Monday, April 28, 2014

DOES CALVINISM BELIEVE PEOPLE WERE CREATED UNEQUALLY?

By: John Hendryx. Original post here

Visitor: It seems that Calvinism believes that all were not created equally but that some were preordained to eternal life and some to eternal damnation. Aren't there some moral problems with this view point?
Response: First I think it is important to note that the Bible teaches that ALL men are EQUALLY guilty of sin so it would be just if God saved no one. If anyone is saved it is pure unconditional mercy. If anyone is damned it is justice. God is not a respecter of persons so He does not choose people based on ANY advantage, merit, good will or virtue He sees in them. And he did not damn them apart from the fact that they were sinners.
In what may seem ironic to some, it is actually the non-Augustinian/non-Calvinist who believes NOT ALL were created EQUALLY .. since in such views they must ascribe their repenting and believing to their own wisdom, humility, sound judgement or good sense (at least partly) and not to Christ alone. In other words, synergists have to concede that they believe in Jesus and their neighbor doesn't because of some native wisdom they have that their neighbor doesn't. This means that skeptics of 'grace alone' believe God's love is CONDITIONAL... we must meet a condition if we are to trigger God's love toward us so that He will save us. But the Bible does not teach grace is a reward for faith but the cause of it.
In Calvinism God's love for his people is unconditional. He determines to save a people for Himself (which he has predestined in love Eph. 1:4-5) out of the mass of ill-deserving sinners in spite of our rebellion and hardened will. In Christ he does for us what we were unwilling to do for ourselves and He gives us everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe (Deut 29:4, 30:6; John 6:63-65). We believe BECAUSE of grace, not in order to obtain grace.
In this view no one is chosen because they are better but because of His sovereign good pleasure. There is no better reason in the universe than that. Can you think of any?

IS IT MORAL TO PUNISH EVERYONE FOR A SIN COMMITTED BY ADAM AND EVE?

By: John Hendryx, originally posted here

Visitor: There are some issues that original sin bring up. Is it moral to punish everyone for a sin committed by Adam and Eve? Or do you consider the passage to be an allegory ? Excessively harsh punishments are immoral. For example if a man stole a loaf of bread would it be moral to put him in jail for life? The sins that one may commit in his or her life are not bad enough for eternal damnation. It does not seem right that God would create man imperfect and punish him forever for not having the ability to be perfect.
Response: It is not reasonable or coherent to call God immoral unless you can point to an absolute standard of morality that is greater than He. The whole concept of immorality requires a standard to appeal to, or you are only giving a personal preference which has zero authority. So anyone who claims NOT to believe in God and yet appeals to moral absolutes which He should be subject to is being inconsistent with his relativism and committing intellectual suicide. He reveals deep down he knows there is a just God.
Also, it does not follow that if God created man with the ability to make voluntary choices that He "created man imperfect." God declared his creation of Adam and Eve to be "very good".
As for excessive punishment ... if you sin against an infinitely holy God by your rebellion against Him then you are working with an entirely different idea than if you merely sinned against a man. Eternal damnation is not the result of man merely stealing a loaf of bread but of putting ourselves in the place of God as the ultimate authority. All sin is a direct challenge to the first commandment - a rejection of Him as our parent and His authority. And we continue to sin and rebel against God's authority -- as if we were cheering Adam on in his sin against God. Our sinful actions demonstrate that we are sons of Adam and maintain solidarity with him.

ALL FROM GREAT GRACE

The redeemed have all from the grace of God. It was of mere grace that God gave us His only-begotten Son. The gift was infinitely precious, because it was of a person infinitely worthy, a person of infinite glory; and also because it was of a person infinitely near and dear to God.

The grace is great in proportion to the benefit he has given us in him. The benefit is doubly infinite, in that in him we have deliverance from an infinite misery and receive eternal glory.

The grace in bestowing this gift is great in proportion to our unworthiness.  Instead of deserving such a gift, we merited infinite ill of God’s hands.

The grace is great according to the means by which a way is made for our having the gift. He gave him to dwell among us. He gave him to us in a low and afflicted state; and not only so, but as slain, that he might be a feast for our souls.

The grace of God in bestowing this gift is most free. God was under no obligation to bestow this gift. He might have rejected fallen man, as he did the fallen angels.  We never did any thing to merit it; it was given while we were yet enemies, and before we had so much as repented.

It was from the love of God who saw no excellency in us to attract it; and it was without expectation of ever being repaid for it.  It is from mere grace that the benefits of Christ are applied to us. Those that are called and sanctified are to attribute it alone to the good pleasure of God’s goodness, by which they are distinguished.

He is sovereign, and hath mercy on whom he will have mercy.

~ Jonathan Edwards

Friday, April 25, 2014

BIBLE LOGIC FALLACIES OF LIBERTARIAN FREEWILL THEISM

The following numbered items are common assumptions made by synergists (Arminians, Roman Catholics and semi-Pelagians) in rejecting the bondage of the will and God's sovereign grace in salvation.
Fallacy #1. God would not command us to do what we cannot do.
God gave the Law to Moses, The Ten Commandments, to reveal what man cannot do, not what he can do.
A. Premise #1 is unscriptural. God gave the Law for two reasons: To expose sin and to increase it so man would have no excuse for declaring his own righteousness. Why? Because in the context, he does NO righteousness. As Martin Luther said to Erasmus, when you are finished with all your commands and exhortations from the Old Testament, I’ll write Ro.3:20 over the top of it all. ["Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin." Rom 3:19, 20] Why use commands and exhortations from the Old Testament to show free will when they were actually given to prove man’s sinfulness? The law came so that the trespass might increase (Rom 5:20).It exists to reveal what we cannot do rather than what we can do; our spiritual impotence, not our moral ability. Yes, God gave commands to man which man cannot do. Therefore commandments and exhortations do not prove free will. Nowhere in scripture is there any hint that God gives commands tounregenerate men to prove they are able to perform them. It no more unfair for God to call men to do something they cannot do than it is for a bank to call people to repay their debts (even if they don't have the money to do so).
B. This premise is irrational. There may be many reasons for commanding someone to do something, other than the assumption that the can do it. The purpose, as above, may be to show the person his inability to perform the command. Thus, NOTHING can be deduced about abilities from a mere command. As Luther said, passages which state things such as "If thou art willing" and "whosoever believes” are spoken in the subjunctive (hypothetical) mood. A grammarian would explain that this is a conditional statement that asserts nothing indicatively. In such passages, what we "ought" to do does not necessarily imply what we "can" do.
C. The consequences of Adam's disobedience on his descendants includes spiritual impotence in several areas: man's inability to understand God (Psalm 50:21; Job 11:7-8; Rom 3:11); to see spiritual things (John 3:3); to know his own heart (Jer 17:9); to direct his own steps in the path of life (Jeremiah 10:23; Proverbs 14:12); to free himself from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:10); to receive the Holy Spirit (John 14:17); to hear, understand or receive the words of God (John 8:47; 1 Corinthians 2:14); to give himself birth into God's family (John 1:13, Romans 9:15-16); to produce repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 6:64,65; 2 Thessalonians 3:2; Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 2:25); to come to Christ (John 10:26; John 6:44); and to please God (Romans 8:5, 8, 9).
Fallacy #2. Unless our will is free, then we are not responsible.
Or, "If not free, then not responsible." This means if we are unable to make a contrary choice, then our wills are not free. Thus, if we are completely bound in sin so that we can do nothing else but sin, then we are free from responsibility for those sins. The assumption behind this is the idea of moral neutrality.
A. The Bible does not present the concept of freedom in this way. According to Scripture, freedom is described as holiness. The ultimate freedom is absolute holiness. If that is true, then God is the most free being in the universe. Otherwise, we must say that God is the most enslaved being in the universe because He is the one least neutral on moral issues. Plus, God is not free in the libertarian sense to do something contrary His own nature. For example God cannot lie or be unholy or He would violate his own essence and thus no longer be God (an impossible supposition). but He is free in the Biblical sense...free from sin and the bondage of corruption ... as will be the saints in heaven when glorified on the last day. That they cannot choose otherwise [to sin] when glorified does not hinder their freedom, according to the Bible, these persons are the MOST free.
B. Likewise, if we affirm that bondage of will eliminates responsibility, then the best way to avoid responsibility for ours sins to be as bound by them as possible. The drunk who is bound by alcoholism is therefore not responsible for his actions. Should we encourage people to sin all the more therefore, so that they are not responsible any more?
C. The entire idea of neutrality of will is absurd. If the decisions of the will are not determined by the internal nature of the person, then in what sense can it be said that those decisions are the results of a decision of the person himself? How in fact could be a decision be truly a moral one if it is morally neutral? How can morality be morality at all and be neutral?
D. It is directly ontrary to the gospel. It is for this very reason that Christ came - to liberate captives, those in bondage who are unable to help themselves.
Fallacy #3. For love to be real, it must have the possibility of being rejected.
God wants us to love him freely, not by compulsion. Therefore, fallen man must have the ability to love God. It is simply that he chooses to love other things.
A. Scripture teaches that love for God is a product of His grace. 1Ti.1:14. If grace is necessary to make us love God, then it follows that we had no ability to love him before the arrival of grace. It also means that grace is not given because we chose to love God. We chose to love God because grace is given. Grace, not a virtue in man, takes the initiative.
B. This premise is similar to the one that says, "Contrary choice is necessary for freedom to exist." Does God periodically give the saints in heaven an opportunity to hate him so as to be ‘fair’? Did Jesus have some ability to hate the Father? Or was His love for the Father a reflection of what He himself really is?
C. If faith is a gift of grace, as we saw above, then why is it strange to think that love may not be also a gift of grace?
D. This fallacy can easily be demonstrated to be wrong in every day life.  If a parent sees their disobedient child doing something that is imminently life threatening, is it 1) more loving to first test the child's love to see if he will obey the parent (meet their condition) or 2) more loving if the parent, in spite of the disobedience of their child, to run over to save their life because they know better than the child what is good for them? Obviously the later which demonstrates beyond question that love can be real even if it cannot be rejected. What kind of parent makes his child meet conditions if his life is in danger? Thank God for his mercy, Christ meets the conditions for us.
Fallacy #4. A person cannot be punished for what he cannot help doing.
If that is the case, then a Christian may not be rewarded for what his new nature compels him to do. Let us not forget that the nature of a person is not a thing he possesses. It is something he is.
Given this logic, if a person borrowed and then subsequently squandered millions of dollars from a bank, he should not be held accountable for being unable to repay.  Makes no sense.

John Hendryx & Roger Smalling

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

HOW CAN I KNOW IF I'M ELECT?

Response: First of all, the Bible does not teach justification by election, but that our just standing before God is by grace alone in Christ alone as evidenced by our faith. Election does not save but is a blueprint of what God intends to do in time in Jesus Christ. If you are a sinner who has cast aside all self-righteousness and trusts in Jesus Christ as your only hope for salvation, you can know, based on God's certain promise that He has done a work of grace in you, that your sins are forgiven and are, therefore, counted among the elect.
God commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel. But when someone actually comes to faith in Christ we can know from Scripture that it was God who, in His great mercy, opened their blind eyes, unplugged their deaf ears and gave them a new heart to understand and obey the command (Deut 29:4, 30:6; Matt 16:16-17; Rom 9:15, 16). When God removes the scales from our eyes, when He turns the heart of stone to a heart of flesh (Ezek 36:26) there is no longer resistance because the heart is no longer hard like stone. All resistance has been disarmed.
"Our Lord did not come to tell us what we have to do in order to save ourselves; He came to save us... The Christian doctrine of salvation and redemption is this - that Christ Himself is the salvation."- Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. - Matt 16:16-17

Jesus declares Peter's confession was supernatural. That means the fallen sinner's faith in Christ is not self-generated but a work of creation (regeneration) which the Holy Spirit broods over until hatched, so to speak.  And since it is a work of God we have confidence that He will finish what He began (John 6:37-39).

Recommended Resources
Studies on Saving Faith (free eBook) by A. W. Pink
Assurance by J. C. Ryle
Reflections on Assurance by D. A. Carson
The Assurance of Salvation (Study Guide) by R. C. Sproul

MY SIN MAKES ME WORRY IF I AM SAVED


Once in a while I will receive an email like the following from someone who is worried that some sin they have committed may have crossed the place of no return to God's favor.
Visitor: Even after I was sealed for the day of redemption, I still have sinned against God. I continue to fight addicting sin(s), and though most of the time I defeat the sin, sometimes I foolishly give in to it. I'm so sorry that I have given in to foolish and sinful lusts, and all I want to do is to cast away those actions forever, and to be forgiven, and sin no more. But I don't know if I am saved anymore, because I have really been scared that my repentance is not true, because I have again sinned, and that God has cast me away. Please help me, because I am very scared. I want to be forgiven and be different.
Response: Your sin is not greater than Christ's grace and work. Having been united to Christ, the Spirit of adoption can come to you no more with a Spirit of bondage and fear because in Christ you no longer stand in your own sins, merit or performances, but are clothed in His righteousness. Becaue of Jesus you are already on the other side of justice and it can no longer have you (Rom 8:1). No condemnation for you in Christ for the full justice of God has been satisfied. Christ's once for all sacrifice means there is no longer necessary a sacrifice for sin year after year (as in Leviticus) but now His atoning work is sufficient for all time for you before God. Remember, you can neither attain, nor maintain, your right standing before God. You never did and never will, for sin cannot disolve the covenant which God has graciously granted you in Christ any more than He would disolve his relationship with Christ himself. Now as always, our only hope is Jesus Christ. When God justified you, He did not then, and does not now, look at you but rather, at the covenant He made with you in Christ. Consider, when God made the covenant of grace with Abraham, God made Abraham sleep and God himself walked through the divided animals and so promised to take on Himself the punishment if Abraham failed to fulfill his side of the covenant. And so it was, the seed of Abraham (that's us) all failed to keep the covenant and so God Himself came in the flesh to fully bear up the punishment we justly deserve for not keeping our side of it. Jesus Kept it for us. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves, from our side. We are justified for His sake, not for anything God sees in us or will see in us.
It was not your obedience, repentance or faith that caused God to justify you because none of these things can pay for sin - not now, not ever. Only Christ alone can save and pay for sin. And He did. Your safety is based, therefore, on Christ's merit, not on what you do, otherwise you are looking in your self for confidence before God, rather than Christ. No one, not one of us would have any hope if we had to look to ourselves even a little for our final salvation. So look to Christ. He is the author and perfector of our salvation. He alone is able to keep you. Herein is the gospel.
And if one thinks they can lose their salvation because of some sin they committed, they are essentially acknowldging that what Christ did for them was insufficient. They are looking at least partly to themselves for their right standing before God - looking to Christ PLUS their keeping of the Law (Gal 3:3). It misses the whole point of the gospel which is that Christ saves from first to last. The passage that warns the Hebrews against falling away is warning them against one thing: abandoning trust in Christ alone by going back to now worthless and obsolete things, such as trusting in the temple sacrifice and the Law in order to be justified. The warnings in Hebrews are given to those in the covenant community that they would not be tempted to turn from trusting Jesus alone (who is God over all) for some lesser or meaningless ritual act or law keeping that supposedly now can improve on Christ's redemption to curry God's favor. Trusting in anything except Christ alone, who is the light that scatters all shadows, is said to be tantamount to "trampling under foot the Son of God", that is, believing that His once of all sacrifice is insufficient in itself to save. If something in place of, or in addition to, Jesus is trusted in it is no different than a denial of Him. So in context, the persons who go back by trading in Christ for the now-empty ritual of the temple (that itself was meant to point to the fulfillment in Christ), are then re-crucifying the Son to their shame. But unfortunately, Hebrews 6:4-8 is often read in isolation apart from this context.
In fact this is a backdoor to the Galatian heresy where Paul says, "Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Gal 3:3) To believe one can lose salvation, therefore, is trusting in something other than Jesus Christ to keep you righteous in Him. The Hebrews were tempted to go back to temple sacrifice (trusting in something other than Christ) and the doctrine that one can lose salvation is likewise trusting in ones' own moral ability to maintain a just standing before God, since Jesus, according to them, is unable to save completely those who He came to save. Either we are trusting in Christ alone to both attain and maintain our justification or we are trusting in something worthless which the author of Hebrews gives severe warnings about. Quite ironic. That passage is a warning passage for the very error those who teach we can lose salvation are making.
So if your faith is in him today, no matter what you have done, by the promise of God in the gospel you can know that your sins are forgiven. As surely as God is good, in Christ's blood He remembers to never treat you as your sins justly deserve because justice has already been carried out (past tense) for them. You have been set free in Christ and have been given a new heart that loves God. We trust and obey Christ, not in order to be saved but because He has saved us already. May he grant you a Spirit of revelation and an increasing knowledge of Him that your affection for Him would overcome all other vain affections.
by John Hendryx
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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

FAITH MINUS REASON EQUALS IRRATIONAL UNBELIEF

by John MacArthur
Many people mistakenly think of faith as inherently noble. A once-popular song extols the virtue of faith, or believing: “I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.”
No one really believes that, of course, but that is not the point. The song is a paean to faith—without regard to the content of that faith. The object of faith was of no concern to the songwriter. The sentiment that song expresses is by no means biblical. It is an echo of one of the worst lies of our age—the notion that it isn’t important what you believe as long as you believe passionately enough.
Did you know that faith can be seriously harmful? Some varieties of faith actually lead away from the true God—they substitute superstition, falsehood, or faith itself in place of truth. Such faith inevitably leads to spiritual disaster. It is reckless faith.
Reckless faith goes to two extremes. At one end of the spectrum it looks within—relying on feelings, inner voices, fantasy, or subjective sensations. At the other extreme it fixes its hope on some external human authority—the teachings of a supreme leader, religious tradition, magisterial dogma, or some other arbitrary canon.
An obvious non-Christian example of the first extreme is New Age mysticism. A similar example of the second is Islam. But even among groups that profess Christianity, both varieties of reckless faith are clearly seen. The charismatic movement, for example, tends toward the first extreme; Roman Catholicism epitomizes the second.
(Interestingly, there have been recent developments of a strong convergence occurring between the charismatic movement and Roman Catholicism. Such a bizarre unity reminds us that the vast spectrum of theological errors all flow out of one satanic origin. More on that in the coming weeks.)
Note that at both poles, reckless faith seeks spiritual truth apart from Scripture—and that is the very point at which it becomes reckless. Both kinds of reckless faith also have this in common: they are irrational and anti-intellectual. “Anti-intellectual” doesn’t mean they oppose intellectual snobbery. It means they spurn the intellect and encourage blind, uncritical trust. Anti-intellectuals often set faith against reason, as if the two were opposites. That kind of faith is gullibility. It is foolishness, and not biblical faith. Biblical faith is never irrational.
Authentic faith, in contrast, can never bypass the mind. It cannot be irrational. Faith, after all, deals with truth. Truth is objective data to be known, studied, contemplated, and understood. All those are activities that engage the intellect.
That means genuine Christianity cannot be anti-intellectual. The body of truth on which our faith is based has depths that are mysterious—unfathomable to the merely human mind, or inscrutable—but truth is neverirrational. The difference is all-important. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Therefore what God says is true—and the antithesis of what He says must be false. Truth cannot be self-contradictory. Truth makes sense; nonsense cannot be true.
Moreover, the doctrine on which we base our faith must be sound—which is to say it must be biblical (1 Timothy 4:62 Timothy 4:2–3Titus 1:92:1). “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited andunderstands nothing” (1 Timothy 6:3–4, emphasis added). Sound, biblical doctrine therefore underlies all true wisdom and authentic faith. The attitude that scorns doctrine while elevating feelings or blind trust cannot legitimately be called faith, even if it masquerades as Christianity. It is actually an irrational form of unbelief.
God holds us accountable for what we believe as well as how we think about the truth He has revealed. All Scripture testifies to the fact that God wants us to know and understand the truth. He wants us to be wise. His will is that we use our minds. We are supposed to think, to meditate—to be discerning. And that is what we will continue to pursue as this series unfolds over the coming weeks.
Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:2–6)
(Adapted from Reckless Faith.)

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