Tuesday, May 20, 2008

R.C. Sproul and the "Demons of Fatalism"

Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, writes: “Predestination seems to cast a shadow on the very heart of human freedom. If God has decided our destinies from all eternity, that strongly suggests that our free choices are but charades, empty exercises in predetermined playacting. It is as though God wrote the script for us in concrete and we are merely carrying out his scenario.” (Chosen by God, p.51)

Sproul adds: “If He decides to allow something, then in a sense he is foreordaining it. ... If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled. Perhaps that one maverick molecule will lay waste all the ground and glorious plans that God has made and promised to us. ... If we reject divine sovereignty then we must embrace atheism.” (Chosen by God, pp.26-27)

Sproul went on to state that in his conversion to Calvinism, he “no longer feared the demons of fatalism or the ugly thought that I was being reduced to a puppet....” (Chosen by God, p.13) The idea that God was more in control than he had previously imagined, allegedly helped Sproul to overcome his preconceived notions about Calvinism. Whether these notions were mere straw-man arguments or legitimate characterizations, seems to have been resolved in Sproul's mind by his insistence that all things must be scripted by God, even down to the last “molecule,” or else there is no assurance that God is really in control at all. Therefore, in wrestling with these difficult philosophical matters, Sproul surrendered to what he felt had made God, in his mind, more “sovereign.”

However, it seems like Calvinists have portrayed a type of God that is difficult to identify with. Imagine if you had a neighbor that said that they intend to have four babies, but that they intend to keep only the second one, and abort the first, third and fourth. Who could identify with such a couple, and how is that any different from the Calvinist doctrine of Unconditional Reprobation? Most Calvinists will respond that God’s ways are not our ways, and who are you O Man to question the Potter. However, God also says, “Come now, and let us reason together.” (Isaiah 1:18) Calvinists have portrayed a type of God who predestines the very things that He hates, and shows anger towards. There is an expression where it is said that we “make the weather, and then complain when it rains,” which is meant to convey the idea that when we create our own problems, we have no one else to blame but ourselves. So if God predestined the rebellion of Jerusalem and the rejection of its Messiah, how would the tears make any sense? How would the anger have any justification? Calvinists seem to parade the idea of God being unfair (i.e. Scandalous Grace), while insisting that He is nevertheless just, and then examples like Luke 12:48 are raised, where God says that with greater responsibility comes greater accountability, such that a person who did not know his master’s will and did deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but a few, while the person who knew his master’s will and did not do it, will receive greater condemnation, on account that such knowledge made him more accountable, but yet if the person had total inability to do his master’s will, then how would greater knowledge make his increased judgment, in any way fair and just? So there are a lot of issues that a person must be willing to swallow in order to embrace Calvinism, namely, the “demons of fatalism,” the ugly thought of being “reduced to a puppet,” unconditional Theistic abortion, puzzling emotions and a contradictory sense of justice.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What did they see?

The Old Testament records that sometimes God gave people a glimpse into the unseen world. My question is this: Can you even begin to imagine what they must have seen? As examples, the following are four OT and two NT instances which come to mind:

1) Elijah asks Elisha for any last requests: "When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, 'Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.' And Elisha said, 'Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.' He said, 'You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.' As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, 'My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!' And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and returned and stood by the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, 'Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?' And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over. Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho opposite him saw him, they said, 'The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.' And they came to meet him and bowed themselves to the ground before him." (2nd Kings 2:9-15)

2) Elisah asks the Lord to open the eyes of his servant, Gehazi: "Now the heart of the king of Aram was enraged over this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, 'Will you tell me which of us is for the king of Israel?' One of his servants said, 'No, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.' So he said, 'Go and see where he is, that I may send and take him.' And it was told him, saying, 'Behold, he is in Dothan.' He sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city. Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, 'Alas, my master! What shall we do?' So he answered, 'Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.' Then Elisha prayed and said, 'O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.' And the LORD opened the servant's eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha." (2nd Kings 6:11-17)

3) Moses sees a portion of God's glory: "Then Moses said, 'I pray You, show me Your glory!' And He said, 'I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.' But He said, 'You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!' Then the LORD said, 'Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.'" (Exodus 33:18-23)

4) God confronts Job: "Then the LORD said to Job, 'Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.' Then Job answered the LORD and said, 'Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth. Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; Even twice, and I will add nothing more.' Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm and said, 'Now gird up your loins like a man; I will ask you, and you instruct Me. Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?'" (Job 40:1-8)

5) Paul sees Heaven: "Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows-- was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me. Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.'" (2nd Corinthians 12:1-9)

6) John sees Jesus: "When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, 'Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.'" (Revelation 1:17-18)

Can you imagine what these men must have seen?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Thoughts concerning the Cross

John the Baptist testified “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

What are we to make of this?

Adrian Rogers explained: “Can you imagine John the Baptist standing there on the banks of Jordan saying ‘Behold, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the elect’? No, the sins of the world. ... He was talking about you there. We are in this world. Our redemption is prophesied.” (Jesus - Our Redemption Provided)

In terms of Jesus taking upon Himself the sins of the world, 4-Point Calvinist, William 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)

Additionally, 5-Point Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, sums up the atonement views of his theological 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 Jesus' own analogy of Calvary, as told to Nicodemus at 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)

How could that be a "theoretical possiblity," when yet at the very moment that Jesus was on the Cross of 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?