Friday, December 15, 2017

R.C. Sproul (1939-2017)

My condolences and sympathies to the family and friends of R. C. Sproul, who passed away on December 14, 2017; he will be greatly missed. While I had my disagreements with his theology, I recognize him as a great theologian, possibly the best in his time; and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching, listening to, and reading (and occasionally responding to) his theological talks, sermons, conversations and writings, and learned a lot from them. A theologian does not always have to be right in order to be a good theologian. He wasn’t always right, but he was a great theologian all the same. I believe that his commitment to Jesus Christ was sincere and genuine, and he will receive a great reward in heaven.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sin Unto Death!

I was watching the above Q&A video in which some interesting theological issues were raised and discussed. The first question asked related to the “openness of God movement,” or “open theism” as it is more commonly known, as follows:

“Does the openness of God movement have any impact on the holiness of God? Does it diminish the concept the holiness of God?”

“Open theism” is a relatively recent theological movement in Evangelical circles that advocates the idea that God’s foreknowledge is limited by our freewill. In other words, since God has created man free to do as he wills, he doesn’t know ahead of time what decisions they will make, or what actions they will take. He is in the dark about that like everyone else, and has to wait to see what happens before deciding what to do next. There is an interesting article in Wikipedia about open theism that does a good job of explaining it. It may be a backlash against the absolute determinism of Calvinism, which has gained momentum within the Evangelical movement, and among Baptist churches during the past few decades—but takes it to the opposite extreme. 

Open theism is not compatible with Mormon revelation (any more than Calvinism is)—although it has its advocates within Mormonism. Blake Ostler is an advocate of open theism in Mormonism. He speaks for himself of course. As far as I know the LDS Church has not expressed an opinion on the subject. If they did, I am guessing that they would reject it. According to my studies, open theism is not compatible with Mormon revelation. There are many passages in modern scripture that would contradict it. I know the end from the beginning,” says Jehovah to Abraham (Abr. 2:8); and the great visions of the future that God gave to Nephi in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 11–14), or to Moses and Enoch in the Book of Moses, all contradict that notion.

At 15:16 minutes into the video a question was addressed specifically to John MacArthur, as follows:

“John MacArthur mentioned the sin unto death, and how some Corinthians were dead at God’s hand so the church is spared their wickedness, and they are taken to glory. How do we reconcile these comments with Hebrews: ‘There is a holiness without which no one will see the Lord’? How do we reconcile the sin and the holiness, and God removing them and taking them to glory?”

The Question relates to the following passage of scripture:

1 John 5:

16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

The question lacks clarity because it is in relation to something that John MacArthur had said previously relative to that scripture, which is theologically incorrect. His answer to the above question (skipping the initial part, and starting at 18:27 minutes in the video), is as follows:

I take it that the sin unto death is some sin, not a particular sin, but whatever sin causes you to die [naturally], whatever sin God uses as a point of judgment. 1 Corinthians 11, it was how they were treating the table of the Lord. They were coming without judging themselves first. They were coming without an appropriate confession of sin, and they were trivializing the table of the Lord; and some of them were weak, and some of them were sick, and some of them were asleep because of that specific thing. And I think there could be a number of different sins. It could be any sin that the Lord says, ‘That is as far as it can go, and it can go no further;’ and I think that is the kind of sin John says that you know, it is really not going to do any good to pray for that, because you not going to get a positive answer. The Lord is going to do what he needs to do to protect his church.”

His answer is that the “sin unto death” is any kind of sin that causes one to die naturally. It is any kind of sin that God determines it would be better for the sinner to be dead rather than be alive, and thus God decides to put an end to their life (in this world). That is his interpretation of 1 John 5:16–17. He teaches that such persons are still “saved,” even though God decides to put an end to their lives prematurely (hence the question being asked). The problem with that interpretation is that it leaves unanswered the question of how would anyone know if someone had committed, or was committing that kind of a sin—to decide whether to pray for them or not? If the only way you would know would be if they dropped dead, then why would you want to pray for them anyway, after they were dead? 1 John 5:16–17 teaches that we should pray for those who sin “not unto death,” that God may “give [them] life”. If the alternative is the “sin unto death” (natural death), how would we know if someone had committed that kind of sin, or was committing that kind of sin, unless they were already dead, in which case why would anyone want to pray for them? The scripture suggests that it is possible to know whether someone is committing that kind of sin, and thus to decide whether to pray for them or not. If the “sin unto death” means a sin that leads one to die naturally, then how would anyone know if someone was committing that kind of sin—unless they were already dead—in which case why would you want to pray for them? Once they are dead, why would anyone want to pray for them? And if they are still alive, how would anyone know if they were committing that kind of sin—to decide whether to pray for them or not?

The correct interpretation of that scripture is that by the “sin unto death” is meant spiritual death, which is the unpardonable sin leading to damnation. The following scriptures suggest that it is possible to know if someone is committing that kind of sin:

Matthew 12:

31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

Hebrews 6:

4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

Hebrews 10:

26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

Jude 1:

10 But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.
11 Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.
12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.

All of these passages refer to the unpardonable sin, or “sin unto death,” and suggest that it is possible (at least some of the time) to know if someone was committing, or had committed that kind of sin. We may not always be able to tell, or not everyone will be able to tell. It may require a certain kind of spiritual discernment to be able to know for sure. But evidently it is possible to know; and when that is discovered, we are required not to pray for them.

Another relevant question is, How can we tell if someone has committed the unpardonable sin, or the “sin unto death”? What does it entail? How does one commit such a sin, and how can one know if someone has? There is a lot of misunderstanding even among LDS about the nature of the unpardonable sin, and what it entails. Some think that to commit the unpardonable sin, one must receive some great vision or revelation from God, and then turn against it. But that is not borne out by the scriptural passages that relate to the subject. For example, Jesus accused the Pharisees of committing the unpardonable sin (or coming close to it), when they accused him of casting out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils. The Pharisees hadn’t received some great vision or revelation from heaven, so how were they committing the unpardonable sin (or risked committing that sin)? Likewise the Book of Mormon informs us that the religious leaders of our time who reject the message of the restored gospel, and declare it to be evil and of the devil, and say that God no longer works by revelation and so on, will be committing the unpardonable sin. Here is a quote:

3 Nephi 29:

5 Wo unto him that spurneth at the doings of the Lord; yea, wo unto him that shall deny the Christ and his works!
6 Yea, wo unto him that shall deny the revelations of the Lord, and that shall say the Lord no longer worketh by revelation, or by prophecy, or by gifts, or by tongues, or by healings, or by the power of the Holy Ghost!
7 Yea, and wo unto him that shall say at that day to get gain, that there can be no miracle wrought by Jesus Christ; for he that doeth this shall become like unto the son of perdition, for whom there was no mercy, according to the word of Christ!

There are religious leaders in our day who are doing just that. They are in the same situation as the Pharisees were who accused Jesus of casting out devils by the prince of devils. They are committing, or take the risk of committing the unpardonable sin. If they have not already committed that sin, they are coming perilously close to it, as the Pharisees were. The Book of Mormon gives us more insight into what it entails to commit that sin:

Alma 39:

6 For behold, if ye deny the Holy Ghost when it once has had place in you, and ye know that ye deny it, behold, this is a sin which is unpardonable; yea, and whosoever murdereth against the light and knowledge of God, it is not easy for him to obtain forgiveness; yea, I say unto you my son, that it is not easy for him to obtain a forgiveness.

It is impossible to commit the unpardonable sin in ignorance, by chance, or by accident. Those who have committed the unpardonable sin know that they have. It is always a conscious decision. So here is the question: What were the Pharisees doing that meant they were committing, or risked committing the unpardonable sin? The answer is that they were accusing Jesus of casting out devils by the prince of devils against their own better knowledge. They had enough scripture knowledge, and knowledge of their own divine Law, and also of the holiness of Jesus Christ whom they observed, and the Holy Spirit that bore witness to it, to know that the accusation they were making against him could not be true. They were ascribing evil to that which was holy against their own better knowledge. And when somebody does that, they come perilously close to committing the unpardonable sin. Once they have crossed a certain red line, there is no way back. They have burned their bridges with God, and their damnation is made sure. Repentance is no longer possible. Praying for such a person would be like praying for the devil. Praying for the devil is not going to do anybody any good, including the devil. Apart from that we are required to pray for everyone, sinners and saints alike.

The same is true of the many Christian leaders, ministers, pastors, and preachers of today who accuse Mormonism and the restored gospel to be evil and of the devil, when they are in a position to know better. They are in the same situation that the old Pharisees were. They are speaking and acting against their own better knowledge. They have enough scripture knowledge, gospel knowledge, and theological training to know better. When they go that far, then they are coming perilously close to committing the unpardonable sin—and I dare say some of them may have already crossed that line. Other passages of LDS scripture that explain how one may commit the unpardonable sin are as follows:

D&C 84:

40 Therefore all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.
41 But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.

D&C 132:

27 The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which shall not be forgiven in the world nor out of the world, is in that ye commit murder wherein ye shed innocent blood, and assent unto my death, after ye have received my new and everlasting covenant, saith the Lord God; and he that abideth not this law can in nowise enter into my glory, but shall be damned, saith the Lord.

These relate more to those who apostatize from the Church rather than those who had never joined it; but the underlying principles are the same. To commit the unpardonable sin, or the “sin unto death,” means to knowingly and willfully turn against God, with the full knowledge of the fact, whichever way one does it—as a member of the Church or as a non-member. It is a higher level of sinning than just breaking God’s commandments. And it always involves a witness of the Spirit that something is true and of God. That is why it is also called the “sin against the Holy Ghost”.

Scripture informs us that fallen man, in his fallen state, is already an “enemy to God” (Romans 8:7; James 4:4: Mosiah 3:19); but that is a different kind of “enmity” compared to someone who commits the unpardonable sin, or sins against the Holy Ghost. In the first instance, it is out of ignorance. Fallen man is an enemy to God because he does not know God. He is completely oblivious to the existence of God, and so does many things that are contrary to the nature and will of God. Someone who commits the unpardonable sin, however, becomes an enemy to God with full knowledge of the fact. It is Satan’s way of being an enemy to God. For the first, there is hope of redemption through faith, repentance, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. For the second there is no hope of redemption, only “a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries” (Heb. 10:27). Praying for the first is efficacious; praying for the second is pointless, if not positively harmful.

“Sin unto death” also negates the Calvinist and Evangelical false doctrine of “once saved, always saved”. The biblical doctrine is that nobody is “saved” until they have “endured to the end,” and have entered into the kingdom of God in heaven. Anytime before that in this life, they can change their minds, commit the “sin unto death,” and go down to hell. Nobody is assured of salvation until they have “endured to the end”.

There is an element of truth, however, in the doctrine of the “perseverance of the saints”. The saints who persevere are assisted by the grace of God to continue, and not succumb to the snares of the adversary (Rom. 8:37-39; 1 Cor. 15:57; Jude 1:24–25). But it doesn’t work like it says in Calvinism or Evangelicalism. Nobody is predestined to be saved. The choice is still theirs at any time, if they will, to turn against God, “sin unto death,” and be damned. That choice is not taken away from anyone in this life until they are dead. Instant salvation is a figment of the Evangelical imagination. Nobody is “saved” until they are in the kingdom of God in heaven. As long as they are in this world, the option is available to them to “sin unto death,” and be damned.

At 53:31 into the video Sinclair B. Ferguson makes the following comment:

. . . and if my family were around, because I love my family so deeply; but the thought of parting with them even for a season is as mysterious as the idea that there is no marriage in heaven. That is one of the most mysterious—I understand that text; but if you are married, that is a very—the opposite of the privilege of the love, is the horror of the parting. And I personally found great help in this area in some things that John Owen says about the soul’s movement from this world to the world to come, in the way in which as we progress on the Christian life, at that stage we are actually laying down the things that are most precious to us, and we are brought to what is really a totally new challenge, except to come suddenly to us, that we have to give up wife, and our husband, children, ministry, everything; and the only thing that is going to get us through the period of struggle into glory, is our absolute dependence on Jesus Christ.”

If that is how he feels about his wife, family, and marriage, then he needs to take Mormonism a bit more seriously. In Mormonism, not only is there “marriage in heaven,” but also “families are forever”. This does not negate Matt. 22:30; Mark 12:25; but puts a different interpretation on it.

It is also correct to say that in order to be a true follower and disciple of Jesus Christ, one must be willing to give up all that one has, including wife and family etc., and even one’s own life:

Luke 14:

26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
 •  •  •
33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

But that pertains to this life, not the next. The following verses provide the needed clarification:

Matthew 10:

39 He that findeth his life [in this world] shall lose it [in the next]: and he that loseth his life for my sake [in this world] shall find it [in the next].

Matthew 16:

25 For whosoever will save his life [in this world] shall lose it [in the next]: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake [in this world] shall find it [in the next].

Mark 8:

35 For whosoever will save his life [in this world] shall lose it [in the next]; but whosoever shall lose his life [in this world] for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it [in the next].

Luke 9:

24 For whosoever will save his life [in this world] shall lose it [in the next]: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake [in this world], the same shall save it [in the next].

Just as in order to gain one’s life in heaven, we must be willing to give it up in this world for the sake of Jesus and the gospel; so likewise in order to gain our marriage, wife, family, or anything else that is worth having in this world as well as in the next, we must be willing to lose them, or give them up in this world for the sake of Jesus and the gospel. It doesn’t mean that we will lose them permanently. It means that in order to obtain them and retain them in heaven for eternity, we must be willing to give them all up, or lose them in this life for the sake of Jesus and the gospel if need be.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Roger Olson’s Critique of Calvinism

I came across a series of four interesting lectures by Roger Olson in defense of Arminianism, and in critique of Calvinism, the first of which can be seen above, and the rest as follows:

I thought they were informative and well presented, and worth watching. The theology that he presents as an alternative to Calvinism is not perfect, but it is quite an achievement all the same. In the second video for example, titled “IIM Update, Calvinism II, Tenets of Calvinism,” At 14:21 minutes into the video he makes the following comment:

“So that is just sort of a brief outline or overview of Arminian theology; and as I said, there are differences of opinion among Arminians about the details. John Wesley for example believed prevenient grace is universal. He believed that God is an equal-opportunity Savior—that even those who never hear the gospel are given some opportunity by God through conscience for example, and through general revelation in nature and all of that; whereas I don’t see that in Arminius; and I don’t think Arminianism in general needs to go with that. I don’t think that the Bible says that God is an equal-opportunity Savior. That would be nice to believe, but I don’t really find it in scripture. Wesley did believe in that. If someone believes in that, I think it is speculation, and it is just based on the character of God, which is something that would be nice to believe, but I don’t see any guarantee of it in scripture. And to say that God is an equal-opportunity Savior seems to me to undermine the urgency of missions and evangelism. So I would prefer to say—and I think this is true of Arminius—that the prevenient grace of God draws us and enables us; [it] comes through the communication of the gospel. Wherever Christ is lifted up, Holy Spirit works in people’s lives to give them the ability to say ‘Yes—but only the ability. He doesn’t make it necessary. They are able to say ‘No’ too.”

That of course is not correct. Wesley was right. The Bible does indeed teach that God is an “equal-opportunity Savior.” That is what is meant by God being “no respecter of persons:”

Acts 10:

34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation [and religion] he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

Romans 2:

6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;
10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
11 For there is no respect of persons with God.
12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

Ephesians 6:

9 And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.

Colossians 3:

25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

1 Peter 1:

17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:

God being an “equal-opportunity Savior” does not undermine missions or evangelism. It didn’t for Cornelius, and there is no reason why it should for anyone else. But for the most part his criticisms of, and objections to Calvinism are valid. If he errs, he errs more on the side of Calvinism than the other way. Calvinism is more abominable than he thinks it is!

Friday, September 1, 2017

What is Wrong With This Message by Matt Slick?

I came across the above video by Matt Slick, teaching the predictable “Reformed” theology of Evangelicalism, of which the following is a brief extract. At around 2:40 minutes into the video he says this:

“No law is a law without a penalty. The penalty for breaking the law of God is eternal damnation. Ezekiel 18:4 says: ‘The soul who sins will die.’ Isaiah 59:2 says: ‘But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.’”

The implication of the above, in the context of his message, is that once you have “sinned,” you have had it! There is nothing that you can do to be rescued from that predicament, and escape eternal damnation, except to “believe” in Jesus, and rely on him to save you from it. Those scripture quotes, however, are one-sided, taken out of context, and do not tell the full story. The OT prophets never say that once you have sinned, you have had it, and you have no hope until you “believe”. They never teach the “faith alone” doctrine. What they consistently teach is that once you have sinned, you have had it unless you repent! The emphasis is always on repentance, rather than on “faith”—repentance meaning to turn away from evil and sin. Ezekiel for example says the following in the same chapter:

Ezekiel 18:

20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
22 All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.
23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

No “faith” is mentioned in there at all. Isaiah says the same thing:

Isaiah 1:

16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, [when you repent] they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, [when you repent] they shall be as wool.
19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

In the above passage, verse 18 is often quoted out of context, which distorts the meaning. It requires the context of the previous and succeeding verses for the meaning to be made clear. In other words their sins will be forgiven, and become “white as wool,” provided that they repent. Repentance is the only criterion that is mentioned. No faith, or anything else. A measure of faith may be implied, but it is not the primary element. Repentance is always the deciding factor. The emphasis is always on repentance, not faith. And that is what is taught by all the Old Testament prophets. They all teach the same thing. Here is an example from Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 22:

3 Thus saith the Lord; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.
4 For if ye do this thing indeed, then shall there enter in by the gates of this house kings sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, he, and his servants, and his people.
5 But if ye will not hear these words, I swear by myself, saith the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation.

None of them ever taught a “faith alone” doctrine. A particularly interesting example is the case of Jonah. The people of Nineveh were not even Israelites. They didn’t believe in the “God of Israel. They believed in their own generic version of a supreme Deity, whatever that was. Jonah did not preach to them “faith”. He did not try to “convert” them to the Israelite religion. He did not tell them to “believe in Jehovah” to be saved. He preached to them repentance. And when they repented, God forgave them. If they had any kind of “faith,” it was more like faith in the words of Jonah rather than anything else.

“Faith alone” is not biblical. In the Bible, it doesn’t matter what religion you are in. If you genuinely and sincerely repent of your evil doing, you will be forgiven. Daniel taught the same thing to King Nebuchadnezzar, who was a heathen:

Daniel 4:

27 Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.

He didn’t try to “convert him to Jehovah;” just advising him to repent. That is what they all teach, in the Old as well as the New Testaments (e.g. Rom. 2:6–16; Gal. 6:7–10; Acts 10:34–35). “Faith alone” is the doctrine of the devil. It is Satanic. It is an abomination. It is a heresy invented by the arch heretics of the Reformation, like Luther and Calvin and the rest. It damns anybody who goes anywhere near it.

Friday, July 21, 2017

“Free Grace”—John Wesley vs. George Whitefield

I came across the above video in which at around 40:30 minutes into the discussion RC Sproul Jr makes reference to a sermon preached by John Wesley in 1740 called “Free Grace” (Sermon 128), and a response given to it by George Whitefield in these words:

“What is interesting about the question is that it contrasts across time; and we actually have a powerful historical illustration of what Dr Sproul was saying if we connect with one of those guys: Wesley and Whitefield—had in their own lives the outworking of I think … an appropriate response to this issue. As you know, the two of them worked very closely together in the whole Methodist movement; they worked together very well in the great revival; but eventually Wesley ended up preaching a sermon that was not quite as bad as Jimmy Swaggart’s, but it was rather strongly condemnatory of the biblical doctrine of election. Whitefield responded with one of the actual best historical arguments against the Arminian position. It is short, it is well written, it is easy to read, and it is just really powerful. Whitefield’s response to Wesley was just magnificent and gracious. But it was strong. …”

Both Wesley’s sermon as well as Whitefield’s response are freely available on the Internet (see links below). I became interested, so I read both, and found that Wesley’s argument was far more cogent, coherent, logical, biblical, and persuasive than Whitefield’s. Whitefield’s argument is often circular and inconsistent, and boils down to accusing Wesley of teaching “universalism” which he doesn’t. On further research I have found no evidence that Wesley was a universalist, or ever believed or taught universalism. Belief in a universal or unlimited Atonement does not translate into “universalism”—much as Calvinists and Reformed theologians would like to portray it as such. This particular sermon by Wesley is in fact a very cogent and persuasive argument against the Reformed doctrine of predestination and unconditional election etc. It shows how well Wesley understood the Bible. George Whitefield doesn’t even come close to answering it properly. Wesley’s sermon is a logical, biblical, and damning indictment of Calvinism and Reformed theology which Whitefield basically does not have a good answer to.

Wesley’s original sermon (Sermon 128) is available in various formats from several places such as in html here, and an audio version of it on YouTube hereHis collection of sermons (including Sermon 128) are also available in PDF format from here and hereGeorge Whitefield’s response to John Wesley is available from several places on the Internet such as a PDF version here, and an audio version here. I recommend John Wesley’s sermon as an excellent refutation of the heresy of Calvinism and Reformed theology. George Whitefield does not have a valid answer to it. I also found a documentary about the life of John Wesley that can be seen here. It doesn’t discuss his theology, only his life story, which is also interesting and worth watching.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Tension Between Calvinism and the Gospel

I came across the above interview with John MacArthur, titled: “The Tension Between Calvinism and the Gospel”. That is a strange title. Describing the relationship between Calvinism and the gospel in terms of a “tension” is curiously optimistic. Calvinism is the antithesis of the gospel of Jesus Christ; it is the very negation of it. And an analysis of this interview in that regard will prove instructive. The interviewer begins by asking him the following question:

“Well, speaking of that; and it is perfect transition into the first question that we had several of, and that relates to last night in your discussions about the atonement; and the question is, If that is true [i.e. the Calvinistic doctrine of limited atonement, unconditional election, and predestination to salvation and damnation], then why witness [i.e. proselytize]? How do we tell people God loves them, and that Jesus Christ did not die for them? Or do we tell them that?”

To this John MacArthur gives the following reply:

“Well, you tell them whatever the Bible tells you to tell them; and the Bible tells you to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. And that is what you do because that is what the scripture says.”

That is a disingenuous response, and dodges the question. The question being asked is, What kind of gospel message do you give them? Do you tell them that Jesus died for, and atoned for their sins, or don’t you? What if they are not among the “elect,” according to Calvinistic theology; and Jesus didn’t in fact die for them, and didn’t atone for their sins? Then you would be lying to tell them that he did! That is the question that is being asked. Dodging the question doesn’t help.

The commandment of God in the Bible is, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). And the “gospel” is the good news that Jesus has died for, and atoned for their sins. If in fact he didn’t (according to Calvinism), and you tell them that he did, then you are lying, and making God to be a liar too. If Calvinism makes God a liar, then it cannot be of God. If the Bible tells you to go and preach the gospel to everyone without exception, telling them that Jesus died for and atoned for their sins—when in fact he didn’t according to Calvinism—that is preaching a lie according to Calvinism. Either God is lying, or Calvinism is false, take your pick. You can’t believe the Bible and Calvinism at the same time. He continues:

“Any tension you have between that and the nature of the atonement; any tension you have between that and the doctrine of divine election and predestination; any tension you feel in those areas, I feel. I feel the same tension. I ask the same question.”

I am sure he does; but that doesn’t get him off the hook for accepting and preaching a false theology. There is no “tension” in the Bible. The “tension” exists when you believe in a false theology that is contrary to the Bible. When that happens, the solution is to ditch the theology, not endure the “tension”. And his smug, self-confident, “I am right” attitude isn’t going to help him either. He continues:

“I don’t know that there’s some kind of quick answer to the question.”

There is! The quick answer is that Calvinism is false. It is not biblical. He continues:

“I am, however, happy to concede that God can resolve things that I can’t. Really!”

Even God can’t resolve Calvinism. The only way to resolve Calvinism is to ditch it. And that is what he needs to do, not God. God didn’t invent Calvinism; he picked it up from somewhere else. He continues:

“I don’t expect of you, and you shouldn’t expect of me, to be able to unscrew the inscrutable. You really don’t think that I’m going to solve all the vast theological dilemmas that have existed since the scriptures were penned.”

Calvinism is not a “theological dilemma” that needs to be “resolved;” it is a heresy that needs to be abandoned. Calvinism is heretical and false all the way through. There is absolutely nothing right about Calvinism. Ditching his false theology of Calvinism is the only option he has. At this point the interviewer retorts: “Actually some people do!” to which John MacArthur replies:

“Yeah! The best answer to this question is, My brother, I feel your pain! That is the best answer to that question.”

That is his pain, not my pain! I believe what the Bible teaches; and there is no “pain” in that. The pain comes when you try to reconcile his false theology with the Bible, and the two are irreconcilable. I don’t have that problem, so I don’t have any “pain”. His attempt at imputing his “pain” to everybody else doesn’t solve his problem. Nobody can take painkillers on his behalf. He will have to take them for himself. He continues:

“I’m not here to give you an answer, but I will tell you this: I do not believe that Jesus died for nobody; I believe he died for somebody; and I believe he died specifically for those who would believe in him. And those who believe in him are those who are regenerated by the Holy Spirit based upon the eternal sovereign electing purpose of God.”

The Bible says that he died for everybody; and that “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). How hard is that to understand? He continues:

“I think his atonement was an actual one, not a potential one. I don’t think it was a general one, I think it was a specific one. I think it was a real death for sin. The issue here is the nature of the atonement.”

No idea where he gets those strange words and ideas from. Calvinism has led him far astray! The Atonement is actual and potential, specific and general, and everything else that it can be and needs to be. Some aspects of the Atonement are indeed universal. The resurrection is universal. Everybody will be resurrected, the wicked as well as the righteous: “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). Salvation and eternal life, however, depends on their faithfulness. Jesus’ Atonement makes it possible for everyone to be saved. The choice is theirs: “they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29). The choice, the decision is theirs. That is why the gospel is preached to everyone, not just to the “elect”. How hard is that to understand? He continues:

“Forget the dilemma; you are going to have the dilemma no matter what you do.”

No you don’t! The dilemma exists only if you believe in Calvinism, and try to reconcile that with the Bible: which are irreconcilable. There is no “dilemma” within the biblical teaching. He continues:

“The dilemma is, Why didn’t he send everybody to heaven? The dilemma is, Why is there hell, and why are people going there? That is a legitimately difficult question to ask.”

That is Calvinism’s dilemma. It is not the gospel’s dilemma, or the Bible’s dilemma. The Bible tells you why there is a heaven and a hell, and why there are people going there. John 5:29 quoted above (and lots more scriptures like it) gives the answer. Why that is so hard for Calvinists to understand, I have no idea. He continues:

“The only answer I can give you is that if God purposed to do that—Romans 9—who are we to question his purpose? If he gets glory from judgment the way he gets glory from salvation, who are we to question that?”

But what if he doesn’t? What if it is his Calvinistic theology that is wrong? His real difficulty is that he is too sold out to Calvinism to allow for that possibility, and get in line with the Bible. He continues:

“The other issue is, nobody goes to hell for any other reason than that they are guilty of sin and unbelief. How that fits, I don’t know.”

He doesn’t know because his theology has led him astray. If one sticks with the Bible, that question doesn’t even arise. That problem is the byproduct of Calvinism and predestination, which are not biblical. He continues:

“But there are a lot of things I don’t know. I’ve said this so many times. I don’t even know how my own spiritual life works. I don’t! Look, Paul says in Galatians 2:20, I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I. He didn’t know either. He didn’t know! So you know if you have I asked you the question, who lives your spirit, who lives your Christian life, who lives your spiritual life, who is in charge of your spiritual life? Well some of us are going to rise and say, Well it is the Holy Spirit. I don’t really think you want to blame him! And if it is all the Holy Spirit, what are all the commands in the Bible about? And yet … you know, you must obey; and the Spirit must work; and it is the mystery of how that comes together. It is the same issue between the security of the believer held in the father’s hand, and the necessity of perseverance of faith, a persevering faith. It is the same issue that we have in the in the volitional aspects of salvation and in the sovereign aspects. There is a sort of a resolution in the center of that that is known only in the mind of God. But I will not resolve the problem of the lost any other way than to do what the scripture tells me to do, and that is that the Bible affirms to me that God loves the world, the specific people in the world, the specific human beings. I don’t know who they are. Spurgeon said, If you will pull up their shirts and show me an E stamped on their back, and I know the elect, I’ll limit my work to them. But since there is no such stamp, I am committed to obey the command to preach the gospel to every creature.”

The reason why the commandment is to preach the gospel to “every creature,” is that every creature is capable of being saved. That is why the “preaching” has two effects: it not only saves those who believe (and repent); it also damns those who don’t. That is why the responsibility is to preach the gospel to everyone, not just to the “elect”. If the gospel was only preached to the “elect,” the rest would have an excuse. They would say on judgement day, “We never heard!” “Nobody told us!” Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). If they never heard the word of God, they would have an excuse for not believing. That is why the “elect” are not “predestined”. The “elect” become the “elect” by their own choice—by hearing, believing, and repenting. That is why there is no “E” stamp on anyone’s back. No one is “predestined” to be the elect. All have the ability to be, if they would believe and repent. It is their choice. That is why the gospel is preached to everyone, so that the “unbelievers” (by their own choice) are left without excuse—while the “believers” (by their own choice) are saved. The fact that God knows ahead of time who will believe and who won’t (and “elects” them accordingly), does not make them “predestined”. He continues:

“And I can say to them that the love of God has been expressed through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, and you will know and experience that love if you put your faith in Him.”

Unless they are among “reprobate” rather than the “elect,” in which case they are out of luck before they start, according to Calvinism! He continues:

“And if you don’t do that, you’ll perish in your sins; and Jesus said, You will perish in your sins because you believe not on me.”

Unless they are among the “elect,” in which case they won’t have to worry about that, and he will be wasting his time! He continues:

“I am very comfortable to just take the biblical aspect; but I don’t think it is a good solution to diminish the nature of the atonement, and have Jesus dying for everybody.”

What “diminishes the nature of the Atonement” is to say that Jesus didn’t die for everybody, when the Bible says that he did. That is the greatest “diminution” of the Atonement that has been invented so far. He continues:

“If you say that he paid in full the penalty for all the sins of all the world, then what does anybody doing in hell?”

Because the Atonement saves people on condition of repentance. There is no scripture that says that the Atonement saves people unconditionally. Faith and repentance are necessary prerequisites. And repentance is a volitional act. We decide whether to repent or not; God doesn’t do it for us. And repentance is made possible by the Atonement. If there had been no Atonement, no one would be saved, with or without repentance. The Atonement brings about the condition of repentance, which makes it possible for people to repent and be saved. But the choice is theirs.

The reason why he thinks that a universal Atonement would necessitate a universal salvation is because his theology is based on predestination. The will of the creature plays no part in his salvation or damnation. All has been predestined and predetermined by God beforehand. God has predetermined who will be saved and who will be damned, and there is nothing that anybody can do to change that. And God has only atoned for the sins of the “elect” who are “predestined” to be saved. Under those criteria, a universal or unlimited Atonement would necessitate a universal salvation. The only trouble with that is that it is not biblical. Predestination is a damnable heresy. There is no other way to describe it. It is false. He continues:

“That is double jeopardy. That doesn’t work.”

Why? He needs to explain that. He continues:

“So people don’t want to say that, so they say, Well, he died a potentially saving death. In that sense he died for nobody in particular, and everybody in general; and the sinner who is depraved is the one who activates the potential atonement. Well that is impossible.”

People “don’t want to say” what? And what is “impossible”? He died for everyone in general, and everyone in particular. There is no sense of the term in which he didn’t “die for everyone”. The Bible places conditions for salvation and redemption. It is not unconditional. That is written all over the Bible. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven …” (Matt. 7:21–22). “… they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life …” (John 5:29). The list is endless. The Bible does not teach Calvinism. Calvinism and the Bible are diametrically opposed. Calvinism is abhorrent to everything that is taught in the Bible. He continues:

“So I just don’t want to find the answer to the dilemma of the death of Christ by diminishing the nature of the atonement.”

He has already diminished the nature of the Atonement by denying its universality and unlimited nature. He continues:

“It is a real death for those who died in him. That is what the text says. ‘I lay down my life for my sheep,’ and we looked at that.”

There are two answers to that. Firstly, a primary rule of sound biblical exegesis is that you don’t take a verse in isolation. You examine it in the context of other biblical passages that have a bearing on the same subject; and there are many more verses in the Bible that teach an unambiguous universal or unlimited Atonement, such as these:

Secondly, although Jesus’ Atonement is unlimited and universal, only those benefit from it who will believe and repent—whom he calls his “sheep”. The rest don’t. Therefore when he says that he “lays down his life for his sheep,” that is a rhetorical way of acknowledging his sheep. It does not mean that the Atonement was limited to his sheep. He continues:

“So it is a good question to answer because you guys want to be very careful in the tensions that are in this; and it flows through every major doctrine in Scripture that connects the sinner with God.”

The “tension” only exists when you believe in his false theology. There is no “tension” in the biblical narrative. He continues:

“You don’t want to resolve that tension by asking philosophical questions. You always want to live in that tension by being obedient to Scripture, okay?”

That is his way of saying, “Don’t ask hard questions which challenges my false theology which I don’t have answers to!” He continues:

“But I do feel your pain because I don’t have an answer to all those questions; and I’m at times profoundly exercised over the non-resolution, because I like to find the resolution to things.”

That is his “pain,” not my pain. And the cause of his pain is his false theology. The Bible does have an answer to those questions; it is his false theology that stands in the way. Ditch that, and his “pain” will disappear fast. At this point the interviewer asks him this question:

“But the issue on why witness, you wouldn’t suggest bringing up the discussion of the limitations of the atonement in a witnessing context?”

To this he replies:

“I think we have to be careful of what we say. I think there are unlimited benefits tied into the atonement. You can show in the New Testament that you know the expression of God’s love in the atonement is the expression of the same love that is demonstrated in common grace. He rains, you know, on the just and the unjust. There is common grace, there is a kindness of God; there is even a salvation of God, demonstrating in the temporal way. He is the Savior of all men, temporally, physically, in this sense that the world is full of sinners who aren’t dead. What is that? That God is saying to them, You don’t get what you deserve, when you deserve it; that is my nature. So that demonstration is there for them to see temporarily.”

I see! So those who are predestined to be damned should still be grateful to God because he did not damn them fast enough! How very generous of God! I am sure those who are predestined to be damned will be very appreciative of God’s generosity and goodness towards them. LOL! What a joke. He continues:

“But especially of those who believe, he is the Savior of them not temporally and not physically, but eternally and spiritually. But he puts his saving nature on display even in the gospel offer, and in common grace, and in the withholding of judgment. And so I think we can say to sinners that God is merciful, and God is compassionate, and God calls you to repent, and calls you to believe, and he has offered his son as a sacrifice for those who do, and that is the way I would say it.”

Unless they are predestined to be damned, and know that there is nothing that they can do to change it! I wonder what his answer will be to Acts 10:34–35: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”

Monday, June 26, 2017

“Predestination” and “Faith-alone”—the Twin Pillars of Calvinism

Calvinism may have five “points,” but it actually has two pillars on which it rests: they are predestination, and justification by faith alone without works. Demolish these two, and you have destroyed Calvinism forever—which is not at all difficult to do. Both concepts are deeply unbiblical and heretical, and can be easily disproved with reference to the Bible, as I have already demonstrated in my previous posts. Every verse and every passage in the Bible which directly or indirectly exhorts mankind to do good and refrain from evil, with the promise of a reward or punishment, in this world or the next, is a verdict against both predestination and faith-aloneand there are hundreds of them. Every one of them is a nail in the coffin of Calvinism. When Isaiah says:

Isaiah 1: 

19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

That is a verdict against both predestination and faith-alone, and a nail in the coffin of Calvinism. When Jesus says, “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5), that is a verdict against both predestination and faith-alone, and a nail in the coffin of Calvinism. When Jesus mourns over Jerusalem and says: 

Matthew 23:

37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

That is a verdict against both predestination and faith-alone, and a nail in the coffin of Calvinism. The whole of the Sermon on the Mount is a verdict against predestination and faith-alone, and a nail in the coffin of Calvinism. Every verse in the Bible that says that mankind will be judged according to their “works” (John 5:28–29; Rom. 2:6; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:10; Col. 3:25; 1 Peter 1:17; Rev. 20:12–13; Psalm 62:12; Prov. 24:12), is a verdict against both predestination and faith-alone, and a nail in the coffin of Calvinism. The whole of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, from the beginning to the end, from Genesis to Revelation, is a verdict against predestination and faith-alone, and a nail (hundreds of nails in fact) in the coffin of Calvinism.

There is actually a third pillar that holds up Calvinism; but it is an invisible one; and it is not theological. The third pillar is dishonesty, deception, hypocrisy, subterfuge, aggression, and guile. Those are the pillars that hold up Calvinism. Demolish those, and you have destroyed Calvinism for good—which is an easy thing to do.