Saturday, May 01, 2010

Last Thursdayism

Young-earth creationism is sometimes satirized as Last Thursdayism. But there are several problems with this attempt to lampoon YEC. For now I’ll focus on just two:

1. To be a successful parody, Last Thursdayism has to be genuinely analogous with YEC. But to the extent that the two positions are genuinely analogous, then Last Thursdayism fails to demonstrate the absurdity of YEC. For it’s simply a variation on the same theme. A different way of saying much the same thing. And such, the criticism is circular. If you already think that YEC is ludicrous, then you will think that Last Thursdayism is a clever reductio ad absurdum. But unless you already view YEC as ludicrous, then Last Thursdayism simply begs the question. It doesn’t actually show why YEC is ridiculous. Rather, it tacitly takes that for granted. But the reasoning is reversible. If YEC is not ridiculous, then a YEC analogue is not ipso facto ridiculous either.

2. In addition, absurdity can be context-dependent. Consider an analogue to Last Thursdayism. I wake up in a hospital bed. I don’t remember how I got there. The nurse calls the doctor.

A neurosurgeon comes into my room. He begins to ask me a few simple questions. What year is this? Who’s the president of the United States?

After I answer his questions, he tells me that my memory is faulty or out of date. Maybe I’ve been in a coma for the past 10 years. Or maybe I suffered brain damage in a traffic accident which left me with some degree of amnesia.

Under those circumstances, I may be living the equivalent of Last Thursdayism. Life began for me when I woke up from my coma (or brain surgery). I’ve lost the distinction between my past and my present. Perhaps I retain my long-term memory, but not my short-term memory. Or perhaps I retain my short-term memory, but not my long-term memory. Perhaps I retain a few flashbulb memories.

Eleven Evidences of the New Birth

Several readers have asked me what I'm referring to when I tell people in my evangelistic encounters to examine themselves in light of the tests for true salvation found in 1st John. Below is what I take them through or tell them to go through:

  1. Those who are born of God keep His commandments:

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; (1 John 2:3-4 NAU)

The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
(1 John 3:24 NAU)

  1. Those who are born of God walk as Christ walked.

but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (1 John 2:5-6 NAU)

  1. Those who are born of God don't hate other believers, but love them.

The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. (1 John 2:9 NAU)

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.
(1 John 3:14 NAU)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love
. (1 John 4:7-8 ESV)

  1. Those who are born of God don't love the world.

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15 NAU)

  1. Those who are born of God confess the Son and receive (have) Him.

Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:23 NAU)

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
(1 John 4:15 NAU)

He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
(1 John 5:12 NAU)

  1. Those who are born of God practice righteousness.

If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (1 John 2:29 ESV)

  1. Those who are born of God don't make a practice of sinning.

No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. (1 John 3:6 NAU)

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
(1 John 3:9-10 ESV)

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
(1 John 5:18 ESV)

  1. Those who are born of God possess the Spirit of God.

The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (1 John 3:24 NAU)

By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
(1 John 4:13 NAU)

  1. Those who are born of God listen submissively to the apostolic word.

We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:6 NAU)

  1. Those who are born of God believe that Jesus is the Christ.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. (1 John 5:1 ESV)

  1. Those who are born of God overcome the world.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. (1 John 5:4 ESV)

Taken from John Piper, Finally Alive, (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2009), 125-128.

The hidden evils of my heart

From John Newton:
I asked the LORD that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of his salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, his face.

'Twas he who taught me thus to pray,
And he, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once he'd answer my request;
And by his love's constraining pow'r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, he made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow'rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with his own hand he seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

LORD, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
"'Tis in this way, the LORD replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may'st find thy all in me."
In 1 Cor 15:9 (c. 55 AD), the apostle Paul writes: "For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle..."

In Eph 3:8 (c. 62 AD), he writes: "...though I am the very least of all the saints..."

In 1 Tim 1:15 (c. 65 AD), the apostle Paul writes: "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost."

In Rom 7:24-25, he writes: "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

From least of the apostles to very least of God's people to foremost of sinners. It seems increasing sanctification in the apostle Paul's life brought with it increasing realization of inward sin and corruption, and, subsequently, increasing dependence upon and gratitude to the Lord.

This, too, is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

Friday, April 30, 2010

GTCC Outreach Report 4-30-2010

The weather was a sunny, clear, beautiful 80 degrees today and there was plenty of people to talk to about the gospel.

Questions of the week: "What must a man do to be reconciled to God?" and "Does absolute truth exist?"

We spoke to our friendly GTCC relativist again, met a young man who said it was okay to call a tree Jesus, spoke to a group of four young men who couldn't tell us what absolute truth was, discussed the gospel with a clueless young girl, and then spoke the truth to a clueless young man with a post-surgical right thumb issue that came from an evanjellyfish background. Then, we found three people who knew what the gospel was and we spent about an hour encouraging them and then I witnessed to another churchgoer who couldn't tell me how to get to heaven and then the day came round full circle when ended by speaking with a long-lost Christian friend whose husband was integral in my conversion to Christ.

Our Friendly Community College Relativist

I encountered this same young man two weeks ago when attempting to witness to the two Sunni women. As I walked up, he was waiting at the bus stop in front of the campus reading a book by the New Age guru Marianne Williamson. As soon as he looked up from his book he remembered me immediately and we hit the ground running in a friendly sort of way. This is an example of why it is a good thing to hit the same fishing hole regularly.

I asked him if he had thought about anything that we spoke about last time and he said that he had. I then said something like, "Do you still hold on to what you believe even though we discussed how your beliefs contradicted themselves?" and he basically went into a discussion about how everybody has only 50% of the truth. I then asked him "Is that true?" he said "yes" and I then asked, "If that's true, then isn't a half-truth a complete lie?" He seemed to intellectually "get it", and I further pressed the inconsistency in his relativism, but he finally demurred and basically tried to argue that because we don't know everything we can't really know anything. I then asked how he could know that proposition. I got no response.

At this point I started trying to do some teaching since he seemed like he wanted to listen better this time versus trying to defend himself in front of others like last time. I pointed out to him that he believed that truth was like ice cream, i.e., that you can choose any of the "31 flavors" to suit your taste. I explained to him that truth didn't work like ice cream, it worked like insulin. People that need insulin don't get to decide if they want a different type of hormone or some other medication to suit their taste; they either get insulin or they die. I told him that this is the way that truth is; i.e., it is either true or false, right or wrong, consistent or inconsistent, logical or illogical. I explained to him that to deny this is to embrace relativism and commit intellectual suicide. He didn't care, his bus came, and he had to scoot. He said he would call me and that we would chat more. I surely hope he does. I'm going to continue to dialogue with him as I'm able trusting that the Lord will use some of my efforts to get glory to Himself.

Our Quasi-Pantheist "Christian" Friend

When I introduced myself and asked this young man, "What must a man do to be reconciled to God?" he gave me the usual, "Ask for forgiveness." When I said, "From whom?" he said, "From God" and I asked "which God?" He hesitated. There was an oak tree in front of us on the campus lawn and so I asked, "If I call that oak tree 'God' and I say that all I have to do to be reconciled to God is to ask forgiveness from that oak tree, am I going to heaven when I die?" He said, "Yeah, because God is whoever you want Him to be." I said "Really? So Moses was wrong to get upset at the Israelites for worshiping a golden calf in Exodus 32? After all, they said that that golden calf was their god." He still didn't get it, so I then asked, "What is God?" and he gave me a pantheistic answer. I then said, "The Bible declares that there is a Creator/creature distinction and that to confuse the two is idolatry." I then did some off the cuff teaching from Romans chapter 1 explaining this doctrine, and he then understood what I was getting at. I explained to him that idolaters will have their part in the Lake of Fire on the Day of Judgment and he seemed to intellectually follow what I was saying. I then asked him how he was going to avoid the Lake of Fire, he couldn't really give a coherent answer, and I then preached him the gospel. He appreciated it, shook my hand, and we were off to find someone else to talk to.

Four Young Men Whom The Truth Didn't Set Free

All four of these young men were hit directly with the question, "Does absolute truth exist?" I defined what absolute truth was and asked the question again. Two said yes, two said no. I then asked the two that said "yes", "Where does absolute truth come from?" and one of them said, "From inside you." I said, "If the truth's inside of me, then what if I believe it's absolutely true for me get my jollies by hurting little girls for fun?" He said, "Naw man, that's messed up." I said, "I agree totally, but if absolute truth come from within, then it's not absolute, it's relative" and I made the point that we need objective, transcendent, universal standards that come only from God to determine what's true/false and right/wrong in the areas of ethics, values, and religion. They all seemed to understand and agree. I then explained that Jesus said that He was the "capital-T" Truth and that we can't understand the world rightly apart from Him but most importantly, we can't be rightly related to God apart from His gospel. At this point they asked some good questions about church, false gospels, and I told them, "If you're attending a church where your pastor is preaching health, wealth, prosperity, and Word-of-Faith doctrine, you are in a false church and you need to run outta there with your hair on fire." After I said this, they started to scoot except for one of them and I spent some time talking to this young man for a few more minutes as he seemed genuinely concerned about getting good teaching. I invited him to our fellowship. We'll see if he shows. I pray that he does. So many college kids I talk to have been brainwashed into the prosperity, health and wealth garbage.

A Clueless Young Girl

This young lady was quietly sitting at the picnic table near the campus quad and I approached her, introduced myself, gave her a Narrow Way postcard tract, and asked her what a person must do to be reconciled to God. She said the same tag-line I always hear, "Ask for forgiveness." I then asked "Which God; I mean, we have the Muslim conception of God, the Hindu, etc., so which God am I to pray to to ask for it?" She then said, "Uh . . . Christian?" I then said, "If I had a knife stuck in my back and was going to die in 2.5 minutes and I needed to be reconciled to God and you told me to ask for forgiveness, would it be okay to believe that this oak tree beside us is God and that I need to ask forgiveness from the oak tree?" She said, "No" and I said, "So, what is God in your mind?" She really didn't answer and her cluelessness was apparent. I truly felt compassion for her. At this point, a nice, fat, whiff of pollen got up my nose and I wasn't able to talk well; but God used that in His providence, for she had some time to think and as a result she confessed that she didn't live like a Christian and was denying her profession by her lifestyle. At this point my voice had returned and I confronted her with Matthew 7:21, "Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter . . ." I then went through the tests of 1st John and she began to cry. I silently prayed for her while I was talking to her, exhorting her to go home, examine herself in light of 1st John, and cry out to God in repentance and faith. I then told her I'd pray for her and that if she ever saw me on campus and had any questions to come up to me and ask anytime. I still feel a palpable burden for her as I sit and type this right now.

A Clueless Young Man with a post-surgical thumb.

The next group of three people that I spoke with quickly reduced to two once they heard what I was on about. The only one left was the young man with the post-surgical thumb. I asked him some questions about his thumb surgery since I have a background in orthopaedic physical therapy and he was easy to talk to. I then hit him with the reason why we were there, asked him about being reconciled to God, and he was completely clueless and unable to articulate anything coherent about God, the gospel, salvation, etc. He confessed that he had a Christian church background (not sure if he meant CoC, DoC or just plain evanjellyfish). It was obvious that he had had some type of exposure to the Bible, but after I asked more questions, he confessed that he really didn't know what the gospel was. I then said, "Dude, if you profess to be a believer but don't know Christianity 101, what does that say about your Christianity?" The question stopped him in his tracks. He was silent. I used the silence as an opportunity to hear the gospel of God's grace and I enjoined him to repent of His sins and place his faith in Christ. Then he was off. Please pray for him.

Three People Who Actually Knew what the Gospel was and Believed it!

The next 1.5 hours was wonderful. I walked up to three folks and asked them what a person must do to be reconciled to God and they not only knew the gospel, understood it, and embraced it wholeheartedly, but we had great fellowship and one of them even asked me to come speak to their on campus ministry meeting. I spent quite a bit of time with at least one of them answering questions about the Qu'ran, Islam, atheism, liberalism, the Bible, and other neat stuff. It was such a breath of fresh air hearing from kids that are passionate about Christ. May God give us a million more like them!

Another Churchgoer Who Couldn't Tell Me How to Get to Heaven

How many of these people have I written about over the last semester? Too many to count for sure. This next young man said he was "confused because his mother is Seventh Day Adventist, I go to an AME Zion Church, and there are Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptists, and others and I just don't know who's right and who's wrong." I explained to him that at least historically, all Protestant denominations held to basically the same essential Christian doctrines, but that this is not the case anymore, especially with the mainline denominations having long since caved in to liberalism while many of the modern charismatic groups have given sway to prosperity heresy, and the mainline Baptists are either liberal or seeker. I then discussed the importance of the basic principles of the Protestant Reformation (5 Solas) and laid out for him what a Biblically sound church is and should look like. It's no wonder he was confused, he confessed that most of his exposure had been to either Seventh Day Adventism or the health and wealth garbage. He couldn't explain the gospel; so I gave it to him. I told him he needed to examine his soul and sit under some good, verse-by-verse expository teaching. He said he might visit our church in the future. Man, I hope so, for he was a really nice guy, but he sure was clueless about the gospel.

A Long-Lost Christian Friend and a sorely missed Ray of Sunshine

Finally, the day came around full circle when it ended by speaking with a long-lost Christian friend whose husband was integral in my conversion to Christ. The long-lost friend is named Henrietta and her husband's name was Wayne. Henrietta told me that Wayne died back in 2007. He was such a ray of sunshine. I mean it. It makes me tear up thinking about him. He loved Christ and it just oozed out of him. He was an evangelist par-excellance. He had no fear of man and he loved people and wanted to tell them about Jesus even though he didn't care what they thought about him. Not only that, but Wayne had such a warm-hearted disposition about him. You just couldn't help but want to be around him. When he spoke of Jesus, it made you want to cry. Back when I was an atheist in the early 90s, I heard his testimony and it powerfully impacted me for the gospel. After my conversion, I hooked up with Wayne in college and we went out street witnessing, open-air preaching (I did the preaching since his vocal cords were affected by his previous cancer), and door-knocking. Henrietta told me that he succumbed to cancer. Then she showed me a photo of him that she took about 3 months before he died. Seeing Wayne's smile in that photograph made me tear up. I'm telling you folks, this guy was a ray of sunshine. That was Wayne.

So I'm going to end this outreach report on this note:

Thank You Father, for saving and sanctifying brother Wayne and using him to plant seeds of truth in my wretched soul so that I might come to know You.

Thank You Jesus for letting me spend precious time with brother Wayne by learning how to love people while telling them the truth about your gospel.

Thank You Holy Spirit for letting your light shine through brother Wayne so that I too might know what it means to be a beacon of truth in a dark world.

Dear Christian friends, there are many dear saints that God will place across your path that will never amount to much according to man's standards, but they will be well-received into glory. They will have no degrees, they may not even have graduated from High School, and when you Google their name little to nothing will show up; but they have drank deeply from the well of living water supplied by their Lord and your Lord. May you learn from them, love them, and spend precious time with them while you still have them. Those rays of sunshine are very bright when they are here, but they are not here forever and when they are here, they usually aren't here very long.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Satanic Calvinism!

It’s odd to see how some folks react to Calvinism. The Calvinist God is “monstrous,” “hateful,” Hitlerian,” “worse than Satan,” &c. If that’s what God is like, then they hate God. If that’s what God is like, then they’d renounce the Christian faith. If that’s what God is like, then they’d rather go to hell. And so on and so forth.

And where is all this splenetic venom coming from, exactly? Well, it’s all based on their theory of the will. That’s right. Just a theory of the will. All for a theory of the will.

Better to burn in hell than worship a God who offends my theory of the will!

Such an attitude exhibits boundless confidence in human reason. Unless I understand something, I refuse to believe!

It’s the same attitude we see among infidels who reject Christianity because they can’t explain the Trinity, or the hypostatic union, or the justice of hell, or the execution of the Canaanites, or how to harmonize the Easter narratives, and so on and so forth.

And it’s a paradoxical rationalism. An irrational rationalism. What could be more irrational than to turn your back on God just in case it goes against your theory of the will? How can any reasonable man have so much faith in his theory of the will, and so little faith in the Maker of the world?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Catholicism and Pentecostalism

One of the traditional arguments for Catholicism is the appeal to Catholic miracles. By that I’m including not only reported miracles but Catholic prophecies and apparitions.

We could discuss this on its own merits, and, indeed, I’ve had occasion to do that, but right now I’d like to make a different point.

This element of traditional, as well as popular, Catholic apologetics antedates the rise of modern Pentecostalism. But Pentecostalism goes toe-to-toe with Catholicism in this regard. Pentecostalism also lays claim to an abundance of prophecies, miracles, and visions.

Of course, someone might object that most of these claims are fraudulent. And that might well be true. But, if so, why are the miraculous claims of Pentecostalism less credible than the miraculous claims of Catholicism? If one is going to be sceptical, why not be consistently sceptical?

Of course, we could examine all their respective claims on a case-by-case basis, and, indeed, that would be prudent–although there’s too much to sort and sift. But that greatly complicates the Catholic appeal to miracles.

Hometrees and supernovae

One of the stock objections to creationism is that it carries with it the notion that some natural objects have illusory histories. When we see a supernova, we see a nonevent. We see something that never really happened. And that, in turn, imputes deception to God.

But while this objection is superficially plausible, it fails to think very deeply about the basic nature of creativity. Indeed, it fails to take into consideration the nature of human creativity, much less divine creativity.

For example, in James Cameron’s Avatar there’s a Hometree that looks older than a Sequoia. To judge by the sheer size of the tree, it would have taken longer to grow than a Sequoia.

In Avatar, the Hometree has an implied history. And this is true of fiction in general. A novelist or playwright usually begins his story at some point within the ongoing history of the world. His characters have implied parents, implied grandparents, implied great-grandparents, and so on, even if those ancestors never actually figure in the timeline of the narrative.

Same thing with their surroundings. Say you place the characters in New York City around 2000 or 1965 or 1940. Whatever decade you place them in, that cityscape still has an implicit history which antedates the timeline of the story.

Yet, within the world of the story itself, the story doesn’t begin at the beginning. Rather, the story begins as if New York City came into being a moment before, in 1940–complete with all those period buildings from decades earlier.

And that’s because what a creative artist like Cameron does is to objectify his idea of the Hometree. Cameron created the Hometree, not by putting the entire history of the Hometree on film, from the time it was a little seed in the ground, but by putting his idea of a grown tree on film. And that’s because Cameron is only interested in just a part of Pandora’s history. Although Pandora has a beginning, he doesn’t begin at the beginning. Rather, he begins at that stage in Pandoran history where he wants to tell his story. He skips ahead to his favorite part of the story. But to tell that part of the story, he gives that timeline the temporal effects of an earlier phase in the same continuous storyline. An implicit past. For the present has an implicit past.

This is something we take for granted when we read a novel or see a movie. We understand that an artist instantiates his full-orbed concept of the plot, characters, and so on. It existed in his mind as a complete, finely-detailed idea. But when a creationist proposes that God’s creativity is similar in this respect, eyes roll and fingers wag.

Yet that's how Gen 1 depicts creation. Creation is a series of speech-acts. God is an oral storyteller. A cosmic bard. He makes the world by telling a story. By verbalizing the story of the world. The world is the spoken word of God.

Now, you might say that this is nothing but a metaphor. Sure. But it’s a creative metaphor. And creativity literally instantiates an idea rather than a process.

Of course, human creativity must employ some preexisting medium to objectify a concept. But divine creativity is making the medium itself.

Mind you, this is not a full-blown argument for creationism. My point is simply that the charge of deception is oddly obtuse.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God

I thought last Friday’s second season episode (“Human”) of SGU was the best episode since “Air” (Part 3), and “Light,” from the first season. It has a number of nice things going for it:

i) Because Rush was in a lucid coma, he could choose which memories he wanted to reenact. Not simply remember them in the usual faded sense, but reenact them in all the vivid detail of the original experience.

And that raises some provocative questions. What are your favorite memories? What makes them your favorite memories? Do you have the same favorite memories, or do your favorites change over time? If you could reenact a favorite memory (or two or three), which one would it be?

Autobiographical memory is a key feature of personal identity. Which of our memories are defining memories?

ii) The episode also had some evocative, bittersweet musical accompaniment which paralleled and complemented the shifting moods of the narrative.

iii) There was a Biblical motif involving numerology and Psalm 46. Life has a hidden, providential pattern. Coincidental events which are too coincidental to be merely coincidental.

Of course, that was in the dream world rather than the real world, but it’s an apt emblem for the real world.

And a reading of Psalm 46 in a church service is not your average SF fare.

iv) It gave Robert Carlyle an opportunity to showcase his acting ability. In addition, SGU suffers from a lack of compelling female characters, but the actress who played Rush’s wife is a cut above the rest.

Infidel faith-healers

Faith-healers have a popular reputation for being charlatans. However, faith-healers have their secular counterparts. I'm posting some correspondence I recently had about an apostate charlatan posing as a concerned Christian over at the Grace to You blog.

1. Since Ken is an apostate, he's just playing a little game when he proposes harmonistic strategies to reconcile Gen 1-3 with modern science. Clearly he doesn't think the Bible is true. So he's not persuaded by his own arguments.

He's trying to be "helpful" to Christians the way a con-man is trying to be help a retiree out of his life-savings.

2. Playing the Warfield card means nothing to me. Warfield isn't our pope.

3. Years ago, George Marsden wrote an essay in which he pointed out that Old Princeton was caught off guard by the New Geology and Darwinism. Because they were in an apologetic tradition which had always regarded science as an ally, they were ill-prepared when science seem to turn on them. So you get different 19C reactions.

4. "With regard to the literary genre of Genesis 1-3. It fits nicely with the idea of a fable or myth. The fact that it is prose and not poetry is irrelevant. A talking animal is characteristic of fables. One can certainly understand the stories of Genesis 1-3 as teaching theology not history or science. To insist that its literal history demands that one bury his head in the sand with regard to science."

Of course, that's incoherent. He's trying to ride two horses at once: take Gen 1-3 figuratively because it's a figurative genre versus take Gen 1-3 figuratively because it would be unscientific to take it literally.

But those two objections don't go together. If it's a question of genre, then that would be a question of original intent. What's the viewpoint of the original author and his target audience?

But if it's a question of what's "scientific," then that reflects the anachronistic viewpoint of a modern reader.

"Christians in England in the 18th and 19th century claimed that it was sinful for a woman to use anesthesia during child birth because it was an attempt to circumvent the curse on women with regard to experiencing pain during childbirth."

From what I've read, that's an urban legend promoted by infidels:

Back to Ken:

"The problem is that you current fundamentalists are in the same boat but you don't realize it. You think that the Answers in Genesis crowd and the ICR can rescue you but they are a laughingstock among real
scientists. Its obvious that they have predetermined that their interpretation of the Bible must be true in spite of science. Thus they will reject science to maintain their belief that Genesis is literal history--Kurt Wise is on record admitting this."

Compare that with this:

"Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen."

Back to Ken:

"Thus they will reject science to maintain their belief that Genesis is literal history--Kurt Wise is on record
admitting this."

No, that's Dawkins' polemical, garbled version of what Wise actually said.

"I guess Galileo and Copernicus were urban legends?"

Well, it's hardly incumbent on me to defend the church of Rome, but since he brings it up, to my knowledge that is something of an urban legend. Following the tradition of the Greeks, Aquinas distinguished between the natural sciences and the mathematical sciences, and he classified astronomy as a mathematical science. Mathematical sciences didn't have to be true; they only had to be consistent with the observational data. And, as I recall, Cardinal Bellarmine took the same approach when he counseled Galileo. So, on the Thomistic view, favored by Bellarmine, geocentrism wasn't the "true" theory.

Helpful Suggestions on Evangelistic Outreaches

I received an unrelated question asked of me in the combox of my post titled Gossip: The Plague and a Stench of a Whisperer wherein the commenter wanted some direction on getting an evangelistic outreach started. What follows are a few recommendations. Some of these are short term preparations whereas others will require continual long-term, work and preparation:

1. Completely avoid gimmicky stuff.

In other words, don't try to schnooker people into answering your questions for "The Good Test" by offering them a stuffed animal or some other silly prize simply because they participated in your goofy evangelistic survey. People aren't stupid, and if you use gimmicks and humor to bait and switch them to get to the gospel, don't be surprised if they look at you like you're trying to sell them snake oil. Worse yet, you are using humor and fun to try to hook them into listening to you tell them about the most serious issue in the universe: their eternal destiny. That's worse than arriving at your neighbor's front door and telling them a knock-knock joke to soften them up so that you can tell them why you are really there; which is to inform them of the dreadful news that their 6 year old daughter is laying dead in your driveway because you just unwittingly backed over her with your car while she was playing with some of your child's toys. See the problem?

As a matter of fact, I'd avoid the "survey syndrome" altogether and simply hand out some well crafted postcard sized tracts with a clear, direct gospel message. Here's a an example of some of the ones we use:

We use the first two tracts and avoid the third since a dude with a cig hanging out of his mouth doesn't settle well with most folks, especially Muslims. However, the first two are great conversation starters and I use them every week in my own evangelism. There are no gimmicks involved, no bait-and-switch nonsense, and when people ask you "What is this?" I tell them directly, "This is a tract with the gospel of Jesus Christ on it. I'm out here talking to people about God and asking them following question ______".

Most people appreciate this direct approach because they've encountered the snake oil evangelists before, and the lack of upfront honesty turns them off to further conversation once they find out what you're on to. Coming with dishonest pretenses as a tool to get an audience for the gospel is completely contradictory to the gospel. I'm not saying we shouldn't be strategic at times; we should. However, when it comes to introducing yourself to people; I've found that being completely honest and straightforward about your purpose and mission is most beneficial if you want to continue the encounter in a productive way.

As far as tracts are concerned, I'd get a batch of 2500 of the first and 2500 of the second kind. Be sure to put your church's contact info on the back if your church is doctrinally solid enough to recommend. If not, then put your own contact info on the back instead so that those who want to follow up with you have a way to do so.

Note: If you can't recommend your home church, you will need to eventually leave that church and find another one to attend that is doctrinally solid. This is because eventually, God is going to give you a lost person to take to church and if your home church is loosey-goosey doctrinally or practically speaking; you'll be inconsistent at best and unnecessarily confuse a lost person at worst. Remember, lost people don't need help being more confused about Christianity than they already are. In sum, it is essential that you be attending a doctrinally sound church for the sake of consistency and honesty in your presentation.

2. Be ready to ask people questions like these:

"Do you believe absolute truth exists?"

"In your opinion, what must a person do to be reconciled to God?"

"If you could ask God one question, what would it be?"

"Where do moral standards come from?"

These simple questions allow you to gather data from people concerning what they believe about issues of ultimacy. The answers you receive will tell you where to take the conversation next. Be ready to answer all humanistic and non-Christian answers to these question so as to point people to Christ's word and Christ's gospel. Be ready also to deal with various types of relativism and pluralism, even among professing Christians. I'd recommend the following introductory books to get your feet wet:

Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Frank Beckwith and Greg Kokul.

Understanding the Koran by Mateen Elass.

Faith with Reason: Why Christianity is True by Joseph Farinaccio. Get the free .pdf here.

The Illustrated Guide to World Religions by Dean Halverson.

The Ultimate Proof of Creation by Dr. Jason Lisle. The DVD set here covers the same information in more of a summary form and is a worthwhile purchase.

Refuting Evolution 1 by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati. Get free online version here.

Refuting Evolution 2 by " ". Get free online version here.

Misquoting Truth: A guide to the fallacies of Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus" by Paul Timothy Jones.

Scripture Alone by Dr. James White.

The Forgotten Trinity by " ".

Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Kokul.

Tactics in Defending the Faith by " " (CD/DVD series).

My introduction to good apologetical practice came not through formal seminary education, but from witnessing encounters where I had to get answers to questions I couldn't answer. My goal in using apologetics is to stop the mouth of the naysayer and then fill it with the gospel. The goal is the gospel, period.

3. Offer free quality materials

Give out handouts, pamphlets, Bibles, DVDs, and other materials with a clear and consistent gospel presentation. Again, avoid gimmicky literature and handing out poor Bible translations like the NLT, The Message, The Good News Translation, etc. and give out copies of scholarly, committee produced translations such as the ESV, NASB, NKJV, etc. For short doctrinal treatises, I'd personally stick to using Reformed literature and media from guys like this:

Chapel Library Literature Catalog

Lies Students Hear
Alpha and Omega
Are There No Absolutes?
Are You Bad Enough?
Are You Born Again?
Baptism or Christ?
The Bible
Darwin’s Dilemma
God’s Answers to Man’s Excuses
God’s Answers to Man’s Questions
Great Teacher or God Incarnate?
How Would You Feel?
One Way or Many?
Way of Salvation
What Then Shall I Do With Jesus?
The Worth of a Soul
What Every Woman Needs

To Order Tracts, click here. Be sure to get some tracts in Spanish as well.

I recommend using Calvinistic literature because typically it is low on marketing gimmicks and high on Biblical truth.

4. Be nice - act like a Christian

Don't get into emotionally charged disagreements with people that cause you to get all bent out of shape. Sooner or later you'll get people who will want to argue with you up one side and down another. If naysayers can stay calm and engage you in a charitable way, then use Biblical apologetics to reason with them. If not, then leave them alone and let them go their heathen way.

5. Have at least one or two people work with you

Have one person do open-air preaching while the other two pray for you and try to engage people who are listening or walking by. If you are walking around doing street witnessing, have the more confident and experienced person initiate conversations with people while your partner stands by and listens and learns. If you have a booth set-up then one or two of you can man the booth while one of you talks to people and hands out literature as they pass by.

6. Regularly go to the same "Fishing Hole".

Be a regular presence somewhere in your city for the purposes of evangelism. It may be the library, a coffee shop, a university campus, or a flea market. "Fishing in the same pond" on a regular basis shows the world that you aren't a fly by night kind of person who is operating off a whim. Consistency in your time and place of evangelism shows the unbeliever that you are genuinely committed to what you are doing and that you mean business. It also shows that you truly care about reaching people with your message. Regularly being in the same place at about the same time will allow you to develop loose friendly relationships with the "regulars" and they will come to expect your presence and your message. This will have a more powerful and long-lasting impact on them versus going to different places at different times from week-to-week.

7. Pray

God may be pleased to bring the not yet converted elect your way and your efforts will be useful in planting seeds in their hearts. Pray that God will make you a most efficient tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit in your demeanor and conversation.

8. Memorize Large Passages of Scripture

I would suggest working toward memorizing Isaiah 52:13-53:12; John 3:1-36; Romans 3-5:1; Galatians 1:6-9, 2 Corinthians 5:21 and other pertinent evangelistic passages. Knowing your Bible well will take care of most apologetic/evangelistic questions that arise in your conversations with people. Most people's objections to Christianity are a result of their misunderstanding of it. Be able to share the gospel in 60 seconds, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and 10 minutes and be able to correct people's misapprehensions about basic Christian doctrine.

9. Be Faithful

Seek to measure success by your faithfulness in clearly proclaiming the gospel of God. Avoid trying to exactly replicate the efforts of other modern evangelists like Ray Comfort, Todd Friel, or myself. You are not them and they are not you. Learn from them; but eat the meat and spit out the bones and recognize that God has given you a different personality, different characteristics, and a different disposition. Let the Bible be your ultimate evangelistic guidebook as to determining how things "ought be done". Eventually, after engaging people a lot, you'll develop your own comfortable style and evangelism will become as natural to you as any other daily activity. Also, whatever you do, avoid the temptation to measure success by man's standards. God converts people in His time, not yours (1 Corinthians 3:6). You go and tell; after that, it is up to God to regenerate and convert.

Conclusion: Be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. Learn from the example of the apostles and be ready to engage your culture with the truth in a loving fashion. Make evangelism a priority instead of a sideline activity. Make it part of your normal, daily conversation, and eventually, God will bless your obedient and faithful seed-planting with eventual fruit-bearing that brings glory to Him and good to you!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Security alert!

Date: 3/27/666
To: All succubae
From: Malacoda
Re: Security breach

Our listening station in Uzbekistan just intercepted this communiqué:

Dear brethren of the ELCR, we live in a dangerous time. Today, more than ever before, Satan is trying to wipe true Christianity off the face of the map. We know that he cannot ultimately accomplish that, but we also know that he will not cease his efforts until the Lord comes. He will gladly promote any religion, including all false representations of Christianity, if it is devoid of the Gospel because that does him no harm. One such religion that rejects and destroys the Gospel is Calvinism. Throughout this paper, I am speaking of that Calvinism that denies the universal atonement of Christ. For this reason Satan has raised it up and established it in its many forms. Its errors are subtle, reflecting the deep guile and great might of our old evil foe. The Scriptures describe the serpent as “more subtil than any beast of the field” (Gen. 3:1). The deadly danger of Calvinism is that it looks so much like true Christianity. It is a counterfeit that can easily pass as public tender. In fact, I would never have known or even have suspected the poisonous nature of this devilish lie if not for the writings of Martin Luther which taught me faith and delivered me from its terrible snare. You see, Calvinism is really a false religion, despite its appearance as an advocate for Biblical truth. It is a religion led of depraved human reason and not that true religion which belongs to the Word of God and child-like faith. Now what about Calvinism, the offspring of that rebellious and faithless woman, Madame Reason?

This underscores our security protocol requiring all succubae to use cryptophones when recruiting Reformed defectors to the cause of darkness.

One of our honeypots in the SBC used an unsecured wireless network to contact a promising seminarian, resulting in this security breach. We are able to control the damage in this case by arranging a freak accident to eliminate the whistleblower, but we can’t do that too often without arousing suspicion.

Gossip: The Plague and a Stench of a Whisperer

I was meditating on the following verses this morning; particularly the bolded portions:
17 Like one who takes a dog by the ears Is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him. . . . 20 For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down. 21 Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife. 22 The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body. (Proverbs 26:17-22 NAU)
While working full-time as a church planter, evangelist, and apologist for the faith, it has never ceased to amaze me how much slander and gossip fueled by a cold and calloused spirit is prevalent in some local churches that claim to be committed to the doctrines of grace. You would think that with the plethora of doctrinal heresies available to Reformed churches, most people would struggle with the doctrinal garbage; but my own experience working in Reformed Baptist circles proves exactly the opposite. Wouldn't it make sense to think that those who have drunk deeply from the doctrines of God's sovereign grace would be some of the most godly, gracious, loving, and giving people on the face of the earth? I mean, didn't Paul say this?
For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1Co 4:7 NAU)
I have found that in general, blatant heretics will not hang around our churches very long because they simply can't stand to hear the clear proclamation of verse-by-verse truth from week to week since it directly contradicts their views. Not only that, but they know they will get weeded out sooner than later as the elders are ready to rebuke them with an open Bible in hand so as to protect the flock from such wolves (Acts 20:28-31). We have had to do this a few times, but overall, it has been few and far between (Titus 1:9).

However, many professing Christians who are thick on good doctrine but thin on Christian love will hang on for years, and years, and years with very little substantive change evidenced by a softened, more pliable, teachable, and humble heart. You would think that the more a person understands grace, the more they would become like a humble beggar: receptive, grateful, and always waiting for more spiritual food to come from their Abba Father. We Reformed folk seem to have done a great job prepping our people to recognize and avoid blatant doctrinal heresy in evangelicalism, but when it comes to dealing with sins associated with body life (i.e., the sins associated with how we treat, interact, and minister to each other), it seems as if God's people in Calvinistic churches are also plagued with some of the same sins that the rest of evangelicalism struggles with, though hopefully, to a lesser degree.

As an elder, I often ask myself questions like these: "How is it possible that people who have been shown so much love by God and His people could be so backbiting and devouring of the very brothers and sisters who have loved them in difficult circumstances?"

Indeed, it has been repeated by many great thinkers, "the church is the only army that shoots its own wounded."

My own view is that in Calvinistic churches, much of this is multifaceted, as it is in other evangelical traditions. Here are a few suggestions as to why professing evangelicals in Calvinistic churches tend to engage in the plague and stench of a backbiting whisperer:

1. The False Convert

Problem: Evangelical churches are loaded with these people, and their kind is not limited to non-Calvinistic churches. They might enjoy listening to hymns, CCM, gospel music, and other Christian genres. They may be able to quote John 3:16 and other popular passages with ease. They know how to speak "Christianese" and can often do so with flowery phrases. They regularly attend church and may even frequently say, "Amen!" to the preaching of the word when all the while they are dying and going to Hell with Bibles in their hands. They have an outward appearance of righteousness and if you were to look at them for a while you would say that they were true believers (Matthew 13:20-22). However, given their lack of fruit bearing, they are silently screaming to you that they are full of dead-men's bones and lost in their sins. They are slaves to corruption and by their fruits will know them. One of those fruits is speaking the language of Satan through slander and gossip that can lead to division, deceit, and destruction in the lives of those within the local church body.

2. The Pastor-Centered Church

Approach: Depend on a personable, dynamic super-pastor to attract and minister to people in the church.

Problem: The ministry of the church is built around a man and his abilities. The pastor plans and leads most or many of the programs. People tend to be involved only in those programs the pastor leads and some in the congregation become like rock-star groupies of this particular pastor. In some cases, this type of pastor eventually can get weary and burned out from all the writing, speaking, traveling, and prepping. See When Your Preacher is Not John Piper by Steve Burchett. When people follow a man rather than Jesus, they will look to what the man has said rather than looking to what God has said in his word. In my experience, this can result in people pitting their pastor (or a pastor) against the Bible when they are confronted with their sins by fellow Christians. When they are confronted in a sermon or in private, they say, "Yeah but, MacArthur says this . . . or Piper wouldn't have said it that way". They say these things in effort to remove the sting of their sin. Of course, I'm not disparaging good teachers; quite the contrary! However, I have seen this phenomenon in the church and it tends to produce followers of men who look to men rather than to God for their reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. It's true that the connection between a dynamic, orthodox Bible teacher/preacher and a backbiting whisperer doesn't make any sense, but it exists. I have seen it one too many times. This is just another example of how sin in all of its irrationality produces foolish and ungodly behavior in those who should know better.

3. The Preaching Centered Church

Approach: Preach the Bible from the pulpit and expect everything else to fall in place and people to grow as disciples.

Problem: Proclamation alone is not adequate to make disciples. This tends to build a church full of Sunday morning only attendees who come for what they can get out of it. Mutual ministry in the body is weak or non-existent. Professing Christians in this environment can become hearers of the word and not doers of the word (orthodox, yet spiritually dead hypocrites, like the Pharisees of the New Testament). This brings us to the next brief point.

The Danger of Self-Deception

The sad thing is that many professing Christians I have encountered in my ministry do not think that they are being hateful, backbiting, and devouring with their divisive talk. Quite the contrary, they think they are serving the cause of God and truth by stabbing others in the back with their mouths. They don't even recognize that we can deceive ourselves, hence the Scriptural warnings from the apostle James,
22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. (Jam. 1:22-26 NAU)
The Solution: Repentance in the Context of a Disciple-making Church

Yes, I realize that the above title might sound overly simplistic. Conceptually, it is simple. Practically it's usually not that cut and dried. It is simplistic because whether false professor or gossiping believer, both parties should repent and do works befitting of repentance. However, because God grants repentance to the former and oftentimes uses disobedience to chasten the latter, things are not as cut and dried practically speaking (2 Timothy 2:25; Hebrews 12:5-11). God must do a work of grace in both hearts, and apart from some dramatic road to Damascus type of experience, discerning whether God's work of conversion or sanctification has or is taking place takes some time. Sure, we follow the Scriptural protocol for church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 3:6). But that takes time too, and people need to be given space for repentance. Either way, false professors usually leave a disciple-making church (1 John 2:19) and sinning Christians repent soon or don't repent soon and get spanked by their loving Heavenly Father (Hebrews 12:5-11). In other words, God takes care of these things in His own way, but these things take time to deal with. Personal discipleship in the Scriptures with the foundational presuppositions of a high view of God and a low view of man is the ticket to taming the tongue. This discipleship is best done in a one-on-one or small group context where untamed tongues can be lovingly domesticated by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Scriptures and God blessed teachers and mentors who can exemplify what it means to have a controlled mouth (James 3:1).

May God bless our churches in these efforts beginning with our own repentance as leaders if necessary, and may the fruits of that repentance show itself in our people who must allow their souls to be cleansed from the plague and stench of a backbiting whisperer.

Noah's Ark "Find"

It is purported that a couple of evangelical archaeologists have discovered the remains of Noah's Ark in Turkey. I hope evangelicals do not embrace this archaeological find too quickly because these type of "discoveries" get sensational and hyped up, and thus believers are too readily to point to the world and say "aha!" see...the Bible is true! Then when it is disproved, the cause of Christ and the biblical witness is tarnished.

Besides, I am highly skeptical of this find in Turkey, since the Bible most likely places the ark in the mountains of Iran:

Prone to wander

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above.
Q&A by Ra McLaughlin:

Hebrews 6:4-6 seems to teach that people who have strayed from their faith cannot be saved. Also, in C.H. Spurgeon's book When Christ Returns, Spurgeon assigns the following interpretation to Matthew 16:28: "This verse may well have been aimed directly at those followers who would defect from the faith, grasp at the world, endeavour to save their lives but really lose them, and barter their souls."

Can someone truly be a Christian, lose his/her faith over a period of years, and then become a Christian again? Can you get back on right terms with God, or do you just have to hope that God will, in his own time, have mercy on you and take you back into his family?


The Bible teaches that once you are saved you cannot lose your salvation. There are many, many arguments and proofs for this doctrine, including:

1. Christians are predestined not just to initial salvation but to eternal salvation (Acts 13:47-48; Rom. 8:28-30; 9:18-24; Eph. 1:3-14; 1 Thess. 5:9-10).
2. Christ's death secured salvation for those for whom he died (Heb. 9:11-15).
3. Justification (being declared righteous and forgiven by God) cannot be lost or revoked (Rom. 5:8-10,15-19; 8:1-4,9-11,29-30; Heb. 9:11-12).
4. The saved/elect are given to Christ as a permanent possession (John 6:35-40; 10:25-29).
5. The saved/elect are kept secure in Christ by God (John 6:35-40; 10:25-29; Rom. 8:28-39; 1 Cor. 1:4-9; 2 Cor. 4:13-14; Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30; Phil. 1:6; 3:20-21; Col. 3:3-4; 1 Thess. 5:23-24; 1 Pet. 1:3-5; 1 John 2:19; 5:4; Jude 1,24-25).
6. Eternal life begins at conversion, and by definition may never end (John 3:14-16,36; 4:14; 5:24; 6:35-40,44-58; 10:25-29; 17:1-3; 20:31; Rom. 6:22-23; 1 Tim. 6:12; Heb. 9:15; 1 John 5:11-13,20).
7. God is sovereign in salvation, his will must be accomplished, and he wills the perseverance of the saints (Job 42:1-2; Isa. 14:24,27; 46:8-11; Matt. 18:12-14; John 6:35-40).

The passages you mention, as well as others, sometimes cause people to think that salvation can be lost, or they cause people to think that they may never have been saved in the first place. While it is impossible to lose salvation, this second problem is not impossible. Some people we think are saved really are not saved.

Matthew 16:28, contrary to Spurgeon, does not refer to anybody perishing eternally. Rather, it is a simple statement by Jesus that the things of which he spoke would transpire within the lifetimes of some of those who were listening to him at the time.

Hebrews 6:4-6 is much more troublesome. To many, this passage appears to be teaching that a person can lose his salvation, and then can never regain it. In fact, even though this passage talks about partaking of the Holy Spirit and tasting of the heavenly gift, it isn't talking about people who are saved. As Hebrews 6:9 says, "But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way." That is, even though the author speaks in this threatening way, he means his words to apply to those in the church who are not saved and who then despise Christ, not to those who are saved. Of those who are saved, he expects "better things...things that accompany salvation."

The things which this passage mentions that sound like salvation (e.g. tasting the heavenly gift and the good word, partaking of the Holy Spirit, etc.) may not only legitimately describe believers, but also unbelievers within the church. Unbelievers in the church hear the Word of God preached, see it in action in the lives of believers, and even benefit from the spiritual gifts of the believers in the church as these believers minister to them. They experience firsthand the good things of God manifested in the church, but nevertheless are not saved. As John writes in 1 John 2:19: "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us."

This still leaves the us with the question: "What happens to an unbeliever who is part of the church, experiences these good things, and then rejects Christianity? Can such a person be saved?" I believe the answer is yes.

First of all, the Bible teaches that there is only one unforgivable sin, namely blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31-32). All other sins will be represented and forgiven among those who are saved - including blasphemy against Christ. Since sin against Christ is in view in Hebrews 6:4-6 (e.g. they crucify to themselves the Son of God and put him to shame), and not blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, this sin must be forgivable. Therefore, those who commit this sin can repent and be forgiven.

Why then does the passage say it is impossible to renew these people to repentance? There are a couple possible solutions to this dilemma. First, it is entirely legitimate to translate the latter part of Hebrews 6:6 as the NRSV does: "since...they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt." This translation (which is actually closer to the original Greek) states that these people cannot be renewed to repentance because of what they are doing, not because of what they have done. That is, they cannot repent while they are still in the midst of this sin. Further, the sin in question does not seem to be a passive state of remaining away from the faith, but rather an active state of continually and publicly despising Christ. The text says nothing of these sinners' ability to repent once they cease from such sinful activity.

Second, looking back to Hebrews 6:1-3, we find that verses 4-6 appear as an explanation of why the author is not going to "lay again a foundation of repentance." The author was not going to write about the need for repentance and conversion because it would not have persuaded those particular unsaved individuals in the church(es) to which this letter was written. It would not have persuaded them because they already knew the message and actively disdained it. This refusal to teach about repentance "again" is very similar to Jesus' instruction to his disciples that they give up and move on when they encountered people who would not receive the gospel (Matt. 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5; 10:11). Paul and Barnabas also set such an example (Acts 13:51). Thus, the purpose of the passage is not to show that these unbelievers cannot repent, but rather that preaching to them will not bring them to repentance. However, this does not mean that these unbelieves will never reach a point in their lives when they will be open to the gospel and repent upon hearing it.
Another Q&A by Ra McLaughlin on blasphemy against the Holy Spirit:
Jesus taught that every kind of sin may be forgiven except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:10). That is, if anyone blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, that person demonstrates that he or she is not among the elect — that person will never be saved ("a tree is recognized by its fruit"; Matt. 12:33). But what exactly is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? How can we know if we have committed this unforgivable sin?

The general idea of “blasphemy” is "speaking impiously," "slandering," or "using abusive language." Jesus warned the Pharisees that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was unpardonable both in this age and in the next (Mt 12:32; Mk 3:29-30) in response to their insistence that he exorcised demons by being in league with Satan (Beelzebub). By denying that the Holy Spirit was the power behind the exorcism, attributing that power to Satan, the Pharisees spoke against the Holy Spirit. On this basis, theologians have commonly understood blasphemy of the Holy Spirit to be “attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan or other demonic forces.”

Even this definition, however, needs refining. In responding to the Pharisees, Jesus also made the point that the work he did was obviously from the Holy Spirit (according to the logic of his argument in Matt. 12:25-29 and Mark 3:23-27). There was no reasonable explanation for the exorcism other than the power of the Holy Spirit, and this should have been evident to all. The Pharisees rejection of the Holy Spirit was thus informed and willful; they had not simply made a mistake. Speaking from the evil of their hearts (Matt. 12:34-35), they had intentionally blasphemed what they knew to be the power of the Holy Spirit.

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is informed and intentional, motivated by evil. Because it is unforgivable, it cannot be committed by a Christian, or even by someone who is not yet a Christian but who later will come to faith. A college professor, who, while knowing the truth about God, dedicates his career to turning away young adults from the Christian worldview, would be a modern example.

Even so, sincere Christians sometimes fear that they, in an unguarded moment, have blasphemed the Holy Spirit. Usually, these people have simply misunderstood the nature of such blasphemy, or have misjudged their own actions. In any event, since the reprobate (those who will never come to faith) cannot feel true remorse for their sin (cf. Acts 11:18), Christians who fear that they may have committed this unpardonable sin generally show by their very anxiety and remorse that they have not done so.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mormon Glenn Beck Speaking at Liberty University Graduation

Here's a perfect example of what evangelical co-belligerism does to Christianity:

Liberty University has invited Glenn Beck to speak at their graduation.

Glenn Beck is a Mormon. Contrary to postmodern evanjellyfish claims, Mormonism is a pseudo-Christian cult. That means that Mormonism is damnable heresy and Glenn Beck is a hell-bound heretic; regardless of how nice he is. See Watchman Fellowship's articles here:

Here's an important question for the administration of Liberty University:
Have you hit your heads?

It appears so. Given his previous deceit, it is not surprising that Ergun Caner, President of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary tweeted the following about the invite,
Glenn Beck at the LU Graduation! Love it! And I'm loving the snarking of the haters. LU folk: rejoice when they revile!
What? "[R]ejoice when they revile!"? Oh, you mean when discerning, Bible-believing evangelical Christians revile the fact that the school that you work for should be consistently training young people in the truths of the Christian faith versus confusing them by inviting a hell-bound cultist to speak at their commencement ceremony? To top that off, you call those (like me) who object to your administration's decision "haters". Au contraire, it appears that you sir, are the hater. The fact that you would gladly support such confusion shows those who have any measure of discernment where your heart and the heart of Liberty's administration is when it comes to presenting a consistent message regarding the truth of the gospel. If you want to know why Bible-believing Christians are upset at this decision, it is this: Your trumpet is producing an uncertain sound and you are rejoicing about it, just like much of the rest of evangelicalism. Instead of rejoicing, you ought to be mourning.

Given Caner's attitude and Liberty U's invite of Beck, its no wonder most of the professing evangelical Christians that I witness to are absolutely clueless about the gospel.

May God have mercy on the professing evangelicals in America, as the foundations of historic evangelical orthodoxy continue to erode.

Was God late to the play?

Some comments I left at First Things: Evangel

steve hays
April 22nd, 2010 | 6:33 pm | #31

[Sacramone] “One last time, a little perspective: To believe that before you were born God had already decided that you, as an individual, would spend eternity in heaven or in hell, merely because it pleased him to do so, his being God and all, irrespective of anything in you or about you.”

And what makes you think that’s an accurate characterization of reprobation? How does your description compare with, let us say, Turretin’s discussion of reprobation?

“Tell me you believe, however, in a mythological monster who delights in human suffering as an expression of his absolute power and that we are merely hapless victims—well then the doctrine of double predestination becomes at least intelligible, albeit in a frighteningly sick way. But tell me that it’s also the condemned’s fault, and I’m going to drive you to a pharmacist to re-up your meds.”

One of your problems with the combination of your supercilious tone with the frivolity of your intellectual performance. You’re just a rhetorician. You affect to treat these issues as if they were of utmost importance, but you never get around to presenting a single serious argument. Instead, you simply hide behind oratory. But oratory is no substitute for exegesis or reasoned argument. And there’s more to exegesis than simply quoting a verse of Scripture, then nodding your head.

“If God must declare ‘Bob, you’re in’ even before there is a Bob and ‘Sally, you’re out’ even before there is a Sally for there to be such a thing as grace…”

So you think that God creates people without having any idea what to do with them, then only after he makes them he stops to ask himself where they should end up. Is that your honest-to-goodness position, or is this another case in which you’re just speaking for rhetorical effect?

“This is why I sometimes think we’re talking about two different religions.”

I think that’s one thing you’ve succeeded in demonstrating, all right.

“To say we owe God honor simply because he is God, without any reference to the Cross…”

And who is saying that, exactly? Can you quote the Reformed confessions to that effect? Or some major Reformed theologians?

“…is to say Russians owed Stalin honor because he could have had any one of them sent to the Gulag with a wiggle of his mustache.”

Okay, so you’ve drawn a picture for us. Do you have anything besides picture language to disprove Calvinism? Or is your theology reducible to a comic strip?

“And I also I appreciate the importance some Christians give to the notion of double predestination, believing it to be at the heart of their understanding of what it means to have a truly gracious God. I would only ask this latter group to, again, take a step back and consider the full implications of what this means.”

Well, before you consider the full implications of double predestination, why not start by considering the full implications of single predestination. If only those are saved whom God has chosen to save, then the damned are all those whom God chose not to save. So why do you compare double predestination to Stalinism, but give single predestination a pass?

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 11:02 am | #38

“I’ll say it again: if God makes human beings for the SOLE purpose of making them miserable…”

Well, that’s a nice caricature of Calvinism.

April 23rd, 2010 | 11:39 am | #39

In your view, why does God make the humans who go to Hell, given that you don’t believe they can go to Heaven by virtue of God’s decree?

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 11:47 am | #40
He makes the reprobate for the benefit of the elect.

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 3:00 pm | #50
Adam Omelianchuk

“Here’s a question for all those that are convinced of Calvinism: Would you praise God when an unbeliever dies?”


“Since you know that God determined that the unbeliever dies in his or her sin for God’s glory and your good does your heart rejoice? Why or why not?”

Whatever God does is praiseworthy.

Something can be genuinely bad in and of itself, but also contribute to a larger good. So we can have more than one response to the same event.

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 3:08 pm | #52

“So, God makes some human beings solely for the purpose of the benefit of others. Some people only exist for those who are going to Heaven, and their fate is Hell. That in no way differs from what I said. That God is a sick freak.”

Thanks for reminding everyone that you can’t present an honest argument against Calvinism. This was your original objection:

“I’ll say it again: if God makes human beings for the SOLE purpose of making them miserable…”

When I challenged that caricature, and you asked me what my alternative was, I said:

“He makes the reprobate for the benefit of the elect.”

You then turn around and say “That in no way differs from what I said.”

But needless to say, it does, indeed differ. The difference between:

i) God created the reprobate for the sole purpose of making them miserable,


ii) God created the reprobate for the benefit of the elect.

It’s symptomatic of your blind, first-shaking fury that you act as though these are convertible propositions.

You need to repent.

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 3:13 pm | #53

“I was recently reading some things that William Lane Craig wrote against calvinism/theological determinism and you make some statements remarkably similar to his.”

I posted a rebuttal a few days ago.

“This is not surprising as non-Calvinists tend to see the same problems with calvinism.”

It’s not surprising because it’s a tautology. Just like non-Catholics tend to see problems with Catholicism. Catholics tend to see problems with non-Catholicism. And so on and so forth.

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 4:27 pm | #56
Jeff Doles

“Should we ever be happy that somebody dies without having repented and coming to faith in Jesus Christ? Should it ever be a cause of joy that some do not believe?”

A better question to ask is whether you should be shifting terminology. The original question was whether God is praiseworthy in that event.

Do you deny that God is praiseworthy if somebody dies in unbelief?

Unless you’re a universalist, you must believe that God is blameworthy. Is that your position? Are you an atheist?

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 7:21 pm | #59
Jeff Doles

“Should we ever be happy that somebody dies without having repented and coming to faith in Jesus Christ? Should it ever be a cause of joy that some do not believe?”

You might redirect your question to the Apostle John:

“Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” (Rev 18:20).

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 9:44 pm | #62
Jeff Doles

“Well, Steve, since you have twice deflected the question, I’m redirecting it to you. In Revelation, he is not telling us to to rejoice that someone is unrepentant and does not believe, so this passage does not really apply to the question I have asked.”

“Babylon” personifies the wicked. Rev 18:20 represents the culmination of a motif (cf. 6:9-11; 19:1-2). So the saints are commanded to rejoice in the fate of the ungodly, as the praiseworthy expression of God’s just judgment.

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 9:50 pm | #63
Craig Payne

“To know something, even to know it infallibly, is not to cause it.”

A red herring.

And even on your own terms, God did “cause” it–just not directly or solely.

“One reason non-Calvinists find Calvinism repugnant is that a Calvinist (correct me if I’m wrong) would probably also accept (2) and (3). Of course, the biblical response is the important one, but there is also a response of the sensibilities, i.e., something like, ‘Given what we know of God and God’s character, those options just cannot be true.’”

One reason Calvinists find non-Calvinism repugnant is that a non-Calvinist subordinates God’s self-revelation to his preconception of what God ought to be like.

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 10:23 pm | #66
Jeff Doles

“Steve, the saints are not told to rejoice because the evil were unrepentant and unbelieving.”

Now you’re paltering in a double sense. You originally asked if we should ever rejoice when somebody dies in unbelief.

That’s not the same thing as asking if we should ever rejoice because they were unbelievers.

Rather, that’s asking if we should ever rejoice in their fate–a fate which is the just desert of their impenitent unbelief.

Do you really not grasp the rudimentary distinction between these two propositions?

“Do you rejoice that people do not repent? Is it a happy occasion for you when they do not come to faith in the Lord Jesus?”

Is there any place in your theological system for passages like Rev 18:20?

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 10:37 pm | #67
Jeff Doles

“A Scripture I did have in mind, though, is Matthew 23:37, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!’ See, that’s a lament, not a celebration. Jesus is not rejoicing that the Jews in Jerusalem were unrepentant and unbelieving. Jesus did not get up and dance a happy jig after that.”

i) To begin with, why do you think you’re entitled to a serious question when you resort to polemical caricatures about “dancing a happy jig?” If you can’t ask sincere questions, then don’t expect serious answers.

And this is characteristic of anti-Calvinists comments on this thread. You will say anything to gain rhetorical, polemical leverage–regardless of how inaccurate it is.

ii) Yes, that passage presents Jesus as the Savior. What about passages which present Jesus as the Judge? Such as:

“When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thes 1:7-9),


“Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev 6:15-17).

Or what about:

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
Once more they cried out,

“Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying,

“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
small and great.”

(Rev 19:1-5)

steve hays
April 24th, 2010 | 7:37 am | #72
Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus, even though that was temporary. There’s no evidence that Jesus wept over the fate of Judas, even though that was for keeps.

Indeed, we see a wide range of emotions in the life of Christ. He doesn’t treat everyone the same way.

I don’t see a uniform attitude among Bible writers regarding the fate of the lost. Paul laments the fate of Jewish unbelievers in Rom 9:1-3. Yet he adopts a very different tone in 2 Thes 1:14-16. And OT writers frequently exult in the fate of Israel’s mortal enemies.

So I don’t share your effort to homogenize the tone of Scripture regarding the fate of the lost.

You’re also assuming that one can’t have mixed feelings. To take a comparison, there were a number of capital crimes in the Mosaic law. If, say, your kid brother was executed for a capital crime, you could griever over his death, but also regard God’s justice as praiseworthy.

steve hays
April 24th, 2010 | 9:27 am | #77
Jeff Doles

“Steve, stop deflecting. It’s a simple question.”

I realize that it bothers you when I recast your questions in Scriptural terms. But I’m not going to answer a question just the way you choose to frame it if your framework is unscriptural.

“Are you glad that unbelievers do not repent and come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ Possible answers: Yes, I am glad. No, I am not glad.”

It betrays a lack of sincerity on your part when you ask questions, only to ignore the answers.

As I already pointed out in response to your question, there’s no reason to think that’s a yes-or-no question in the first place.

Why assume that we have to feel the same way about each and every one of the lost, one way or the other?

Suppose my younger brother dies in unbelief. I mourn for his loss, although I should still praise the wisdom and justice of God.

Suppose a suicide-bomber accidentally blows himself up before he can denote his bomb in a kindergarten. Do you think I have to grieve for him as well? Why shouldn’t I praise God for poetic justice?

Try not to have such a wooden view of human emotions. The Bible draws elementary distinctions which you steamroll.

“Would it be acceptable for a Calvinist to say, ‘No, I am not glad,’ or would that somehow violate the principle of Calvinism?”

Depends on the situation.

“Does anybody here believe that God rejoices that some people are unrepentant? Is He pleased that they do not believe Him? Is He glad that they reject the Lord Jesus?”

You act as if God is not the Creator of the world. That God can only react to the status quo.

I think the world is exactly what God intends it to be, at any given time, according to his ultimate design.

steve hays
April 24th, 2010 | 5:34 pm | #84

“Sure, you’ll feel ‘bad’ about it, but from what I’m reading, that sense of regret is something you consider to be a sinful and weak human failing. You know, that ‘emotion’ nonsense we’re stuck with due to the fall of Adam. If you were a perfected saint, your correct response would be to be happy seeing your brother damned for all eternity, just as God is.”

Unless and until you explicate the process of reasoning by which you validly deduce that interpretation, your comment doesn’t merit a response.

steve hays
April 24th, 2010 | 5:52 pm | #85
Jeff Doles

“So, if I understand your answer correctly, you are saying that you are not glad in some instances but may be in others. Fair enough. It is largely an emotionally-charged question, and our emotions are as much in need of discipleship as our intellect and volition.”

What I’ve said is that no one type of response is necessarily right in all situations.

“The example of the suicide bomber misses the point because I am not asking whether you are glad that the wicked die and are judged. Rather, the question is whether you are glad that they were wicked, unrepentant, unbelievers in the first place.”

i) You dichotomize the process from the end-result in a way that I do not. If God is praiseworthy for the outcome, then God is praiseworthy for the events leading up to the outcome.

ii) Another problem with your whole line of reasoning is the fallacious inference from what we ought to feel to what God feels. But God isn’t human. Therefore, you can’t draw a systematic correlation between our emotional make-up and God’s emotional make-up, even if we were sinless.

“If that is true of love, then it must also be true of God, for the Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8).”

Of course, many people cite “God is love” to reject the doctrine of hell, or reject OT passages in which God commands the execution of the Canaanites, &c.

“So, for Scriptural reasons, I believe that God is not glad when people don’t repent, He is not pleased when they do not believe and He does not rejoice when they reject His Son.”

You talk as if God arrived late to the play. He missed the first act (creation). And he missed the second act (the fall).

Having showed up in the middle of the play, he throws up his hands and exclaims, “What a mess! How could things get so out of hand? What am I to do?”

You have a very reactive view of God.

But God didn’t have to create unbelievers in the first place. After all, some people are believers, and some people are not. So why not just create believers–if that’s all God wants?

Clearly, then, the existence of unbelievers serves a purpose in the plan of God.

“Whether or not that is something a Calvinist can affirm, I am not sure (although I can see it is hard to get a straight answer about it from at least one).”

When you ask a loaded question, I reserve the right to put your question in a Biblical context.

God does all things wise and well. I don’t think it’s improper for a Christian to feel that way.

steve hays
April 24th, 2010 | 7:02 pm | #88

“The reasoning is this: God’s will cannot be divided against itself.”

So far so good.

“He does what He pleases and what pleases Him. He is, from the Calvinist perspective, happy (more glorified) by ordaining some (most?) people for destruction.”

i) You’re casting this in overly emotive, anthropopathetic terms. But God doesn’t do things to make himself “happy.”

God’s good “pleasure” is just a quaint synonym for God’s will. God approves of whatever he does. So should we.

ii) God doesn’t need the world. His love of the elect is truly disinterested. He’s not the beneficiary.

iii) God doesn’t do things to gain glory. Rather, God glorifies the elect. They are the beneficiaries of his self-revelation.

“Thus, their emotions are in alignment with God’s will and are pleased with what pleases Him, angered by what angers Him, etc.”

i) Once again, your description is simplistic and overly anthropopathetic. As I already explain to Jeff, God isn’t human. You can’t simply equate divine “emotions” with human emotions, even in the case of the saints.

Whatever God does is worthy of our praise. But that doesn’t mean we feel whatever God feels.

If I had a crush on a girl in high school, that doesn’t mean God had a crush on her.

ii) Likewise, as I’ve already pointed out, human emotions are complex. We can feel more than one way about the same event. And it can be appropriate to feel more than one way about the same event. Don’t oversimplify the issues to score a foul.

steve hays
April 24th, 2010 | 8:04 pm | #89

“Further, a sanctified, glorified member of the Elect is someone who has been cleansed of all human failings and shortcomings. Their emotions are completely and totally in tune with the will of God. Thus, their emotions are in alignment with God’s will and are pleased with what pleases Him, angered by what angers Him, etc. Therefore, to suggest they might be sad about even a family member being condemned is more a reflection of fallen human emotions and loyalties than anything else.”

You act as though this issue is unique to Calvinism. However, any theological tradition sufficiently orthodox to affirm the Biblical doctrine of hell will raise the same basic question.

On the one hand, God’s judgment of the wicked is just and good. In some respect, the saints in glory must share that God’s-eye view.

On the other hand, how will they feel if one of their loved ones is numbered among the damned?

If that’s a problem for Calvinism, then that’s also a problem for any tradition which honors the retributive justice of God.

And the question is unanswerable here-and-now inasmuch as the Bible doesn’t give us a blueprint for heaven. It merely tells us what we need to know this side of the grave. Beyond that, the rest is pious conjecture.

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 7:31 am | #91
I’d add a further point. From a sublunary standpoint, where there’s life there’s hope. But if a man clearly died in a state of impenitent unbelief, then, at that juncture, we know God’s will for his life.

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 11:34 am | #93

1. You’re cherry-picking one or two verses without making any good-faith effort to integrate your prooftexts into the totality of Biblical teaching.

2. You also make no allowance for anthropopathetic discourse. But unless you’re a Mormon or open theist, you need to take that into account.

3. Finally, you’re not even bothering to exegete your prooftexts. For example, as O’Brien explains in his recent commentary on Heb 11:6, “‘pleasing God” is synonymous with ‘drawing near to him’” (405).

Your appeal to 1 Cor is even lest apt as you take a verse from one writer (John) and stick it onto a verse by another writer (Paul) as if they’re talking about the same thing.

4. Let’s take a different passage: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes…And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” (Mt 11:21,23).

According to this passage, if God had wanted to save the inhabitants of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom, he could have done so by performing analogous miracles. But he didn’t.

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 2:14 pm | #96
Craig Payne

“Actually, we knew God’s will for his life even before that. God’s will is that all be saved and come into the knowledge of the truth. This man rejected God’s will for his life.”

i) So why did God, foreknowing that outcome, create him in the first place? You have God creating a man whom he wills to save even though he knows that by creating him he will damn him to hell. And, in that event, God creates him with that outcome in mind. If God creates him, foreknowing that he will damn him, then God creates him with the intention (indeed, the foreintention) of damning him. So unless you’re an open theist, how is your position coherent?

ii) You also beg the question by assuming the Arminian interpretation of the verse you allude to. Do you think the word “all” settles it?

But that approach takes you straight to universalism, which is why the Arminian scholar Grant Osborne, in his commentary on Rom 5:18 and 11:32, construes “all” in the same way a Calvinist would:

“So when he [Paul] uses ‘all men’ here, he does not mean every human being but rather is saying ‘that Christ effects those who are his just as certainly as Adam does those who are his.’ While all are in Adam, it is clear in Romans that only those who believe are in Christ” (144).

“While some have taken this [’so that he may have mercy on them all’) to mean universal salvation…this is impossible in light of the constant emphasis on final punishment at the eschaton…Therefore, it is likely that the ‘all’ here is corporate, meaning that God’s mercy will be shown to Jew and Gentile alike” (313).

Continuing with Payne:

“But God’s will for this man’s life was not that he die 'in a state of impenitent unbelief,' but that he repent and be saved. I cannot imagine anything more clear from Scriptures.”

Which nicely disregards the counterexample of Mt 11:21,23.

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 2:31 pm | #98
Jeff Doles

“Indeed, the context in which John declares that God is love is the context in which he admonishes believers to love one another. ‘He who does not love does not know God, for God is love’ (1 John 4:8). If these are actually two different loves in this verse, then this verse is incoherent. But it is because the love God has for us is the same as the love we are to have for each other that “God is love” has any meaning at all in this verse.”

Well, that example backfires since, in context, John is describing in-group love, not out-group love. And that is reinforced by what John’s prohibition against loving the world. So thanks for proving my point.

“In Hebrews 11:6, the one who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Why is this necessary? Because God is not pleased with unbelief. God is not pleased with unbelief, or with those who do not believe that He is, or with those who do not seek Him. He does not rejoice in them.”

What you’ve done is to simply repeat yourself, while disregarding my two counterarguments (#’s 2-3).

“You keep citing verses about how the wicked and the unbelieving will be judged. And it is proper that they should be. But none of that means that God rejoices that they were unrepentant and unbelievers.”

You’re the one, not me, who chronically frames the issue in emotive terms. What’s your problem, exactly? Do you not know what “anthropopathetic” means?

Unless you’re a Mormon or open theist, you can’t take all anthropomorphic or anthropopathelic descriptions literally.

“Jesus was not rejoicing over the unbelief of Chorazin and Bethsaida. He was not pleased with their rejection of Him and God’s kingdom. Indeed, His pronouncement of woe on them demonstrates His displeasure with their unbelief.”

Are you trying to miss the point? Go back and reread what I said. Did I claim that passage to says anything about God’s emotional state? No.

I cited the passage to illustrate that even if you interpret the Bible in libertarian terms, there are people whom God is able, but unwilling to save. Got it?

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 2:39 pm | #99
Jeff Doles

“Steve Hays has argued hard against that position, so I can only assume that he takes the opposite view and believes that God DOES rejoice in the iniquity of the wicked, that He IS glad that they are unrepentant and that He IS pleased with the unbelief. Given his participation in this discussion, is that a fair assessment of his position?”

I take it that God knows exactly what he is doing. That God is satisfied with his administration of the world. That God is satisfied with his job performance.

I take it that God doesn’t set goals for himself, then create situations which thwart his own goals. I think that whatever God does, God intended to do.

I don’t think God is a short-sighted deity like Zeus.

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 6:24 pm | #104
Craig Payne

“I did respond to this objection back in post 61: ‘Even if God creates someone with full knowledge of their future unsaved condition, that creation does not make God strictly responsible for their unsaved condition.’”

Irrelevant. Did I ask you a question about God’s *responsibility*? No. Rather, I asked you a question about God’s *intention*. Is there some reason you can’t tell the difference?

Remember what you said? You said: “God’s will is that all be saved and come into the knowledge of the truth.”

So you framed the issue in terms of God’s intention vis-à-vis humanity at large, to wit: his universal saving will.

So I responded to you on your own terms. Try to keep track of your own argument.

Given how you yourself framed the issue, I then asked why, if God wills to save everyone, he knowingly creates hellbound sinners. How does he intend to save them if he intends to damn them? If he knows that by creating them, they will reject the gospel, then he created them foreknowing that he would damn them. And by doing so, he foreintended to damn them.

“The position of libertarian free will does not take away from God’s all-knowing nature, since it accepts statement (1). Given God’s nature, God’s knowledge of all future events is necessary. However, regarding (2): God’s necessary knowledge does not impose the quality of necessity upon my choice. To know something, even to know it infallibly, is not to cause it.”

Irrelevant. Was my question predicated on determinism? No. My question is neutral on the compatibilist/incompatibilist debate. There was nothing in my question which turned on that issue. How was my question framed in determinist terms? It wasn’t. Try to focus on the actual wording of a statement.

My question works just as well on libertarian grounds. If God foreknows that by creating a libertarian agent, said agent will be damned, then in what sense did God intend to save him? Since God is not going to save that individual, because (ad arguendo), God foresees that this agent will freely (in the libertarian sense) reject the Gospel, and God knows that he is not going to save him, then God had no intention of saving him. Do you think that God can intend to do something which he knows he won’t do?

“You also presented Mt. 11:21 and 23 as a ‘counterexample’–which is simply puzzling. The fact that Jesus pronounced judgment against some cities does not seem to mean what you seem to think it means. Doesn’t it simply mean that they refused to repent, even after being confronted with evidence that should have made them repent?”

Is that what it simply means? No. Go back and study the wording. It says that had they been confronted with comparable evidence, they would have repented: “For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes…For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” (Mt 11:21,23).”

For some odd reason, you make the passage say the polar opposite of what it actually said. You make it say that Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom refuse to repent even after being confronted with comparable evidence. By contrast, Jesus said they didn’t repent because they weren’t confronted with comparable evidence, but if they had, they would have repented. How can you possibly justify your contrarian interpretation from the actual wording of the passage?

“That’s an interesting question: (1) Does God make a person’s decision for him or her, for or against salvation? (2) If your answer is Yes, how is that different from humans being mere puppets?”

A better question is, how is that different from humans being clay in the hands of a potter?

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 6:31 pm | #105
Craig Payne

“You can believe that all are saved, and that this is God’s will for all, without falling into universalism.”

So, according to your definition, if somebody goes to heaven, God saved him–but if somebody goes to hell, God saved him.

You’ve now defined the word to be synonymous with its antonym. To be saved is to be saved and to be damned is to be saved.

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 7:00 pm | #107
Jeff Doles

“Steve, since you have disagreed with my position that God does not rejoice in the iniquity, lack of repentance or unbelief of the wicked — and indeed, you continue to argue with it — I can only assume that you believe the opposite, namely that God DOES rejoice in their iniquity, unrepentance and unbelief. That He is glad about it and pleased about it.”

i) I disagree with your fallacious reasoning and your fallacious prooftexting.

ii) I also disagree with your anthropomorphic framework.

“You deny my position, yet you do not seem to able to affirm its opposite in a straightforward fashion.”

You don’t seem to be able to keep more than one idea in your mind at a time.

“I understand. To say that God rejoices in iniquity, or is glad that the wicked are unrepentant, or that God is pleased with unbelief is a very perverse thing to say and bespeaks a disturbed point of view.”

Well, that’s simplistic. God wills an event insofar as that contributes to his overall design, and not in isolation to its holistic contribution.

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 7:39 pm | #110
Jeff Doles

“Steve, whether John is talking about in-group love or out-group love is irrelevant — he is still talking about love among human beings and he is appealing to the love of God as the reason we should love each other. If the love God has is some different sort of thing from the love we are to have for each other, then it would have been incoherent for John to appeal to the love of God.”

Did I say it was different? No. Why do you have such a hard time following what people say? Try to focus on the actual wording of their statements.

In-group love is hardly synonymous with loving other human beings in general. Rather, in-group love is exclusive to members of the in-group.

If you proceed to infer the nature of divine love from the nature of Christian love as reflected in this command, then that, by your own argument from analogy, would denote God’s love for the elect, and not God’s love for humanity in general.

When I answer you on your own terms, I don’t think it’s asking too much if you at least keep up with your own side of the argument.

“I have dealt with the objection #2 you made that I am simply being anthropopathic. The love of God and the love the Bible enjoins us to are not two different kinds of love…”

Missing the point again. It’s anthropopathetic to cast the issue in terms of what God is “pleased” with, or “glad” about–as if we should always take anthropopatheticisms literally. Why do you keep stumbling over this no matter how often I explain it to you?

For example, do you interpret Gen 6:6 the same way an open theist does?

“Regarding objection #3, I do not think that ‘pleasing God by faith’ and ‘drawing near to God’ are necessarily synonymous. But even if they were, it does not make any difference to their import in this verse, because God is not pleased with those who do not seek Him or even believe that He exists. So, your objection has no force.”

Of course it makes a difference. You simply defaulted back to “pleasing,” while you disregarded the semantic impact of the synonymous parallel, which is there to help define the import of “pleasing.” Did you even get the point that O’Brien was making? Apparently not.

“We are not at liberty to ignore such figurative language when we are considering what the Scriptures teach us about God.”

If you admit that such usage is “figurative,” then you can’t turn around and act as if it’s literal. Unless you read the Bible like an open theist or Mormon, that is.

“Your use of Matthew 11:21-23 misses the point of what I have been saying. It does not disprove my position that God does not rejoice over the iniquity of the wicked, or in their unbelief or lack of repentance.”

That’s hopelessly superficial. If God was in a position to save them, but chose not to, then are you suggesting that God now disapproves of his own policy? Is God “displeased” with the choices he made?

Clearly their unbelief or impenitence served a larger purpose in God’s design.

You seem to believe in a God who’s all thumbs.

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 7:57 pm | #111
Jeff Doles

“Steve, here again, you miss the point by quoting me Deuteronomy 28:63. My question is not whether God delights or rejoices to do justice on the wicked and disobedient. Rather, my question is about whether God delights in their wickedness and disobedience. And, of course, He does not, for that is the reason He is judging them.”

You habitually ignore the prior question of why you think God is so nonplussed at what happens in the world he made. Do you think God had no say-so in how the world turned out? Did this come as an unpleasant surprise to God? Do you think God is ignorant, impotent, or both?

“And yet, you cannot bring yourself to affirm its opposite: God DOES rejoice in iniquity and IS pleased with unbelief. You use all sorts of deflections to avoid it. If you really believe that, you should have the courage of your conviction and say it.”

I’ve already explained that to you, but for some reason you think it’s an intellectual virtue to be simplistic.

God can approve of a given event as it facilitates his overall design without approving of that event in isolation to its instrumental role. Why are you chronically unable to grasp such rudimentary distinctions?

Unlike you, I don’t think that God trips over himself by willing things which frustrate his stated aims.