Sunday, June 22, 2008

R.C. Sproul & Middle Knowledge

In the following quote, Calvinist R.C. Sproul, in his book, What is Reformed Theology?, seems to indicate that Reformed Theology professes belief in "Middle Knowledge," and uses the illustration of a "Chess Master." However, it appears that Sproul makes this acknowledgement with the caveat that perhaps God decrees all contingenies, which I find a bit odd, and so I would like to get your take on the matter.

R.C. Sproul writes: "God's omniscience refers to God's total knowledge of all things actual and potential. God knows not only all that is, but everything that possibly could be. The expert chess player exemplifies a kind of omniscience, though it is limited to the options of chess play. He knows that his opponent can make move A, B, C, or D, and so forth. Each possible move opens up certain counter-moves. The more moves ahead the expert can consider, the more he can control his chess-game destiny. The more options and counter-options one considers, the more complex and difficult the reasoning. In reality no chess player is omniscient. God knows not only all available options, but also which option will be exercised. He knows the end from the beginning. God's omniscience excludes both ignorance and learning. If there is ignorance in the mind of God, then divine omniscience is a hollow, indeed fraudulent, phrase. Learning always presupposes a certain level of ignorance. One simply cannot learn what one already knows. There is no learning curve for God. Since no gaps exist in his knowledge, there is nothing for him to learn. For us to know what will happen tomorrow, we must guess concerning things that are contingent. If I say to a friend, 'What are you going to do tomorrow?' he might reply, 'That depends.' Those two words acknowledge that there are contingencies ahead and that what happens to us depends on these contingencies. It is said that God knows all contingencies, but none of them contingently. God never says to himself, 'That depends.' Nothing is contingent to him. He knows all things that will happen because he ordains everything that does happen. This is crucial to our understanding of God's omniscience. He does not know what will happen by virtue of exceedingly good guesswork about future events. He knows it with certainty because he has decreed it." (What is Reformed Theology?, pp.171-172)

So are we to conclude from R.C. Sproul that God knows all contingencies because He has decreed all contingencies? How would that make sense? Apply that logic to Matthew 11:20-24, and should we conclude that God decreed that if Tyre and Sidon had seen the Lord's miracles, that they would have believed? Unfortunately, Sproul does not come right out and say that God decreed all contingencies, or how God would decree undetermined events.

(Next week, we'll examine the quote by R.C. Sproul that states that there is essentially no difference between a non-Calvinist and a Pelagian. He calls it "a difference without a difference." The following week, I want to examine "Compatibilism." Currently, I have a post on CARM regarding an excerpt from "Debating Calvinist" that I will repost here for follow-up discussion.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The miracles in David Tyree's grasp

As a diehard New York Giants fan, having grown up in central New Jersey, I have remained loyal to my childhood team ever since, and this past Superbowl, was a very special time indeed. But I'd like to share an article about one the Giants most least likely Super Bowl heroes, David Tyree, who carriers a bold testimony for Christ and is a tremendous role model for other young Giants players. David Tyree's miraculous catch is surpassed by an even greater miracle, the story of his conversion to Christ:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Debating Calvinism: Hunt vs. White

I would like to commit to one new Blog post every Wednesday, and in it, I would like to focus on exploring key excerpts from books pertaining to Calvinism & Arminianism. I pledge, Lord willing, to do my best to remain available for questions and feedback during that day, starting with today.

To start off, I'd like to say that I'm a huge fan of the book, Debating Calvinism, between James White and Dave Hunt, primarily due to its format and liveliness, and in it, I came across an interesting exchange concerning Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. So consider the following exchange, and I will pose my question:

James White: "Just as Christ had the power and authority to raise Lazarus to life without obtaining his 'permission' to do so, He is able to raise His elect to spiritual life with just as certain a result." (p.197) Turning to the conversion of Paul, White adds: "Paul could no more stop this divine resurrection than Lazarus could have stopped the Messiah from commanding Him to come forth." (p.206)

Dave Hunt: "He continues to mistakenly equate spiritual death with physical death and reasons that because Lazarus didn't give 'permission' to Jesus to raise him from the dead, sinners don't have to believe the gospel to be sovereignly regenerated. ... White must rely on this false and unbiblical comparison...." (p.210)

White does not respond specifically to Hunt's objection concerning Lazarus, but instead appeals to the example of Lydia, as per Acts 16:14. (p.218)

So my question is this: Why is the raising of Lazarus so universally invoked by major Calvinist authors as a means to illustrate spiritual regeneration? To respond with "well, prove that it's not indicative of spiritual regeneration," really isn't a strong answer, because it is the Calvinist who is making the positive affirmation. So shouldn't there be something in the text, in order to warrant such universal application? (Additionally, why is it that Lazarus is cited by Calvinists, instead of some other person that Jesus raised from the dead?)

To put it another way, Arminians nearly universally insist that Calvary is analogous to the Serpent on a Standard, as per Numbers 21:6-9, on the grounds that this was Jesus' own analogy. Now, while the issue of which elements of that event have a correlation to Calvary, may be debated, it cannot be disputed that this event does have an overall basis for asserting a comparison to Calvary. So the point is, then, whether citing the raising of Lazarus for spiritual regeneration, shares any similarity of strength for reference purposes.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

7 Reasons NOT to ask Jesus into your heart???

Dennis M. Rokser is the pastor of Duluth Bible Church in Duluth, Minnesota, and has authored a publication entitled: “Seven Reasons NOT to ask Jesus into your heart.” Here is a link to his article, and I will provide a response:

To begin, the author cites the personal accounts of Erwin Lutzer and Hank Lindstrom. The solution to Lutzer’s frustration is simply by believing what Jesus promised at Revelation 3:20, and Linstrom’s prayer is odd, given that if you feel that Jesus has left you, then it wasn't God that has moved, but you.

Nevertheless, let’s address each of the 7 points.

1) “Don’t ask Jesus into your heart because…it is never found in the Bible.

Well why not at least cite the verse that people use to argue that it IS in the Bible, namely, Revelation 3:20? (He waits until point #6 to do this.)

2) “Don’t ask Jesus into your heart because…it is not how someone is saved.

But if Jesus dwells in your heart, so does the Father (John 14:23), and how is that not salvation?

The author states that one “doesn’t have to pray to be saved,” and yet Romans 10:13 states that “whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

Additionally, the author states: “…sinners are not saved by their good/religious works, including asking Jesus into their heart…” Unfortunately, we are left with nothing more than simply to take his word for it.

3) “Don’t ask Jesus into your heart because…it requires no understanding of the Gospel of Grace to do it.

A sincere prayer to invite Jesus into one’s heart accompanies an understanding that Jesus is both needed and that He can meet that need.

The author states: “Frankly, any five year old can ask Jesus into her heart without any true understanding of the person, work, and accomplishment of the Lord Jesus Christ….” Actually, make that any “four” year old, and frankly, Jesus said, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:16)

The author asks: “Are you trusting in a prayer that you prayed to be saved?” Why not instead ask, “Are you trusting in the One to whom you prayed?”

4) “Don’t ask Jesus into your heart because…it confuses the means of salvation with the results of salvation.

In other words, praying to ask Jesus to come into your heart “puts the cart before the horse” because you are in essence praying to receive the end result of salvation, that is, the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ, instead of praying for the start of salvation. The New Birth is also the end result of salvation, so should no one pray to be made Born Again either?

Calvinist, D. James Kennedy, states: “Our faith and our repentance are the work of God’s grace in our hearts. Our contribution is simply the sin for which Jesus Christ suffered and died. Would you be born anew? There has never been a person who sought for that who did not find it. Even the seeking is created by the Spirit of God. Would you know that new life? Are you tired of the emptiness and purposelessness of your life? Are you tired of the filthy rags of your own righteousness? Would you trust in someone else other than yourself? Then look to the cross of Christ. Place your trust in him. Ask him to come in and be born in you today. For Jesus came into the world from glory to give us second birth because we must--we MUST--be born again.” (Why I Believe, p.140)

5) “Don’t ask Jesus into your heart because…it either results in no assurance of salvation or brings a false assurance to people.

The question is this: Are you trusting in a prayer that you prayed, or are you trusting in the person to whom you prayed? If you are trusting in the person to whom you prayed, namely Jesus, then the focus is not on you, but on God.

In terms of “assurance,” rest assured that on the basis of the biblically settled fact that God is both omnipresent and omniscient, that He hears you, at least for no other reason than because you can’t hide from Him. You will have to answer to Him for everything single thing that you will ever say and do. David said: “You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.” (Psalm 139:3-8)

The author explains: “Now this is not to say that those who have asked Jesus into their heart are not saved. They may be genuine believers in Christ. But if they are saved, they have been reconciled to God through placing their faith in Christ, not by asking Jesus into their heart.

However, asking Jesus into your heart is a matter of placing your faith in the One to whom you are praying, or else why are you praying to Him at all? If you do not believe that He exists, or that He answers, then why are you praying to Him?

The author explains: “While asking Jesus into your heart may be an expression of positive volition towards God, or may accompany faith in Christ, it certainly is not synonymous with faith in Christ alone.

Why not? Doesn’t this sound like Special Pleading? After all, are you not trusting in the One to whom you are praying? Are you not positively answering the One who stands at the door of your heart, knocking? So how is that “not synonymous with faith in Christ alone” when it is entirely a matter of faith? Now if praying to Christ is nothing more than a ritual of repetitious prayer, then that’s one thing, but if praying to Christ is a matter of communication with God, then the author’s entire argument falls apart, as it has established a means of salvation, as per Romans 10:13.

6) “Don’t ask Jesus into your heart because…Revelation 3:20 does not teach it.

Concerning the Church of Laodicea, the author asks, “Is it the unsaved or the redeemed?” So does the author really want to say that those whom the Lord described as being “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” were actually taking up their cross daily and following Him? (I find it fascinating how some who profess a “Lordship Doctrine” simultaneously believe that Revelation 3:20 addresses believers???)

The author then states that the “door” of Revelation 3:20 means the door to a “meeting place,” and then has the audacity to say that those who believe that it is a door to a person’s “heart” is “totally foreign to this passage.” The fact is that Jesus used the symbol of a “door” before, and no, it wasn’t the door to a “meeting place.” Jesus states: “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9) Next.

7) “Don’t ask Jesus into your heart because…it does not clarify the condition of salvation, it confuses it--especially with children.

The author explains that children are “prone to imagine Christ in bodily form somehow living in the organ that pumps our blood.” However, I find it odd that the author opted not to perform a research study in order to bolster his hypothesis.

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