Saturday, October 20, 2007

He's brilliant, you're not!


“Who are you to question what Clark Pinnock knows?”

For starters, how many articles on Greek philosophy or patristic theology has he ever published in peer-reviewed periodicals and journals in the field of Classics or patrology or ancient philosophy?

“He's brilliant and you aren't.”

I’d love to tell you my I.Q., but it’s classified.

He’s just a lowbrow demagogue who recycles Ingersoll-styled invective against traditional Christian theology.

I’ll grant you that he’s a successful huckster. He began his career as a groupie of J. W. Montgomery (who really is brilliant, as well as orthodox).

Since he didn’t have what it took to be the next J. W. Montgomery, he mortgaged his conservative reputation as a popular apologist to make a bigger name for himself as an avant-garde iconoclast.

Pinnock is to theology what Madonna is to music: an entertainer with no appreciable talent who manages to parlay his mediocrity into a lucrative career by breaking all the rules—one convention at a time. John Spong has used the same formula.

This is appealing to musical and theological rubberneckers who are curious to see which blasphemy or obscenity they’ll resort to next. The appeal of Pinnock lies in the morbid fascination with a gory, roadside accident. Charred bodies. That sort of thing. The more R-rated or X-rated the better.

The formula is successful because there’s a symbiotic relationship between hucksters and suckers. Since there’s an inexhaustible supply of suckers, a good huckster enjoys lifetime job security.

More to the point, hell is chock-full of brilliant men and women. There are far more Nobel Laureates in hell than you’ll ever find in church—although I’ll grant you that the Nobel Peace Prize is definitely depressing the Bell Curve.

But it’s far better to be retarded and redeemed, than brilliant but damned. Swedenborg was brilliant, Moody was not. Guess which one went to heaven when he died, and which one ended up as renewable kindling for the everlasting bonfire? A Christian with Down syndrome is infinitely better off than Bertrand Russell in hell.

“Pinnock started where you are and saw truth. I doubt you ever will.”

I wouldn’t say he saw the truth, but he may have seen the light. Even at a distance, the lake of fire burns bright.

Are Believers More Likely to be Hypocrites Than Atheists?

Are Believers More Likely to be Hypocrites Than Atheists?

Link. In my opinion this is demonstrably true.
Posted by John W. Loftus
at 10/16/2007

Short answer: yes. I agree with Loftus on this one.

You see, it’s far easier to be a hypocrite if you have high standards than if you have no standards. By definition, an amoralist cannot be a hypocrite; only a moralist can be a hypocrite.

So it’s easy to be a consistent amoralist, but difficult to be a consistent moralist. Since atheism has no foundation for moral absolutes, there is, indeed, sense in which believers are more likely to be hypocritical than atheists. An atheist can never violate his code of conduct, since there’s nothing to violate.

Put another way, it’s remarkable how often you can win the pole-vaulting championship when you set the bar one inch to the ground.

Totemic Lutheranism

Filed under: From the Fathers — P. Andrew Sandlin

I would add that the classical conception of God is flawed by the same factor. Pinnock, Nash et al. have shown beyond doubt that the ideas of an impassible, static, timeless deity are pagan (Hellenic) to the core.

Whoever this god is (and snatches of him are found no less in the Westminster Confession than in Rome), He is not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ — the God who covenants with His people, risks His love, changes His mind, gets mad, grieves over betrayal, sends lying spirits, tempts Satan to tempt His faithful ones, drowns nearly an entire race, calls things that are not as though they are.

Both Open Theism and classical (pagan) theology proper postulate a false god.


“Another question discussed by Calov and others at this point is the problem of reconciling the simplicity of God with His decrees. According to classical Lutheran theology the decrees of God are represented in Scripture as taking place in time; but at bottom they are eternal thoughts of the divine mind. For God’s thoughts and will are in no sense conditioned by time…Therefore God’s decision, for instance, to redeem mankind, was known and determined from eternity and is therefore eternal and immutable. Ultimately the decrees of God are nothing else than God willing something from eternity, and in this sense are identical with the divine essence itself. Therefore no essential change takes place in God as He makes His decrees toward us,” R. Preus, The Theology of Post-Reformation Lutheranism (Concordia 1972), 2:72-73.

“The immutability of God means that He is free of accidents, whims (affectus), composition, and change. In this sense it is closely related to God’s unity and simplicity…We must never think of God as some sort of whimsical ruler whose decrees may or may not take place,” ibid. 100.

“The fact that God’s decrees and actions were considered immutable, as we have seen, introduced two questions which were given a certain amount of attention in the post-Reformation Lutheran theology. First, does not the Incarnation deny God’s immutability? The answer was that the Incarnation involved no change in God, no more than change is implied in the fact that God is Creator and Preserver of all,” ibid. 102.

“More attention was devoted to the difficulties introduced by the many anthropopathisms applied to God in the Scriptures. Moods such as desire, hope, pain, or joy cannot be attributed to God absolutely; that is to say, such moods cannot be attributed to Him in such a way that they limit God or imply change or caprice in him (Job 35:6-7; 1 Cor 15:28; 1 Jn 1:5)…Brochmand deals specifically with the problem introduced by those Biblical passages which speak of God repenting that He made the world or that He made Saul king of Israel. How can such statements be reconciled with God’s immutability” ibid. 102.

“He says, ‘In order to resolve this difficulty we must point out briefly a couple of facts. The first is that, strictly speaking, there cannot be true repentance in God. In the strict sense repentance is an inner anguish of the soul and anxiety in the will which dislikes something that was done and desires that what ws done might be undone. The reason for this is either ignorance of the past, present, or future; or it is an error of judgment or it is the instability of the will’,” ibid. 102

‘’Now repentance of this kind cannot occur in God, because His knowledge is infinite and neither present or past nor future can escape Him (Ps 139:1-2; Acts 15:18; Heb 4:13), because He is of unlimited wisdom and cannot err in judgment (Isa 40:13-14; Rom 11:33-34; Eph 1:11), and finally because His essence is such that His will is utterly unchangeable (Mal 3:6). Hence the words of the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture: “God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent” (Num 23:19), and, “The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for He is not a man, that He should repent” (1 Sam 15:29)”, ‘” ibid. 102-103.

“’The accepted answer is that repentance is ascribed to God as an anthropopathism…There is all the while a change in created things, but in God no change at all, since in Him there is neither parallage, nor tropes aposkiasma [Jas 1:17],’” ibid. 103.


And to Steve Hays:

Suppose that God isn’t a philosophical construct. Then what?

MOD: ***spew***

Posted by: Josh S @ 4:41 pm


I’m gratified to learn that Josh was able to escape from the headhunters and Hottentots of Lutheran Scholasticism—gross, heathen idolaters all, who sacrifice vestal virgins on the superior conjunction of Venus and then bow down to worship a philosophical fetish.

Pray For Rain - Episode 3

The news media keeps saying "we're just now hearing about this." Uh-huh. Maybe if the media hadn't been more preoccupied with Brittney, Lindsay, and the latest celebrity news, that wouldn't be so.

Governor Purdue, by the way, is right. In times like this, human life comes before preserving Florida's mussel population. It's nice to know that when the cards are on the table, the environmental groups side with invertebrates, isn't it?

Now, let me say this, Atlanta is also a wicked, wicked city. I know - I used to live there. Folks, I don't believe we should start saying that God is certainly judging the wickedness of the city, but let's face it, after awhile, we should wonder. Of course, the drought extends over the South, and something I've noticed in my local media lately is the number of MRSA cases being reported in the South. You know, MRSA's death rate is higher than AIDS. I'm old enough to remember when the Religious Right's spokesmen (like our dear departed Dr. Falwell) mounted their pulpits and called AIDS a judgment on gays. So, let's get this straight, no pun intended, shall we, back then, it was okay to say AIDS was God's judgment on gays, but today it's not okay to say that a historic drought and a deadly infection in the general population are God's judgment on a wicked land. Add to that the floods out west, tainted food supplies, lead in toys, increasing prices for food and fuel, a weaker dollar, violent crimes among children, on and on the list goes, and well, I think you get it. It was okay back then ... it's not okay now.

Now, I'm not saying we should say automatically that they are, after all, Jesus answer to the thinking that the wicked were punished by the fall of the tower was "Repent, unless the same thing happens to you, " but I wonder if that attitude has something to do with the state of the American Church. You know Paul Campos' column ran in my local newspaper yesterday. He wrote about Mitt Romney's "faith," and how evangelical leaders and Romney were downplaying his Mormonism in favor of Romney's "as long as we all have 'faith' it's all good," attitude. As Campos pointed out, I'm sure the people who died for confessing the full divinity of Christ would feel differently. That's a slap in the face to the Martyrs of the faith, not to mention Christ Himself. Why bother with "faith" like that? I'm just saying, when all of these mounts up, well, you have to wonder.

Which gets me to wondering about the judgments of God in general. If we're going to talk about God's judgment, we need to start with the Church. You see, in Scripture, if you'd pay attention, "the Day of the Lord" is a day that comes not on the world without reference to the covenant community, but on the world by way of the declension of the covenant community. In the OT, God raised up the nations against Israel. Eventually they were carried off. It was later on that God judged those nations - as the covenant community slowly repented and reformed. In our text below, God sent a drought on the land because of the covenant community. Don't you know that their neighbors in that land were surely affected, but they got it together, and God relented. In the New Testament, "the day of the Lord" came upon Israel at the nadir of the 2nd Temple era, when Jesus came back and terminated the Old Covenant and instituted the New. It was this that then led not only to the destruction of the 2nd Temple, since it was no longer necessary and Israel rejected her own king, who was, of course God the Son Incarnate, God brought "judgment" on the nations via the gospel. He also brought judgment on the spiritual powers, by the same means. However, one day the visible Church and State united, and we all know declension began again. Then came Islam. We could run with the story of church history a great deal, but I think you get the picture.

Right now, in this country, while many of our notable leaders, with some exceptions (kudos!), are minimalizing the content of the faith - others are asking "What is the Gospel?" The American Church is on the verge of a general apostasy - and I'm talking not about the "mainline" denominations here, I'm talking about those that most folks would think have it together. Worse yet, it's in denial. They are fast becoming whitewashed tombs, and it is therefore, time to wonder if the parching of the land is not a sacramental sign of what God sees in the visible church.

So, while waiving the exegesis of this text, I will leave you all with this. Take this to your Sunday School classes and pulpits this weekend and during the week - and do it again next week - and read this text aloud and then pray. Here's a particular request: if you pastor a church or are a Sunday School teacher, suspend your regularly scheduled sermon / lesson next week in favor of this text. It's also a good one, by the way, for Reformation Sunday (see chapter 2). Also, I hate to request bloggers to link to my posts, but, since I know news spreads on Baptist blogs like wildfire (ironic comment about fire and water here), please either link to this post or craft a post on prayer for repentance and rain on your own blogs and request your readers raise this issue too - not for my ego but to "get the word out."

Finally, let me say this, I'm just a worthless slug, okay. I know, in the grand scheme, very few people actually listen to me, but if I don't speak out, how am I any better off? How are the people of God any better off? The same thing is true of you. Also, I subscribe to the belief that one voice really can effect great change. You never know what your one lonely voice in the darkness can do, because we're nothing, our Lord, meanwhile, feeds multitudes with a few loaves and fishes. Pray, folks, pray, and do whatever you can, even if you're just a pew warmer in your church compared to others, to help.

Oh yeah, and pray for more rain. Thank the Lord for what was sent this past week. Pray He will overrule the weather and cause the coming storm systems this week (two I believe) to park themselves over the driest areas. Atlanta has 90 days of water left. Durham, NC has 69 as of this writing. Pray that the Lord will provide some relief to this places. Pray He will change the hearts of the people in the churches, if, indeed, He is calling attention to that, and certainly pray that the wicked in general will repent in these places, and if not, He would nevertheless relent for the sake of the covenant people and His love for them. I've lived in both areas, and I can testify to what I have seen. Pray that the state governments in these states would work together and that the federal government would do what it can to help.

Now, our text:


Chapter 1

In the second year of Darius the king, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying,

2"Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'This people says, "The time has not come, even the time for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt."'"

3Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying,

4"Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?"

5Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, "Consider your ways!

6"You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes."

7Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Consider your ways!

8"Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified," says the LORD.

9"You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away Why?" declares the LORD of hosts, "Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.

10"Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce.

11"I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands."

12Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him And the people showed reverence for the LORD.

13Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke by the commission of the LORD to the people saying, " 'I am with you,' declares the LORD."

14So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,

15on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of Darius the king.

Chapter 2

1On the twenty-first of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet saying,

2"Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people saying,

3'Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison?

4'But now take courage, Zerubbabel,' declares the LORD, 'take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,' declares the LORD, 'and work; for I am with you,' declares the LORD of hosts.

5'As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!'

6"For thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land.

7'I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD of hosts.

8'The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,' declares the LORD of hosts.

9'The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,' says the LORD of hosts, 'and in this place I will give peace,' declares the LORD of hosts."

10On the twenty-fourth of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Haggai the prophet, saying,

11"Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Ask now the priests for a ruling:

12'If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil, or any other food, will it become holy?'" And the priests answered, "No."

13Then Haggai said, "If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?" And the priests answered, "It will become unclean."

14Then Haggai said, " 'So is this people. And so is this nation before Me,' declares the LORD, 'and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean.

15'But now, do consider from this day onward: before one stone was placed on another in the temple of the LORD,

16from that time when one came to a grain heap of twenty measures, there would be only ten; and when one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there would be only twenty.

17'I smote you and every work of your hands with blasting wind, mildew and hail; yet you did not come back to Me,' declares the LORD.

18'Do consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month; from the day when the temple of the LORD was founded, consider:

19'Is the seed still in the barn? Even including the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree, it has not borne fruit. Yet from this day on I will bless you.'"

20Then the word of the LORD came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying,

21"Speak to Zerubbabel governor of Judah, saying, 'I am going to shake the heavens and the earth.

22'I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another.'

23'On that day,' declares the LORD of hosts, 'I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, My servant,' declares the LORD, 'and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,'" declares the LORD of hosts.

Risky business

Another possible interpretation of Sandlin’s claim is that God takes a risk in the sense that he is risking failure by loving men and women who will not love him in return. This makes sense if you buy into the premise that God doesn’t know—much less control—the outcome. He doesn’t know in advance of that fact who will respond in kind. So his redemptive overtures will fail in a certain number of cases.

That’s consistent with open theism. Yet Sandlin says that open theism postulates a false god. In Calvinism, by contrast, God not only foreknows who will reciprocate, but he foreordains their favorable response—as well as decreeing the impenitent disbelief of the reprobate. So there is no risk factor since the love of God will never fail to achieve its purpose.

I believe that Sandlin used to be a Calvinist. Does he still adhere to that aspect of Calvinism, or does he relegate it to pagan theology?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Theological freefall

Filed under: From the Fathers — P. Andrew Sandlin

I would add that the classical conception of God is flawed by the same factor. Pinnock, Nash et al. have shown beyond doubt that the ideas of an impassible, static, timeless deity are pagan (Hellenic) to the core.

Whoever this god is (and snatches of him are found no less in the Westminster Confession than in Rome), He is not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ — the God who covenants with His people, risks His love, changes His mind, gets mad, grieves over betrayal, sends lying spirits, tempts Satan to tempt His faithful ones, drowns nearly an entire race, calls things that are not as though they are.

Both Open Theism and classical (pagan) theology proper postulate a false god.

1.I’m beginning to think that neotheism (i.e. open theism) is the Gnosticism of our time. Gnosticism was more than a heresy: it was a heretical hermeneutic, and therein lay its power.

If you mount a full frontal assault on the inspiration and authority of Scripture, Christians will get their back up. Tactically speaking, the shrewder way to undermine the Christian faith is not to deny Scripture, but to reinterpret Scripture.

2.Neotheism is appealing to a lot of evangelicals in part because it plays to the “plain sense” of Scripture, as over against those “scholastic” or “Hellenistic” categories. But I have several problems with this facile appeal:

i) Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye also appeal to the “plain sense” of Scripture. But Vern Poythress has done a good job of exposing the ambiguities and superficialities of this appeal. What it most often means is that the modern reader simply swaps in a modern meaning, based on his own cultural frame of reference.

ii) I don’t think that neotheism knows its way around narrative theology. Narrative theology is like a musical composition. You have to hear an entire piece of music from beginning to end to know where it’s going. Narrative theology moves is cycles, where the reader must judge what was said before by the complete narrative arc. Neotheism isolates individual verses without viewing the whole story in retrospect.

In a sense, narrative theology moves on two different planes. There’s the experience of the human participant, moving into the future. From the eye-level perspective of Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, or David (to take a few examples), it looks as though events are spiraling out of control. God makes a promise, but then the beneficiary is exposed to a series of setbacks which seem to derail the promise.

But from the God’s-eye viewpoint the omniscient narrator, this zigzag pattern is the very process by which the appointed end is being realized. God’s sovereign orchestration of events is accentuated by what prematurely appears to be one reversal after another.

iii) Scripture also ascribes to God a number of attributes which are inconsistent with neotheism.

iv) Finally, Scripture is self-aware of the distinction between literal God-talk and anthropomorphic idioms (e.g. Num 23:19; 1 Sam 15:29).

3.The fact that Sandlin is taking his cue from the likes of Pinnock is pretty incriminating. Pinnock is a militant open theist as well as a blasphemous annihilationist who is also making overtures to Mormonism.

And what does Pinnock actually know about Greek philosophy? Is he another A. H. Armstrong or W. K. C. Guthrie?

Even if, for the sake of argument, Classical Christian theism is “Hellenistic to the core,” Sandlin and Pinnock replace Greek philosophical theology with Classical Greek mythology. Their God is a petulant and omnipotent man-child, like Gen. Trelane in the Squire of Gothos.

As to Nash, I think he was wrong on the subject of divine eternality, but as I recall, he didn’t begin to draw all the conclusions from his version of divine eternality (as everlasting rather than timeless) that Sandlin is doing, so it’s deceptive to invoke Nash at this point.

4.Then you have Sandlin’s hackneyed caricature of Classical Christian theism. but Classical Christian theism doesn’t maintain that God is “static”, as if God were a do-nothing. To the contrary, God is clearly an agent in Classical Christian theism. Is Sandlin trying to deceive his readers?

5.Then you also have him jumble together a number of a diverse propositions, as if you must either affirm them in toto or deny them in toto. But Classical Christian theism doesn’t deny that God is a God who covenants with his people, dispatches lying spirits, allows Satan to test Job, sends the flood, or calls things that are not as though they are.

Where does Sandlin come up with the idea that these actions are incompatible with a timeless, impassible God? Is he trying to deceive the reader, or is he really that theologically ignorant and muddleheaded?

6.On the other hand, Classical Christian theism and/or Reformed theism do, in fact, deny that God literally risks His love, changes His mind, gets mad, grieves over betrayal. That is to their credit, and not their discredit.

Sandlin’s litany is textbook open theism. Sandlin says that open theism postulates a false God, but he himself is endorsing open theism, both in substance and theological method. He’s filtering Scripture through the same interpretive grid, as a result of which he’s arriving at neotheistic conclusions respecting the nature of God.

7.Let’s stipulate to these assumptions for the sake of argument. In sending the flood, God isn’t putting himself at risk. God is not a victim of the flood. God is not a casualty of the flood. It’s human beings who assume all the risk. God is putting them in harm’s way. They are the injured party.

So, even on neotheist assumptions, God is not at all like a suitor who takes a risk in courting a woman who may spurn his affections. To the contrary, it’s the human parties who are endangered in this transaction. They are the fatalities.
How is God risking his love? Didn’t he know the outcome?

Is Sandlin suggesting that God is codependent on human affection? Is heaven a celestial soap opera?

8.What does Sandlin literally mean when he says that God changes his mind or gets angry? To get angry implies that you are angry some of the time, but not all of the time. Sometimes you’re angry, and sometimes your not.

Why would God get mad? Doesn’t he know the future? Was he caught off guard? If he could see it coming, why did he lose his temper?

Does Sandlin seriously think that God flies into a rage? Does he suppose that God drowned the human race in a fit of pique, then changed his mind the day after—like a drunk who slept off one martini too many. “Sorry, fellas, I didn’t mean to drown you all. It was the drink talking. On second thought, if I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t send the flood, but it’s too late now to undo all the damage.”

Does Sandlin imagine that God’s emotional equilibrium is at the mercy of sinners? We can jerk him around and push his buttons? Does Sandlin think we have that kind of control over God? We can make him laugh or cry on cue? What kind of God does Sandlin believe in?

9.Just as immutability doesn’t mean that God is a do-nothing, impassibility doesn’t mean that God is uncaring. But God is caring on his own terms. He isn’t subject to outside forces. We’re in no position to yank his chain.

There’s no reason to deny that God has something analogous to certain human emotions, but we must also make allowance for the difference between God and man. He has certain timeless attitudes and dispositions. He approves of justice and disapproves of injustice.

10.Assuming that Sandlin is a church officer in a Reformed denomination, he should be subjected to church discipline, and perhaps defrocked.

Signs of the Times

Bernabe and I have been discussing the Garden Discourse in John 3 with Egomarkarios. (By the way, I hae not welcomed Bernabe to the team. Welcome Bernabe).

Egomarkarios seems convinced that the relationship between regeneration and faith in Scripture is faith first, regeneration second, and he doesn't like the Reformed ordu salutis. This is a fairly common argument from Arminians and others. In the past, Steve and I have discussed the relationship between them from 1 John, for example 1 John 5 and the causal relationship spelled out in 1 John 3:9. I've also noted grammatical parallels with texts like John 8:43.

However, I've not spent much time on John 3. The comments section in the above thread, however, has led me to make some observations upon which I would like to expand a bit.

Egomarkarios asked:
"But how could an unregenerate man believe if regeneration is an act of God that gives you faith?"
Yes, Ego, this is quite the quandry isn't it? But it is no quandry for Reformed theology, because we give the same answer as Jesus gave. You're asking the right question, similar to the one Nicodemus asked. It's only a quandry if you underwrite it with the assumption that since Nicodemus is being "blamed" for his lack of faith, he is therefore to blame for his unregenerate state.

In other words, you are tacitly assuming, without benefit of argument that ability limits responsibility.

But what exactly is Nicodemus "blamed for" in this text? The most explicit statement of "blame" is not clearly his lack of faith, but it is very clear the fact that he was a teacher of Israel yet did not understand that a man must "be born of water and the Sprit?" To take your own argument, if the OT never stated that a man must be born of water baptism (to pick up on your connection to Acts 2:28) to enter the kingdom of God, then how could Jesus "blame" him for not understanding such a thing? It seems to me that your own argument refutes itself when you really look at the text.

So, you need to ask yourself some questions here:

1. Your own question: How could an unregenerate man believe if regeneration is required for faith? That's a good question. Also, from whence does man lack of faith stem? God's refusal to regenerate or man's own love of his own evil? If (a) why? Is God obligated to regenerate sinners? If (b) then is God really to blame?

2. Why does man require regeneration in order to believe? Does man have the power to believe from the natural state? If so, where is the supporting argument?

3. How could Jesus hold Nicodemus responsible for not understand something the OT Scriptures did not actually teach? The Jews had no doctrine of water baptism for the new birth. Seems to me you need to figure out how "born of water and the Spirit" connects to the OT.

Exactly my point...and Jesus' point. Nicodemus' lack of faith had nothing to do with his unregenerateness. His unregenerateness had to do with his lack of faith.

No, that is exactly the opposite of what this text teaches and what Reformed theology teaches. Faith is not required in order to be regenerated. Rather faith is the evidence of regeneration. That's the point of the "mystery" language and its placement with the language about "signs" not only in Nicodemus' first words in this passage, but the accounts immediately before - turning water to wine and the sign Jesus prophesies about His resurrection.

We know the wind moves by the signs. What signs? Well Jesus turned water into wine - a sign he was from God. The resurrection proves Jesus is the Lord of Life. When the wind hits your face or the leaves rustle, you know the wind is moving. (Saving)Faith is the sign in man that evidences the working of the Holy Spirit.

However, if we follow your logic, all of this is inverted.:

Wine is turned into water in order for God to work.

1. Jesus must rise from the dead in order to be Lord (Jesus said in John 10 that He already had the authority to do this.)

2. The rustling of the leaves causes the wind to blow. - This is one is particularly absurd, isn't it. Do you really believe this?

3. Faith (or for sacramentalists baptism) is required in order to be regenerated. Based on 1 and 2, this is obviously fallacious.

Ego, you have mistaken the effect, or rather the evidence (faith) for the cause (the Spirit's regenerating work).

Here's a question: Why does one man believe and not the other?

Let me say here that this is a question all Arminians, indeed anybody that objects to the Reformed ordu salutis must eventually ask. Here, however, I'd like to expand on why, in brief, the Reformed view makes the best sense of this question.

One thing that our synergistic friend has not considered here is the way this text fits into John's Gospel as a whole. We must never interpret a passage in isolation from another. John's Gospel employs what a pastor friend of mine once called a "stair step" or "shingle" structure in which one section builds upon another. John writes such that an idea expressed later is often epexegetical to the text immediately preceding. At the "micro" level, we see this in passages like John 6:44, 45, where 45 is epexegetical to 44. This is why, for example, if all people without exception are drawn (as is the common objection arising from the use of John 12:32 by Arminians), then universalism is the result. Likewise, in John, one pericope builds upon another in a similar fashion.

We can divide John's Gospel into two sections or "books."

1. The Book of Signs (1:1 - 12:50)
2. The Book of Acts of Salvation or The Book of Glory (13:1 ff).

John 3 is, obviously in the Book of Signs. Let us briefly consider what has gone before in relation to "signs."

First, we have John the Baptist's testimony. His testimony was, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me haas a higher rank than I, for He existed before me." John's testimony was a sign that "the kingdom of God was at hand."

John's baptism was a sign. Of what? Repentance.

The vision of the Holy Spirit (mentioned in Matt. 3 as well) was a sign that Jesus is the Lamb of God and confirmed John's testimony.

While the first of Jesus public signs is the turning of water into wine (John 2), John records another sign before this. In the calling of Nathaniel, Jesus' words to Nathaniel serve as a sign - a private one directed at Nathaniel.

The cleansing of the Temple was a sign, fulfilling Psalm 69:9. Jesus then gave a prophetic sign when He prophesied His crucifixion and resurrection. "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."

What do all of these have in common? They all point to the identity of Jesus - and this is the overall theme of John's Gospel in both the introduction and in the conclusion.

Thus, when we get to Nicodemus, what underwrites Jesus' reply is the simple fact that saving faith, eg. "understanding," is a sign that the Holy Spirit has come and done His work, eg. saving faith is a sign of the new birth. Ergo, regeneration precedes faith.

Also, to continue the discussion of signs, there are more. Jesus talks about Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness. This too was a sign to the people of Israel in his day. It was a sign of God's mercy to those who would look upon it and judgment to those who refused. Likewise, what is often lost in the exegesis of John 3:16 by the Arminian insistence on quantifying "world" is that the point is not to serve to talk about the scope of the atonement. Rather, the cross (the prophetic sign to which John is alluding) is a sign of God's love for the whole created order. How is it a sign, well, God loved the world so that the all the ones believing might have eternal life. It is a sign not of general atonement, but of particular atonement. It is given so that the believing ones might have eternal life - this is the nature of the sign to "the world." The world is witness to it - and that is the point of the public signs to testify.

Also, I'd like to point out something else. We have to remember that this gospel was also a letter. As such it is intended to draw the reader into it. It is supposed to get him to ask questions, like "What does this sign mean?" Ergo, there is some inherent ambiguity in the text that is explained the further we get into John's Gospel. For example, here in John 3, the work of the Spirit is described as a "mystery." However, by John 6, Jesus speaks more plainly, and by the time we get to the end of John's Gospel, what was ambiguous in the first chapters are clarified.

Here, Nicodemus is not clearly held out as one who does not believe. On the contrary, he is presented here as the exception to the rule. He is the only one of the Pharisaic party who actually comes to Jesus. Look at verse 2. This statement is exactly the OPPOSITE of the majority of the other Pharisees. He is depicted as coming a representative of the pious ones who did believe or were on the verge of believing, not those who utterly rejected Jesus. It is unclear when Nicodemus exercised saving faith in his life. It may well be that this is his conversion story. Jesus says what He says because Jesus recognizes the moving of the Holy Spirit in Nicodemus. The explanation of Jesus is (a) an editorializing from John to explain to the reader about regeneration and (b) "in plot" it is also Jesus Himself explaining what the Spirit is doing even as He speaks these words.

One of the questions Jesus answers with clarity in John 6:37 - 65 is "why does one man believe and not another." In the Capernaum synagogue Jesus gives his answer to explain why they do not believe. In John 6:66 - 71, the narrative concludes with Peter's confession. Why did he believe? The answer is in the previous pericope. That is how, for example, John's Gospel, as I wrote above is structured.

So, let's consider Nicodemus. As noted, it isn't altogether clear that Nicodemus does not believe. Rather, this could equally be an explanation of his belief. That's an ambiguity in the text.

Nicodemus confesses that he believes Jesus is from God because of His signs. He even comes to Jesus to do this.

In John 3, we are transitioning from the overall introduction to the Book of Signs into specific discourses.

John, with Jesus as his cipher, is also telling his readers that the religious leaders should have understood much more than the need to repent of their sins. They should have known all about what Jesus is discussing here. It's in the Scriptures (Ezekiel). "You being a teacher of Israel do not know these things?" This theme reappears, for example, in John 8.

This narrative ends with a statement that those who practice the truth come to the Light. These signs go hand in hand. Jesus signs evidenced God's work and His identity. These signs manifest God's work in the hearts of man - and that's the point of the narrative about the Spirit moving mysteriously like the wind. So, it serves not only to highlight the need for the new birth for men to believe but the reason that men like Nicodemus would, in fact, come to the Light. Nicodemus did that very thing, and John's Gospel later shows it.

To say that regeneration is evident after saving faith is therefore correct. To say that faith is required before regeneration can occur - or is the cause of it - is incorrect. The same is true of baptism. John is not teaching baptismal regeneration. Rather, baptism is a sign of repentance. Repentance and faith are necessary to see the kingdom of God. "Water" is a metaphor drawn from texts like Ezekiel, referring to the cleansing of the Spirit, and the movement of the Spirit is described as a mystery. He goes where He will - not where man wills (John 3:5 - 8, linked to 1:12 - 13). Why does one man repent and not another? Because the Spirit has worked in him. Why does one man believe and not another? Because the Spirit has worked in him. The synergist reading of this text would effectively confuse cause and effect throughout the Book of Signs if applied consistently.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Reincarnation In The Early Church?

In a recent post, Steve Hays quoted Elizabeth Kübler-Ross:

Reincarnation was taught in Christianity for hundreds of years. The teaching of it was eventually forbidden by the First Ecumenical Council, for purely political reasons.

For those who are interested, I wrote a post on this subject a couple of years ago, on another blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Goin' to the dawgs

Ellen Degenerate is having a cry-fest over a dog adoption gone bad.

Here's an idea: maybe, if she had a normal, heterosexual family life, as a wife (to a man), and mother, with kids conceived the old-fashioned way, she wouldn't get so carried away with a pet dog.

And she's not the only lesbian who suffers from emotional instability. Remember her one-time partner, Anne Heche, who went bonkers?

And would anyone claim that Rosie O'Donnell is an emotionally well-adjusted individual?

Then there's Denice Denton, Chancellor of UCSC—who was instrumental in getting Larry Summers fired from his job as president of Harvard. She later committed suicide.

This is stuff I happen to be aware of because the new media shoves it in my face. I'm not trying to keep track.

And I'm not trying to single out the lesbians. For it's not as if the male side of the homosexual lifestyle is distinguished by its emotional equilibrium and contentment.

The point, rather, is that when men and women deny themselves the natural, divinely-ordained channels of emotional fulfillment, their needs remain the same, but they transfer their needs to unsuitable and unsatisfying surrogates—with predictable results.

I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony

I’ve been asked to comment on Neale Donald Walsch. Walsch is a New Age guru who appears to have quite a following.

Perhaps the first thing to take note of is his birthdate. He was born in 1943. This means that he lived through the Sixties’ counterculture, and it shows.

I myself lived through the Sixties, although I was a precocious observer rather than an active participant. But as I sample his blog, most-all of his stuff is warmed over Summer-of-Luv sentiment and rhetoric.

Indeed, the “New Age” is an allusion to a pop song from the period—“the dawning of the age of Aquarius.” The New Age is a euphemism for the occult. This tends to go in cycles. The reason, I suppose, is that what is new to the younger generation is old hat for the older generation.

As I say, one period was the Sixties. The Beatles helped to popularize the occult through their dalliance with Hinduism. Another vehicle was Jonathan Livingstone Seagull—a deceptively innocuous fable that was a Trojan horse for the occult. It had a faddish following at the time. Then you also had astrologically-themed pop songs from the rock musical Hair.

Carlos Castaneda also did a lot to popularize shamanism—which began with Max Weber. While we’re at it, we could toss Timothy Leary, Edgar Cayce, Rosemary’s Baby, Anton LaVey, Jungian psychology, and Mircea Eliade into this witch’s brew (pun intended).

The Sixties was a period rife with utopian, millenarian pretensions. A lot of hippies really thought they were going to usher in the golden age through acid, nudism, and rock music. Strawberry fields forever.

Another, earlier phase was Victorian theosophy, represented by the likes of Alister Crowley, Annie Besant, Mme Blavatsky, Bulwer-Lytton, Alfred Wallace, W. B. Yeats, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and so on and so forth.

This, in turn, was a throwback to “Christian” cabbalism and the revival of interest in the occult during the Renaissance, as exemplified by Pico della Mirandola, Giordano Bruno, et al. And this is all of a piece with the hermetic tradition.

The occult presents itself as a liberation movement, but it’s just another form of bondage. If you study the history of these movements, the idealistic sales-pitch has an ugly underbelly. Here’s some background literature on the subject:

David Berlinski, The Secrets of the Vaulted Sky: Astrology and the Art of Prediction (Harcout 2003).

Ronald Decker and Michael Dummett, A History of the Occult Tarot: 1870-1970 (Duckworth 2002).

Duane Garrett, Angels and the New Spirituality (B&H 1995).

Peter Jones, Spirit Wars (Winepress Publishing, 1997)

Gary North, Unholy Spirits: Occultism and the New Age Humanism (Institute for Christian Economics, 1988)

Van Akin Burd, Ruskin, Lady Mount-Temple and the Spiritualists (Brentham Press, 1982).

Frances Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (University Of Chicago Press, 1991)
_____, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (Routledge, 2001)
_____, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age (Routledge, 2001)

I’ll be quoting and commenting on some excerpts from Walsch’s blog:

One revealing admission he makes is the following statement:

“I knew Elizabeth Kübler-Ross well. I worked on her staff in the 1980s.”

Kübler-Ross was a Swedish psychiatrist who made a big splash in the late Sixties (and beyond) with her pioneering work on NDEs. This, of itself, is a legitimate field of study. NDEs are a fairly modern phenomenon because it’s only advances in medical science that make it possible to resuscitate a certain percentage of clinically dead patients. Before then, there wasn’t much occasion to even deal with the issue of NDEs.

Unfortunately, she crossed over into necromancy and trafficking with “spirit-guides.” Here she spells out her position in an interview:

KÜBLER-ROSS: The third reason why you cannot die alone is that you have a guardian angel. This spiritual guide-who's assigned to you and to you alone-helps you during your life, trying every means he or she can to keep you on course, so that you will do what you've committed yourself to do in this lifetime. When you die, you'll meet this guardian angel and experience instant recognition along with the greatest love you've ever felt.

Reincarnation was taught in Christianity for hundreds of years. The teaching of it was eventually forbidden by the First Ecumenical Council, for purely political reasons. And the Bible is full of references to guardian angels!

PLOWBOY: But most orthodox Christians also have a vision of damnation in their picture of the universe. In fact, Jesus himself referred to the fires of hell.

KÜBLER-ROSS: I believe that was symbolic language! It was meant to describe the fact that you will be so sorry when you review your life and see how many times you were given chances to live, to give to share ... but looked away. It's my contention that God is all love: made up of so much love you cannot even conceive of it.

Yet many so-called Christians judge other people. And many churches use fear and guilt to fill their pews. Why? Christianity teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves. It does not discriminate or condemn. Christ, by his example, was the best teacher of unconditional love imaginable. He accepted and loved and healed and worked ... everywhere he went. He didn't ask people whether they attended such and such a church before helping them!

Regarding reincarnation, I assume that Kübler-Ross is alluding to the Gnostic apocrypha. Her theological revisionism was probably facilitated by the liberal Lutheranism of her native land. Some of this also dovetails with Swedenborg. As for guardian angels, read Garrett (see above).

If you compare her statements with Walsch’s blog, you’ll see how much they have in common. So what are we to make of Walsch? It could be that he’s just a greedy flimflam man. Or it could be that he really is in contact with the dark side.

I’d add that these are not mutually exclusive interpretations. It’s possible to be both a medium and a charlatan. The dark side can feed a medium just enough tantalizing “insights” to get him hooked. Then he has to pad out the rest.

Regarding his putative source of information, he makes the following claim:

“’Channeling’, as I understand it, is the process by which a disembodied entity or spirit is ‘brought through’ a physical being. This would not be a description of what is occurring with me when I am having my conversations with God. I have called my experience ‘inspired writing.’ I think this is a much more accurate description of exactly what is occurring.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t a terribly clear explanation. “Inspired writing,” in this setting, could be synonymous with “automatic writing”—which was standard practice in Victorian theosophy. Automatic writing is a form of channeling.

So how should we interpret his claim? On the one hand, it’s quite possible that he really is in contact with the dark side. On the other hand, if he’s truly “inspired,” even in the diabolical sense of the term, then it’s a little odd that the dark side is leaking information which bears an uncanny resemblance to the hackneyed themes of the Psychedelic Sixties, viz. peacenik oratory, the Sexual Revolution, &c. Old Horney needs to hire a new batch of screenwriters.

Why does “inspiration” sound so much like a tribal love-rock musical or coca-cola commercial? I’ve heard this sort of thing before, way back when I was a kid.

When the moon is in the Seventh House
and Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
The age of Aquarius
Aquarius! Aquarius!

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation
Aquarius! Aquarius!

When the moon is in the Seventh House
and Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
The age of Aquarius
Aquarius! Aquarius!

As our hearts go beating through the night
We dance unto the dawn of day
To be the bearers of the water
Our light will lead the way

We are the spirit of the age of Aquarius
The age of Aquarius
Aquarius! Aquarius!

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
Angelic illumination
Rising fiery constellation
Traveling our starry courses
Guided by the cosmic forces
Oh, care for us; Aquarius


I'd like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow-white turtle doves

I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I'd like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company
(That's the song I hear)
I'd like to see the world for once
(Let the world sing today)
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills
For peace throughout the land
That's the song I hear
(That's the song I hear)
Let the world sing today
(Let the whole wide world keep singing)
A song of peace that echoes on
And never goes away

(Repeat 1st stanza and Chorus)

Put your hand in my hand
Let's begin today
Put your hand in my hand
Help me find a way

Moving along, one of the messages that “God” gave him is moral nihilism. Here are some samples:


The New Spirituality says that there is no such thing as right and wrong. There is only what works and what does not work in any moment, circumstance, or situation, and given what it is that you are trying to do.

There is nothing that is permanent. There is nothing that stays. Everything goes…There are no restrictions anymore. You can do anything you wish, say anything you wish, think anything you wish, because you're not trying to hold onto anything anymore. What's the point? You can't hold onto it anyway. It's all going to go away. In the end, if not before.

The Holy Experience is knowing this. Each moment becomes truly holy, because each moment ends. It cannot be held onto forever. Not a single moment can. Therefore, every single moment is sacred.

Because God is totally loving, God is totally accepting - for pure love is the rejection of nothing. Pure love is unconditional. In fact, all love in unconditional. Anything less than that is not love, but some counterfeit version of that.

Because love is unconditional, it accept everything. It does this by making no value judgments whatsoever. It does not call one thing good and another thing bad. A thing simply is. This is what CwG calls the Isness, and Isness has no goodness or badness to it.

Where we get into trouble in our lives is by attaching goodness or badness to a thing. We make value judgments, and those judgments create enormous difficulty for many reasons - not the least of which is that we keep changing them. One day we call a thing good and the next day we call the very same thing bad, depending on whether the thing we are judging serves our purposes or not.

Killing is another example. We think we have an absolute Right and an absolute Wrong around this, but the truth is, we can't make up our mind until we know and understand what the killing is for. Killing in self-defense, as an example, may not be called good, but most people and societies agree that it is not bad. So we find a third word. It may be, we say, necessary.

That means it is required in order for us to do what it is we want to do.
It is because of this reasoning that we call all attack a defense. In this way, we can morally justify it. Yet what if nothing in the world had to be morally justified?


The serial rapist and murder would appreciate Walsch’s pragmatism. He gets orgasmic pleasure out of torturing a coed to death. That “works” for him.

Of course, there are some internal tensions in this message. For if nothing is good or evil, then there’s no obligation to be loving or accepting, even as he defines love or acceptance.

And this tension comes out into the open as we read some of his other statements:


Do we really want to set up what amounts to the Morals Police? Do we really want to have our "undercover officers" sitting in stalls of men's rooms across America and "acting as if" they were ready and willing to engage in a sexual experience -- just to see who we can trap into responding to such a blatant invitation? Is this the proper role of the guardians of society? Is this the proper function of government?

Yet if government is not the proper vehicle through which societies ills are cleaned up, what is? Might it be a new cultural story altogether? A story that tells us that our sexuality need not be shameful -- even our sexual attraction to people of the same gender -- and therefore need not be hidden in dark places and sought out in furtive exchanges in our public restrooms?

And, of course. this is the same kind of thinking that allows terrorists and governments which act like terrorists to strike out at people all over the world -- innocent people, people with no ax to grind, people creating no trouble whatsoever, people wishing only for a joyous, creative, fulfilling, and peaceful existence -- killing them ruthlessly, with an utter disrespect for life.

Is this all part of the human condition? Is there nothing that can be done to turn the tide of such primitive behaviors? What kinds of beliefs could possibly form the basis of a value system that would not only allow, but actually recommend, violence as a course of action in the face of differing points of view -- and even in the face of what people on one side or the other of a disagreement would call "oppression"? Is there simply no way to heal this aspect of humanity's collective experience?

Once again, religious intolerance rears its ugly, ugly head. Once again, humanity has reminded itself just how far it has come (not very far), and just how far it has to go in the evolution of its species. Only a few days ago Pope Benedict XVI declared to all the world that the Most Holy Roman Catholic Church is the only one true Church in all the world, that all other churches are invalid, and that even other Christian denominations are "faulty." The Pope said that no other church offered a pathway to salvation. This is as much as saying that all people on the planet except Roman Catholics are going to hell.

This kind of behavior -- the "proclamation" of the Pope, the righteousness of those demonstrators in the Senate chamber -- is the shame of many Christians. I am aware (at least, I hope I am right about this) that the vast majority of Christians do not embrace or endorse such thoughts and feelings and beliefs.


But if there is no right or wrong, then why does he disapprove of the “Morals Police”? If there is no right and wrong, why does he disapprove of wanton violence? If there is no right and wrong, why does he disapprove of religious intolerance?

Besides, not all violence is wanton violence. What about cases in which violence is expedient? I see something I want, so I mug the victim. Murder him to eliminate the witness to the crime. That works in my situation—given what it is that I’m trying to do. What could be more practical?

Walsch is just another amoral moralist. A one-sided moral relativist. You and I are not allowed to be judgmental, but he is free to be judgmental.


“Dawkins has created quite a stir with his book, which he has titled The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin), and it is easy to understand why. He offers in his text virtually irrefutable arguments and clear-cut scientific evidence that the ancient God of organized religions simply does not exist.”

Irrefutable? Seems to me that Dawkins’ “irrefutable arguments” have been refuted many times over. For starters, check out the following material:


“I agree with Richard Dawkins that God is not a SuperBeing in the Sky, angry, vindictive, and violent except with those He loves because they love Him – in the way He wants and needs them to love Him. Richard has pulled all the stops to debunk that particular notion, to which I say bravo.”

Of course, this is a caricature of Biblical theism, but even if it were accurate, why is Walsch rendering a value-judgment on the morality of Biblical theism? A moral nihilist is in no position to moralize about Biblical theism.

Moreover, he told us that pragmatism is his yardstick. Well, Christianity “works” for hundreds of millions of Christians.

“I also agree with the wonderful professor that God is not some sort of Top-Down-Power Over-Highest Life From who spends his days and nights witnessing and judging our every thought, word, and deed, granting or failing to grant our requests (based on some wholly unknown criteria), and punishing or rewarding us at the end of our lives (based on equally incomprehensible measures).”

What he is caricaturing in the notion of divine justice. That God rights the scales of justice. Evildoers who escape retribution in this life get their comeuppance in the afterlife—while the righteous, who suffer in justice in this life, are rewarded in the afterlife.

It’s only a pampered liberal like Walsch, who’s led a charmed existence in a country with a tradition of Christian ethics, who has the luxury of scoffing at justice—having suffered no grave injustice himself. Finally:


I believe in God because I have had a conversation with God. That is, I have had an inner dialogue with an essence and a source that has brought forth information I would never, could never, have dreamt of on my own. That conversation has made it clear to me that God is a process – the process of Life Itself—and that, therefore, the words God and Life are interchangeable.

Yet I am also saying that God can be used to produce those results intentionally. God is therefore not only a Process, but a Mechanism. A Device with which to produce (or make manifest) physical realities and physical outcomes. A Tool with which to seemingly create out of thin air.

You are the expression of life itself. So is everything around you. Even so-called inanimate objects are found, when examined under a microscope, to consist of particles constantly in motion. These particles and their movements are all part of life. Indeed, everything in the observable universe is life, in some form.

You are the expression of God itself. So is everything around you. Even so-called inanimate objects are found, when examined under a microscope, to consist of particles constantly in motion. These particles and their movements are all part of God. Indeed, everything in the observable universe is God, in some form.


The problem with all this is that it isn’t possible to have a conversation with a process or mechanism or inanimate object. You can talk to plants and swear at malfunctioning appliances, but they don’t talk back—unless you count prerecorded sound bites.

The only difference between Walsch and the longhaired hippies of the Aquarian age is that Walsch is a white-haired hippy. It didn’t usher in the golden age 40-years ago. Why would it work today?

The Reformation

Reformation Sunday and Reformation Day are coming up later this month. I hope that you, your family, and your church will commemorate the Reformation in some manner.

Here's a video that Jeff Halley produced for Reformation Day last year. R.C. Sproul discusses the Reformation in an advertisement for The Reformation Study Bible. See here for his discussion of double imputation. You can listen to accounts of the lives of Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and John Calvin, as told by John Piper, here. See an account of the conversion of Thomas Bilney here. You can watch an overview of the early history of the English Bible here, hosted by the late Ken Connolly.

We have a lot of material relevant to the Reformation in our archives. (Try searching under "Triablogue, [subject]" with Google.) See, for example, Steve Hays' recent defense of sola scriptura, written in response to Philip Blosser. Earlier this year, I wrote a response to Francis Beckwith's reversion to Roman Catholicism, and that article has some material on justification through faith alone and the history of that doctrine.

"The Reformation went back to first principles in order to go forward. It struck its roots deep in the past and bore rich fruits for the future. It sprang forth almost simultaneously from different parts of Europe and was enthusiastically hailed by the leading minds of the age in church and state. No great movement in history - except Christianity itself - was so widely and thoroughly prepared as the Protestant Reformation. The reformatory Councils of Pisa, Constance, and Basel; the conflict of the Emperors with the Popes; the contemplative piety of the mystics with their thirst after direct communion with God; the revival of classical literature; the general intellectual awakening; the biblical studies of Reuchlin, and Erasmus; the rising spirit of national independence; Wiclif, and the Lollards in England; Hus, and the Hussites in Bohemia; John von Goch, John von Wesel, and Johann Wessel in Germany and the Netherlands; Savonarola in Italy; the Brethren of the Common Life, the Waldenses, the Friends of God, - contributed their share towards the great change and paved the way for a new era of Christianity. The innermost life of the church was pressing forward to a new era. There is scarcely a principle or doctrine of the Reformation which was not anticipated and advocated in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Luther made the remark that his opponents might charge him with having borrowed everything from John Wessel if he had known his writings earlier. The fuel was abundant all over Europe, but it required the spark which would set it ablaze. Violent passions, political intrigues, the ambition and avarice of princes, and all sorts of selfish and worldly motives were mixed up with the war against the papacy. But they were at work likewise in the introduction of Christianity among the heathen barbarians. 'Wherever God builds a church, the devil builds a chapel close by.' Human nature is terribly corrupt and leaves its stains on the noblest movements in history. But, after all, the religious leaders of the Reformation, while not free from faults, were men of the purest motives and highest aims, and there is no nation which has not been benefited by the change they introduced....The Reformation was a grand act of emancipation from spiritual tyranny, and a vindication of the sacred rights of conscience in matters of religious belief. Luther's bold stand at the Diet of Worms, in the face of the pope and the emperor, is one of the sublimest events in the history of liberty, and the eloquence of his testimony rings through the centuries. To break the force of the pope, who called himself and was believed to be, the visible vicar of God on earth, and who held in his hands the keys of the kingdom of heaven, required more moral courage than to fight a hundred battles, and it was done by an humble monk in the might of faith. If liberty, both civil and religious, has since made progress, it is due in large measure to the inspiration of that heroic act. But the progress was slow and passed through many obstructions and reactions. 'The mills of God grind slowly, but wonderfully fine.'" (Philip Schaff, in The Master Christian Library [Albany, Oregon: AGES Software, 1998], History Of The Christian Church, Vol. 7, pp. 20-21, 48)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

WTS New Look

Westminster Bookstore has recently redesigned their website.

The Birth of a New Superhero

Speculation is running wild.

After years of playing second fiddle to Mary’s appearance in a pancake, a grilled cheese sandwich, an overpass water stain, etc. et cetera &c, Pope John Paul II has apparently had enough.

He’s burst into flames.

For the unbeliever, here’s proof:

Granted, it looks more like him if you squint your eyes and put on Rosary-colored glasses. Ignore the chuckles from the Protestant gallery asking if the reason the Pope is appearing in flames is so he can warn Catholics of their eternal destination. What we have here is the ultimate proof that JPII has not died, but merely changed professions.

Batman beware. The pontiff is now Pyropope.

Yes, I made that part up. Unfortunately, I didn't make up the part about how the flames supposedly look like John Paul II.

Enervetic Processions of the Robinson

For the past several weeks, Perry Robinson has been trying to due a cutesy, guilt-by-association number on Calvinism by drumming up some facile parallels between Calvin, Ockham, Origen, and Manichaeus. Since Perry is a reasonably bright and astute individual, he must know that this is a fallacious line of argument. The fact that he resorts to such sophistries says a lot about the sorry state of his own position.

But let’s move on to another argument. He thinks that Jn 10:17-18 is a prooftext for libertarian freedom:

He didn’t bother to explain himself in his original post. It’s only in the course of the point/counterpoint in the combox that he gradually explains himself. Moreover, there’s a backwards quality to his reasoning—by saying towards the end what he should have said at the outset. For that reason, I’m going to rearrange the order of his responses a bit, proceeding somewhat in reverse order.

“At the very least, Christ’s choice is to die or not to die. Second, the passage seems to indicate the power to choose to die or not to die. Those seem like genuine alternatives to me. His choice to die isn’t determined by a subordination of the human power of choice to the divine.”

Apparently, Robinson he takes the clause, “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again,” to mean, “I have the (libertarian) freedom to die, and I have the (libertarian) freedom to refrain from dying.”

But there are several problems with this interpretation:

i) Even if the passage implied freedom of choice, that doesn’t single out libertarianism—for a compatibilist could easily interpret the passage consistent with compatibilism. Surely Robinson must know that.

ii) The distinction in v17 is not between two alternative outcomes: to die or to avoid dying. To the contrary, the distinction is between dying and coming back to life: between the crucifixion and the resurrection.

iii) Furthermore, these do not stand in opposition to each other, as if he chooses to do the one to the exclusion of the another. To the contrary, he does both—one right after the other.

Indeed, we probably have a purpose clause: he dies in order that he may rise again (Cf. Carson, Keener, Morris). The crucifixion is instrumental in facilitating the resurrection—as a means to an end.

iv) In addition, this is not about the “power to choose,” but the “authority” to act. He has this “command from the Father.” He is authorized to do this.

So Perry’s exegesis, if you can even call it that, is thoroughly incompetent. But that comes as no surprise. As Timothy Ware admits, “Biblical theology is not a field in which twentieth-century Orthodox have excelled,” The Orthodox Church (Penguin Books 1997), 337. And they evidently are making no progress in the 21C either.

“The question is not whether Christ had a ‘choice’ so much as whether the choice was ‘free.’ Was Christ free or was he predestinated to choose one option over the other? It would seem that doing the act of his own ‘accord’ would be sufficient to show that it was free, since it would exclude an external predestinating decree.”

i) This is yet another example of Perry’s acontextual exegesis, if you can even call it exegesis. Perry is alluding to one clause, while disregarding the other, earlier clause to which it’s related: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”

So what does the clause, “I lay it down of my own accord” stand in contrast to? To the statement that “No one takes it from me.”

In terms of the Johannine narrative, what this means is that his enemies will not be able to take his life before the appointed time.

Far from this running counter to the decree, it presumes the decree. They would kill Jesus as soon as they could if only they could. But they cannot thwart the plan of God. Christ will die at the appointed time—no sooner or later.

So in no sense does this clause stand opposed to the will of the Father. Rather, it opposes the will of man. And the malice of men will fail because they cannot frustrate the inexorable will of God.

Once again, Perry’s exegesis is simply inept. Indeed, there’s no effort to do exegesis.

ii) But while we’re on the subject, what is Jesus’ relation to the decree? In terms of his divine nature, Jesus is an agent or coauthor of the decree—along with the Father and the Spirit. God is not subject to the decree in the same sense that a creature is.

God was free to decree otherwise, whereas a creature is not free to decree otherwise. Indeed, a creature is not free to predestinate a single thing. That power and prerogative is exclusive to the Creator.

On the other hand, having freely decreed a given outcome, God is not at liberty to change his mind. God will do whatever he resolved to do.

“Calvinist’s and their ilk often gripe that there is no exegetical basis for libertarian freedom in human nature. Well, here is one passage and all I need is one. I have more, but one will do for now.”

This is simple-minded. Perry would only need one passage if there were no passages of Scripture which were opposed to libertarianism. If, however, there are such passages, then that it’s wholly inadequate to cite one passage in support of libertarian freedom. For, in that event, he must also reinterpret all of those opposing passages to bring them in line with his single prooftext.

“If death is the consequence of sin, then it is evil regardless of how one perceives it… So just to be clear, death isn’t an evil and choosing to die isn’t evil then? Is it a good?”

Once again, this is simplistic. The fact that death is evil doesn’t mean that dying (i.e. choosing to die) is (always) evil. There are circumstances in which an agent has a duty to die. A husband and father has a moral obligation to risk his life in order to save the life of his wife and kids.

Or, to go back to the verse in question, since Jesus is explicitly said to be acting on God’s command, it would be a sin for Jesus to refuse to die. He would be violating a direct order (as if were).

“No, that is not the question I am asking. People often assume that freedom requires a choice between objects of opposing moral value, good and evil. If that were so, which option here is the evil one? Or another way of asking the same thing is, is preserving one’s life an evil?”

Yes, for reasons I’ve just given, there are situations in which it is evil to preserve your own life. It may be evil to preserve your life at the expense of another life. And it’s evil if God has commanded you to die—in the case of Jesus going to the cross.

“Here is what I am offering. Two options are both good. Obedience to the Father consequently can take the form of either of the two options. Consequently the choice to lay down his life is quite personal in an existential-ish sense. The generalization of the desire to preserve life is necessary since it is part of human nature willed also by God.”

This is building on Perry’s misinterpretation of the verse. We don’t have two options. And even if we did, it would be evil for Jesus to disobey the Father by refusing to lay down his life for the sheep.

“Secondly, another lesson is that it seems like Jesus here has actionable libertarian type freedom, which is rather a diffiuclt pill to swallow on Calvinism or other similar models such as Thomism or Scotism… As I noted previously, this passage clearly seems to indicate that Christ enjoys libertarian type freedom in his humanity and certainly in his divinity. This runs counter to a number of other theological positions.”

Even if we concede, for discussion purposes only, his interpretation of the verse, Perry is reducing a two-step argument to a one-step argument. His implicit reasoning is that if Jesus had libertarian freedom, then human beings generally have libertarian freedom. But even if he were to establish the premise, the conclusion hardly follows without further argument.
Jesus is analogous to human beings generally in some respects, but disanalogous in other respects. Surely Robinson doesn’t believe that whatever is true of Jesus is true of you and me. Jesus is divine, therefore I’m divine. Jesus is omniscient, therefore I’m omniscient. Jesus is omnipotent, therefore I’m omnipotent. Jesus is impeccable, therefore I’m impeccable. Jesus is sinless, therefore, I’m sinless.

So Perry must come up with a supporting argument to show that on the issue of libertarian freedom (assuming, for the sake of argument, that Jesus had libertarian freedom), we fall on the analogous side of the comparison rather than the disanalogous side of the comparison. Unfortunately for him, Perry is merely positing a parallel instead of proving a parallel.

“The choice isn’t between objects of opposing moral value and that is in part the point. Often people think that freedom requires options of opposing moral value and it doesn’t. Consequently to view free will as requiring either options of opposing moral value or lacking alternatives because it would require options of opposing moral value is a mistake. The Good is not simple.”

This is equivocal. A compatibilist needn’t equate freedom with the freedom to do good or evil. But it doesn’t follow that a libertarian can also restrict freedom of choice to choosing between alternative goods.

“Some have written that it is impossible for Christ to change his mind, but I wonder, which mind or nous would that be, his human or divine intellect?”

i) With reference to his human nature, Jesus can often change his mind. However, this doesn’t mean that Jesus can change his mind by choosing to do evil rather than good.

ii) And this doesn’t mean that by changing his mind, he is changing the decree. Any change of mind would have been decreed.

iii) With reference to his divine nature, no, he can’t change his mind. Does Perry deny that?

If what, so is Perry’s position? That God has no plan for the world? Or that God had a plan for the world, but God revises his plan, a la open theism? Is every divine plan a contingency plan?

Apolonian apologetics

Hi, my name is Apolonio Latar III. I’m a has-been wunderkind.

I would like to give my fellow vassals of Rome a few tips on how to do Catholic apologetics in case you ever bump into a James White at the supermarket.

1.Add some Roman numerals to the end of your name. Makes you look like the heir apparent to the throne of Luxembourg.

2.Master the fine art of name-dropping. Buy a deck of flash cards. Write down the names of every philosopher you can Google. Philosophers with French surnames are best. Dead French philosophers are even better.

With practice, I’m able to rattle off the names of 20 dead French philosophers in 10 seconds flat.

3.Parenthetically mention that you attend a top-rated college—even if you college is number 29,303 on the list.

4.Parenthetically mention that you know a friend of a friend who’s the step-dad of the foster brother of the second cousin of Saul Kripke’s Great-Aunt Mae.

5.Put a sidebar on your blog in which you list all the coffee table books you’re currently pretending to read. Philosophical authors with French surnames are best. The deader the better.

I use the dust-jackets from Foucault for my Marvel Comics collection whenever I’m reading the latest issue of the Hulk in Ernest Sosa’s class.

6.Drop into Triablogue when Steve Hays does something on Catholicism, and post a one-liner in the combox to instantly refute his 40-page analysis of Al Kimel or Jonathan Prejean.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Telling time by broken clocks

I don’t ordinarily have occasion to plug Tim Enloe, but you know the old saying about broken clocks…

Here’s an instance, in a rare moment of lucidity (a la Oliver Sacks' “Awakenings”), where his knowledge of Medieval church politics comes in handy:

It also reminds us that Enloe could have performed a real service for the cause of Christ if he hadn’t gone off the deep end a few years ago.

The mechanics of Bible prophecy

Why is it hard to predict the future? I suppose that first answer that most folks would give is that it’s hard to predict the future because we don’t know the future. And that’s no doubt correct as far as it goes.

However, we might take this to mean that if only we knew the future, then it would be easy to predict the future. The only impediment to predicting the future is our ignorance of the future. Is that a valid inference?

Unbelievers sometimes say they don’t believe in God because God, if he really wanted them to believe in him, would be far more explicit in his predictions than we find in Bible prophecy. Or he would predict some distinctly modern discovery. He would predict the stock market crash of 1929. Or the sinking of the Titanic. Or Einstein’s discovery of special relativity. Or 9/11. Or the invasion of Normandy on D-Day.

Because nullifidians don’t believe in God or Bible prophecy, they don’t bother to think through their position. But if you give the problem a moment’s thought, it would be tricky to predict the future even if you knew the future.

If you tell someone that he will be run over by a drunk driver when he walks to work tomorrow, and he believes you, he will simply falsify your prediction by not walking to work tomorrow. Perhaps he’ll stay home. Or take the bus.

If you predict that someone will name is son Brandon, and he’s aware of your prediction, then even if he intended to name his son Brandon before he knew about your prediction, now that’s he’s heard it, he may change his mind and name his son Brendan instead just to spite you and be contrary.

Prophecy has a countersuggestive potential that could undercut its own fulfillment. So it actually takes a certain amount of ingenuity to accurately forecast the future—even if you know the future.

Because nullifidians don’t believe in divinely inspired prophecy, they don’t make the effort to ask themselves how it would be possible to predict the future even if the future were knowable. The Bible avoids this conundrum in a couple of related ways:

i) In general, the Bible isn’t very specific about the way in which an oracle will be realized. The means. The intervening events leading up to the terminal event.

ii) Scripture compartmentalizes knowledge. It doesn’t predict every element at one time or place. Rather, this is distributed to a number of prophets or seers.

It’s only after the fact that you can see how all these apparently discrete and disparate oracles were referring to the same event. One oracles lays down one condition, and another oracle another condition. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that you can discern how a particular event satisfied all these scattered conditions.

Prejean's pitiful epistemology

Over in Crimson country, a commenter by the name of Shane Wilkins has been inflicting some serious damage on Prejean’s epistemology:

I’d advise everyone to read Shane’s comments. Now let’s turn to Prejean’s response.

“The person who witnesses something is said to have knowledge as well. That's kind of the point. We're dealing with matters in which the only knowledge one can have is immediately caused, analogous to actually seeing something. If a blind man asks you to prove there is color, you can't. If someone asks me to prove that the Catholic Church is divine, I can't. He either has the supernatural faculty to see it, or he doesn't.”

“No, because I know from experience that the Church is what She says She is. I'm not exactly sure what is confusing about that. I'm not saying that faith internally witnesses to me; I'm saying that the Church caused that knowledge in me through the faculty of faith.”

“No, it's just because you lack knowledge of the reason. I can't communicate anything to you that is completely outside your experience, and this would be completely outside your experience. What you're asking is every bit as absurd as if you asked me to prove ‘red.’ If someone can see it, I can point to red things, and we can have common experience of reality. But there wouldn't be any way to demonstrate ‘red’ to a blind man. I could come up with an analogy, but it certainly wouldn't prove the existence of ‘red’ to him.”

There are several crippling problems with this response:

i) When Prejean is attacking the Protestant rule of faith, he appeals to natural theology—but when he’s defending Catholicism, he appeals to a “faculty of faith.” And yet the whole point of natural theology is that you aren’t supposed to need a “faculty of faith” to appreciate natural theological arguments. That’s what distinguishes natural theology from revealed theology.

ii) Now he abandons natural theology for religious experience as his last-ditch appeal. He admits he can’t prove that the Catholic church is divine.

iii) The problem with his comparison to color-blindness is that this amounts to an argument from analogy minus the argument. We have objective criteria to diagnose color-blindness. We can prove that someone is color-blind. We can prove to a color-blind observer that he is color-blind.

But by what parallel methodology does Prejean propose to show that a Protestant is spiritually deficient in the supernatural faculty of faith? All he’s done is to posit an analogy. Where’s the supporting argument to actually establish the analogy?

iv) Another problem is the case of cradle Catholics who’ve converted to Evangelicalism. Don’t they still enjoy the faculty of faith, due to their prior, Catholic experience? So why can’t they discern the divinity of the one true church?

For that matter, contemporary Catholic theology doesn’t confine saving grace to Roman Catholics. It doesn’t regard all human beings outside the formal communion of Rome as graceless reprobates. Indeed, even Hindus, Muslims are able to participate in the saving grace of God. So why would the divinity of the Catholic church be incommensurable with Evangelical experience? Why wouldn’t the “separated brethren” enjoy a common faculty of faith? But assuming that we are, indeed, privy to the same experience, why do we fail to discern the divinity of the true church?

v) Yet another problem with his appeal to incommunicable experience is that anyone can incorporate that appeal into his own opposing position. Imagine if Prejean got into a debate with Tinkerbell over the virtues of Fairylandish epistemology:


Tinkerbell: Jonathan, do you believe in pixies?

Prejean. No.

Tinkerbell: Why not?

Prejean: I’ve never seen a pixy. I have no experience of pixies.

Tinkerbell: You mean you can’t see that pink pixy—sitting right over there on the pixy-stool?

Prejean: There is nothing to see!

Tinkerbell: That’s because you lack the elfin faculty of fairyism. But I myself know from personal experience that the Fairy-Queen is what She says She is. The Fairy-Queen caused that knowledge in me through the elfin faculty of fairyism.

But I can't communicate anything to you that is completely outside your experience, and Fairyland would be completely outside your experience. What you're asking is every bit as absurd as if you asked me to prove that there’s a pink pixy on the pixy-stool. If someone can see it, then I can point to pink pixies, and we can have common experience of reality. But there wouldn't be any way to demonstrate a ”pink pixy” to a sylphishly color-blind man. I could come up with an analogy, but it certainly wouldn't prove the existence of “pink pixies” to him.”


vi) In an earlier reply, I already pointed out to Prejean that, as an empiricist, he has forfeited the right to claim that his church had that effect on him—for there is no sensible evidence that the church was the cause. He can perceive the outward sign, but he cannot perceive the inward grace. He cannot perceive the actual process of transmission.

And even if he had a supernatural faculty of faith, he would still be unable, on empirical grounds, to retrace his state of grace to the sacraments. For he doesn't actually observe or detect the church as the conduit of gracious faith. He can't perceive the cause/effect relation, connecting his "faculty of faith" to the action of the church. Therefore, he has no reason to attribute this effect to the mediation of the church—given his empiricist criteria.

I see that this objection has yet to sink in—even though I’m addressing him on his own grounds.

vii) But his predicament is even worse than that. For his predicament is aggravated by a further factor. Not only can't he establish causality, he can't even establish a correlation—which is the next best thing. A high correlation between one event and another fosters a prima facie presumption of causality, even if the inference isn't demonstrable (and it’s easy to come up with counterexamples).

But many baptized Catholics are lapsed Catholics. Many cradle Catholics, who receive the rite of confirmation, and attended Mass at one time or another, have since defected from the faith. So where is the correlation between sacramental grace and the faculty of faith? There’s nothing close to a one-to-one correspondence. How, then, does he even begin to establish a causal connection?

Making Sin Unthinkable

I’m going to start this off by noting that this post will be more for Christian edification. It’s an in-house discussion, and not intended as an apologetic against atheists (although adequately alliterated!). As such, I ask our atheist readers to respect that.

The sermon at church this morning got me thinking about something. And I should note that the pastor didn’t actually address any of this in great detail (he only mentioned it in passing, as his sermon was on a different topic); but I think good sermons are the kind that get you thinking about further implications.

In any case, to set up the matter, we were dealing with the idea of what the Christian response to God’s mercy should be. In short, let us start with the following truths (which for purposes of my post are given and not up for debate here).

1. Christ bore all the sins of those whom He saved when He died on the cross.
2. No one who is saved will ever lose his salvation (because that would make God unjust, given 1).

Now given these two premises, a common objection is: What motivation does any Christian have for doing good then? After all, if we are saved and cannot lose our salvation, and if our sins are punished in Christ, then why not sin freely?

These questions are often used to attack Calvinism. Unfortunately for the non-Calvinist, to ask these questions assumes another Calvinistic principal: total depravity. See, I find it very interesting that everyone knows at an instinctive level that in the absence of rules men are as evil as they possibly can be. After all, that is the gist of the objection above: if Christ paid it all and we are free to sin, then there is no reason for us not to sin.

But what kind of person would live with the attitude, There is no reason for me to do good, therefore I shall do evil? The answer: a depraved person. To put forth this objection is to admit the depravity of mankind, which would (in the absence of God’s restraining grace) result in the worst possible world that one can imagine.

Now the typical response to this objection (and indeed, the response my pastor took) is usually along the lines of saying: “God is our Father. And if we love our Father, we wouldn’t want to do anything that would upset Him.”

While this is true, I think that understanding the implications of depravity that underline the objection in the first place provides us with a stronger response. The response to the objection ought to be: What kind of person would WANT to do evil simply because he can do it? If you are the kind of person who would actually want this, how could you possibly believe you are redeemed by Christ?

And this gets to the heart of the matter. If we are regenerated by God, then He is making us into new people. Granted, the process is long and not instantaneous. However, He does remove our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh. He does free us from the bondage of our depravity (and if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed).

In other words, if you are told that Christ has taken all your transgressions upon Himself and that you can have full assurance of salvation, your first thought should never be, Good, now I can sin as much as I want, because that is the thought of the unregenerate. If you are thinking this way, it’s a good indication that you are not saved at all.

In the end, while it remains true that we ought to obey God because we love Him and we want to please Him, our obedience to God ought to also become something that transcends such a calculating process. Sin should become unthinkable to the point that you no longer want it at all.

This is the essence of Luther’s famous quip: “Love God. Do what you want.” Because if you love God, what you want to do is to obey Him. In other words, for the actual Christian the objection to Reformed doctrine is a moot point. Sure, we can sin and do the most vile things ever contemplated knowing that Christ has us covered; but our heart’s desire will be to flee evil and cling to what is righteous.

In the end, this is the essence of sanctification. When we are fully sanctified, sin will be impossible—not because we lack the “hardware” needed to commit sin, but because the “software” of our nature will be such that we will only desire righteousness all the time.

And if you’re currently contemplating whether you are saved or not, use this as a test: Does your heart resonate with the idea that forgiveness is a license to sin more, or do you long for the day when sin becomes unthinkable?