Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Imagine if...

Sometimes theology can make us frustrated, and the Calvinism / Arminian controversy has been making Christians frustrated for centuries. But this can be a good thing if it drives us closer to God in seeking Him.

Be forewarned, this is going to be an odd post, because it’s going to deal with hypotheticals. Imagine, if you will, that God sent a prophet to answer a “Yes/No” question, in terms of whether Calvinism or Arminianism was the correct theology. Imagine for a moment that the hypothetical prophet told you something that you didn’t want to hear, that yes, your theology was wrong and that the other theology was right. Now I ask you, what is your immediate reaction, and then after reflecting on it, what is your reaction?

I did this myself. I imagined what it would be like if I found out that Arminianism was false and Calvinism was true. I imagined how I would feel if I found out that “everyone” at Hebrews 2:9 actually meant everyone of the elect, and that the “world” at John 3:16 actually meant an elect world, and that the “whole world” at 1st John 2:2 actually meant the whole word of the elect, and that “all men” at 1st Timothy 2:4 just meant the elect men, and that “any” and “all” at 2nd Peter 3:9 just meant all of the elect and any of the elect. My immediate reaction was anger. It would not just be anger for the deceptive way that the Bible would be written, that is, by the use of universal terms in an unrestricted, unbounded and unqualified manner without an explicit, that is, explicit clarification, but also anger at the thought that a laymen such as myself had any business trying to read and understand the Bible, when yet an expert scholar is needed to clarify when these special nuances must be applied. Honestly, if I found out that Calvinism was true, I would set aside my Bible forever and just read commentaries, so that I can be told when red means blue, up means down and left means right.

I believe that the Arminian, John Wesley, also imagined for a moment, what it would be like if Arminianism was wrong and Calvinism was true. What resulted was a rant that Erwin Lutzer, in his book “The Doctrines that Divide”, called the harshest criticism of Calvinism ever written. Here is the quote:

“…one might say to our adversary, the devil, ‘Thou fool, why dost thou roar about any longer? Thy lying in wait for souls is as needless and useless as our preaching. Hearest thou not, that God hath taken thy work out of thy hands; and that he doeth it much more effectually? Thou, with all thy principalities and powers, canst only so assault that we may resist thee; but He can irresistibly destroy both body and soul in hell! Thou canst only entice; but his unchangeable decrees, to leave thousands of souls in death, compels them to continue in sin, till they drop into everlasting burnings. Thou temptest; He forceth us to be damned; for we cannot resist his will. Thou fool, why goest thou about any longer, seeking whom thou mayest devour? Hearest thou not that God is the devouring lion, the destroyer of souls, the murderer of men? Moloch caused only children to pass though the fire: and that fire was soon quenched; or, the corruptible body being consumed, its torment was at an end; but God, thou are told, by his eternal decree, fixed before they had done good or evil, causes, not only children of a span long, but the parents also, to pass through the fire of hell, the “fire which never shall be quenched; and the body which is cast thereinto, being now incorruptible and immortal, will be ever consuming and never consumed, but “the smoke of their torment,” because it is God’s good pleasure, “ascendeth up for ever and ever.”’” (Free Grace, Sermon 128, Preached at Bristol, in the year 1740)

Now I would like for Calvinists to try this. I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, but I’ve read where some Calvinists had taken the impression that it made them feel that God was weak and aloof. In my own experience, having left a Calvinist Church, leaving Calvinism made me feel that I was never secretly saved, but really was unsaved, and really was on the path to an eternal Hell, and that God really would have let me go there, had I rejected His Son. It gave me the impression of a God who really was impartial, and that grace was not upon select sinners, but only upon the redeemed in Christ. It gave me the impression that I was less relevant and Christ was more relevant. It gave me the impression that my standing with God the Father was not based upon any special favor to me, but my standing with Christ alone. Thoughts?

29 comments:

a helmet said...

I agree, that unity among christians is far away and not in sight. The whole ARminianism vs. Calv9inism debate is actually a never ending circle or so it seams. Good that you are sheding light on things. ...

Richard Coords said...

Hey Helmet,

If...someday I ever become a Calvinist...besides the fact that I would obviously end up with a totally different set of arguments, one argument (in such a hypothetical future) that I would never be able to refute, is the fact that the Bible was written in a way that leads to an Arminian understanding, such that without a Calvinist scholar in order to interpret it as a "system," you would remain with a basic Arminian understanding. This is why I find the following statement by James White, totally incorrect:

James White writes: “Everyone knows John 3:16, and that’s the problem. So many are familiar with the verse that very few stop to consider the traditions that have been packed very carefully into its constant and often acontextual citation.” (Debating Calvinism, p.376)

Just the opposite is the case. You would need "tradition" in order to make the world mean an "elect world," and this is precisely the point that can never be refuted. If Calvinism is true, then the Bible is a stumbling stone for Arminians who were deceived by unqualified, universal expressions.

a helmet said...

Absolutely. It becomes a exercise in eisegesis to establish the calvinistic doctrines from the bible. Concerning JOhn 3:16 the question is: what/whom does God actually love?

The problem is, that Calvinism does not have a proper understanding of Gods love. I'm going to elaborate that subject soon on my blog.

Yet so far, there is actually an answer in the article "The fulfillment of the law by Jesus Christ" on my blog.

There is no such thing as a "common love" for the "one world" and a "special love" for the "elect world".

Such is both eisegesis and utter nonsense.

Richard Coords said...

If there's a "common love" for the world, it was shown in the Father's love of giving His Son.

So the answer to your question is that the "whom" God loves, according to John 3:16, is the world, and not just the believers of the world. The key is that the world is the subject, but often I find C commentators trying to make "believers" the subject. It's a real sneaky trick. In other words, it is said to mean that God so loved the believers of the world, that He gave His only begotten Son. Rather, God loves the world, and demonstrated His love by giving the world the greatest gift that He could ever give, that is, the gift of Jesus, so that by faith in Him, whosoever in the world can be saved.

Kevin Rhyne said...

Richard and Co-savior,

I do not find the following prayer of Christ to be easily read as Arminian.

John 17:1-26 (ESV)
1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,
2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.
3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.
8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.
10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.
11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.
16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,
23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.
26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Funny, I am not a scholar, but I can understand what “all whom you have given him”, “whom you gave me out of the world”, “you gave them to me”, “Yours they were, and you gave them to me”, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours”, “All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them”, “keep them in your name”, “I kept them in your name”, “not one of them has been lost, except the son of perdition that the Scripture might be fulfilled”, “And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth”, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word”, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am”, and “even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me” is saying.

Let’s let John interpret John and not Wesley and Clark.

a helmet said...

Kevin Rhyne,

out of the world

Yes, and how that is, is clearly seen in "The fulfillment of the law by Jesus Christ".


I am glorified in them

What does that mean? Do you really believe it?

for their sake I consecrate myself,

What does that mean?


And what do the verses 22 and 23 actually communicate:

22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,
23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.


Do you believe that?

kangaroodort said...

Kevin Ryne,

Here is a better question:

What does Jesus mean in verse 21 when he says,

...so that the world may believe that You sent Me."

It seems rather clear to me that Jesus is praying specifically for his disciples that they might reach "the world." The same world that His disciples have been called out of and has "hated" them (verse 14).

The language of these verses makes it rather obvious, in my opinion, that He is primarily speaking of His disciples, since much of what He says cannot be true of anyone but them.

I read this passage many times before I realized that Calvinists like to use it as a proof for unconditional election and limited atonement, and the thought never crossed my mind that Jesus was suggesting such things in His high priestly prayer.

Just my perspective though.

God Bless,
Ben

a helmet said...

Kangaroodort, I think that's very right.
Two things are there:

1) the disciples in God => the world believes (v.21)

2) God in the disciples => the world knows (v.23)

What happens when God is in the disciples ? The world will come to a knowledge of the truth!

If one is in God, then God is in him. In between is v.22 which is actually what is means that "God is in them" : The glory!

Now, it is the christians responsibiliy to fulfill v.23: letting the world know the truth. Letting the glory(=revelation = light = knowledge) radiate and become God's co-saviors. This is truly the only good work!

**********

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,
23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

a helmet said...

Addition:

Calvinists must understand that God is glorified in man, not in mysteries. This is abundantly clearly expressed in John.

The chapter 17 is a highlight of God's glory in man.

Glory is revelation.
Revelation is knowledge of God.
knowledge of God, however, is eternal life (1:4; 17:3).

The gospel is not about a God vs. man disunity that Calvinists are constantly upholding. The gospel is instead about the unity : Man in God, God in man. That is the message of John, especially ch. 17

Richard Coords said...

Hey Kevin,

At John 17, by the reference to Judas, it sounds to me like the ones who were "given" were the disciples (especially since He says that these were "with" Him and believed in Him), and that Jesus prays for them, including all who will believe through their ministry.

In this setting, “the world” does not mean an “elect world,” which I gather that you would agree, but that the issue is why, in this context, does Jesus specifically say that His prayer is not for the world, and I'd like to give an analogy that I think can help: I do not pray that Hillary Clinton receives eternal life. I do not pray that she goes to Heaven. Rather, I pray that she gives her heart to Christ, and that upon becoming a Christian, receives eternal life and goes to Heaven. So I infer that Jesus is praying for the spiritual benefits of His believers. Thoughts?

Kevin Rhyne said...

Richard,

...and I import things into the text? ;)

Contrast what Jesus says here in John 17 with Hebrews 7:25 where He "ever lives to make intercession for US."

The point is that He has a special love for the elect of God. Further, those elect were a gift from the Father to the Son. That's a plain non-scholarly charged reading of that passage. At least admit that's what the Text says.

How many times must an Arminian read "given" from the Father or "given" to me before he gets the idea that there's a gift of men to Christ at work here? Wouldn't that be a plain reading of the Text?

Any other meaning has to be infused with outside Arminian (and other) reason, tradition and bias and does violence to the meaning of Scripture.

Richard Coords said...

Hey Kevin,

At John 17, in terms of those who were given, do you reject that this was in reference to the disciples? Consider what Jesus said:

"I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me."

Jesus adds: "While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition...."

Who was the "son of perdition"? I'm sure that you'll agree that that's Judas. Remember that these who were given, were "with" Jesus and believed that God sent Him. Am I really that far off base in inferring that Jesus is speaking of His disciples?

Kevin Rhyne said...

Richard,

Of course, I agree that He was speaking of His disciples. How does that make them any less chosen by God as a gift to Christ? Not only that but cast an unscholarly eye toward verse 20.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,”

Can we agree that He is also talking about future disciples? “[W]ho will believe” if I remember from elementary English class is future tense. Doesn’t take a scholar to see that. Talking of these same folks He says in verse 24 the following:

“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

So the Father gave the Son the current disciples over which He was praying. He also gave the Son all of the future disciples for which He was praying.

How does He end His prayer about these future disciples?

“25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.
26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Is it so difficult to see a special love that Christ has for those whom the Father has given Him? Does it really take a scholar’s pen or just a little more attention to words used and less attention to the tradition of man’s sovereign free will?

Is it so offensive to the idol of free will that God would choose to glorify Himself through the election of an undeserving many out of the whole of fallen humanity upon which to lavish the glory of the riches of His grace?

Do you not remember what Jonah proclaimed? Salvation belongs to the Lord! Jonah 2:9. It’s of the Lord.

Again and again the argument has been posited that God would be deceptive if predestination were true in the face of the universal calls of the gospel. Do you not realize that the Gospel is a command, not an invitation. In Acts 17:30, Paul states that He commands all people everywhere to repent. Does that sound like a god who is wringing his hands in heaven hoping that someone somewhere would use their piece of god’s divested sovereignty in their free will and just take him up on his offer of salvation? That is certainly not the God of the Bible.

Commands are to be obeyed. Those who obey receive the love, mercy and favor of their Sovereign. Those who do not obey receive wrath, judgment and just condemnation for their continued rebellion against His Christ. In fact, they are condemned all ready like we all were with the rest of mankind. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ [that’s why Calvinists look to Lazarus as an analogy for irresistible grace]—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [and here’s the why] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)

It’s not complicated. Just read what it says.

Richard Coords said...

Hey Kevin,

Before we get to John 17, James White similarly accused Dave Hunt of paying homage to "free will," and Hunt tried to explain that it was really instead about Calvinism making the Bible into a charade: "Calvinism turns the Bible and human experience into a charade." (Debating Calvinism, p.311) However, White did not accept Hunt's answer, and so what can Hunt say? Also, White accused Hunt of rejecting that God should have a special love for Christians, and each time Hunt asked where he ever came up with that, and that Hunt's point was that predestining people to Hell, is not any kind, level or type of love: "Never have I heard, much less uttered, the alleged 'mantralike chant that God is not free to love a particular people redemptively.' God is free to love anyone in any way He please. But love is loving." (Debating Calvinism, p.275) Honestly, I believe and affirm predestination, but the question is "what" has God predestined? Acts 2:23 gives an answer, and includes foreknowledge together with the predetermined plan. So I have no problem with predestination. You must be taught Calvinism as a "system" in order to come to the conclusion that it really means Determinism. Also, yes, I agree that the Gospel is a command, but it's also an invitation, if you compare with the parable of the Wedding Feast? How do you explain the parable of the Wedding Feast, if it doesn't mean an invitation also?

John 17...

You wrote: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,” Can we agree that He is also talking about future disciples?”

The New American Standard doesn't say "will believe." It states: "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me." (John 17:20-21)

So you have 3 groups:

1) the disciples that were given,

2) those who believe through the disciples, who were also given, and

3) the world, that "the world may believe."

So the ones who were given to Jesus by the Father were the 12 disciples, including those whom they reached, which was for the purpose of reaching the world for Christ. What am I missing?

chalee said...

having read your hypothetical, my immediate response would have been gratitude. what a relief to have God step in and clear up my confusion!

OTOH, your response wasn't terribly surprising after i factored in the man-centered theology that you start with: you chose to blame God for being deceptive. you consider yourself quite qualified to stand in judgment of the Almighty, and seem eager to do so, should you catch Him stepping out of line. if it comes down to frail, limited human understanding vs. God's truth speaking, you seem to have placed your confidence in the wrong one...

the irony is that you still have enough belief in scripture that when universalists marshal your arguments against you (and claim that a good God - or "their sort of God" - would never send any of His creations to Hell or act differently than suits their personal sense of morality), you don't recognize the basis of those arguments as identical to yours.

(and didn't you forget acts2:17, after all? In the last days, God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams."

yet you seem to understand that not everyone will receive the Spirit and be saved...did you actually go ahead and read the context in this case?

18"Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy…”)

imagine the nerve of God, revealing Himself to 1st century jews in terms that may not immediately be understood by 21st century americans!

here's a quick lesson - and please pass it on to those at the so-called "john 3:16 conference":

john didn't number the verses. they were added later. you seem to imagine that john 3:16 should be immediately clear to any 21st century westerner, without respect to the rest of the context of john's letter and writings (especially the surrounding discussion with nicodemus in chapter 3) and without regard to any understanding of the OT (wherein God revealed Himself uniquely and nearly exclusively to the jews for thousands of years). that seems a bit optimistic.

as for me, i don't care what you think john 3:16 "ought" to mean to you, if communicated by an "honest" and "undeceptive" God. i would ask: what did it mean to nicodemus? what did it mean to a pharisee in the 1st century that the dividing wall of hostility was coming down? that the first church conference was what to do with the gentiles? that most of the divisions and heresies focused on how jewish the gentile believers had to become in order to be saved? that even the apostle peter kept having to relearn that food was not an issue?

so when Jesus told nicodemus that "God so loved the world", it's entirely possible that His focus was on preparing this pharisee for the grafting in of the gentiles. but let's look at it again:

16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

What is the result of God's love? He gave His Son, so that every single believer should not perish but have eternal life. "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" (1john3:1) this is covenant love. this is love for His Bride.

"but..." the noncalvinist will interject, "God also loves the unbelievers."

calvinists will concede to some extent: unbelievers do receive common grace and many would argue that the cross is the foundation for this patience. God sending His Son was a great honor and privilege extended to humanity - even while some despised Him.

yet unbelievers don't receive the benefits of the love described in this passage. here, unbelievers are "condemned already." are they "lovingly condemned?" "condemned already in love?" does He love them in the same way as believers if He intends to make them a "footstool for His feet?"

(this is much like the irony in monty python's "holy hand grenade of antioch", whereby God "blows His enemies to bits" in His "mercy." the contrast is played for humor - it obviously doesn't connect logically.)

so while the pharisees and jews may have wanted to God to condemn the dirty gentiles of the "world", Jesus is blowing nicodemus' mind by declaring His intent to save them...to include ALL those who believe. (and yes, for calvinists, "all those who believe" is equivalent to "elect.")

the bible is clear that john was a minister primarily to jews (Gal2:9), who needed to hear this message and john repeated this in his first letter: "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (1John2:2)

but it would be nice if john could have put it more plainly, that it should be interpreted that Jesus came not merely for the nation of israel but also for believing gentiles. well...except that he did:

john11:51He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.

this is the unity Jesus prays for in john 17 for His people, but denies to the "world" in that instance.

the real problem (again) is not the clarity of scripture but the presumptions of those who interpret: you believe the bible was written "to you" and interpret it wrongly as a natural result. (noncalvinists also seem determined to deny God's perfect knowledge, by suggesting that God is giving some a "chance" to repent. while calvinists agree that everyone may repent (though not everyone "can" repent), they recoil at the notion that there is "chance" where God is concerned. when Jesus told peter that he would deny Him, He wasn't guessing or rolling the dice. peter's denial was certain from the foundations of creation. God is as certain of the future as the past, even while noncalvinists join with the pagans in saying, "does the Most High have knowledge?")

heb2 is the same way. the context should make clear who v9 is talking about. (seriously, if you understand that money is the root of "all kinds" of evil rather than "all evil" (1Tim6:10) - as king david was clearly not committing adultery out of desire for cash - why is it so hard to concede that "pas" or "all" in other verses might not mean every single, individual, discrete case?)

Heb2:9But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. 12He says,
“I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.” 13And again,
“I will put my trust in him.” And again he says,
“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”
14Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. 17For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

this is really not as difficult as you make it out to be.

a helmet said...

chalee,

you wrote calvinists will concede to some extent: unbelievers do receive common grace and many would argue that the cross is the foundation for this patience.

Where does the idea come from that unbelievers get common grace? There is no such concept as "common grace". It's a calvinistic concept to establish their view of grace. It is absolutely eisegetical. And what does this common grace have to do with the cross? Was the cross really needed for God to bestow such little mercy? Again, the concept of common grace vs. salvific (=a calvinistically invented word again) grace is tradition without any sure foundation, just like "common call" and "inward call".

Apropos inward call: No one of the calvinists has been able here to explain what the inward call actually is. I guess you do not know either.

Kevin Rhyne said...

Helmet,

Did you even read chalee’s comment? That’s the sum of your response?

a helmet said...

I apologize. There are also good parts in it.

The point is however, that there are no two kinds of love whatsoever. There is only one love of God. No common love beyond it.
***
(See "The meaning of Christ's sacrificial death" on my blog.)

Richard Coords said...

Chalee,

Do you realize that your comments were bitter and condescending?

You wrote: "your response wasn't terribly surprising…did you actually go ahead and read the context in this case?...imagine the nerve of God (sarcasm)…
here's a quick lesson - and please pass it on to those at the so-called "john 3:16 conference" john didn't number the verses.”

I stopped there. It's not necessary for me to respond to this kind of uglyness.

chalee said...

richard-

it is great that you know yourself well enough to recognize that if God corrected you and explained that you had misunderstood something about scripture, that you would be angry and defensive and blame Him for the situation. but if you think that is an acceptable way to respond to the Almighty, by standing in judgment of Him and shifting the blame to Him - and you seem to - then you desperately need to be rebuked...and it is unfortunate that you aren't getting that from your home church.

when confronted by God with our error, how much better to learn from job and say:

"I know that You can do all things;
no plan of Yours can be thwarted.
You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?'
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

whether you like it or not, the NT scriptures were written to be understood primarily by those who had the OT. if you refuse to stop and consider how a jew would understand john's writings especially, you're not going to understand them properly...and God is not to blame for that.

i will drop the sarcasm, though. while it can be biblical (i wouldn't recommend cutting 1kings18:27 or gal5:12 out of your bible because they are "ugly" or unpleasant), it was inappropriate here.

helmet-

"Where does the idea come from that unbelievers get common grace? ...There is only one love of God. No common love beyond it."

Psa5:5The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong.
Psa11:5The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.

God sure seems to hate some people. despite the hatred however, the bible is clear that God "causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." and it's true that the worst of human beings still "live and move and have (their) being" only in Him. while missionary efforts in the OT were pretty limited, God did make clear to jonah that He had at least some concern for the gentiles prior to Christ, even if He reserved His more affectionate language and most of His efforts for israel, whom He called "My people."

deut7:7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

But you still believe that God loves His bride the same as He loves those he hardens and blinds?

God loved the apostle paul - who He called uniquely by revealing Himself in a special, miraculous manner - the same as He loved the other pharisees to whom He chose not to reveal Himself? (though just like paul, they were also guilty of opposing Christ and "stoning those sent to them.")

Luke10:21At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
22All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

God extended the same love to the gentile nations in the 2000 years before Christ as He did to the jews, "entrusted with the very words of God" (rom3:2)...to whom He gave the law and with whom He made a covenant...with whom He walked daily as a cloud by day and a fire by night...with whom He chose to live in a temple, saying "My eyes and My heart will always be there"?

on what grounds do you believe that God felt that same tenderness for everyone? (for example, scripture records Jesus claim that sodom and several other pagan nations would have repented had God sent miracles, but God chose not to do so.)

ezek16:6 " 'Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, "Live!" 7 I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew up and developed and became the most beautiful of jewels. Your breasts were formed and your hair grew, you who were naked and bare.
8 " 'Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine.
9 " 'I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you. 10 I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put leather sandals on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. 11 I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, 12 and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. 13 So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was fine flour, honey and olive oil. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. 14 And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign LORD.

even when israel sinned - worse even than the pagan nations around her - God points to an eventual reconciliation and atonement that 2He will provide for in vs.60-63 rather than the judgment and destruction he gave some of those pagan nations.

i suppose we will have to disagree. God can and does treat some people differently than others...because He chooses whom He will love.

as john3:8 says, "The wind (a play on the word for Spirit) blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." or - since the topic is about how the bible should always be understood straightforwardly and without nuance - here it is in more direct terms:

rom9:13Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

14What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15For he says to Moses,
"I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

a helmet said...

chalee,


God "causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." and it's true that the worst of human beings still "live and move and have (their) being" only in Him

Surely, after the flood God promised to let the world go its normal way, thereby treating humanity equally in that respect.
Calling this "love" is a little exaggerated I think. And what does this general benevolent provision have to do with the Cross of Christ? Did God need that sacrifice for rain and sunshine to come about for the evil ones? Do these blessings flow from the cross? I don't think that is meaningful.


But you still believe that God loves His bride the same as He loves those he hardens and blinds?


Here is the crucial point. I had said that there is only one love of God. This is the love between God the Father and God the Son. Why is this the only love of God? Because there is the first Commandment "you shall love your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength". So the father loves His son, who is fully God, thereby fullfilling the first commandment. He does not love anybody or anything except His son.
And there is the second commandment: "you shall love your neighbor as yourself". The son is not the same person as the father. Therefore, the father who loves the son also loves His neighbor as himself (=as God) thereby fulfilling the second commandment as well. The same things are true the other way round, the son loving the father. This is God´s own righteousness and holiness

Surely, those who are in Christ are loved with Christ. Because they are seen by the father, who does not cease to look at the son and who does not look at anything else.

If God would love anything else than His son, then He would break the first Commandment, forsaking His own holiness! Such is utter nonsense. That is why there is only one love of God. Christians are IN Christ and therefore participate in that one and only love. Considering rain and sunshine as a "love" of God distorts the word "love" and God`s own righteousness.

As to your comment on John 3:8 you might read the articles "The Gospel - Faith and Knowledge" as well as "More notes on regeneration" on my blog "Meditations on the gospel of John".

chalee said...

helmet said: "He does not love anybody or anything except His son. ..Surely, those who are in Christ are loved with Christ. Because they are seen by the father, who does not cease to look at the son and who does not look at anything else.

If God would love anything else than His son, then He would break the first Commandment, forsaking His own holiness!"

so basically, you don't agree that God loves the "world" either...but you get there in a somewhat different manner. interesting...

i have a slight nit to pick with your chronology, though.

1john4:7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins...19We love because he first loved us.

He first loved us before we loved Him and were placed "in Christ" within time. i would not tend to go so far as to argue that we were "in Christ" before we were regenerated ("born of God" in v.7) and enabled to love God.

(but eph1:4 can be tricky, i suppose.)

also, you said "calling this 'love' is a little exaggerated I think."

"love" can be a tricky word, especially in our culture, but i'm just borrowing the analogical language from scripture:

matt5:43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?

this is not discussing the intimate love of a man for his bride or for his children, sure, but "love" is clearly the topic under discussion. when God commands us to "love" our enemies, this is the example He gives: that He provides for and sustains even His enemies. the analogy is implicit but i don't think it's all that subtle. you really think that God is exaggerating here?

(i think that this is what paul is getting at in 1tim4:10, although the word there is typically translated "savior" rather than "sustainer." that is probably an unnecessary digression, though.)

i will try to take a look at your blog later and see if i can follow what you're saying...

a helmet said...

chalee,

an important question here is: what is love?

Meaining, what is the content of the love of God, the love between the father and the son? Does the father hand over cotton candy to the son? Or gingerbread? Certainly not. The love of the father is His full revelation to the son. He lets the son know Him.

Giving knowledge of oneself, revealing oneself is love.

a helmet said...

Addition,
you really think that God is exaggerating here?

No, but I think it is odd to declare such provisions as benefits resulting from the sacrificial death of Christ. I do not think Christ`s death had some lower and higher type effect, or that it was needed to sustain enemies whatsoever at all.

The command to love our enemies is not mysterious: Jesus died for us while we were yet his enemies, that is, sinners. It is a high reinforcement of the law. No one will ever fulfill it perfectly, therefore, grace is needed.

Richard Coords said...

Hey Helmet,

I've asked Calvinists for a verse which states that the atonement produces "faith," and I have yet to receive one. Instead, Romans 10:17 tells me that the Gospel produces faith.

I have also never seen a verse which states that the Cross of Calvary has a dual benefit: one for the "non-elect" and another benefit for "the elect." Are they pulling it out of thin air?

a helmet said...

I also think that faith comes from hearing the gospel. Hearing from someone who preaches. That is what Romans says. In order to believe one must have reasons to do so. No one would believe in an alleged flying teapot between Mars and Jupiter without any evidences for this at all. So there must be some preceding knowledge that leads to faith. This knowledge comes from hearing the gospel and understanding it. Since the gospel is the word of God, the information originates with God. In this manner, "God draws" and teaches people. Yet there is not mysterious "drawing force" whatsoever. No secret cause that pushes a person into faith or something like that.

I agree, there is no such thing taught in the bible that the atonement causes faith.

chalee said...

helmet said: "an important question here is: what is love?

...The love of the father is His full revelation to the son. He lets the son know Him.

Giving knowledge of oneself, revealing oneself is love."

okay...

i'm still waiting to hear how God is showing this sort of "love" to those He hardens or blinds or otherwise hides Himself from? i've mentioned this several times...

helmet said: "I think it is odd to declare such provisions as benefits resulting from the sacrificial death of Christ."

ah, i made (what was intended to be) a side comment in one paragraph in my 1st post about this in which i tried to state clearly that only some or "many" (meaning "not all") calvinists agree...i never mentioned it again but you seem to have assumed it was there...

i don't have any commitment to this side issue, and would prefer that it not deflect from the main discussion. john 3:16-18 is concerned with salvation of believers. God's love for the "world" in john 3:16-18 is of the intimate kind, reserved for those - both jews and gentiles - who will ultimately believe and be placed "in Christ" (i.e. the elect). if there is any benefit from the cross to unbelievers (i.e. those who will never believe), i will cheerfully concede it is not found therein.

richard-

if you're at romans 10, turn back a few pages.

rom8:32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

the Son was given up for the elect, which is the basis for predestining the elect to "all good things":

Among these good things are calling, sanctification, justification and glorification.

and paul uses "calling" in a definite, effectual sense, as verses like rom1:6-7 make clear. the gentile believers in rome are "called to be saints" (not every single person in rome is "called" in the pauline sense, but only the "brothers" v13 in the church there to whom paul is writing).

that God is responsible for this calling which enables repentance, faith and belief is clear from other scriptures as well:

Ezek36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Phil1:29For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him…

Acts5:31God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.

Acts11:18When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”


Not sure why you even bring it up or argue that the gospel "produces" faith - other than mere pandering. both calvinists and noncalvinists agree that the gospel is the means of salvation - except for arminians like billy graham and c.s. lewis who deny that the gospel is necessary.

whether or not the preaching of the gospel is effectual is the issue (certainly hearing the gospel from stephen was of no effect for saul/paul - gal1:12.) does God have the right to choose or is God helpless to save until man decides to be willing? the bible repeats over and over that God chooses and God acts in salvation, it is because of Him that believers are in Christ Jesus. (1cor1:30)

James1:18He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Acts16:14One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.


while you believe that the gospel might produce faith or it might fail if the human listener refuses to cooperate, the bible insists that when God intends to produce results, He gets them..."He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth"...and that He "accomplishes ALL His good pleasure."

Isa55:11 ...so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

so nuance that.

the bible is clear that God is to be glorified as the foundation for our faith and belief: "whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (john3:21) He is the author and finisher of our faith. He began the work in us by giving us new hearts and He will complete it...by moving us to follow His decrees.

but all these scriptures glorifying God as the foundational chooser conflict with your trust in human philosophy and for that reason are so much more readily dismissed than trying to understand what "all" or "world" might mean to a 1st century jew. you would rather pander to other noncalvinists by asserting soundbites like "all means all" even while inconsistently interpreting 1Tim6:10 to mean that the love of money is the root of "all kinds" of evil rather than "all (every single individual) evil" - despite the same greek word in both cases. you have the truth in front of you yet you deny it.

that's a shame.

a helmet said...

i'm still waiting to hear how God is showing this sort of "love" to those He hardens or blinds or otherwise hides Himself from? i've mentioned this several times...

I don´t know that. At least not yet. But I can share the knowledge that I have got. And concerning the love of God to the world, the article "The fulfillment of the law by Jesus Christ" on http://meditationonthegospelofjohn.blogspot.com sheds light on the nature of God´s love.
The matter of faith is also dealt with there.

I absolutely agree that Jn 3:16-18 deals with the salvation of believers.

Kevin Rhyne said...

you have the truth in front of you yet you deny it.

freely...I might add...

nice comment chalee.