be obvious that ‘to receive’ Jesus involved an act of the human free will.
  • John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’. Faith in Jesus is for ‘whoever believes in him’. Thus whoever – anyone – can believe in Jesus when the Gospel is proclaimed. However, we must never forget that all salvation requires God’s assisting grace. We know this from …
  • Ephesians 2:8-9, ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast’.

These two verses have been subjected to some terrible interpretations by some Calvinists. R C Sproul is but one example when he stated,

This passage should seal the matter forever. The faith by which we are saved is a gift of God. When the apostle says it is not of ourselves, he does not mean that it is not our faith. Again, God does not do the believing for us. It is our own faith but it does not originate with us. It is given to us. The gift is not earned or deserved it is a gift of sheer grace (Sproul 1986:119).

So do these two verses really teach that faith is a gift of God? The Greek language clarifies Eph. 2:8-9 for us. In the phrase, ‘this is not of your own doing’, to what does ‘this’ refer? ‘It is a neuter Greek demonstrative pronoun, touto, and cannot refer to its antecedent of ‘grace’ (charis) or ‘faith’ (pistis), which are both feminine nouns. The Greek grammar rule is that demonstrative pronouns agree with their antecedents in gender, number and case. So ‘grace’ or ‘faith’ cannot be identified as ‘the gift of God. So what is the antecedent? It is salvation by grace through faith (v. 9). The greatest Greek grammarian of the 20th century, A. T. Robertson, explained the grammar this way,

“Grace” is God’s part, “faith” is ours. And that[4] (kai touto). Neuter, not feminine taut?, and so refers not to pistis (feminine) or to charis (feminine also), but to the act of being saved by grace conditioned on faith on our part (Robertson 1931:525).

While this Greek explanation is rather technical, the simple understanding is that the Greek grammar will not allow ‘this’ to refer to either grace or faith as a gift of God. Therefore, Sproul’s statement about Eph. 2:8-9, ‘This passage should seal the matter forever. The faith by which we are saved is a gift of God’, is clearly wrong, based on the Greek grammar.

There are other verses that support a person’s free will in choosing to believe in Christ. However, we must never forget the emphasis in John that ‘when he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world [all human beings] concerning sin and righteousness and judgment’ (John 16:8). See also John 3:16-18 and 1 John 2:15-17. Contrary to the Calvinistic view of unconditional election and irresistible grace, God does not force one human being to believe in him. We know this from Matt. 23:37 when Jesus said, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!’

These verses that support the ability of human beings to believe in Jesus after hearing the Gospel include:

  • Acts 16:30-31, ‘Then he brought them [Paul and Silas] out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And he said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household”’. ‘Believe’ is a command in the Greek language which is required of this Philippian jailer to implement. Geisler stated the case accurately, ‘The uniform presentation of Scripture is that faith is something unbelievers are to exercise to receive salvation (e.g. John 3:16, 18, 36; Acts 16:31), and not something they must wait upon God to give’ (Geisler1999:184).
  • Romans 10:17, ‘So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ’. Hearing the word of Christ (the Gospel message) comes prior to faith. But this verse does not state that faith is a gift of God. According to Romans 10:14-15 this is the order of salvation:

Someone is sent with the message clip_image001 he / she proclaims the Gospel / word of Christ clip_image001[1] someone believes by clip_image001[2] calling on Jesus (for salvation).

  • Luke 13:3, ‘No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish’.
  • John 3:18, ‘Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God’.
  • John 6:29, ‘Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent”’.
  • John 11:40, ‘Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”’.
  • John 12:36, ‘While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light’.
  • Acts 17:30, ‘The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent’ (emphasis added).
  • Acts 20:21, ‘testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance towards God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’.

To make ‘perish’ and ‘repentance’ apply to the elect does not make sense. If Peter is addressing Christians, they have already repented and will not perish. However, this Calvinistic view comes with the understanding that God knows the elect from the foundation of the world and he is waiting until all of the predestined/elected ones come in. That kind of emphasis is nowhere stated in the text of 2 Peter 3:9.

In fact, it is a Calvinistic imposition on the text, which means it is eisegesis. ‘Eisegesis is the substitution of the authority of the interpreter for the authority of the original writer’ (Mickelsen 1963:158). The correct method of interpreting any document, whether the Scriptures, a journal or the local newspaper, is exegesis. Exegesis means that when an interpreter ‘examines a document that comes from past time … he must discover what each statement meant to the original speaker or writer, and to the original hearers or readers, in their own present time’ (Mickelsen 1963:55; emphasis in original).

I have found a disconcerting tendency among some Calvinists such as griff to impose on the text his Calvinistic presuppositional understanding of election, predestination, limited atonement and other Calvinistic doctrines. This is a tendency that can apply to all Christians, including me.

3. What’s the meaning of ‘any’?

Note that 2 Peter 3:9 states that the Lord is ‘not wishing that any should perish’. If ‘any’ refers to ‘any of the elect’ or ‘any Christians’, the word ‘any’ has lost its meaning. The God-breathed Scripture is capable of stating ‘some’, ‘a few’, ‘any Christians’ or ‘any of the elect’. But this verse does not state that. We know from Acts 17:30 that God ‘now commands all people everywhere to repent’ (ESV). It would be bizarre to state that ‘all people everywhere’ really means ‘all the predestined elect everywhere’ or ‘some people everywhere’.[5]

The message of 2 Peter 3:9 is that God is not wanting any human beings in the whole world to perish and his desire is for everyone to come to faith and repentance. This supported by 1 Tim. 2:4 where we are told that ‘God our Savior’ (2:3) ‘desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (ESV). This has an OT reverberation in Ezekiel 18:32 which states, ‘For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God, so turn, and live’ (ESV).

C. Two Calvinistic commentators on 2 Peter 3:9

My response to griff as OzSpen,[6] was:

As to your interpretation of 2 Peter 3:9, two Calvinistic commentators, including John Calvin himself, disagree with your attempt to explain away the meaning of this text.

John Calvin wrote of 2 Peter 3:9,

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

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

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

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

Calvinistic commentator, Simon J. Kistemaker (1986:334), wrote of 2 Peter 3:9,

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

Simon Kistemaker (photo courtesy Reformed Theological Seminary)

D. Conclusion

Examination of griff’s Calvinistic perspective on 2 Peter 3:9 is found to be severely wanting. This is because he,

(1) requires the meaning of ‘you’ in the verse to apply only to the elect, all Christians. It is shown here that ‘you’ refers to all human beings.

(2) He makes ‘perish’ and ‘repent’ apply to the predestined who have not yet responded to Christ when these words apply to all unbelievers.

(3) ‘Not wishing that any should perish’ is wrongly attributed to the elect when God is perfectly capable of qualifying ‘any’ with language like, ‘any of the elect’, if that is what he intended. ‘Any’ thus refers to any human being and not the Christian elect.

(4) Two Calvinistic commentators, John Calvin and Simon Kistemaker, do not agree with griff’s Calvinistic interpretation.

The meaning of 2 Peter 3:9 is that God is not wishing any human being in the whole world to perish to eternal damnation. God commands all people everywhere to repent but he has given all the ability to say, ‘yes’, or ‘no’, to Jesus. The wonderful gift of free will means that many will perish because they do not choose Jesus after hearing the Gospel.

See my article, ‘The content of the Gospel’, for a challenge to receive Christ as Lord and Saviour and to follow Jesus as a committed disciple.

Puppet for the world

(image courtesy ChristArt)

References

Geisler, N 1999. Chosen but free. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

Geisler, N 2004. Systematic theology: Sin, salvation, vol 3. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

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

Mickelsen, A B 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Robertson, A T 1931. Word pictures in the New Testament: The epistles of Paul, vol 4. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Sproul, R C 1986. Chosen by God. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers.

Notes:


[1] Unless otherwise stated, all Bible verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

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

[3] The first definition of the will of God is ‘what we call God’s sovereign efficacious will. The sovereign will of God is that will by which God brings things to pass with absolute certainty. Nothing can resist the will of God in this sense’ (Sproul 1986:195).

[4] The ESV translates as ‘and this’.

[5] Some of the views expressed in this paragraph are based on Norman Geisler’s understanding of 2 Peter 3:9 in Geisler (2004:358).

[6] Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Good News, Really?’, OzSpen #276, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7711171-28/#post62087962 (Accessed 1 January 2013).

 

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

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