Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Free Will

It's been a long time since I have updated this thing. That is partially because I have been really busy and partially because I'm just lazy. My roommate made this picture this week. I thought it was great.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

False Teachers Part One: Rob Bell

The worst false teachers are those who sprinkle their deceptions with a lot of truth. They use Biblical terminology and concepts but hidden under them is a theology of self esteem, prosperity, works etc. Rob Bell is one of them. I first heard Rob Bell at a week long retreat the summer after my sophomore year of high school. I don't remember too much about his talk, however I do remember liking it. In my next year or so in the youth group I was attending we watched several of Rob Bell's "Nooma" videos. I enjoyed them at the time and still remember much of what was said in them. It was only after I read Velvet Elvis and began learning more about refomed theology that I noticed some strange errors in his teaching. The book Velvet Elvis takes a valid criticism of many Christians and gives a false correction of it. That criticism is that Christians simply believe what they are told and do not think for themselves. They do not search the scriptures to find out what they really teach. This of course is a great message which all reformed Christians should agree with. Unfortunately however, Rob Bell does not give instructions about how to properly interprate the Bible in context but tells his readers that the Bible must change with culture and that it is not even all that clear. His postmodernism here is obvious. Rob Bell and his wife said the following in an interview, "The Bible is in the center for us, but it's a different kind of center. We want to embrace mystery rather than conquering it. I grew up thinking that we figured out the Bible, that we knew what it means. Now I have no idea what most of it means." This doesn't seem to fit with the idea that the Bible is a light unto our feet and a lamp unto our paths. Rob Bell sounds like Erasmus.
One of the most obvious errors that I have heard in several of Bell's sermons and his book is that he takes the focus of the afterlife and puts it on our life on earth. One's eternal destiny does not matter as much as if they have food, medicine etc. Sure, these things are great but not compared to the gospel. The gospel is not about helping people. It's about what Christ did for us hopeless sinners. When one is missing that, they are missing the gospel, and are preaching nothing but a moralistic therapeudic deism. Many of Rob Bell's messages could have been preached by Ghandi or the Dhali Lama.
"When people use the word hell, what do they mean? They mean a place, an event, a situation absent of how God desires things to be. Famine, debt, oppression, loneliness, despair, death, slaughter–they are all hell on earth.
Jesus’ desire for his followers is that they live in such a way that they bring heaven to earth.
What’s disturbing is when people talk more about hell after this life than they do about hell here and now. As a Christian, I want to do what I can to resist hell coming to earth.” (Velvet Elvis pg 148)
Is that really what it's about? I seem to remember Jesus saying that His kingdom was NOT of this world.
Bell's rejection of the gospel comes off perhaps more clear in his view of man. The following comes from his book, “God has an incredibly high view of people. God believes that people are capable of amazing things. I have been told that I need to believe in Jesus. Which is a good thing. But what I am learning is that Jesus believes in me. I have been told that I need to have faith in God. Which is a good thing. But what I am learning is that God has faith in me.” (pg.134) Really? Is that what the Bible teaches? A reading of verses like Romans 3:10-18, Genesis 6:5, Psalm 58:3, Ecclesiastes 9:3 and several others will show that the opposite is true. If God had faith in us to take care of things, we would all be screwed.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Romans 9

James White did a great dividing line on Romans chapter 9 this week. I would encourage you all to listen.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

From Luther's Commentary on the Apostle's Creed

"I believe in God the father almighty, creator of heaven and earth"
Here, first of all, a great light shines into your heart if you permit it to and teaches you in a few words what all the languages of the world and a multitude of books cannot describe or fathom in words, namely, who you are, whence you came, whence came heaven and earth. You are God's creation, his handiwork. That is, of yourself and in yourself you are nothing, can do nothing, know nothing, are capable of nothing. What were you a thousand years ago? What were heaven and earth before creation? Nothing, just as that which will never be created is nothing. But what you are, know, can do, and can achieve is God's creation, as you confess in the Creed by word of mouth. Therefore you have nothing to boast about before God except that you are nothing and He is your Creator who can annihilate you at any moment.
Reason knows nothing of such a light. Many great thinkers sought to know what heaven and earth, people and animals are and have found no answer. But here is declared and faith affirms that God has created everything out of nothing. Here is the soul's garden of pleasure, along whose paths we enjoy the works of God- bit it would take too long to describe all that.
Furthermore, we should give thanks to God in that His kindness He has created us out of nothing and provides for our daily needs out of nothing- has made us to be such excellent beings with body and soul, intelligence, five senses, and has ordained us to be masters of earth, of fish, bird, beast, etc. Here consider Genesis, chapters one, two and three.
Third, we should confess and lament our lack of faith and gratitude in failing to take this to heart, or to believe, ponder, and acknowledge it, and having been more stupid than unthinking beasts.
Fourth, we pray for a true and confident faith that sincerely esteems and trusts God to be our Creator, as this article declares.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

More heresy from Rome

This is from CNN.com-

"VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -- The Vatican on Tuesday said Christian denominations outside the Roman Catholic Church were not full churches of Jesus Christ.

The Vatican said other churches are "wounded" since they do not recognize the primacy of the pope.

A 16-page document, prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Pope Benedict used to head, described Christian Orthodox churches as true churches, but suffering from a "wound" since they do not recognize the primacy of the Pope.
But the document said the "wound is still more profound" in the Protestant denominations -- a view likely to further complicate relations with Protestants.
"Despite the fact that this teaching has created no little distress ... it is nevertheless difficult to see how the title of 'Church' could possibly be attributed to them," it said."

I can only hope that the Roman "church" continues to seperate itself from all others so that ecumenical efforts may be stopped. This article makes it clear that in Rome's eyes, the Eastern Church is no real church either. And why? Because they do not bow down to the authority of the Pope. I hope everyone else can see how crazy it is that the church is willing to condemn anyone who does not bow down to a certain MAN. Yes, the Pope the vicar of Christ who sounds remarkably like the man of lawlessness of 2 Thessalonians 2 "He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God." Vicar literally means, "in place of." Anti as in antichrist can also mean either "against" or "in place of." Thus vicar of Christ and Antichrist can be synonymous terms. When Christ ascended He only had one to come in His place. It was no man but the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

What love is this?

I have been challenged by a friend to read the book "What Love is This: Calvinism's Misrepresentation of God" by Dave Hunt. This person agreed to listen to my point by point response to it if I did. I suppose it's worth it to hopefully bring someone else to understand the scriptural teaching of grace. Forgive me if I continually rant on this blog about it, I imagine that I will be greatly angered by much of Hunt's historical innacuracy and misunderstandings of Reformed Theology.

Plato on Purgatory

I was reading some Plato earlier this summer and just happened to come across something that sounded as if it could be from the council of Trent. (Speaking of the afterlife from the Phaedo) "Those who appear to have lived neither well nor ill, go to the river of Acheron, and embarking in any vessels which they may find, are carried in them to the lake, and there they dwell and are purified of their evil deeds, and have suffered the penalty of the wrongs which they have done to others, they are absolved, and recieve the rewards of their good deeds, each of them according to his desserts." It seems that purgatory has it's origins in Greek philosophy rather than scripture. I guess that's what happens when human tradition is given as much authority as the word of God.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Does God Really Love Everyone?

Psalm 11
The Lord is a holy temple;
the Lord's throne is in heaven,
His eyes see, His eyelids test,
theChildren of man
The Lord tests the righteous,
but His soul hates the wicked and
the one who loves violence
Let Him reign coals on the wicked,
fire and sulfur and a scorching
wind shall be the portion of their cup.
Psalm 5:5-6
The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes;
You hate all evildoers;
You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and decietful man.
Leviticus 20:23
And you shall not walk in customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things and therefore I detested them.
Hosea 9:15
Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal;
there I began to hate them.
Because of the wickedness of their deeds
I will drive them out of my house
I will love them no more;
all their princess are rebels.
Romans 9:13
As it is written, "Jacob I loved and Esau I hated."
The fact is, we all deserve to be utterly hated by God. Our whole lives are lived in rebellion against Him. God would be just if He damned every single one of us. However, He chose to set His love upon His people who repent and trust in Christ for their salvation. All those who do not will suffer God's holy and just wrath eternally.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Myths about Calvin

I said I would put this together so here are the top ten myths I hear about John Calvin.

1. John Calvin was not a Calvinist. This may sound very strange but I so often here people tell me that John Calvin did not believe in what we call Calvinism today. Quotes of his on human responsibility are often taken out of context and are somehow claimed to be about the freedom of the will. People seem to do the same thing with Spurgeon as well.

2. John Calvin was a hateful murderer. This is the one I hear most often. When Calvin comes up in conversation the idea the Michael Servetus was killed by Calvin will innevitibly be part of the conversation. It is true that he was put to death but there is more to the story than that. John Calvin actually risked his life to go back to France at one point of his life to try and convert Servetus to Orthodox trinitarian Christianity but Servetus never showed. There was a long and complicated history between the two and it is obvious that Calvin showed nothing but kindness to the man. When Servetus came to Geneva for refuge, Calvin discussed it with Melancthon, Ferrel, and the other reformers and they all agreed that Servetus should be put to death. Calvin was not the only one responsible for this. Rome had often said that the protestant movement would accept all kinds of heresy as long as it was not catholic. Servetus' death was a statement that this was not true.

3. John Calvin was the dictator of Geneva. This is flat out not true. Many of the people didn't even like Calvin. In fact Calvin didn't like Geneva too much either. He wasn't even a citizen until the end of his life.

4. John Calvin was a hyper Calvinist. It seems that everyone wants to claim Calvin as their own. Hyper Calvinists often say that they are the only ones truly in line with Calvin's thought. If you read the institutes you will find nothing like hyper Calvinism. He discusses common grace and has no problems with offering the gospel. He also accepted synergists as fellow believers. He and Melancthon were good friends.

5. John Calvin was a five point Calvinist. Didn't I just say that Calvin was a Calvinist? Yes, he was. However, it may be better to call him a 4 1/2 pointer. From what I have read, Calvin seemed to believe that Christ did indeed die for every single person, including the non elect. It took Beza to fully develope the doctrine of limited atonement.

6. John Calvin was a heartless theologian. It's claimed often (especially on a popular video on youtube) that Calvin had no true spirituality and was nothing more than a dry intellectual. Read Calvin's prayers. He was a man of deep spirituality.

7. Calvin created the five points of Calvinism. He didn't. They were put together by the Synod of Dort to refute the five points of the Remonstrants.

8. Calvinists are followers of John Calvin. People always assume that I agree with all John Calvin ever said because I'm a Calvinist. Calvin's name just happened to be tacked onto a theological system which had existed over 1000 years before his birth.

8 is all I can come up with now. Perhaps I'll add more later.

Arminian music from Pensacola Christian College

This has to be the worst theology I have ever heard in a song.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Myths about Luther

I took this from James White's blog. Anyone who knows me knows that I love reading Martin Luther. Thus, I have had most of the same things said to me about Luther and I am constantly having to tell people that they are not true. I think I'll have to write my own about Calvin as well. One thing I do want to mention is that anyone who thinks Luther was an antinomian (which is the false claim I hear most often) he should read Luther's commentary on 1 Peter. The whole of his theology comes out much fuller than in the Galatians commentary.

1. Luther Threw an Inkwell at Satan
Recently I found a Jehovah's Witness attempting to prove Luther was a psychopath. He brought up the story in which Luther hurled an inkwell at Satan. The story is not true. It first appeared towards the end of the sixteenth century, and is said to have been told by a former Wittenberg student. In this early version, the Devil in the guise of a monk threw an inkwell at Luther while he was secluded in the Wartburg. By 1650, the story shifted to Luther throwing the inkwell at Satan. Like any bizarre legend, the story morphed, and houses where Luther stayed had spots on the walls, and these were also said to be inkwells that Luther threw at the Devil.

2. Luther's Evangelical Breakthrough Occurred in the Bathroom
This same Jehovah's Witness denigrated Luther by repeating a newer myth, that Luther's understanding of Romans 1:17-18 came to him while in the bathroom in the tower of the Augustinian cloister. In the twentieth century, many approached Luther by applying psychoanalysis to his writings. Psychologist Eric Erikson took a German phrase uttered by Luther and interpreted it literally to mean Luther was in the bathroom when he had his evangelical breakthrough. Erikson concluded, from a Freudian perspective, Luther's spiritual issues were tied up with biological functions. But, there was not a bathroom in the tower. The phrase Erikson interpreted literally in German was simply conventional speech. Luther really was saying that his breakthrough came during a time when he was depressed, or in a state of melancholy.

3. Luther Repented and Re-entered the Church on his Deathbed
I've come across this one on popular Catholic discussion boards. No, it is not true. One of Luther's early opponents popularized the account that Luther was a child of the Devil, and was taken directly to Hell when he died. Now though, more ecumenically minded Catholics hope for the ultimate in conversion stories. Luther died around 3:00 AM on February 18, 1546. His last words and actions were recorded by his friend Justus Jonas. Luther was asked, "Reverend father, will you die steadfast in Christ and the doctrines you have preached?" Luther responded affirmatively. Luther also quoted John 3:16 and Psalm 31:5. In his last prayer he said to God, "Yet I know as a certainty that I shall live with you eternally and that no one shall be able to pluck me out of your hands." These are hardly the words of a Roman Catholic waiting to enter purgatory.

4. Luther's Hymns Were Originally Tavern Songs
Some involved in Contemporary Christian Music use this argument to validate contemporary styles of music being used in church: if even the great Martin Luther found value in contemporary music being used in Church, shouldn't we likewise do the same? In actuality, Luther used only one popular folk tune, I Came From An Alien Country, changed the words, and named the hymn, From Heaven On High, I Come to You. Four years after he did this, he changed the music to an original composition.

5. Luther Spoke in Tongues
Charismatic cyber-apologists have put this one out. They refer to an old quote from a German historian who stated, "Luther was easily the greatest evangelical man after the apostles, full of inner love to the Lord like John, hasty in deed like Peter, deep in thinking like Paul, cunning and powerful in speech like Elijah, uncompromising against God's enemies like David; PROPHET and evangelist, speaker-in-tongues and interpreter in one person, equipped with all the gifts of grace, a light and pillar of the church..." Luther though held, "Tongues are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers. But later on, when the church had been gathered and confirmed by these signs, it was not necessary for this visible sending forth of the Holy Spirit to continue."

6. Luther Added The Word Alone To Romans 3:28
This is frequently brought up by the zealous defenders of Rome. Luther is said to have been so careless and outrageous with his translation of the Bible, he simply added words to make the Bible say what he wanted it to. Luther gave a detailed explanation of why the passage has the meaning of alone,and this explanation has been available online for years. This charge also shows an ignorance of church history. Roman Catholic writer Joseph A. Fitzmyer points out, "...[T]wo of the points that Luther made in his defense of the added adverb were that it was demanded by the context and that sola was used in the theological tradition before him." Fitzmyer lists the following: Origen, Hillary, Basil, Ambrosiaster, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Bernard, Theophylact, Theodoret, Thomas Aquinas, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Marius Victorinus, and Augustine [Joseph A. Fitzmyer Romans, A New Translation with introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible Series (New York: Doubleday, 1993) 360-361].

7. Luther Was an Antinomian and Hated the Law of God
Recently a friend wrote me and said charges about Luther being an antinomian were circulating in his church. Luther's theology indeed has a place for the law of God and its use in the life of a Christian. The law for Luther was dual purposed: it first drives one to see their sin and need for a savior; secondly it functions in the life of a Christian to lead one to a correct understanding of the good one ought to do. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Luther knows how important Moses and the law was in his theology. In Luther's Small Catechism the Ten Commandments were placed first because he wanted people to understand that God is wrathful against sin. The negative prohibitions in the Ten Commandments clearly showed our need for a savior. Also in his Small Catechism, Luther suggests a daily regiment of prayer and includes a verbal reading of the Ten Commandments.

8. Luther Acted Like a Protestant Pope
Catholic apologists perpetuate this one. They tend to reduce everything to a need for an infallible interpreter. They use highly rhetorical or polemical comments from Luther out of context, rather than those statements when Luther evaluates his value and his work. Toward the end of his life, Luther reviewed his work and stated, "My consolation is that, in time, my books will lie forgotten in the dust anyhow, especially if I (by Gods grace) have written anything good." And also, "I would have been quite content to see my books, one and all, remain in obscurity and go by the board" [LW 34: 283-284].

9. Luther Was a Drunk
The historical record nowhere documents Luther ever being drunk. It does provide evidence that he did drink alcohol, and that he enjoyed drinking. One needs only to survey the massive output of work that Luther produced to settle the matter that he was not an alcoholic, nor did he have a drinking problem. Luther preached and wrote against drunkenness throughout his entire life with vigor and force.

10. Luther Said Imputed Righteousness is Like Snow Covered Dung
I saved this one for last, simply because I'm not sure if it's a myth or not. It does seem to me like something Luther would've said: "Therefore let us embrace Christ, who was delivered for us, and His righteousness; but let us regard our righteousness as dung, so that we, having died to sins, may live to God alone" [LW 30:294]. "Explanation of Martin Luther: I said before that our righteousness is dung in the sight of God. Now if God chooses to adorn dung, he can do so. It does not hurt the sun, because it sends its rays into the sewer" [LW 34: 184].

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Is Calvinism unfair?

I have often heard people say that they would never worship a God who chooses who is to be saved and who is to be damned. "That's not fair!" is the rallying cry from many evangelicals today. There are two reasons I believe people make such statements. 1. They somehow feel that everyone deserves a chance to be saved. God owes it to His creation to allow them that choice. 2. They want to hold on so dearly to their "free will" making their conversion a result of their own decision. I will answer both of these objections.
Does anyone deserve a chance to be saved? Well, the answer to this will be obvious when scripture is examined. What is the condition of fallen man? "Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother concieve me." (Psalm 51:5) David tells us here that even at our birth we are unclean. Before we have even gotten the chance to speak or act on our own, we are sinners. Psalm 58 tells us "the wicked go astray from the womb, they err from their birth, speaking lies." Not only are we guilty for Adam's sin from birth, after birth we commit actual sin. Genesis 8:1 tells us "...the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth..." The scripture has many other clear statements about the state of man's heart. "...the hearts of men are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live..." (Ecclesiastes 9:3) "The heart is decietful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) The heart of man is so wicked that he cannot even understand how wicked it is! Genesis 6:5 gives one of the most clear statements of man's condition in all of scripture. "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." This verse includes every single thought every man had ever had on earth at that time as being evil! Man did not have a spark of goodness in him at the time of the flood and the same is true today. We could all be killed by God deservedly in a flood today just as back then. Thank God however that in His goodness He has made a covenant not to do it again. God told Adam in the garden that the day he ate of the trea he would surely die. That is what all sin deserves. "For the penalty of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23) The fact is God would be just in condemning every single person to hell eternally. The very existence of the question "how could God be fair by only choosing some for eternal life?" shows how wrong our focus is. The real question should be, "why does God save anyone?!" The God who loves everyone and wants nothing but the best for everyone is not the God of the Bible. As Luther said to Erasmus, "Your God is too human." This statement may seem shocking but let me remind you that Israel was commanded to utterly destroy the Canaanites in the book of Joshua. This included women and children. There are more verses in the Bible about the wrath of God than about the love of God.

Now for the second point, what about our free will? Let me first say that there is no concern with defending free will in the Bible. The Bible only uses the term "free wil" when discussing free will offerings. The subject of free will comes up pretty early in Christian history through the writings of Tertullian and Justin Martyr. Both of these men lived in the second century. Although they were great men in many respects and defended the faith against Jewish and Pagan opposition they both held on to some pagan philosophical ideas. They held that man is able to choose between good and evil. Many Arminians today use the term "libertarian free will." I believed in this view until I began studying the Bible more seriously. It may appeal to our reason but the ultimate source of truth is the word of God. The Bible paints a very different picture of our will. Our will from birth is one enslaved to sin and is not able to do anything but sin. "For the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law , indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:7,8) This verse alone should prove the point. Before a man is born again he is in the flesh "That which is born of flesh is flesh..." (John 3:6) Therefore this includes all men who are not born again. Are faith and repentance pleasing to God? If so then this verse is clear that man cannot have faith and repent with his free will. Jesus Himself is explicit when he says "no man 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) Notice that word "can." Can is a word of ability. Thus if a man is not drawn by the father, he cannot of his own free will come to Jesus. The word draw in the verse may better be translated "to drag." It is the same word used in Acts 16 when Paul is dragged into prison. 1 Corinthians 2:14 brings this point out well, "The unspiritual man does not recieve the gifts of the spirit of God, for they are folly to him and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerened." Notice again that the word is not merely one of resistance but of ability. Let me make it clear here that I do believe that man has a free will. However, man's will is tainted by sin and man only wants to sin. He is not somehow forced by God to sin. He loves to sin and does it freely. The reason he cannot choose good is not because God will not let him, rather because man does not want to choose good! He cannot want to because of his nature. If it seems illogical that God can hold man accountable for something he cannot do, let me remind you that the purpose of this is not to give an answer which appeals to human logic but to scripture. Any good Arminian will have to agree that man can be held accountable for things he cannot do. The Bible tells us that we are to be holy as God is holy. Does any Christian believe that man can actually do that? Of course not! But does that deny that man is still responsible for his sin? By no means. As Luther said so many times, "free will is nothing."
According to the Bible's view of the sinfulness of man and his innability as demonstrated here and is evident all over the scripture if God left it up to us to choose Him, no one would. However, God in His infinite goodness and mercy chose even then to set His love upon some. In spite of the fact that man deserves absolutely nothing but the eternal wrath of a Holy God, He chose to save some and send His only begotten son to die in their place. Those people whom he elected, who continually spit in His face, He chose to give a new heart (Ezekiel 36) and change their hardened wills to ones that love God. That is not as Norman Geisler would call "rape." That is not unfair. That is grace. There is nothing more beautiful than the effectual call of a holy God upon people who deserve endless punishment.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Sola Fide taught by Ambrosiaster long before Luther

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), wrote while commenting upon 1 Cor. 1:4b: God has decreed that a person who believes in Christ can be saved without works. By faith alone he receives the forgiveness of sins. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VII: 1-2 Corinthians (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 6.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 1:11: For the mercy of God had been given for this reason, that they should cease from the works of the law, as I have often said, because God, taking pity on our weaknesses, decreed that the human race would be saved by faith alone, along with the natural law. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 23.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 2:12: For if the law is given not for the righteous but for the unrighteous, whoever does not sin is a friend of the law. For him faith alone is the way by which he is made perfect. For others mere avoidance of evil will not gain them any advantage with God unless they also believe in God, so that they may be righteous on both counts. For the one righteousness is temporal; the other is eternal. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 65.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 3:24: They are justified freely because they have not done anything nor given anything in return, but by faith alone they have been made holy by the gift of God. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 101.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 3:27: Paul tells those who live under the law that they have no reason to boast basing themselves on the law and claiming to be of the race of Abraham, seeing that no one is justified before God except by faith. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 103.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 4:5: How then can the Jews think that they have been justified by the works of the law in the same way as Abraham, when they see that Abraham was not justified by the works of the law but by faith alone? Therefore there is no need of the law when the ungodly is justified before God by faith alone. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 112.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 4:6, "righteousness apart from works": Paul backs this up by the example of the prophet David, who says that those are blessed of whom God has decreed that, without work or any keeping of the law, they are justified before God by faith alone. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 113.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Desiring God Sale!

All books are five dollars on desiringgod.org today. The sale runs until tomorrow at noon. In the meantime check out this John MacArthur video on inclusivism in the church.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

John Piper on the Prosperity "Gospel"

Calvinism as a Moderate Position

It is often said by Christians in the modern era that Calvinism is an extreme position. It is a system which takes God's sovereignty too far and denies man's responsibility to believe the gospel. I want to show that Calvinism is actually the mediate position which balances the truths that God is sovereign over His creation and that all men are responsible to believe the gospel. I will begin by discussing the systems that weigh man's responsibility heavier than they do the sovereignty of God.
To the far end of the spectrum is pelagianism. Peliagianism teaches that unregenerate man is free to choose between good and evil. All men are born into the world with a neutral will. Man is able to live a sinless life. The motto for this position is the famous statement of the British monk Pelagius "if I ought I can." God would not command us to keep the whole law if we could not do it. It denies original sin, the sovereignty of God and ultimately the Biblical gospel. This system which has universally been accepted by the Church both protestant and Roman as heretical is closer to humanism than Biblical Christianity. This is a man centered system which does not even discuss God's sovereignty as a necessity. It has lived on since then through the systems of Peter Abelard and more recently various forms of liberalism. Many doctrines came forth after this also promoting a synergistic view of salvation. They have been labeled as "semi pelagianism." Any system which denies that God is the sole worker in salvation (monergism) and sees salvation as a work between both God and man (synergism) is semi-pelagian.
The most extreme of these views is known as "open theism" or "openness of God theology." It has been popularized recently by the one time somewhat orthodox theologian Clark Pinnock. It limits the character of God to make room for total human freedom. It teaches that God does not see the future. He only sees what is in the present. He created a universe whose future is unknowable even for Himself. His decisions for the future are ultimately based on what man does. He makes his plans based on how men act and pray. This system, like Pelagianism, not only limits but denies the sovereignty of God. It is clearly outside of the bounds of orthodox Christian theology.
The most popular semi-pelagian position by far is Arminianism. Arminianism does recognize that God is sovereign in some sense and that man is a fallen creature. However, it limits God's sovereignty where it intrudes on man's will to freely choose God or the devil. Unregenerate man cannot perform good works which merit salvation before God, however he can repent and believe on his own. The system contradicts itself on this point by trying to put free will and justification by faith alone together. Sola fide (faith alone) and sola gratia (grace alone) can never be seperated without having an inconsistent system. Many Arminians such as Arminius himself and John Wesley did try to fix this contradiction by the doctrine of prevenient grace. God's grace goes out to all men and allows them to make the choice between God and the devil. They held to the fact that man cannot choose God on his own, nevertheless they believed that grace was resistible and ultimately it is man's choice in the end that saves him. This teaching originally came as a reaction of Arminius against his dealings with professors who had taught an extreme view of God's election of the reprobate. He sought to defend the responsibility of man to believe the gospel. I applaud his efforts but unfortunately he went too far in the other direction. His teachings were not heretical but unfortunately did stray from the Biblical teaching of the sovereignty of God in election. Many if not most Arminians today have strayed from classical Arminianism as taught by Arminius and Wesley by abandoning the teaching of prevenient grace. As we have seen, these doctrines err in stressing human responsibility to believe the gospel over the sovereignty of God in the salvation of men.
Now I will discuss a distortion on the other end of the spectrum which is hyper Calvinism. Hyper Calvinism is hard to define because it takes many forms. In it's simplest form I refer to it as any supralapsarian Calvinism which denies the free offer of the gospel. This extreme view teaches that since Christ died for the salvation of the elect alone, the gospel is not offered to all men. Since men do not have the ability to believe the gospel, they are not called to believe it. Men who are not elect should not be told to believe the gospel. Since we do not know who the elect are, the gospel is not to be offered to anyone. There are various degrees of hyper Calvinism, the most extreme denying the great commission, common grace, and that non five point Calvinists can be saved. This distortion of Biblical Calvinism denies human responsibility to uphold the sovereignty of God. It is the opposite error of Arminianism. Many say that it is better to uphold the sovereignty of God than the free will of man. This is true but they tend to confuse doctrines of free will and doctrines of human responsibility. They are not the same. I will touch on one other point of high Calvinism which is supralapsarianism. Not all supralapsarians are hyper Calvinists, but all hyper Calvinists are supralapsarian. Some of the greatest men of the faith have adopted this doctrine such as Abraham Kuyper and Cornelius Van Till, however I find it to be in error. Supralapsarianism states that in God's logical order of decrees His decree to elect some and pass over others was made before His decree to allow the fall. This does not mean that in time God decided one before the other, however it does mean that one logically precedes the other. There is a logical order in God's decrees. This is seen in Romans 8 when it states that "those whom He Foreknew, He predestined...those whom He predestined He also called... etc." God decreed the fall so that He could elect some and reprobate others. The problem with this view is that God was deciding to elect some when people were not yet seen as fallen. He would be unjust in doing this because only fallen people deserve to be reprobate. It also is wrong because it makes God's election primarily one of love and not of grace. Again it diminishes human responsibility to believe the gospel.
Now that we have seen the errors on both sides we can see that pure infralapsarian Calvinism as taught by Augustine, Luther, Calvin and Spurgeon alone emphasizes both human responsibility and God's sovereignty. Infralapsarianism teaches the opposite of supralapsarianism. In the logical order of decrees, God decreed to allow man to fall and out of that fallen depraved mass of mankind he decreed to elect some and pass over others. Calvinism teaches that God calls people in two different ways. There is the universal call for all men to believe the gospel. Everyone everywhere is responsible for believing the gospel whether he is elect or not. Romans 1 tells us that we are responsible from creation alone. Stephen said in his speach in Acts 7:51 that men resist the Holy Spirit. God wants His gospel preached everwhere as is obvious in the great commission of Matthew 28 and Romans 10:14-17. Jesus even weeps over Jerusalem because they had not believed. They were still outwardly called and in a sense God wanted them to believe the gospel. Ezekiel says repeatedly that God does not delight in the death of the wicked. The Bible tells us that Jesus loved the rich young ruler who rejected Him. In John 18 Jesus even tells Pontius Pilate why He came. He obviously did not believe Pontius Pilate would come to a saving faith but He preached to him anyway because he was responsible for believing the truth and in a sense Jesus wanted Him to believe it. The other call of God is His effectual call. His outward call is not enough because Paul tells us in Romans 3 that no man seeks for God. God must do a work in a man's heart to convert him. Ezekiel 36 talks of this as God takes a heart of stone and makes it into a heart of flesh. John 6:44 states that no man can come to faith unless the father draws him. Earlier in the same chapter Jesus says that all the Father gives to Him will come to Him. This calling is one that never fails. God is sovereign over His people. He has chosen some for eternal life and some He chooses to pass over. This is obvious in Romans 9, Ephesians 1, John 10, John 15, Acts 13:48 and several other passages. These two ideas may seem to contradict each other. Can God hold people responsible for not believing the gospel if they do not have the ability to believe it? Well the Bible seems to say yes. Luke 22:22 says that the betrayal of Jesus has been determined by God but Judas was still held responsible for what he would do. God also decreed that the fall would happen but that did not diminish Adam's responsibility not to sin. We may never understand exactly how these two truths of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility fit together but we must affirm that they both exist. Calvinism is the system which best reconciles these two truths.