Thursday, April 24, 2008

John 3:16 Conference

On November 6 and 7, 2008, former Pastor of First Baptist Downtown Jacksonville, Jerry Vines, is going to participate in a conference which will respond to 5-Point Calvinism.
"Did Jesus die on the cross for every person? Are believers eternally secure? Can grace be resisted? These and many other questions will be addressed. This conference is not going to be a "Let's bash the Calvinists" conference. This conference is going to be a biblical and theological assessment of and response to 5-point Calvinism. It will be helpful for lay people as well as preachers."

For those who know, Jerry Vines also produced a DVD on Calvinism entitled, "A Baptist and his Election" http://www.jerryvines.com/Detail.bok?no=73

27 comments:

Luke said...

Too far for me to attend. Enjoy it for me please.

ABClay said...

As one of my friends said:

"My source in China tells me that there has been a very large order for straw men and matches to be delivered to First Baptist Woodstock on November 6th."

My only question is that since I live in North Georgia, is Vines going to supply some respirators for us when they start building up those straw men and torching them down?

Grace and Peace to y'all...

ABClay

Luke said...

And you, my dear abclay, would be guilty of poisoning the well. Now we can go back and forth tit for tat arguing over the nit-pickings of philosophy or we can withhold rash judgment until the actual event has occurred. That is, of course, unless you have gotten Divine Word that this is what is actually going to happen. Word has it that instead of respirators, you'll need sunglasses to shield your eyes from Glory of the Lord shining in Jacksonville. See, I can do it too. :)

ABClay said...

Brother Luke,

I apologize if I have "poisoned the well". I can see how you may see my comments as inflammatory, but I could chronicle, if you wish, all of the straw men arguments that have been burned down by Dr. Vines regarding Southern Baptists and Calvinism in the recent past.

I have listened to his "A baptist and his election" and also his "explanation" of how John 3:16 solves all the "isms" that face Christianity.(that would include "Calvinism") At best I would call it misinformed.

Granted, some of his arguments against what is termed "hyper" are accurate, but a large portion of what he argues against is foreign to the beliefs of any "Calvinist" that I know of.

It is said that this conference is a "response" to the Building Bridges Conference but there is a huge, glaring difference between the BB and the John 3:16. Namely, only one side is being presented. Why respond to something that was equally divided between Non-reformed and the Reformed? (Together for the Gospel wasn't sanctioned by the SBC.)

It is my prayer that there will be a spirit of honesty in the presentations of what the "reformed" believe and why we believe the way we do.

Nice one about the sunglasses, but it is my impression that the conference is going to be at Woodstock.

Grace and peace to you brother Luke,

ABClay

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hello ABClay,

I'm anxious to hear the presentations. Many have wrestled with the Arminian vs. Calvinism controversy, and I enjoyed hearing Vines' own perspective in his Baptist Battles CD. Sometimes you just have a stop fighting for a bit, and just enjoy another perspective.

However, I don't intend to start a debate on John 3:16, but I would like to ask a simple question about it. John 1:10 states: "He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him." So when I come to the "world" at John 3:16, why should I infer an altogether, completely differenty type of "world"? How do I know that it's not the same "world"?

ABClay said...

awww, just about to go to bed and it popped up "New Post".

I don't know that you have to. First off, I have to ask you which "world" John was speaking about in John 3:16. Certainly you are aware of the myraid different ways that the apostle uses the word "kosmos". Here's a helpful link if you are not familiar, just a greek lexicon:
http://bible.crosswalk.com/Lexicons/
Greek/grk.cgi?search=2889&version=
nas&type=eng&submit=Find

Sorry but you are probably gonna have to do a bit of cutting and pasting to check that out. I'm not too good with html. Pay special attention to definition 8b and the reference verses.

Do you believe that one of the main thrusts of the Gospel of John is to show Jesus as not just the Savior of the Jews, but the Savior of the Gentiles?

I believe that it may be a bit short sighted (and I am aware that this puts me at odds with Pink) to say that God doesn't love everyone in the world. I know that God graces everyone in the world with sunshine, rain, and all of the "common" graces that we enjoy. It is also my opinion that this grace flows down from the cross, for I see no other means, revealed in God's special revelation, whereby He has made a way to Grace us except the cross.

John 3:16 however, is not the verse that I would choose to show God's love for all humanity. I believe that this verse is speaking of a "special" love. I know that many people hate that, and they use an analogy of a parent that cannot love one child above another, but we are not all God's children (John 1:5).

People, and Dr. Vines is one, translate this verse in a way that I believe does injustice to it's meaning. They say: "God loves the world sooooo much....". I turn to the Hard-Core Southern Baptist Bible, otherwise known as the "Holman Christian Standard" translation for what I believe to be a more accurate translation of this verse.

"For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life."

In any case, whatever you believe about the meaning of the word "world" in this verse, I believe you have to admit that this verse does not imply a "universality" in God's love. It is an exclusive verse by it's very nature. I can ask you, "Who is it who receives eternal life?" It's everyone who believes. "Who is it who believes?" It is the elect of God. "Is this everyone in the world?" No. I affirm John 3:16 wholeheartedly, everyone who believes will receive eternal life. I personally have no problems with John 3:16 except when it is used to "prove" that Calvinism is outside orthodox Christianity.

I do want to look at verse 17 for a moment. Why would the Apostle John say:
"God didn't send His Son into the world to condemn the world"...
Which world is this? I believe that John here is speaking directly to the Jews who believed that when the Messiah came He would set up His earthly kingdom and reign on earth, making all of His enemies His footstool. Who would be in this earthly kingdom? Well, the Jews only would be in this earthly kingdom. They were Abraham's offspring, the chosen!!! But what does John say in Chapter 1 verse 12-13?
"But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name,who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God."
The message is that Jesus is the Savior of anyone who will believe, not just those born of BLOOD.

It is because of this, that I believe that "kosmos" in Verse 17 of Chapter 3 is not speaking about all humanity, but specifically about people who are not Jews, people from every race, tribe, and tongue. And if Verse 17 is speaking of an "exclusive" world, why would 16 be different?

And just for the record, I believe that anybody who wants to come, can come, and anybody who comes will not be cast out. (let's save that straw man, the air is bad enough already without any more smoke)

Geez, this lasted forever, I hope you had the patience to read it all. Sorry for the long post but I like to talk.

Grace and Peace to y'all...

ABClay

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hello ABClay,

I enjoyed your post, and it's not too long. I enjoyed seeing the thought process, though I do have a reservation. While “eternal life” is exclusive, does that really say anything about the provision for salvation? Consider Jesus' analogy at John 3:14-15 of the serpent on the standard: Should we assume that the provision was made for only those who look upon it?, or should we assume that it was made for "anyone" who was bitten, and anyone bitten may thus look upon it and live? So that’s why I say that the logic of your argument takes us right back to square one. Also, at John 3:17, when you say, “I believe that John here is speaking directly to the Jews,” what you must really infer is that John is speaking “only of the Jews,” and thus the “world” in that context being exclusive, might as well be exclusive at v.16, and so the whole thing end up becoming circular logic because you’ve assumed the very thing that you’ve set out to prove. So the way things shape up, IF you can find a context for the “world” being demonstrably exclusive, then that can become your basis to plead the same exclusivity for John 3:16. However, you cannot just assume it at v.17 saying “I believe” and thus use that as your proof. Conversely, the Arminian may go to a passage which shows a universal sense of the “world” and thus plead to apply the same indiscriminate sense at John 3:16 as well, such as John 1:10: "He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him." In other words, if "world" is indicriminate there, why not at John 3:16? So while you're looking for an exclusivity context, the Arminian is looking for a indiscriminate context, and has John 1:10 and most especially Jesus' analogy, which 4-Point Calvinists also sieze upon.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Just to add a thought to your initial comment, your thought process seemed to indicate that since eternal life is exclusive, logically therefore the provision of the Father’s gift of His Son MUST therefore also be exclusive. But why? The best way to show that this is not logically required, simply look at John 3:16 while making the Arminian assumption, and see if it presents itself as logically in contradiction: “For God so loved [everyone], that whosoever amongst everyone should believe in Him, will not perish but have eternal life.” Does this Arminian substitution violate the principles of logic? If not, then pointing out the exclusivity of salvation itself, puts no logical pressure on making the provision exclusive. That’s why I say that your logic takes us right back to square one.

Luke said...

ABC, I should have checked to see WHERE the event was going to take place. My advice for sunglasses was underestimated, you are going to need a welding helmet to protect yourself.:)

Quite simply, to peg any Calvinist into the same whole as another would be quite difficult as I am sure that there are many who do not agree with Spurgeon, Gill and even John Mac though I must say that I am partial to John. Between him and Adrian Rogers, I was blessed with a lot of understanding from the Word of God.

As far as addressing the Old Straw-Man again, one book that really impressed me was "The Other Side of Calvinism" by Vance. He, in great detail(I think he aped Gill) quotes many Calvinists and those quotes reveal that what many decry as straw-men are really not that at all but actual theologies believed and taught by Calvinists whether labeled as such or self proclaimed.

It is interesting that you jumped to the John 3:16 discussion. There is a concept here that breeds an interesting discussion. God loved so much that He gave. It was out of His great love that God bestowed grace and mercy. Love is the impetus for the giving of Grace and Mercy. God's love is also the impetus for chastisement as well. We err when we try to put God's love in the box of human love. It was God's love for Israel that prompted Him to reach out His hand all day long though being rebuffed. There were many of Israel, the Chosen, who refused and rebuffed God's great love and as a result, will suffer an eternity of separation.

As Richard has argued, and it is one of my favorites, the healing that was offered in Moses day was to everyone who was bit by the serpents. It was offered to the sick and dying. For it is not the well who need a doctor as Jesus told us. It is the sick. And taking that analogy, Jesus did not say the dead need a doctor, the sick do. Not everyone Jesus healed was dead. Many were sick. They were unable in and of themselves to remedy their situation and there was nothing they had done to improve their situation one whit. The woman who had the issue of blood had tried all the ways of men and they failed her. It was not until she was healed by Jesus that she received what she needed. The only knowledge a person needs under the work of the Holy Spirit to be saved is that they are a sinner, unable to remedy their situation. In fact, Jesus said that when the Spirit would come, part of what it would do was simply that, convict the world of Sin. Conviction of sin is a long way from regeneration. It simply points out the need or the sickness that is not remedied by the works of man. God in His great love sought out the sick,dying and the dead. And as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, so was Jesus for ALL who were sick, dying and dead.

So as I would see it, either all men are sick and need salvation and God sent the "cure" for the corruption of sin OR not all men are sick and in need of a cure. Now I believe you'll readily agree that all men are sick/dead. And then I'll reiterate, just as God gave the healing for all in Moses day but a healing that required for the person to look, even today, God gives the healing for all but it is required that a person look.

I've taken up way to much of Richard's space here but I, like Richard, enjoy the conversation when we are not shouting at each other. Richard, thank you for offering a place where dialogue can take place without all the clamor.

ABClay said...

Richard,

Boy, I am going to have to stop posting when I am tired. While that ramble that I did last night made perfect sense to me at the time, it is difficult to follow.

You asked me why I should express a different meaning by the term "world" in John 3:16, than the apostle meant at John 1:10. I understand that you want to speak of the "provision" aspect of salvation and I will address that shortly.

Is it your assertion that because "kosmos" in John 1:10 speaks of the "worldly realm and everything in it", that we should use that same meaning for John 3:16? Should we continue that through to verse 17,19? Do we continue to use this definition throughout the entire body of John's work?

We know that ultimately all of the sins of the world will be removed though Christ. The entire world will be reconciled to God, not just the people of the world, but the creation will be redeemed from the curse of the fall. This is the only way that I can accept a definition of "world" in John's work as you propose.

However, I remain convinced that this verse does not mean what you contend. The apostle John, in 1 John 4, gives probably the best commentary on what was meant in John 3:16 when he, addressing believers, said this:
"God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
Notice two things: First thing is how the wording is very close to the Apostle's wording in John 3:16. Also note the use of the pronouns us and we. They refer to believers.

You say that I am slanted to look at this verse (John 3:16) in a particular way. In this assessment you are correct, but it is not as though I am guilty of eisegesis. My interpretation of this verse is based on my understanding of God's redemptive plan for mankind that is taught throughout the Holy Scriptures. By this, of course, I am speaking about God's decretive will to, before the beginning of time, choose a people to be saved, to be conformed to the image of His Son so that His Son could bear the weight and wrath of their sins on the cross and justify them in His sight.

Is it your belief that God loves everyone and everything in His creation with no favoritism? Do you contend that there is no "special" love with God? While it is contrary to our natural understanding of what is fair to say such things as "God has a special love", we have to admit that God doesn't make His judgments based upon our understanding of what is fair. Our understanding of what is fair and just was woefully made defective at the fall of man. There is a pervasive notion that for God to do this would make Him unjust. The way that I understand it, there isn't anyone who gets injustice with God. Some people get graced, the rest of the people get justice. (Romans 9)

There is an old analogy that is used to show how Nasty Calvinism is. It goes something like this: God sees all of humanity burning up in a fiery building, people screaming and pleading for God to save them. The analogy says that God only reaches in to save a few, while allowing the rest of the people, though they are pleading to God to be saved, to be consumed. This is one of those pictures that isn't anywhere close to what I believe, yet it is what people are told that I believe.

First off, why are the people in the burning building? The people are in there because they saw it burning, and they willingly ran in there of their own nature and free will. They did exactly as their nature dictated. They are happy to be there, adding fuel to the fire all day long. (Romans 1-3)

This next part is left out of the analogy, but to make the analogy correct not just about "Calvinism" but about all stripes of Christianity, I must include it here. There is a person who is outside of this building who is yelling into the building for the people to come out. He is telling them about the door that only God can open for them if they will just call on the name of Jesus. All day long, every day he tells them about this salvation that has been made available to all who will just call out and believe that God will open that door. (Matthew 28:18-20, Romans 10:14, 1 Corinthians 1:17-18, 2:1-5)

Now there are some who realize that they are going to die and perish apart from God and they realize that they cannot be saved from this fiery catastrophe unless God saves them. These are the people who cry out to God for help. I believe the scripture teaches that ALL of the ones who cry out to God and believe on Jesus will be saved from this death. (John 3:17, John 6:47, add your own favorite passage about believing) Now the converse to this is that there are some who hear and do not believe, and they are condemned for this. There are also some who are upstairs and don't hear the "preacher man" teaching about God's Salvation, yet they are still responsible because they went into the building and added fuel to the fire. Bottom line, all who are in the building are "responsible" and "accountable" for going into the building.

Now I ask you, what happened to those people who believe? What changed their minds? Why did they cry out to God for salvation, knowing that there was no way that they could save themselves? Was it something inherent in themselves? Did all of them have the ability to believe, some were just stubborn? I believe the scriptures teaches clearly that no one will do this unless they are made a new creation, they have to be "born again", regenerated by the Holy Spirit to be made aware of their condemnation because of their actions and look to Christ as the only way to be "pulled out" and saved. Part and parcel to this is the Biblical teaching that before time began God chose a certain people to be able to believe. (John 3:3, John 6:44, Acts 2:38-39, Acts 13:48, Romans 3:11, Romans 8:6-8, Romans 9:16, Ephesians 1 and 2, etc..)

As to the Provision aspect of salvation, I know that there are some who believe that Christ made all men savable and provided the "possibility" of salvation to all people when He died on the cross. Here are the objections that I have to that. It presupposes that there is something in man that would cause him to believe on Christ. In the context of exactly what I am talking about, Paul addresses this notion in 1 Corinthians 2 when he says this: "But the natural man does not welcome what comes from God's Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to know it since it is evaluated spiritually.". Salvation must be all of God.

If Christ made salvation "possible" to all men, then I would have something to boast about, because I took greater advantage of the grace that was available. I was smarter than those who didn't believe. I believe that Faith is a grace gift from God (Eph 2:8-9).

I state again to some people's dismay that I do affirm that Jesus was the propitiation for the sins of the believers only. Propitiation means that He removed them, He made us Justified when He died on the cross. When Christ said, "It is Finished", he meant it. "When (we) were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of (our) flesh, He made (us) alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross." (Col. 2:13-14)

It is my contention that there is no room in these verses that describe the work of Christ for something that is merely "possible".

Back to the "world" issue, if you hold to an "unlimited" atonement in terms of it's application, then I believe you have got with 1 John 2:2. It doesn't say that Jesus "can be" the propitiation for the sins of the world, it says that Jesus "WAS" the propitiation.

I love you guys and I appreciate the discourse. I have been a bit long winded again and for this I apologize.

I guess my purpose of this rant is mainly to show that "Calvinism" in its soteriological sense is not at odds with what the bible says. I believe we must be careful not to confuse those verses that we believe speak to the "free-will" of man with the declaration from God that man is wholly responsible if chooses not to believe.

Brother Luke, I hope that I touched on the issue you were speaking of. If I didn't, please respond and let me know.

In the love of Christ, I am...

ABClay

Luke said...

Bro. ABC,
I take it you didn't like my welding hood comment eh? :) And I cannot convey enough that it is with a VERY light heart that I make that comment. I consider it the jostling that occurs between friends. No knife, no twist.

However, now to the discussion at hand. Your analogy, I believe, errs in the fact that you stated men run into the fire by nature. Okay, which is it? Is man so dead that he can do NOTHING or is man not so dead that he can do SOMETHING? I would tend to believe that the person is born in the fiery building.

Next, and I believe it challenges us to be expositors. There is worth in looking at how Jesus himself uses world as distinct from John's view and then considering them together. From my studies of John, it would seem Jesus' words leave no wiggle room as to what exactly He saw the "World" as. John uses the world as well as different religious leaders in text as well. I do not believe Jesus used the world in any sense to refer to a "sElect" group of people.

Next, I do not see the distinction between regeneration and new birth that you do. From my perspective, you are saying that he must be made new in order to be made new. Paul writes in Romans 1 that the natural man is WELL AWARE of who God is.

"If Christ made salvation "possible" to all men, then I would have something to boast about, because I took greater advantage of the grace that was available. I was smarter than those who didn't believe." Actually it isn't smarts that are needed to turn to Christ. It is humility. And it is IMPOSSIBLE for a humble person to boast for in the moment that they boast, they are no longer humble.

I appreciate the discourse as well ABC. This causes many of us to get in and dig rather than pass on tradition.

By the way, are those goggles in your picture a preparation for the glory coming your way? :)

ABClay said...

Bro. Luke,

No, the welding helmet was funny, just forgot to mention it. I know that you mean nothing buy it. My Calvinism tends to cause me to have a thick skin, but not a hard heart. :-)

That picture is my 18 month old. I don't rightly know why we put those goggles on him, probably just to make him look silly so we could take a picture. You know how parents are...

I don't have time to comment on the substance of your post at this time, I will read thoroughly and post a little later.

Grace and Peace...

ABClay

ABClay said...

Luke,

Okay, finally some "quiet" time.

Do you have any children? I'm trying to read the book of John to them before bed, and I can't get past Chapter 1. I always tell people to start to read the bible in the book of John, but I am may have to change my mind about that.

I am having trouble explaining the Doctrine of the Trinity to my 11 year old. She keeps going back to some sort of a hybrid Modalism. Do you know of a good book that I could pick up that would help me explain this to her or do you have any ideas?

Okay. I understand your point about being born in the building. I made up most of that stuff on the spot so I haven't perfected it yet. So let's just say that they were born in the building, but those who do not believe are just as happy as they can be about being in there. Thanks for pointing that out, but I still believe that for all that want to get out on the terms that God has set are taken out by God. No one perishes who wants to be saved.

About our Savior's use of the word "World": I haven't given it much thought. My red letters go all the way through verse 21, but are we sure that Jesus said these words after verse 12 or is it the Apostle John giving us some heavy doctrine? If it is Jesus, then He speaks of Himself in the third person, but He does that all through the gospels so the third person issue is no big deal. I'm gonna just assume that the editor of my translation got it right and Jesus said these words all the way to verse 22. It is an interesting study to do as you said, but I think that how we exegete the rest of the text (whole Bible) will determine our understanding of "world" in John 3:16. I am content with your understanding of it, you are in very good company as John MacArthur takes the same position that you take on who "world" is referring to.

You also made the comment that the "unregenerate man is well aware of who God is". If you perceived from my poor explanation that I deny this then you have my apology. I agree fully with this statement. The problem that they have is they do not seek after God, but instead have exchanged this truth of God for a lie. My father told me that there are people everywhere that are looking for God and we need to show God to them. I can agree with him to a point. I believe that there is a great number of people who are diligently seeking a god, but the god of Oprah, the god of Osteen, and the god of Creflo Dollar is not the God of the Bible. Everyone wants a god, and most people have two or three of them, just not the one true God.

I must have really screwed up if you got the impression that I believe that the "new birth" and regeneration are different. I listed them separate only as a matter of emphasizing that there has to be a change from outside the person in the burning house that causes him (or her) to believe what the Gospel preacher is saying to him. Sorry about that, my fault.

I agree, it is a humbling thing to truly become aware of your situation and complete lack of ability to merit salvation. I asked my father this question: "Dad, you affirm that there are people who are "elected" by God to be saved, so what did God base His election on?" (Let me preface this by saying that my father is the most Christ honoring person that I know) His response to my question was, "God looked down through the future and saw that I would have saving faith, so that's why He elected me". This is what his pastor had told him that election meant. So my reply to him was that "God saw something in you, (namely humility?, or faith?) and chose you based on this "thing" in you?" That just doesn't sit right with me. You can call it humility, and I agree that being able to see the light of Truth is a humbling experience, but I contend that I would have never have seen that truth if there hadn't been a change in me. I would have never been, on my own, humble enough to merit salvation from God.

So if it is humility that separates the non-believer from the believer in the scheme of things for somebody who is not reformed, then I would still suggest that they were "smart enough to be humble" and the non believer was not smart enough to be humble.

Now, a question for you Brother Luke. What did Jesus accomplish on the cross?

I look forward to your response.

Grace and Peace...

ABClay

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Luke,

I'll read the rest of your post, but this quote jumped right out at me: “God loved so much that He gave. It was out of His great love that God bestowed grace and mercy. Love is the impetus for the giving of Grace and Mercy.”

I agree, but I pondered that statement in light of Calvinism, in terms of what I had been taught as the "impetus" for “whatsoever comes to pass,” and that being a desire to “display God’s attributes.” In other words, my understanding of Calvinism from Calvinists was that the reason why God predestined some to glory and others to wrath was born out of a desire to display the various aspects of God’s nature, all allegedly for God’s glory, which resulted in a script that predetermined whatsoever comes to pass, like an author writing a book. However in contrast, your perspective is that the impetus for God’s grace was purely out of love, in lieu of man’s desperation. Let’s go back to apply my understanding (perhaps a straw man, though I’m simply going on what I’ve been told), and here is what you have: “God loved [to display His various attributes] so much that He gave. It was out of His great love [to display His various attributes] that God bestowed grace and mercy. Love [to desire to display His various attributes] is the impetus for the giving of Grace and Mercy.”

Am I so far off? Consider this quote: “Do Calvinists secretly believe that God chose them for some reason other than their need for salvation? Would I, as a Christian, believe that God chose me for some other reason than my need for salvation? Yes, I do. God chose me for His glory, for His pleasure, for His purposes. Sure I had a need for salvation. But that is not why He saved me primarily. … In the Bible, God does not say He chose us because of our desperate need. He chose us before our need ever arose.”

Of course the aforementioned quote of Eph 1:4 lops "in Christ" off, but the point of this Calvinist contrasts sharply with your own view, in so much that it was not our "need" that prompted God to give mercy. Thoughts?

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

I'll read the read of your post just as soon as I get to work. Yep, gotta work on Saturday.

Luke said...

ABC,
Yes I do have two children. Well, not children any more. My son is 21 and by the mercy of God will live beyond this age. My daughter is 18 and about to graduate HS. My wife had an idea a pastor told us to try to explain to children the trinity. Something like this. My wife is a "Wife", a "Sister" and a "Mommy". And she is all three at the same time. I do realize that this can break down if it is pushed too far but maybe it can give you an idea.

I agree. It was the hand of God that removed me from the burning building.

I like John MacArthur and I like Adrian Rogers. Both have been influential in my understanding of the Scriptures.

A change from without the person is not totally without its merits but let's consider this as well. A deaf person eventually realizes that they are "missing out" on something and desire hearing. A leper, even while being eaten at by the disease will seek out help if he hears it is near. So while I agree that there are some who are content in the building, there are also others who, due to the God-given conscience given to all men, desire something better although they are unable to remedy the situation themselves. In turn, they may search out where Jesus is in order to experience healing. A friend may bring them to Jesus. Such is the record of the New Testament of Jesus' stay on earth.

Let me be clear, as I am sure that your dad would believe, there is absolutely nothing that we can do to merit salvation. Even our righteousness does not achieve the righteousness of God is what Paul told Titus. We are not incapable of good. We can do much good. But our good does not merit nor does it work together with grace to garner salvation. But when a person is confronted/challenged with the Gospel, they have set before them the opportunity to believe. The rich young ruler understood really well. But, he rejected Christ and went away sad. Not that he was unable to experience salvation but because he was unwilling to give up his earthly goods. He went away sad because he knew following Christ meant "earthly bankruptcy". That he could not stomach. Others were all to happy to give up what they could not keep to gain that which they could not lose.

No,not smart enough. Willing enough.(And I realize how loaded that statement is.:))

Oh but I have an answer for your question. Allow me please, just for a moment, to be very factious, sarcastic and with a smirk on my face say it this way. Jesus accomplished the Will/Work that the Father had sent Him to do when he died on the cross. Okay. Your eyes are rolling and you are thinking well that is right but ole Luke is using that to avoid answering the question. I shall not leave you disappointed though. Here it goes, though I am quite sure that you have heard this, no less from your dad, and knowing that you have a hand grenade ready to toss back in my direction. But I will not be dismayed.

Jesus actually paid for all the sins of all who would ever trust in Him. Jesus potentially paid for all the sins of those who would never trust in Him. Thus, the saved have no merit but the merit of Jesus. And the lost have no merit because they received/believed not in the merit of Jesus. I am sure that you may want to probe my understanding further in regards to your question and please know that I welcome any of your inquiries.

I look forward to the day that we can discuss this person to person, face to face. I believe that your spirit of gentleness is quite contagious.

May your weekend be blessed by the Great God of all blessing.

PS: By the way, I totally agree with you on the Oprah, Osteen, Creflo issue. And not because I know their hearts, but because of what I have heard from their lips.

Luke said...

Richard,
You sure did give me a steak to chew on. And within all that you said based upon your best understanding of their thoughts, I would respond that I do not believe Election occurred BEFORE the fall. I have discussed before the passages dealing with "from the foundation" and I believe that it is a stretch to interpret that statement as before the foundation.

Secondly, the phrases that many would insert within verses I believe are guilty of adding what is not intended. God was precise and succinct in what was written and if we must resort to such gymnastics of insertion to prove a theology, I think our theology is in need of revision. That will neither sit well nor leave contented those of the opposing position but it is one they need well to consider since many of them claim titles of "expositor's par excellence". I am sure that if you and I were to do the same, we would be fed the words, let the text speak for itself.

But, the idea of love is beyond what they present. John's first epistle records that "hereby we know the love of God that He laid down his life for us..." I am ready to confess that all the glory belongs to God but this passage cries out that God's love compelled Him to address our need and it is in the addressing of our need that we so clearly see and know the Love of God. Any attempt to say that purpose was for His glory and only that I believe is forcing upon the text what it does not say. And John continues that we as well ought to do the same for our brethren. For the glory of God? Most definitely. But the impetus of the heart truly changed by God is LOVE for the brethren.

I hope I have answered your thoughts with my own in such a way as to either prompt you to ask more(sharpen me) or to have been prompted yourself to be sharpened.

Richard, wish you didn't have to work today though I might would trade with you. I've managed to catch the allergy/cold crud that likes to stir up bronchial asthma. I am on no medication but I have felt better.

ABC, you and me need to see about sitting down together one day. Perhaps a convention will afford us such an opportunity.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hello ABClay,

You wrote: “Is it your assertion that because "kosmos" in John 1:10 speaks of the "worldly realm and everything in it", that we should use that same meaning for John 3:16? Should we continue that through to verse 17,19? Do we continue to use this definition throughout the entire body of John's work?”

Why not? (Not that you are compelled to answer for John Calvin, but I should point out that he agreed with the 4-points concerning the scope of “the world” at John 3:16.)

When you reference 1st John 4 in terms of “us” and “we,” also note that it also connects us to 1 John 2:1-2, where the “us” and “we” were qualified to mean, not only us, but also the “whole world.” So that also takes us right back to square one. (I noticed that you concluded with that verse.)

You wrote: “Do you contend that there is no "special" love with God?”

James White raised this point with Dave Hunt, and Hunt responded that God does have a special love for Christians, but how does predestining someone to Hell, amount to any degree of genuine love? James White responded that God hating Esau, is evidence that God does not, in fact, love everyone. Now I don’t mean to get off in a tangent, but I just wanted to provide some background to a published discussion on the very question you raise. So, yes, I do believe that God has a “special love” for Christians, but which does not logically require the removal of His love for the world, in terms of the love the made the provision for their salvation, much like the provision of the serpent on the standard.

The “burning building” analogy is clearly a straw man (and probably raised by mistake by non-Calvinists), since even Arminians agree that no one in the building is pleading for God to save them, while God allegedly turns a blind eye. Arminianism agrees that no one seeks God, unless God first seeks them, knocking upon the door of their heart. A better analogy of Calvinism, if I may modify it, is that while none in the building are screaming for God’s help, God sees all of their needs, and yet picks on some to save, while “passing by” the rest (Westminster phrase) exactly in the manner of the Levite and Priest. Arminians point to Luke 10:30-37 as evidence against Preterition.

You wrote: “I believe the scriptures teaches clearly that no one will do this unless they are made a new creation”

James White also has a similar quote, which is problematic. Turn to 2nd Corinthians 5:17, and you’ll find the “new creation” verse. However, it connects it to those who are “in Christ.” Now the problem with that, is that you ultimately then have a doctrine whereby a person must first be “in Christ” before he receives Christ. The problem is that according to Romans 8:1, anyone who is in Christ is redeemed. Then, John 3:18 tells us that only believers are redeemed, while unbelievers remain judged. Thus, you cannot have a person who is simultaneously “in Christ” and redeemed, while being a condemned unbeliever. You touched on an argument that I frequently use against Calvinism. How and when does a person become “in Christ,” is usually the way that I begin the argument, and then turn to Eph 1:13, insomuch that the formula is “hears” “believes” and then sealed in Christ, rather than sealed in Christ, hears and believes. I have a writeup on this verse, if you wish to view Calvin’s response.

You wrote: “God chose a certain people to be able to believe.”

MacArthur also uses similar language, which I highlight. The problem is that such election is connected with “in Christ.” Turn to Eph 1:4. I have a write-up on that passage, in which I quote dozens of Calvinists making the same mistake, and then upon clarification, it is stated: “God chose us ‘to be’ in Christ. Do you notice that? Historically, this is a common objection raised by Arminians, as well as Arminius himself. In most published works on Eph 1:4, Arminians will raise the issue of “in Christ” being the qualifying factor in Election.

You wrote: “As to the Provision aspect of salvation, I know that there are some who believe that Christ made all men savable and provided the "possibility" of salvation to all people when He died on the cross. Here are the objections that I have to that. It presupposes that there is something in man that would cause him to believe on Christ.”

Why not say “something in God” enabled man to receive His mercy? The question then becomes whether the enabling grace is an Irresistible Grace (Calvinism), or a Prevenient Grace (Arminianism). Usually, then, the argument is raised that man would ultimately therefore be the determining factor in whether a person chooses to receive God’s grace, and Arminianism obviously agrees, and argues that a decision to receive Christ, is not an act of self-righteousness whereby a man may boast, and for evidence, cites Romans 3:27.

You wrote: “I state again to some people's dismay that I do affirm that Jesus was the propitiation for the sins of the believers only.”

This runs into 1st John 2:1-2, where it is stated that Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Your argument requires that Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world of those who believe, which is how Erwin Lutzer explains it, in “The Doctrines that Divide.” Again, Arminians note that even John Calvin disagreed. This is where 4-Pointers and Arminians agree.

You wrote: “When Christ said, "It is Finished", he meant it. "When (we) were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of (our) flesh, He made (us) alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross." (Col. 2:13-14)”

James White also raised this point, and Hunt responded that the provision of Calvary does no more to automatically save a person, than did the serpent on the standard automatically save everyone, without also having to look upon it. If Calvary was finished in the sense that nothing else was required, including faith, then it would be wrong for Paul to say that we are saved through faith. The point is that provision for salvation at Calvary was finished, but men still must believe to be saved. James White agreed that men must still believe, but insisted that God’s redemption doesn’t require any action of man, which Hunt said was double-talk. This discourse is in “Debating Calvinism.”

You don't have to apologize for being long-winded. Sorry my response took so long. I'm typing from work, which I need to get back to.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Luke,

I mentioned the conference to my Dad, and he said that he would love to go. Perhaps Peter can organize something too. That would be fantastic.

What motivated Calvary?

Was God seeking glory? Was God simply taking pity and graciously answering the need?

At Matthew 9:36 Jesus turns to the crowds, and by what He saw, He felt compassion. He didn't say, "Here's how I can get glory from this group, or this is how I can reveal My attributes before men and angels." He simply saw a need and felt compassion, and I agree with you that that's how God viewed fallen humanity (even from before the foundation of the world) when He planned Calvary. So my question is this, if our need is not the driving force behind Calvary, but rather a desire to display God's attributes, then why Calvary at all? In other words, if I was eternally in the good graces of the Father, and eternally mediated to the Father before Christ ever shed His blood, then the Arminian argument is that Calvary is ultimately reduced to a form of "divine pageantry." Thoughts?

Luke said...

Richard,
I confess that at times I have looked at this all as a divine pageantry. After all, even if God does not decree every single event, He knows how it is all going to work out so why not just skip to the end. It is kinda like, why work the 40 hours for the check, just give me the check. I do not confess to know a definitive answer here. I do not believe that God's knowledge is limited so that each day He sees something he did not expect, kind of like a child with an ant farm or something similar. But in the end, though I have no explanation, I cannot believe that it is Divine Pageantry. That thought reminds me of Dante's Divine Comedy.

Never the less, I do have some thoughts here. I think to suggest that God was seeking glory would be to suggest that He was incomplete in His glory. To which most any orthodox theologian would reply a hefty, God Forbid!

Rather, through God's grace and mercy lavished upon us in our misery, we in turn give God glory and rightly so because of His saving grace. If it was simply a matter of God desiring more glory, He could have made more angels but I do not think that is the point at all.

In regards to your final words. We usually like to say that it is the thought that counts. I guess, here, and with what we are discussing, it is not the thought that counts. It is the action. Love is not a thought, it is an action. Grace and mercy are not thoughts, they are actions. Patience is not a thought, it is an action. Prayer is not a thought, it is an action. So there is definitely something about the active taking preference over the thought, though the active being done for the wrong reason is not received as well. I think James has this idea in mind in his second chapter as well. Thoughts without action are meaningless. Actions without thoughts are meaningless. But thoughts that lead to actions and actions that are lead by thoughts have PURPOSE.

I am thinking on the edge here but maybe I've said something that will continue our discourse here.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Luke,

In terms of skipping to the end, God could have cursed Eve with infertility, and that would have been the end of the line for Adam and Eve, though they would have perished in Hell forever with the Devil and his angels. So why go through all of the trouble with Calvary, when God could have easily started over with two other sinless creatures in the Garden of Eden? (God made a similar proposition to Moses.) God, no doubt, foreknew the unfaithfulness of Adam & Eve, and could have just as easily dispensed with the tree, and the Temptor. Additionally, this could also be said of Job. God could have declined Satan's challenge, and left Job and his family to the protection of their spiritual "hedge."

I think that the reason why God chose to go through with the trials of Job, and equally with Calvary as well for Adam & Eve and their fallen lineage, is so that we could know Him better. For instance, Job's relationship before the trials, and after, if it were unchanged, would make the trials pointless. But if through the trials, Job came to a deeper relationship with God, then the trials had some meaning.

So, too, is Calvary pointless pagaentry, if we were already saved by Election, and I loathe to hear my Calvinist brother in Law, Darrell, describe what he calls, the 3 Salvations, past, present and future.

There is a point to all it, if there is a net change in our intimacy with God. I believe that God doesn't skip to the end, so to speak, for our sake, in order to know Him better. Anyway, I too am throwing out ideas.

So are you going to the John 3:16 Conference in November, and what do you think can be organized? Do you think that Peter will have some involvement?

Luke said...

Richard,
I will not be attending the John 3:16 conference, at least at the present time. I was hoping that something would take place near Tallahassee or Mobile, Pensacola. A place a little closer for the both of us. But I truly would like to attend the John 3:16. I do plan on attending the SBC in Louisville in '09. I have been looking forward to that. It would afford me the opportunity to renew acquaintance with a former professor as well as hear some of the present.

Back to the discussion, II Corinthians 1:8-11 speaks much for the idea that troubles face us so that we learn to trust in God and not ourselves. I do not think that there are any Calvinists who would disagree with this point of life. I do not think, though, that it answers the Divine Pageantry idea though, at least from the perspective of God. Unless, God simply wanted to create a man who would struggle and learn to depend upon God. If I go this route, I can in no way accept the idea that this was because God was lacking in being needed.

But to add into the Divine Pageantry the idea that I am already saved and still must face the trouble, I believe does not create a dilemma for the Calvinist. For even though the man is already saved, this life simply teaches him about the God who he will spend eternity with and that God will and can be trusted and indeed needs to be precisely because man is weak.

To be sure, He created all things for His pleasure. And part of that pleasure is having His creation turn to Him in faith. But I think it would be rather pointless to create some that "work" and some that don't. I do not plant two types of seed in my garden. One that will produce and one that will not so that I can enjoy the one that does more. No, rather, and I believe with God as well, the desire is that all I plant produce. And when the seed in the garden became tainted, I bought the whole garden. Yet, there still remains seed that will not yield to the will of the owner. As such, it is pulled up and cast out. Straw man? Maybe. But it is consistent with Biblical illustrations and teachings.

More ramblings.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Luke,

I'll try to make the 09' Conference. I've been wanting to head to KY anyway in order to visit the Creation Museum.

One thought, in terms of Divine Pageantry, is that there are really 2 kinds of Calvinists.

There are the Determinists and the non-Determinististic Calvinists. What I mean by that is that some Calvinists believe that God wrote a Script, and everything plays out according to what was written, and that God could not otherwise know the future without having pre-determined it all. In my estimation, this makes Hyper Calvinism and Supralapsarianism logically inescapable, and eliminates any sense of FreeWill. There is a distinctly different kind of Calvinism which was espoused by Spurgeon, for which he received much criticism from his own fraternity. His view was that God did not script sin, and man indeed has FreeWill, though operating in its natural state, always toward evil (in the absense of IG), though not necessarily evil at its extreme at all times. Sproul distinguished this as "total depravity" vs. "utter depravity." The point is that the Determinist system leaves one with a sense that everyone is merely a character in God's play, and that no one is truly "real," no more so than a character in any other book. Therefore, in the Determinist system, no one worships or fellowships with God. Rather, ficticious characters act out their roles.

In terms of Divine Pageantry, one other point is that if someone was already saved (via Election), before they were born, then how is it that we need Jesus in order to reconcile us to the Father? That is a question that is often asked.

Sorry for the pause. Yesterday was hectic, and now I'm back in J'ville for the weekend.

God bless,
Richard

Luke said...

Richard,
I figured you were busy. After all, we do have real jobs.

Here is another thought related to this idea. If the payment on calvary was actual and not potential, how can a Calvinist(or any christian for that fact) continue to call themselves a sinner? Peter and Paul refer to us as Saints, not Sinners. So in keeping with the pageantry, if I am elected and my sin is actually paid for, how can I still be classified as a sinner? I don't think one can be. Not in any sense of the word and its biblical definition. Just another idea to toss out.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Luke,

In terms of the payment (actual or potential), what do you think about the following two quotes from 4-Pointer, William MacDonald:

MacDonald explains: “...by His death on the cross, the Lord bought the world and all who are in it. But He did not redeem the whole world. While His work was sufficient for the redemption of all mankind, it is only effective for those who repent, believe, and accept Him.” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p.2295)

MacDonald adds: “The NT distinguishes between purchase and redemption. All are purchased but not all are redeemed. Redemption applies only to those who receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, availing themselves of the value of His shed blood (1 Pet. 18, 19).” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p.2295)

I'd be interested in your throughts on these two quotes. I'd like to start a new post on this.

Additionally, R.C. Sproul explains the atonement views of his rival: “Historic Arminianism embraces particularism: not all people are saved, only a particular number of them. That particular group of people who are saved are those who respond to the offer of the gospel with faith. Only those who believe appropriate the benefits of the saving atonement in Christ.” (What is Reformed Theology, p.165)

To me, this seems right in line with John 3:14-15 as it pertains to Numbers 21:6-9.

However, Sproul also warns: “What would have happened to the work of Christ if nobody believed in it? That had to be a theoretical possibility. In this case Christ would have died in vain.” (What is Reformed Theology, p.167, emphasis mine)

How could that be a "theoretical possiblity," when yet at the moment that Christ was at Calvary, Abraham's Bosom (as per Luke 16:19-31) was already full of the OT Saints? And what of all those who were alive and believed in Jesus during His earthly ministry. Did Sproul simply slip up in his logic?

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Luke, also in terms of Pageantry issue, here is an article that I had previously written on this point:

http://examiningcalvinism.blogspot.com/2007/01/calvinism-is-like-rotten-candy-apple.html

Luke said...

Richard,
First, let me address Mr. MacDonald. I think that with what you have stated from his quotes, I would be willing to assert a most basic agreement. I will have to read about him and would like to see the total context but I do not doubt what I see and I would be comfortable agreeing with him so long as he has not used qualifiers either before or after making the statement you quoted. It will take me a little while to research the redemption/purchase idea. At this point, it strikes not bells that I have heard the distinction used that way before but I will most definitely be interested in proving its merit.

Sproul's first quote I think would be a truth I could embrace as well. I believe that he may have articulated well the opinion that would be anti his own.

Concerning his speculation on what if, that would really be all it is. What if. Even if no one else after believed, there were many before him and during his time who did believe and so the same cross would have been just as necessary. Again, not knowing the flow of thought for that particular quote, it would seem that there was a momentary loss of logic in an attempt to prove a point, which I am sure dots the landscape of my own.