Tag Archives: reformed

Does regeneration precede salvation?

RC Sproul writes:

Yes, the faith we exercise is our faith. God does not do the believing for us. When I respond to Christ, it is my response, my faith, my trust that is being exercised. The issue, however, goes deeper. The question still remains: “Do I cooperate with God’s grace before I am born again, or does the cooperation occur after?” Another way of asking this question is to ask if regeneration is monergistic or synergistic. Is it operative or cooperative? Is it effectual or dependent?

This is an excellent example of the problem in viewing faith as a work under the law. You see, if Sproul is right and faith is a work under the law then it certainly does mean the debate between Calvinists and non-Calvinists is one of synergism vs monergism. However since it is impossible to show how faith is a work under the law (because it isn’t) raising the issue of monergism vs synergism is simply a red herring thrown out to merely obscure the real issue, which is what we mean when we say that man exercises his faith and that God does not “believe for us”.

And here is where we also get to see the double-speak employed by Calvinists like Sproul.

The reason we do not cooperate with regenerating grace before it acts upon us and in us is because we can- not. We cannot because we are spiritually dead. We can no more assist the Holy Spirit in the quickening of our souls to spiritual life than Lazarus could help Jesus raise him for the dead.

That is very interesting, mostly because if people are dead in the way Sproul seems to think they are, then they can do _neither_ good nor evil. If God were to punish such a person, we would have to accuse him of literally beating a dead horse, that is, something that can do nothing other than lay there.

However the language of the whole of Scripture simply doesn’t support such a notion and Sproul knows it, that’s why he stated at the outset that:

“Yes, the faith we exercise is our faith. God does not do the believing for us. When I respond to Christ, it is my response, my faith, my trust that is being exercised.”

Well if Sproul says that at the outset and yet by the end comes to the conclusion that we are totally dead without the quickening of the Holy Spirit, what is he doing in the interim to alleviate the apparently logical paradox he has created?

The answer: He fundamentally redefines what faith is.

In the reformed view faith is simply a mechanistic system predicated on a chain of causes that eventually rests on God. Where faith is traditionally and commonly accepted to mean an act of the will (albeit not a directly volitional act).

Therefore Sproul’s assessment that faith is evidence of regeneration preceding salvation is only valid if we add in a hidden premise that faith is merely a mechanistic output of a predefined set of inputs. The trouble with that view is that if the will is reduced to a machine where faith is nothing more than a product of a series of causal inputs (regeneration being one of them) then the very words used such as “will” and “faith” loose their meaning.

Moreover, on this view of faith, we end up begging the ugly question of why God does not choose to regenerate all men so that they will automatically choose to place their faith in Christ and be saved. Then again, this butts up against another ugly reformed doctrine which is that God does not really love all men nor does he want them to all be saved.

In the end, however, I would agree with Sproul’s assessment that regeneration precedes faith. That the Holy Spirit’s prior operation is a necessary precondition to one’s placing their faith in Christ. however it is far from certain that such regeneration is a sufficient condition for one’s placing their faith in Christ. Indeed, Scripture indicates in many places that it is not sufficient as we have many accounts of people freely spurning the love and drawing of Christ. In other words, regeneration may precede faith, but it by no means causes faith.

So while a positive contribution can not be made in regards to one’s salvation, a negative contribution (ie. choosing to reject the drawing of the Holy Spirit unto salvation) is certainly possible.

Some may point out, however, that Sproul thinks that people are dead such that they only do evil. And that “it would, perhaps, be “double-speak” if he didn’t believe other things in lieu of those two.”

This is where the double speak comes in. You see, if I were to ask whether sinful man sins of his own free volition then you would undoubtedly say “yes”. However, if I asked if man knew he were sinning you would either have to say no in order to remain logically consistent within your own system or you would have to say yes if you wish to affirm what the Bible says on the matter. You see, throughout Scripture we are entreated with language that makes it appear (that is, if we do not presuppose a doctrine that claims otherwise) that man knows he is sinning (in spite of knowing what good is) and yet chooses to forgo God’s will thereby making himself, of his own free will, a rebel just like Satan, the rebellious angel and Adam and Eve, the rebellious progenitors of our race.

However, men like Sproul seem to think that if they redefine “faith” and “will” to mean something which is slavishly enslaved to some other causal entity (ultimately controlled by God, so the number of gears in the causal machine is really irrelevant) they can use the same words the Bible does without doing fundamental damage to language itself. Faith or belief, while not a volitional action, is still an action taken by a will that must be free in some capacity or else the word is emptied of its meaning.

So when men like Sproul, who are smart guys that know better, equivocate on the meanings of the words they are using, they are being deceptive and dishonest. They are practicing double-speak in the classic Orwellian sense by attempting to subvert the very words being used. They would be more honest and respectable if they were to say what they plainly mean in language everyone can understand. But then, they would have to resort to mechanistic language wherein we would have to take great pains to avoid words like “puppet” and “robot” which, while derided by Calvinists far and wide, continue to provide an apt description of the epistemic bankruptcy of Reformed epistemology.

Consequently, this equivocation or redefining of words is one of the reasons that it is so hard to have a productive discussion with Calvinists. Then again, for a system of doctrine that ended up burning many men at the stake merely for disagreeing with it, I suppose being intellectually dishonest is but a small price to pay.

For an extended treatment of this topic I highly recommend this article from the Society of Evangelical Arminians.

Also, if you are interested in what I consider to be a more credible alternative to irresistible grace, I suggest overcoming grace.

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By grace, through faith

A common thorn in the side of most Calvinists is Ephesians 2:8 which reads

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

To keep with the reformed doctrine of irresistible grace (ie. men being robots) they prefer to make the case that faith is included in the gift given from God.

The problem with your interpretation is that if faith is included in what is gifted to us then it makes the through (διὰ) superfluous and unnecessary given the context.

Rather, πίστεως (faith) is the conduit διὰ (through) which χάριτί (grace) is actualized.

Word for word it is: τῇ The γὰρ for/reason χάριτί grace ἐστέ you σεσῳσμένοι are saved διὰ through πίστεως faith καὶ and τοῦτο this οὐκ not ἐξ out of ὑμῶν of yours θεοῦ God τὸ the δῶρον gift/sacrifice/offering.

Further, Robertson’s Word Pictures puts it this way:

Neuter, not feminine ταυτη, and so refers not to πιστις (feminine) or to χαρις (feminine also), but to the act of being saved by grace conditioned on faith on our part. Paul shows that salvation does not have its source (εξ υμων, out of you) in men, but from God. Besides, it is God’s gift (δωρον) and not the result of our work. (emphasis mine)

For more context, this verse is almost the same as verse 5 before it but with the addition of “through faith”. Verse 5 reads:

even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

If faith is part of the gift and is indeed necessary for salvation, why was it omitted in verse 5?

It seems that only by making the illogical leap to thinking of faith as a work12 can a person sustain the notion that faith along with grace is not of ourselves.

  1. Which should be rejected anyway since such a view of faith as a work would make verse 9 incoherent. []
  2. Galatians 3:6 among other verses point to the fact that faith is not a work under the law. []

Does responsibility presuppose freedom?

A friend of mine on Facebook posted the following video with the following claim:

No responsibility doesn’t presuppose freedom, but responsibility does presuppose authority.

Here is my initial response, along with the ensuing conversation’s highlights.

It presupposes both actually. Responsibility requires both someone to be held accountable and someone to be held accountable to. Both subsiquiently require a certain amount of freedom to choose. Both to set the standard of responsibility as well as whether to even attempt to live up to the standard set. To negate the freedom of either is to render them an object and not an agent. And objects cannot be responsible or authoritative. Humans aren’t objects, and neither is God.

Why do both [causal agents] require freedom?

They require freedom in order to be considered causal agents. I explained this in my previous note when I talked about how responsibility presupposes that both the one being held accountable and the one to whom we are accountable need to be agents and not objects.

You changed the question entirely to whether you were predestined to do one thing or it was entirely undetermined by any but yourself.1

No, I think your theological presuppositions are getting in the way of your understanding my question and its significance as to the present topic.

You asserted earlier that I am mistaken. Well that implies that I am responsible for presenting accurate information. So my question is whether my mistakenness is my own fault due to my own limited but free choices in what information to pursue and what propositional truth claims to maintain as true or whether I have no free will at all (not absolute freedom mind you, that is a straw man on your part) and thus have no alternative than to be mistaken about my assertions. In the former case responsibility and the subsequent admonition are warranted whereas in the second case responsibility is negated simply because there is nothing I could have done otherwise.

If our responsibility is founded on our freedom, how is it that Jesus Christ is held responsible for our sins instead of us when he did not perpetrate them?

Jesus was held responsible for our sins? That is news to me. I was under the impression that He willingly paid a debt He did not owe. However it is funny that you should bring this up as it lends itself further to the notion that men have limited freedom since their sins are just that, theirs, and not someone else’s. The very notion of sin, like responsibility, necessitate at least enough freedom on the part of the agent charged with sin to have possibly opted to not sin. Otherwise, if you negate any and all freedom whatsoever, or if you redefine will to mean something other than will, you are left with a logical contradiction (not just mystery) in that men sin by necessity and due to a causal determination outside of their own volition.

In the end, I think you understand the correct and logically cohesive argument since you state it quite plainly:
“If I am responsible, then I am free. I am free therefore I am responsible.
Then you give the further proof: If I am causally determined (by some thing other than myself) then I am not responsible, I am responsible therefore I am not causally determined (by some thing other than myself).”

Simply put, yes. This is correct since men are not robots but causal agents capable of making limited but truly free choices.

If responsibility is required then freedom to respond is available. Responsibility is required therefore freedom to respond is available.

Responsibility: definition

Responsible: definition

1 a : liable to be called on to answer b (1) : liable to be called to account as the primary cause, motive, or agent (2) : being the cause or explanation c : liable to legal review or in case of fault to penalties
2 a : able to answer for one’s conduct and obligations : trustworthy b : able to choose for oneself between right and wrong

So you see. The language of causal agency is etched into the very definition of the words used. So unless you want to take the route of being a pure deconstructionalist, wishing (freely) to remake the English language in your own image (by redefining words as you see fit) then I would consider this topic to be rather simple and resolved purely on account of the necessity of linguistic structures.

Responsibility requires the ability to respond by a causal agent. Causal agency entails some degree of freedom to choose. Or, in this case, “choose between right and wrong”.

To sum it all up. Those who disagree with the notion that responsibility presupposes the freedom to make real, morally significant moral choices are, themselves, mistaken. It is not God or any other outside agent or force that has caused them to be mistaken, their error is wholly their own.

Note, that if a person wants to deny the above paragraph they cannot simply say that I am mistaken since such a claim would, itself, necessitate the limited freedom to be 1. wrong and 2. responsible for correcting that wrong belief. The best someone who wants to deny true causal agency (aka limited free will) and who implicitly wants to affirm causal determinism can say is that I have been predestined according to forces wholly beyond my control (which goes without saying, but I feel the need to be overly specific and verbose here) to believe the way I do. They cannot, however, say that I am wrong in my beliefs. Because no matter how hard they try, they cannot get around the fact that to deny causal agency, which is the core of limited freedom, is to unhinge the whole notion of responsibility by destroying. And no amount of redefining words is enough to save such a wholly illogical and philosophically untenable position.

  1. After a previous response I received the objection that I was mistaken. The quoted comment, then, is in response to my question as to whom was mistaken, me or God. The purpose of this inquiry was to implicate the intuitive nature of limited freedom being asserted here. []

Subversive preaching: “Examine yourself”

A friend on Facebook posted the video above which gave rise to the following conversation:

Me:

I find such sermons where the underlying premise is “though you think you are saved, you MAY not be” to be absolutely deplorable and ultimately severely spiritually damaging. May God have mercy on all preachers who think they are doing any good in preaching such sermons and may God also fortify those unfortunate enough to sit through such horrible sermons to either ignore them or be strengthened enough to withstand the undue and needless spiritual consternation they cause.

What amuses me in all of this, though, is that such sermons are often preached by Calvinists, who also purport to hold to “once saved always saved”. Assurance of salvation indeed!

They:

Wes…..there is an epidemic of easy-believism in this country. Just say a quick prayer and bam, you are saved. Man cannot declare someone’s salvation, only God can do that. Unfortanetly, this is the way of the world. You are right, for the false convert, sitting through such a sermon must be “absolutely deplorable”. Wes, the Truth is not meant for comfort and to make one “feel good”. It is God’s Truth, and just because it may make someone feel it is “absolutely deplorable” does not change anything. Yes, once saved, always saved, but you actually have to be saved to claim this. As many who think they are, are not.

Me:

The point is that it has nothing to do with feelings in the first place. Sure, there is easy-believism in the form of making people feel good about themselves, but on the opposite end of the spectrum you have the preachers like Paul Washer who seem to think people should be emotional train-wrecks 24/7 and never content with their life or their walk with Christ.

The bottom line is if someone accepts the simple message of Christ’s life, death, and atonement for their sins per 1 Corinthians 15 then they are saved and can know it with certainty. Period. End of story. Any further preaching whose aim is primarily to introduce doubt in their lives as to their salvation is, quite simply, wrong (and quite possibly demonic). Now, we may want to more clearly define what it means to believe in the first place (and that is not merely mental acknowledgement/affirmation of a set of propositions) but we by no means need to preach sermons where we may inadvertently destroy someone’s faith because we are hell-bent on removing the tares from the wheat.

Also, “easy-believism ” is not really a problem. Failure to understand what one is believing/committing to is.

The Gospel is simple and easily to believe (with the drawing and assistance of the Holy Spirit that is) and it would be wrong for us to start throwing in additional unnecessary barriers to belief (beyond the limited and simple ones Jesus Himself established).

The problem is not that people are readily believing what is preached. The problem is that what is preached is not an entirely accurate portrayal of what it means to be a Christian.

They:

Actually Wes thats not how it works. What you just stated is in fact the false gospel that is damning many to hell. You cant just simply “believe” and be saved. There is no way I can detail this in a fb comment, but simply yes you must believe the gospel BUT then you must beg God to grant you repentance and salvation and IF you get saved you receive the Holy Spirit and are regenerated. Then you are called into a life of pursuing Holiness and Christ like charactor i.e. a covenant with God to keep his law. No one can not by any means earn salvation through works but good fruit or works is evidence of true salvation and the only proof. Washer preaches the way he does because the majority of this country are deceived and not saved. The TRUE Saints rejoice and delight in reproof and his teaching, if it bothers you maybe it is because one doesnt have the Holy Spirit therefore is not a child of God and doesnt appreciate the discipline of God.

Me:

God does not grant us repentance.

We repent before God. We may be drawn and aided by the inner working of the holy spirit, but to say that God “grants us repentance” is to destroy what repentance, by definition, is.

But you do elucidate one of the biggest problems we face here and that is not that people believe the Gospel but that the gospel is being changed (either knowingly or unknowingly) by Calvinists such as Washer through their understanding of election into “if you are elect, then God will change you, otherwise you are one of the reprobate and therefore screwed from all eternity”. Unfortunately such a gospel is really no gospel at all (and not really worth preaching either since it neither provides hope nor is it anything anyone can do anything about).

What is truly sad in all of this is that in an effort to preserve a man-made theological system we are quite wiling to do mortal damage to the faith of our brothers.

At this point my salvation was questioned. A tactic I’ve come to discover is par for the course, especially when debating with hyper-Calvinists.

They:

Wes….I’m not saying anything of the sort. Only God knows your heart, but everything you speak of screams “easy-believism”. If I offended you I am sorry, that was not my intent. I cannot believe anyone who is truly saved can speak of Paul Washer in the tone that you do. I’m done responding Wes. Again I am sorry if I offended you, but I can speak of no other but the truth. Please, if you cannot tolerate what I post here on fb, please delete me. For it will not offend me in any way shape or form.

Me:

I hate to take a short detour from the present thread’s topic to address this for a second:
“I cannot believe anyone who is truly saved can speak of Paul Washer in the tone that you do.”

That smacks of “I am of Paul”. Brother, that is a VERY dangerous and spiritually damaging road to walk down. I don’t think Paul Washer has absolutely nothing good to say, he does. But neither do I think he is right in regards to everything he says or does or, and more importantly, is he above reproach. Remember, the Bereans were commended for following up on Paul, the least we can do is the same for anyone who purports to be a teacher.

Back to this whole mythical specter of “easy believe-ism”. I simply don’t see it. The message of the Bible is clear, concise, and accessible by all. The fact that we reject it is only an indication of our hard hearts, but the present conversation has NOTHING to do with order salutis. Even though we are from different sides of the theological fence we ought to be able to agree that after one is saved they are, indeed, saved. In that respect, and based on the testimony of Paul’s wife above, I find absolutely no biblical reason to say that she was not saved before her emotional breakdown some many years later. Further, I would cite the emphasis on emotion in this case is actually what is detrimental to a person’s spiritual well-being. And it is quite likely what exacerbated the issue in question far more than any lostness (mostly because the lostness was merely a perceived one and not due to any objective Biblical definition of lostness).

So for offending/hurting anyone’s feelings. Brother, I simply don’t understand what you are talking about. Just because I disagree with you does not have any bearing on my emotional state. Further, my emotional state has no bearing on the facts or what needs to be said or expressed. What you seem to be alluding to smacks of some sort of hyper-sensitivity that I do not possess. And hopefully you don’t either. So if it is all the same to you, why don;t we agree to stay on topic, discussing it in a Christ-like fashion, and forgo worrying about eachother’s feelings?

They:

Wes, why do you think you are a Christian?

From here the conversation turns to be about me rather than the initial topic. This is, as I noted above, a common tactic popular among Reformed adherents. But it also serves to elucidate the subversive nature of this vein of teaching.

Where does it come from? Both Augustine and Calvin taught a view of the church where, in their view, there existed a global visible church and a local invisible church. Under this view all local congregations contained both reprobate as well as elect persons. It is from this view that men like Paul Washer either knowingly or unknowingly subvert the faith of millions by constantly calling into question their salvation.

By contrast, the Bible teaches us that we can be certain of our salvation.

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. -1 John 5:13

Let no one, including (and especially) preachers, tell you differently.

John Calvin on John 3:16

Here’s a gem I ran across recently while reading the excellent book, Whosoever Will.

And indeed our Lord Jesus was offered to the world. For it is not speaking of three or four when it says: “God so loved the world, that He spared not His only Son.” But yet we must notice what the Evangelist adds in this passage: “That whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but obtain to eternal life.” Our Lord Jesus suffered for all and there is neither great nor small who is not inexcusable today, for we can obtain salvation in Him. Unbelievers who turn away from Him and who deprive themselves of Him by their malice are today doubly culpable, for how will excuse their ingratitude in not receiving the blessing in which they could share by faith.
John Calvin, Sermons on Isaiah’s Prophecy of the Death and Passion of Christ (London: James Clark, [1559] 1956), 141

A couple of observations here:

Calvin did not feel the need to restrict “world” to “the world of the elect”. In fact, Calvin appears to take great pains to maximize the scope here since it is apparent that He believes that the scope of the atonement has a direct bearing on the scope of the Gospel message.

Calvin curiously cited unbelievers who reject the Gospel as “doubly culpable”. This is a clear indication that Calvin believed satisfaction for sins to have been made for all persons otherwise one could not be “doubly culpable”.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16, NIV

Wordy Wednesday: pas

What it means

Greek

πᾶς

Transliteration/Pronunciation

pas/pä’s

Strong’s

G3956

Definition

The primary definition is:

each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything

The secondary definition is:

some of all types

This word is hotly debated by the Reformed crowd when it comes to doctrines such as particular election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace. The claim by most Reformed theologians is that pas does not mean all all the time. So, with that in mind, here are several verses where pas makes an appearance courtesy of Whosoever Will:

Where it’s found (as it pertains to salvation being made available to all men)

Matt 7:24, Luke 6:47, Matt 10:32-33, Luke 7:37, John 1:7, Matt 11:28, John 1:9, John 3:15-16, John 4:13-14, John 6:40, John 11:26, Acts 2:21, Acts 10:43, Rom 9:33, Rom 10:11, 1 John 2:23, 1 John 5:1, Eph 1:10, John 1:3, 2 Tim 3:16, 2 Pet 3:9, 1 Tim 2:4, 1 John 2:2, Matt 18:14, Matt 11:6, Luke 7:23, Matt 12:50, Matt 16:24-25, Mark 8:34-35, Luke 9:23-24, John 6:51, John 7:17, John 7:37, John 8:51, Acts 2:21, Acts 10:43, Rom 10:13, 1 John 4:15, Rev 3:20, Rev 22:17

Unable or unwilling?

A Calvinist friend of mine recently asked me the difference between “unwilling” and “unable” and why I consider the two to be mutually exclusive when talking about mankind’s ability to sin or not. Here’s my reply

If I am unable I cannot be unwilling because my inability precludes my willingness either way. I know you tire of hearing it, but it’s an apt description. If I am unable then I am no better off than a robot preprogrammed to run a certain course and as such I cannot rightly be held accountable for that which I have no control over.

On the other hand, if I am unwilling then I logically have the ability to act in a manner other than that which I choose. That my actions are foreknown is not the same as saying that my actions or choices are less free. In fact, you could even say that my actions are predetermined so long as you account for my freedom to choose at some point (aka, in eternity past as part of God’s omniscience as a brute fact per Molinism).

You see, either I am truly free to choose to sin or not to sin (as the Bible teaches) or else I am unable to choose not to sin (a concept foreign to Scripture).

If I am unable to not sin then I cannot logically be held accountable or responsible for choices that are, by definition, beyond my control.

If I am unwilling to not sin then I am not only responsible for my choice but, in light of the holy standard of God, I am unable to bridge the gap I freely created.

I realize that inability and unwillingness have been tossed around the Reformed world as if they were somehow comparable but the truth is that they aren’t.

The bottom line is that we are either free and responsible or else we are not free and therefore not responsible.

Only one leaves God unstained by the sin and evil that exists in the universe since only one allows for other causal agents who had the ability to freely create and choose to sin against the will of God.

Depravity, is it total?

In a recent discussion on Facebook with a few Calvinistic brethren of mine, we ran across the topic of Total Depravity. Here is a segment of that conversation wherein I discuss the Reformed view of this doctrine’s flaws.

Jared, your view of man’s depravity seems to be rather chaotic and confused. Much like Luther and Calvin’s views on the matter were. Especially Calvin.

I remember reading in the Institutes on several occasions where Calvin would say in one chapter that Man was unwilling to submit to Christ while in the next he would go on about how man was unable to submit to Christ. Which is it? It seems fashionable in Reformed doctrine to attempt to have both. To have your epistemic cake and eat it too. However this is not merely a mystery (the favored escape hatch of Calvinists when faced with the logical and philosophical paradoxes elicited by the conclusions of their theological system). Rather, such notions of man’s inability to do good is antithetical, or logically opposed to the notion that man is unwilling to do good.

And therein may lie another difficulty for us. For the good I speak of is good meritorious unto salvation. In that respect we can certainly make a case that no man seeks after God of their own accord. However we’ve thankfully also been shown that God, through the Holy Spirit, is at work in the world drawing all men unto Christ. So in the end, the Calvinist notion of no man seeking is only half true. The rest of the truth is that man has been given all he needs in order to “seek and ye shall find”. As such I completely reject the notion that I Corinthians 2:14 is a normative prescriptive statement regarding man’s noetic capabilities such that, apart from Christ, a man is wholly ignorant of all spiritual truths.

Regarding Matthew 7:11, the focus of the passage is on the father who gives the ultimately good gift of his son. The focus is on the giver, not the gift. This ought to be pretty plain since gifts cannot, in and of themselves, be either good or bad. It is the giver and their intentions in making the gift that determine the goodness or not of the gift. I would say that I am surprised that you attempted to avoid this relatively straightforward and simple teaching of Jesus but I must admit that I have come to expect theological contortions like this when one holds to a man-made theological system first and foremost as opposed to simply taking the text at it’s plain meaning.

What is a text’s plain meaning? I would argue that it is what someone, saved or not, would understand the author to have meant.

But therein probably lies another great gulf between us for I do not think one can make the honest case (without severe epistemic ramifications) that apart from Christ dwelling within us we can not know or be certain of our knowledge regarding any truths whatsoever.

Oh, and regarding the LBC, WMC, etc. I hate to tell you but none of them are Scripture. Further I would argue that they all suffer from the same philosophical short-sightedness in that they somehow manage to miss the glaring problem with evil, sin, and suffering they create by their view of God’s sovereignty and how all things that come to pass (including sin) were somehow ordained by God. You can cling to the notion of a greater good if you wish, but I would argue that the scores of people whose faith has been wrecked and destroyed by such a heinous view of God ought to be a clear warning that such a notion is not only logically and morally untenable, but that in practice the fruit it yields is far from serene comfort.

The fact is that God is not in league with what he claims to be waging war against (name sin, death, and hell).

Love thy enemies

In a previous post I laid out an ontological argument (following Descartes’ formula) for God’s loving the whole world (on contrast to the rather limited view of love posited by the reformed doctrine of Limited Atonement). Here I will attempt to provide a Biblical case from the standpoint of Christ’s words to “love thy enemies”.

1. We were all sinners (Romans 3:23), separated from God at one point in time. That is, we were under the penalty of death (Eph 2:1) and enemies of God (Romans 5:10).
2. Jesus told his followers to love their enemies, and not just their friends. (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27, Luke 6:35)
3. Therefore God loves all men (John 3:16) and even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6, 5:8)

Several conclusions can be drawn from this chain. Namely that all men are in the same boat at some point in their lives. That is, we are all separated from Christ. Additionally, for those who are saved, we have truly passed from death to life (John 5:24). And finally, this change in position before God is a time-bound stance such that there truly was a time we were heading to hell and for those of us who are saved our eternal destination truly changed from “heading to hell” to “heading to heaven”.

The sad reality, though, is that while everyone is dead in their sins and an enemy of God, and while Christ loves all men who are, by nature, his enemies, not everyone is made alive. Why? is it a lack of love on God’s part? Or is it a lack of acceptance on ours?

You see, only one option leave God’s love undiminished.

God is love. (1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16)

Choose life. (Deut 30:19)

Defending the defenseless, setting the record straight on the Anabaptists

The anabaptists often get a bum rap in Church history classes. Especially among the reformed crowd who would preferr to paint them as anarchists who despised order and expoused heresies. A lawless mob. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, since the anabaptists were routienely persecuted by both the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Magesterial Reformers such as John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Ulrich Zwingli.

Emir Caner has recently released a paper in defense of the anabaptists in an attempt to set the record straight. I highly encourage anyone who is interested in Church history to take a minute and read it.

Highlights include:

  • Anabaptists were hated by everyone so it’s no surprise they have been maligned in history courses for centuries.
  • Anabaptists promoted “believers baptism” as opposed to “paedobaptism” which was the main cause of their mistreatment (some were even killed in the US for their refusal to baptize infants).
  • Anabaptists did not hold to a strict hierarchy of clergy (and for this reason were often mislabeled as anarchists)
  • Anabaptists promoted simple or house church.1
  • Anabaptists objected to theology that ultimately would not lead to primitive Christianity.2
  • Anabaptists did not waver in their belief that God wrote the Bible to be understood
    clearly and explicitly. (as opposed to having to be understood through “trained clergy” per the magisterial reformers or “the priests” per Rome).
    Anabaptists highly valued a clear separation of church and state. This should come as no surprise considering they were killed by everyone in Europe.

Finally, I leave you with a quote from the article:

On 29 May 1525, an unknown peasant farmer, known as a ―pious goodhearted man‖ was
given the privilege of being the first Swiss Anabaptist martyr. Not much is known of this young
man—his birth, his life, even his name—whether he was Eberli Bolt or Bolt Eberli. In 1525, he
found himself in the midst of a spiritual revolution in his country and he himself was placed in
the center of this religious equation. Along with another priest, Eberli was talked into going to
St. Gallen where he chose to be baptized and was ―pressed into preaching service on behalf of
the movement because he could speak well. Johann Kessler, a contemporary of Eberli, spoke
of Eberli‘s sermon as so ―abundantly eloquent that ―hereupon many of the citizens and rural
people consented [to baptism]. His words were so convincing that many ―came to the city
daily and asked where the baptism house was and then left as if they had been to the barber‘s.

When he arrived at home in his canton, Eberli was quickly arrested and sentenced to
death as a heretic. As the chronicler described it, ―Soon [he] approached the fire stakes with
joyful bearing and died willingly and joyfully. Eberli understood what most Christians today
completely miss—it is an honor to suffer for Christ‘s sake. He was the first martyr in a line of
martyrs that, according to Estep, would last for three centuries. He was the first in a line of a
number that only the Lord knows and that could only be revealed in heaven. He gladly bore his
cross.

  1. This was actually more of an outworking from the commitment to a primitive church experience devoid of the trappings of buildings, luxury, and political affiliation. []
  2. This is one of the tenets which helped produce descendants of the anabaptists such as the Amish, Quakers, Mennonites, etc. []