Thursday, February 17, 2011

What does the Gospel include?

1st Corinthians 15:1-5 states: "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve."

Can you identify the elements of Paul's definition of the Gospel? First of all, Paul states that it's something which they "received" and were "saved." He adds that Jesus was "buried" and that He was "raised on the third day." Do you notice anything else significant about his definition? Notice that Paul adds that his Gospel message to the formerly lost Corinthians had included mentioning that "Christ died for our sins." "Oh," but the Calvinist says, "Paul is speaking to Christians." But regardless of who he is speaking to, Paul is defining what the Gospel comprised, back when he had spoken it to them when they were lost. And notice that Paul didn't say, "Christ died for sin." Of course, Jesus did die for sin. But Paul makes it personal.

Unless there are many Gospels, which no Calvinist espouses, Paul defined what the ONE Gospel included, which is the fact that "Christ died for our sins." Now that doesn't mean, "just my sin." To be clear, "our sins" means your sins and mine, speaker + audience. That's the impact of "our." It is a mutual inclusion. I'm trying to make this as plain as possible. Paul's Gospel obliterates Limited Atonement. Paul told lost people that Jesus died for them. Paul recalls that this was the Gospel when he had preached to them.

One Calvinist responds: "First Corinthians was written by a Christian, namely Paul, to Christians. So Christ died for 'OUR' sins means 'OUR.' Not theirs, don't add to the gospel."

"Our sins" is inclusive. It means your sins and mine. The speaker includes himself together with the lost audience that he had preached the Gospel to, and who received it and were saved. Is this really Calculus? Is this really hard to understand? Or is the problem, not necessary a factor of intelligence, but of cultic indoctrination, which refuses to see the light? You could tell a cultist that 1+1=2, but they will try to argue that it somehow really means 1.5 or 3. It's like you cannot make it simple or plain enough, and that's because logic and reason are not the problem. A culticly indoctrinated person can reconcile anything, such as spinning John 3:16 to mean, "For God so loved the world of the elect." For that person, no amount of logic will work. Their mind is shot. They cannot engage in reason. They will only engage in spin and obfuscation.


Luke said...

A very real danger you have exposed here. The danger of using our theological grid to determine our understanding of Scripture rather than letting Scripture determine our theological grid.

I like the simplicity of this approach. Of course, like you, I'm sure that there are those who will do all they can to make the simple complicated.

Richard Coords said...

Pastor Luke, I totally agree, and I was going to comment on that this morning. Sometimes Calvinists will overly nuance a particular text in order to create sufficient wiggle-room and ambiguity in order to open the possibility to their own understanding. Obviously we've seen James White do this with John 3:16, but in this case of 1Cor 15:3, a particular Calvinist is creating a differentiation between "our sins" and "their sins," supposing my view to be "their", when the text instead states "our." But since "our" is implicitly inclusive, then whether it states "ours," "mine," "theirs," and "everyone else's", it really shouldn't really matter. Ours means yours & mine. (and obviously 1John 2:2 supports this view), but the point being is that in a C's *nuanced* understanding of "our", this can be explained as strictly being an OT reference cited by Paul (which it is), and a C can infer that the original OT text had only meant for it to apply to the Calvinistically elect, and so when Paul quoted, he understood it in the same manner, that is, that "our" would only mean those for whom it was intended. So it's an extremely nuanced understanding, and which creates the C's much sought-after ambiguity, necessary to preserve off-the-wall doctrine. (Actually, though, Isaiah 53 is shown to have broad application when compared with Romans 3:10-12. I have a Q&A write-up on that here:

Richard Coords said...

When I was attending a Calvinist church, "Changed By Grace," I was so sure of my understanding, and I was actually quite proud of it. I reasoned that "God does not play dice with the cosmos." I reasoned that everything is fixed and ordered and nothing is left to chance. (In fact, this concept of "divine cosmic ordering" is what led Augustine into determinism.) So when I considered David & Goliath, I figured that God created Goliath for the sole purpose of being bread for David, so that David could experience spiritual growth, and Goliath was just a tool, thrown away after use, like tossing a wrapper into the garbage once you've had your lunch. But then my Dad quoted 2Peter 3:9 to me, and that collapsed my deterministic paradigm. (Often when Calvinists hear that someone was motivated to leave Calvinism over that verse, they become tense and irritated, because the Calvinist sees it as a shame, in that one left Calvinism over an apparent (at least to a Calvinist) misunderstanding. But the non-Calvinist doesn't view it as a misunderstanding. You see, whereas the Calvinist has a heavily nuanced and perhaps complicated understanding of 2Peter 3:9, the non-C simply takes the passage at face value. You could also say the same thing of John 3:16 or 1Tim 2:4. In other words, Calvinists seem to rely on complicated explanations. But remember that the Gospel wasn't intended for scholars; it was intended for the simple. So, there is a very good reason to believe that Scripture should be taken at face value. The problem isn't whether we are smart enough to understand purported nuanced interpretations, but whether we have the faith to simply take God at His word, even if it makes Him appear less sovereign that we would otherwise like.

Anonymous said...

Was Calvin & Luther Catholics?