Friday, March 31, 2017

What is a Calvinist?

I was watching the above video which is all about John Calvin. It consists of a panel of four theologians who have one thing in common: they are all Calvinists, and they are all discussing John Calvin. At 53:00 minutes into the video Steve Lawson defines a “Calvinist” as follows:

“… when we say a Calvinist, I simply mean a biblicist, someone who is going back to the scripture, with a literal hermeneutic, not only sola scriptura, but tota scriptura, which means all of scripture, and a comprehensive view of all of scripture, where I am not picking and choosing which chapters in the Bible I want to believe and passing over others. So for me, I don’t mean … I certainly esteem him, but by that nickname I simply mean one who stands with Calvin in the pursuit of exegeting the text of scripture, and the analogy of scripture, taking one text in the light of the whole of scripture, you know, I applaud that, and I am inspired by one who did that well.”

LOL! If that is the definition of a “Calvinist,” then I as a Mormon should start calling myself a Calvinist; and he as a Calvinist should call himself a heretic; because that is how I think my theology compares with his. Calvinists twist and turn and abuse and misuse and misquote and misinterpret and misrepresent scripture more than anybody else does. They “pick and choose” scripture more than anybody else does. Their entire theology is unbiblical, unscriptural, unsound and flawed from foundation up. There is nothing “biblical” about Calvinism.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Why Pray if God is Sovereign?

I came across the above sermon by John Piper, in which at 7:55 minutes into the video he starts the following monologue:

“Sometimes people try to put prayer over against the sovereignty of God and say, Why pray if God is sovereign? Then I respond by saying, Why pray if he is not?”

That is a disingenuous question. How you answer it will depend on how you define “sovereignty of God”. If you define it as the Calvinists do—that everything has been predetermined and predestined by God—then there would be no point in praying. Pray for what, that God wouldn’t make any mistakes while carrying out what he had predestined? He then continues:

“Because you are asking … all the things that I care about God doing he doesn’t have a right to do if you believe in absolute freewill.”

I hope that made sense to him, because it didn’t to me. He continues:

“By absolute freewill I mean you have ultimate self-determination. If you have ultimate self-determination, and that is what it means to have freewill, ultimate self-determination, God has no right to intrude on you at all and change you. You call the last shot. So why pray?”

I don’t know where he gets “ultimate self-determination” from. Freewill in biblical terms is expressed in these words:

Joshua 24:

15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

That is the biblical meaning of freewill. It means the ability to freely choose between good and evil—and be rewarded accordingly. And we pray because the Bible tells us that life is not predestined, and that “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). He continues:

“But if you believe that God has the right to break into any of your lives, overcome your will, make you his, take out the heart of stone, put in the heart of flesh, cause you to walk in his statutes, then you pray.”

Pray for what, that he won’t make any mistakes in doing what he had predestined? Or that he will change his mind, and won’t do what he had predestined? He continues:

“You have got people you have been praying for for decades who are not believers and you are frightened that they may not be elect, you are frightened that they might go to their grave unbelieving, I do, and there is no hope if God is not sovereign for those people.”

I see no hope for them if God IS “sovereign”—according to his definition of sovereignty. If God has already predestined them to be damned, pray for what, that he will change his mind? If God has already predestined them to be saved, pray for what, that he won’t change his mind, or make a mistake? He continues:

“If there is any hope for the most hardened​ sinner you care about, if there is any hope that that person will be saved, it is this, God can save them.”

“Can,” or already has? If he has already determined, “can” is meaningless and irrelevant.

“God can just stop them in their tracks, take out the heart that have been rebelling for fifty years and put back in a new heart. He can do that, which is why we pray.”

He can? Amazing! I would have never guessed. And “pray” for what, that he won’t change his mind, or that he won’t make any mistakes? All I see is a lot of silliness coming through, and not much light.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Southern Baptists ​in Disarray Over Calvinism!

From the limited research I have done into this, the story appears to go something this: At one time Baptist churches in the US were not generally Calvinists—although a sprinkling of Calvinists could be found among them, who were generally tolerated. This continued until around the turn of the century when an increasing number of Baptist preachers and pastors began to emerge from the seminaries who were indoctrinated with Calvinism, because they were taught by Calvinist professors and teachers who had entered the seminaries. That raised hackles among the traditionalists who did not buy into Calvinism, to the point that tempers were raised and accusations of heresy were made.

In November 6-7, 2008, the “John 3:16 Conference” was held at the First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga, to make a biblical and theological assessment of five-point Calvinism, and give an appropriate response to it. The conference was sponsored by Jerry Vines Ministries, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, Luther Rice Seminary and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and about 1,000 pastors and laypeople attended the conference.

In May 30, 2012, a group of the traditional (non-Calvinist) faction of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) issued an (anti-Calvinist) statement titled, “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation,” whose purpose was “to more carefully express what is generally believed by Southern Baptists about salvation.” This statement can be seen on the Connect 316 website here, a PDF copy of which can be downloaded from here. Dr. Eric Hankins was nominated to produce the draft, with input from other prominent Baptists and theology professors at several SBC seminaries and colleges. (The general leadership of the SBC appear to be embarrassed by this document, and have called it “semi-pelagian” and other uncomplimentary names, and generally avoid making references to it in their public discussions.)

On July 15, 2013, the Connect 316 movement was launched by five original Board Members, with Rick Patrick of Alabama acting as the Founding Executive Director, joined by Ron Hale of Tennessee, Eric Hankins of Mississippi, Tim Guthrie of Tennessee and Tim Rogers of North Carolina. The purpose of the organization was explained as follows: “Although many theologically driven ministry organizations existed for the support of Reformed pastors and theologians, no such network existed to assist Traditionalists in the task of connecting with one another. Connect 316 was formed as an organization rooted in the theology of the Traditional Statement. In the Summer of 2012, after hundreds of Southern Baptists had declared their affirmation of Traditionalist theology, it seemed beneficial to find ways to bring them together in an ongoing manner rather than simply relying on the one-time signing of a single document.” Link.

This resulted in more contention and consternation among Southern Baptists, with tempers and blood pressures rising, and accusation flying around. In response to that Dr. Frank S. Page, President and CEO of the Executive Committee of the SBC, set up a 19-member “Calvinism Advisory Committee” (composed of members from both sides of the divide) in August 2012 to look into the issues in dispute, and find a solution to the differences​ which threatened to fracture the SBC. This Advisory Committee issued the statement titled “Truth, Trust, and Testimony in a Time of Tension: A Statement from the Calvinism Advisory Committee,” which came out exactly one year later on May 30, 2013.

The chief architects of the statement were Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Dr. Eric Hankins, pastor of First Baptist Church, Oxford MS; who were the chief members of the “writing committee” set up to produce the draft, which the other members of the Advisory Committee then debated, discussed, amended and finally approved. The complete text of this statement can be seen hereIt is a conciliatory statement designed to bring about a reconciliation and unity of purpose among Southern Baptists of the two different theological persuasions, while at the same time acknowledging their differences.

The SBC Calvinism Advisory Committee later held a panel discussion on the subject, a video recording of which can be seen above (also here). Dr. Al. Mohler and Eric Hankins later staged an open discussion between the two of them on the subjects dealt with by the Advisory Committee, titled “Theology and the Future of the Southern Baptist Convention,” a video recording of which can be seen here:

Also worth studying in conjunction with the above is “The Baptist Faith and Message,” the latest version of which can be seen hereThe original version of this statement was produced in 1925, which was subsequently​ revised twice, first in 1963, and then again in 2,000. A side-by-side comparison of all three versions can be seen here.

An interesting example of the kind of debate and discussions that have taken place among Southern Baptists over this issue is the “Calvinism: Concerned? Confused? Curious?” conference held in August 4, 2012, at Crestwood Baptist Church in Oldham County, Ky. This conference had four general sessions, ending in a final concluding remarks by Dr. Frank S. Page, which can be seen on YouTube as listed below:

The first two is a 2-part series of lectures by Dr. David Dockery, titled “The Current Resurgence of Reformed Theology,” which provide a historical background to the development of Baptist theology. The third video is titled “Calvinism: Dialogue from Differing Theological Perspectives,” and is a panel discussion between two representatives of the different sides of the divide, Dr. Hershael York (Calvinist), and Dr. Steve Lemke (non-Calvinist), moderated by Kevin L. Smith. The fourth video is titled “Calvinism Conference: Q and A”. It is a question and answer session involving all the above named participants, with Dr. Frank S. Page now also joining the panel for this particular event. The fifth and final video contains the concluding remarks by Dr. Frank S. Page, followed by a prayer.

How all of this will impact the Southern Baptist Convention in the years that lie ahead remains to be seen. For the remainder of this post I am going to comment mainly on what was said in the fourth video by Dr. Hershael York, who is on the Calvinist side of the divide. The fourth video can be seen here:

At around 15:10 minutes into the video Steve Lemke states that Baptists don’t like to be called Arminians particularly because of the “security of the believer”. I wasn’t sure what that meant, and had to look it up. Calvinism teaches “once saved, always saved”. The Bible teaches that one is not “saved” until they have “endured to the end;” and that it is possible for someone to lose their salvation by falling away after they had “believed”. That is clearly taught in the Bible, which appears to be also the Arminianism position. So why Baptists should have a problem with that is something that needs to be explored further. Continuing on with the rest of the discussion, however, at 18:38 minutes into the video the following question was asked:

“Can you really substantiate that God is a God of love if he shows partiality towards the elect? Can you even say that God is just if he does not love all equally?”

The question relates to the Calvinist doctrine of “unconditional election,” meaning that God had predestined some to be saved and others to be damned without reference to any “merit,” worthiness, or righteousness on their part. To this Dr. Hershael York gives a lengthy reply, to which Dr. Steve Lemke in turn gives a good answer. But in my opinion his answer doesn’t go far enough. So I am going to examine in more detail what Dr. York had said, and see how it compares with what the Bible teaches. His answer begins as follows:

“I will begin with that. First of all what God loves more than anything else is his holiness and his glory. You have to say that our theology has to be God centered, not man centered. If you sum up my view, what people call Calvinism or whatever, I want to preach God as high as I can get him; and you know how I want to preach humanity? as low as I can get them, because that shows the greatness of his grace.”

I certainly don’t want to preach humanity any higher than they deserve to be; but I wouldn’t want to preach them any lower than God himself has preached them either. If God “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” to die for them and save them (John 3:16), then God appears to preach mankind a bit higher than he does:

Romans 8:

31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

Philippians 2:

5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

I prefer to be closer to God’s preaching than his. God’s glory is in fact promoted by our salvation and redemption. That is how God “glorifies” himself—by saving and redeeming us, and atoning for our sins:

John 13:

31 Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
32 If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.

Jesus glorified God by saving and redeeming us. Not only that, but the Bible also says that God is “glorified” when we do good works, and keep his commandments (Matt. 5:16). If God “loves his own glory” more than anything else, as Dr. York suggests; and God’s glory is promoted by saving and redeeming us; and even man by his own actions can do something to promote the glory of God; then man’s estimation in the sight of God cannot be as low as he likes to preach it to be. He then continues his answer as follows:

“If you take that question, this is the same question for instance that liberals would ask about God telling the Israelites to wipe out Ai in Joshua chapter 8. They would say, Well, what kind of God is that? I mean, God that tells them to go in there and kill everybody, every man, woman and child in a whole city, 12,000 of them in that city. The bottom line is that the text has to say what the text says. And I am not going to make a defense of God’s character, when humanity sits in judgement on God.”

The problem with that is that while the story of Ai is indeed found in the Bible, the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election is not. If he wants to defend the doctrine of unconditional election biblically​, the story of Ai isn’t going to help him any. He continues:

“God is the creator and sustainer of all that is; and what you have to do is to say he has the right to do as he chooses, and all of humanity deserve hell, and he has the right to save some and not others.”

What God has the right to do, and what he has chosen to do are two different things. The question is not what he has the right to do, but what he has chosen to do; and what he has chosen to do according to the Bible is not unconditional election. What he has chosen to do is that he is “no respecter of persons,” meaning that he does not discriminate. He does not have “favourites”. There is no “partiality” with God. He judges all men equally according to their works. He punishes the wicked according to their wickedness, and rewards the righteous according to their righteousness. That is what the Bible teaches:

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 he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

Romans 2:

11 For there is no respect of persons with God.

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:

Dr. York then continues:

“And now in fact even if you don’t have the so-called Calvinist view, here is your choice, either you are going to worship a God who chooses to save some, and chooses not to save others, …”

Of course he chooses to save some and not others. The question is, on what basis does he makes that choice: and he has told us how. He judges them according to their works—whether they be good or whether they be evil—and rewards them accordingly:

John 5:

28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

Dr. York then continues:

“… or else a God who could save everybody, but he leaves it up to everyone.”

I hope that made sense to him, because it didn’t to me. God leaves what “up to everyone”? He continues:

“Either way, you have a God who could do something he does not do.”

That makes no sense. God has told us what he will do. He judges them according to their works—and rewards them accordingly​ (John 5:28–29). Nothing could be simpler or easier for anyone to understand. Why Calvinists can’t, remains a mystery. He continues:

“That is why I say, If your issue is what I call theodicy, if it is about justifying God, you don’t do it either way, by simply kicking the can down the road to freewill.”

Nobody is “justifying God”. God justifies himself. You would only need to “justify God” if he behaved irrationally​ the way the Calvinists say he does. Since luckily he doesn’t,  there will be no need to “justify God”. God has said that he is “no respecter of persons,” but that he rewards everyone according to their works. How can anything be plainer or more easy to understand than that? Is he really not understanding it, or is he pretending not to? He continues:

“You still have a God who is greater than man’s freewill, who could overrule man’s freewill, but chooses not to, …”

Of course he chooses not to. Why should he, if he doesn’t want to? God wants men to be free, to choose for themselves between good and evil—and be rewarded accordingly​. If God’s intention had been to “override” their freewill, why would he want to give them freewill to begin with, to decide for themselves whether to choose good or evil? That is the whole argument against Calvinism, that God has made man free to choose for himself. Why is that so hard for a Calvinist to understand? He continues:

“… and so that still doesn’t get at what is underlying this question, can you call God a God of love if he shows partiality?”

How is God “showing partiality” by allowing men to freely choose between good and evil, and reward them accordingly? I cannot believe for a moment that he does not realize how ridiculously​ absurd, meaningless,​ and nonsensical his entire argument is. He is either playing stupid, or else he thinks that everybody else is stupid except himself. He continues:

“Well God shows no partiality in the face of his holiness.”

Which makes no sense to anybody including himself, I am sure. He continues:

“It is his holiness that is the standard, and that is his primary love. His love is of his glory and of his holiness, and everything he does is consistent with his holiness and his character.”

I hope that made sense to him, because it doesn’t to me. That ends his answer to that particular question. Turning to another subject, at 25:21 minutes into the video he makes this comment:

“I really do think that inclusivism and universalism are our biggest problems​. Earlier today when Dr. Dockery made the statement that even when the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention were ‘particular Baptists,’ the folks in the pews were not … they say that is congregationalism at work. Well, congregationalism at work today believes in inclusivism and universalism. I shudder to think that if you took a poll at the Buck Run Baptist Church tomorrow, where I have preached my heart out for the past almost 9 years, and preached an exclusive gospel, I just hate to think how many people would say, if you asked them, What about the guy who is out there in the back side of the world who has never heard the gospel, does he go to hell? I fear that there would be some who even in my church, who would say, Well no, they won’t go to hell. Oh, God wouldn’t be fair to make that guy go to hell.”

Maybe that is because the members of his congregation know their Bibles better than he does. It could be that they are familiar with these verses, which he does not appear to be:

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.

Galatians 6:

7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

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.

These verses apply to people of all nations and religions, not just to Jews or Christians. All are saved who work righteousness, by virtue of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Nobody is saved “by their own works”. They are saved by God when they do what he says. That is not the same as saying that people “save themselves,” or are saved “by their own works”. He continues:

“Folks, if that guy isn’t going to hell, we don’t need to do missions. But that guy is going to hell.”

We do missions because if they come to know the true and living God, and believe in him, they will be more willing to repent and keep God’s commandments​, which is what the Bible says is required for their salvation:

Matthew 7:

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

“Faith alone” doesn’t save anyone. Keeping God’s commandments does. Those who have never heard of Jesus, but still do what is right and pleasing in the sight of God out of a good conscience, will still be saved, like it says in Rom. 2:6–16; Gal. 6:7–10; Acts 10:34–35 quoted above. They will be saved by Jesus Christ, by virtue of the Atonement which he has made. They won’t be saved “by their own works”. That is what the Bible teaches. He then continues:

“And to me that it is the huge problem in our churches, that people are falling prey to this cultural, sentimental view of God, that holds fairness as the standard instead of Justice.”

He is talking an awful lot of nonsense, and apparently doesn’t know it. Justice and fairness are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, fairness is an integral part of justice. The decision of a judge would not be just if it was not fair. God would be unjust if he was unfair. He continues:

“And God never claims to be fair.”

That is not only false, but borders on blasphemy. God certainly claims to be fair. That is what is meant by being “no respecter of persons”. See the scriptures quoted above. God is not only fair, but is consistently fair. He is consistent in his fairness, and will never be unfair. He applies the same standard of fairness to everyone. He judges them according to their “works;” they that have done good to salvation, and they have done evil to damnation. That is written all over the Bible, Old and New Testaments. To accuse God of partiality and favouritism, against the express teaching of the Bible to the contrary, borders on the blasphemous. He continues:

“He claims to be just and holy.”

And fair. He would be neither just nor holy if he wasn’t fair.

“And all of the world is lost apart from the gospel, and that is why we give what we give, and go where we go, and do what we do, because they really are lost, and there is no other name under heaven whereby they must be saved except the name of Jesus.”

And God is also “no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34–35). At 33:12 minutes into the video the following question was directed specifically at Dr. York:

“Will you please explain John 3:16 from a Calvinist view?”

He seems to have been taken off guard by that question, and gives it a rambling and incoherent reply. Then at 35:25 minutes into the video Dr. Lemke intervenes with the following remark:

“... I do know Calvinists to understand ‘world’ to mean the ‘elect’ in the world, and put a kind of specialized definition on it.”

To this Dr. York replies:

“I don’t say that, I don’t say that with John 3:16. I know some do. But I believe … I have no problem with saying that God loves the entire world. He loved the entire world so much that he gave his Son. He loved the world, and I think that means humanity, I already pointed out to you he did not do that for the angels, he did that for the world. And so I have no problem saying God loves the world, and meaning the entire world.”

He obfuscates and prevaricates. Calvinists are not known for speaking their mind when it suites them not to. The real question is, Did Jesus die for everyone’s sins, or just for the sins of a few, the “elect”? And who are the “elect”? Are they predestined to be the “elect,” or are they free to choose for themselves, and be the elect by their own choices? If Dr. York no longer believes in predestination, limited atonement, or unconditional election, why is he still a Calvinist? If he believes in all of those, why does he obfuscate and prevaricate? Why does he not speak his mind properly? What is he afraid of? What does he have to hide?

Further into the video a discussion arose concerning the doctrine of the “original sin,” which Catholics and Calvinist adhere to (including infant baptism), but traditional​ Baptists don’t. To this at 40:36 minutes into the video Dr. York gives the following reply:

“I believe in the original sin because I am a parent and now a grandparent, and I have seen it in every generation. My sons were sinners just like their mother, and we never had to teach them how to hit each other. We never had to teach them how to be greedy or selfish. We never had to teach them how to lie. You know, they got that all on their own, where did they get it? They got it from their mother, so …”

More obfuscation and prevarication, and hiding the real truth. That is not the doctrine of the original sin. The doctrine of the original sin is not about little children being naughty. The doctrine of the original sin says that a one-day old infant, who has not had a chance to do good or bad, is guilty because of the sin of Adam. The doctrine of the original sin is about guilt. It says that a newborn infant is guilty, not because he did something wrong, but because Adam did something wrong. That is the doctrine of the original sin—which is why the Catholics have invented the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary, to avoid the assumed transmission of that “guilt” to Jesus.

The Baptist churches have traditionally managed to avoid all of that Calvinistic claptrap; but the Calvinists are now bringing it all back in again with a vengeance through the seminaries and in the pulpit, and causing a lot of consternation and division among the Southern Baptists; and that debate shows no sign of abating. An example of the more vocal expression of the backlash of the traditionalists against the rise of Calvinism in the SBC is the following lecture given by Dr. Rick Patrick, pastor of the First Baptist Church, Sylacauga, AL, on Nov. 29, 2016. Note especially the closing remarks at the end by Dr. Paige Patterson, where he recommends that the Calvinists in the SBC should go and join the Presbyterian Church, where they would feel more at home! (Start watching at 25:50 minutes into the video to avoid the introductory songs and comments):

Time will tell how it will all play out in the end. My guess is that Southern Baptists will not have an easy ride.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Grace in Mormonism, and Other Topics

I came across the above video in which many views were expressed by the panellists on various topics which are worth commenting on. The first question asked (as phrased by the host) was regarding the doctrine of grace as follows:

“‘Would you give an overview of the doctrines of grace?’ That is the phrase that is used, ‘the doctrines of grace’. What doctrines does that phrase refer to, and what do they mean?”

After comments by RC Sproul, followed by exchanges regarding the Catholic doctrine, at 4:20 minutes into the video John MacArthur interjects the following:

“Just to comment on that, I have been in correspondence with essentially​ the gatekeepers​ of Mormon theology at BYU, in particular Dr. Robert Millet who is appointed by the Apostles, the Mormon Apostles, to articulate and propagate the Mormon faith. And their latest effort, and his latest letter to me which I think I received a few weeks ago … is a plea for me to understand that they believe in salvation by grace. They believe that it is all of grace, and that there wouldn’t be any salvation if God didn’t graciously provide that.

Host: “That sounds awfully good!”

“It sounds very good. You know, what they are trying to do of course is to mainstream themselves, and get the Evangelical … I should say ignorant consensus to just embrace this. As I begin to press it a little more—of course they have a different God, a unitarian God; they have a different Christ, a created creature. And when you get down to salvation by grace, I wrote back a rather extensive letter, I got back another plea to please understand this, a big thick paper. When all is said and done, what they are saying is, God is gracious to let us work our way to heaven, he didn’t have to do that. But it is a huge trapdoor for many people who won’t go beyond that. So sola gratia, back to the reason why all the ‘solas’ are there, sola scriptura, nothing but the scripture etc., is crucial.”

I am not privy to his correspondence with Dr. Millet, so I can’t comment on that. But I can inform him that the Mormon doctrine of grace is the biblical one, which is not the same as the Evangelical/Calvinistic one that he adheres to. In the Bible grace is not unmerited. Peter says that God “resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). So that is at least one prerequisite​ for receiving grace―being humble. But it is not the only one. Another requirement is obedience:

Ephesians​ 5:

5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

Colossians 3:

5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

You can’t have wrath and grace at the same time. It is either one or the other. If you are experiencing the wrath of God, then you can’t be experiencing his grace at the same time. If wrath comes upon the “children of disobedience,” it follows that the grace comes upon the children of obedience. So while it is true that salvation is of grace, and that without the grace of God no one could be saved; grace itself is not dispensed unconditionally, or without merit. To say that we are saved by grace, and that without the grace of God no one could be saved, does not translate​ into saying that God dispenses his grace to mankind unconditionally,​ or without any merit on their part. There is no logical connection between the two statements. God “resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble,” says Peter. The fact that we are “saved by grace” does not mean that God dispenses that grace to mankind unconditionally​. Humility, repentance, and obedience are the prerequisites. That is what the Bible teaches.

If the Evangelical doctrine of grace were true, either everyone should be saved unconditionally (universal salvation), which we know is not biblical; or else God saves and damns people by an arbitrary decision without regard to any degree of their personal righteousness, worthiness, repentance, obedience, virtue, or anything else, which we know is also unbiblical. Throughout the Bible we are told that God condemns the wicked and saves the righteous. The Mormon doctrine of grace as taught in the Book of Mormon is the biblical one, and leads to neither of those conclusions. This is how the Book of Mormon teaches the doctrine of grace:

2 Nephi 2:

5 And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
6 Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
7 Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.
8 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.
9 Wherefore he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.
•  •  •
26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.
27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

2 Nephi 10:

23 Therefore cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.
24 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.

2 Nephi 25:

23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

“After all we can do” means in spite of all we can do. In other words, there is nothing we can do by our own strength, or virtue, or wisdom, or righteousness etc. that can save us―aside from the redemptive work of God. That is the Mormon doctrine of grace, which is the biblical one. It doesn’t mean that we don’t need to repent or keep the commandments of God to be saved.

In Mormon theology the Atonement of Jesus Christ had two major consequences​ for man. Firstly, it redeems all of mankind unconditionally ​from the effects ​of the Fall. That is universal and applies to all men, the wicked as well as the righteous. It means that all men will be resurrected, and all will be brought back to the presence of God to be judged. No one will be condemned or punished because of the Fall of Adam. That is taken care of unconditionally by the Atonement.

The Fall brought about two kinds of deaths on mankind: a physical death as well as a spiritual death (meaning that they are cut off from the presence of God). The Atonement unconditionally redeems all of mankind from both these two kinds of death―from physical death by the resurrection; and from spiritual death by bringing them back to the presence of God to be judged.

Secondly, the Atonement also redeems all of mankind from their own personal or individual sins on conditions of faith and repentance in this life. These then will be given a free pass on judgement day; whereas ​those who have not believed nor repented will then experience a second death which is a spiritual death, not a physical death; from which they can no longer be redeemed because the opportunity of “faith and repentance” no longer exists for them. That window of opportunity is only open during the period between birth and resurrection. After that there is no more opportunity for faith, repentance, or redemption. It is the Atonement that sets men free, and enables them to choose the way of life and salvation, or the way of death and damnation in this life. See Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8; Jacob 3:11; Alma 11:40–45; 12:12–35; 13:27–30; 40:22–26; 42:22–27; Helaman 14:15–19.

The scriptures also speak of more than one resurrection. The redeemed come forth in the first resurrection; the rest in the second. Calvinism is not the gospel that Jesus taught. Our freedom and ability to make a choice between salvation or damnation comes because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ; and we are rewarded accordingly.

As far as his remarks about the Mormon doctrine of the Deity is concerned, he is wrong about that too. Firstly, God in Mormonism is not “unitarian”. I didn’t know what that was; I had to look it up. Secondly, Jesus Christ in Mormonism is not a “created creature”. The Book of Mormon teaches that Jesus Christ is eternal, and eternally God. Here are some quotes:

Book of Mormon Title page:

… And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.

2 Nephi 26:

12 And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God;

Mosiah 3:

5 For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.

Mosiah 16:

15 Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father. Amen.

It is the Bible in fact that describes Jesus as a created being:

Colossians 1:

15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Revelation 3:

14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus Christ and his eternal nature is far more clearly taught in the Book of Mormon than it is in the Bible.

Continuing on with the rest of the question and answer session, at around 16:00 minutes into the video RC Sproul starts discussing the limited versus the unlimited nature Atonement as follows:

“I have had many conversations with people who identify themselves as 4-point Calvinists, and the one on which they demure of course is ‘definite atonement,’ ‘particular redemption,’ or what we call ‘limited atonement;’ which of course is the easiest one to affirm. But every time I hear somebody say that, I make the assumption that if they really believe the other four, they just don’t understand this doctrine, and so let’s take some time to unpack it. And if I ask them what they really believe about God’s intent in the cross; did God intend from all eternity to save every person in the world? I mean it’s rare … every person will say to me they don’t believe that. God knew from all eternity that not everybody was going to be saved, and he didn’t sovereignly decree that everyone will be saved. If he did, everybody would be saved. And so did Jesus fail on the cross to fulfill the task that the father had given him? Well no, we wouldn’t want to say that, well then how can you … they just didn’understand the doctrine. …”

This of course is the argument that RC Sproul always brings in support of his doctrine of limited atonement, apparently oblivious to how untenable and logically deficient it is. His argument amounts to saying that the Atonement must be limited, otherwise salvation must be universal! That is simply not a valid logical deduction. God desires everyone to be saved, and made it possible for everyone to be saved by providing everyone the opportunity to be saved by atoning for the sins of all mankind. If some are not saved, that is their choice, not God’s. Inherent in the entire biblical narrative, both the Old and New Testaments, is man’s ability to make a choice―and be held accountable for it. “​Choose​ ​you​ ​this​ ​day​ ​whom​ ​ye​ ​will​ ​serve,” said Joshua to all Israel (Josh.​ ​24:15). And this has been the recurring theme throughout the Old and New Testaments:

2 Peter 2:

4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;
5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;
7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:
8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)
9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:

This is the constant theme running throughout the Old and New Testaments, including the express teachings of Jesus himself in the Gospels. Here is one example:

John 5:

28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

The “Reformed” doctrine of predestination goes against everything that is taught in the Bible from start to finish. If man is not free to choose good and evil, why tell him to choose good and reject evil on every page (or near enough)―and reward him accordingly? Limited atonement means that God didn’t want everyone to be saved, which contradicts what is taught in the Bible, as already explained in this post.

The biblical references are unmistakable. My aim here is to demonstrate the logical absurdity of the assumption frequently made by RC Sproul that an unlimited atonement necessitates a universal salvation. His argument is that if God has atoned for for everyone’s sins, then everyone should be saved. Where is the logical necessity of that? I don’t see one. The biblical assumption is that God has made it possible for everyone to be saved, which means that he has atoned for everyone’s sins. Whether they are saved or not is entirely their choice. God has not predestined anybody to be saved or to be damned. The fact that he knows in advance who will be and who will not, does not mean that he has predestined them to.

Predestination is a heresy. Its aim is to absolve mankind of the moral responsibility to do good and refrain from evil, as commanded by the Lord. The very purpose of scripture from the beginning to the end is to enjoin mankind to choose good and abstain from evil. “Let us not be weary in well doing,” says Paul in Galatians 6; and “do good,” says Jesus, repeatedly in the four Gospels. The whole of the Sermon on the Mount is centered on doing good. The whole of Jesus’ ministry is centered on doing good. The whole of the Bible, from start to finish, from Genesis to Revelation, is centered on doing good―and abstaining from evil. “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” is the constant refrain of Jesus in the New Testament, and of every prophet in the Old Testament. Predestination, “faith alone,” TULIP, and Calvinism is the doctrine of the devil. It is Satanic. It is an abomination in the sight of God. It is an evil heresy intended to blunt the repeated injunction in the Holy Writ to do good and eschew evil.

Continuing with the rest of the panel discussion, however, at around 18:00 minutes into the video the following question was asked about the “doctrine of God’s foreknowledge,” as put by the host:

“Is there a difference between foreordained and foreknown? So I guess in a general sense explain what that means, God’s foreknowledge, and is there a difference between those two terms?”

To this John MacArthur gives the following reply:

“I don’t think there is any difference. I think you can come at that from the text standpoint foreknowledge is a predetermination to establish a relationship with; you have a statement in Amos, ‘Israel only have I known’. You have John 10, ‘my sheep hear my voice and I know them’. Cain ‘knew his wife’ and she bore a child. Mary was with child and Joseph had not ‘known her’. We even talk about that kind of knowledge; we use the phrase ‘carnal knowledge’ or whatever. We understand that there is a metaphoric use of the word ‘know’ that speaks of intimacy, and I think that is the way that it is intended. It is a predetermined relationship with. It is essentially the same as to ‘predestine’ or to ‘predetermine’ or to ‘preordain’ as opposed to God ‘looking down’ as you have often heard some ‘corridor’ and ‘seeing’ what is going to happen, and based upon the knowledge that comes to him through some anticipated empirical or reality some virtual reality, he then reacts and says based upon what I know is going to happen, this is what I am going to do. I think it is not that at all. That would undo the entire reality of God as sovereign. That would make man completely sovereign, and capable of doing whatever he wants to do which we have already talked about flies in the face of moral capability. So foreknowledge is simply God’s predetermination to establish a relationship with a person as I see it the way it is used.”

That is a pretty ignorant reply. It is a denial of the omniscience of God. Omniscience is pretty standard Christian theology. God knows everything, including everything that will happen in the future. Even RC Sproul (the inventor of the “corridors of time!”) seems to have been embarrassed by that reply, and tries to correct it in the same conversation.

As far as the “corridors of time” is concerned (LOL!), there is no such thing. God knows everything, period. “All is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men” (Alma 40:8). God knows the end from the beginning. To God, the whole of the past, present and future is one great ever-present now. There is no “looking through the corridors of time”.

At 29:09 minutes into the video RC Sproul makes the following comments regarding the Arminian view of salvation. I am not an Arminian; but Mormon theology is more sympathetic to Arminianism than it is to Calvinism; so I am going to come to the defense of the Arminian in the following hypothetical exchange. This is what he says:

“In a non-theological, simple, personal way, when I talk to my [Arminian] friends I say to them, You are a Christian? Yes! You have friends and relatives that aren’t Christians, right? And I say, Are you a Christian, and your friend isn’t, because you are better than that person? Now I have never had an Arminian look me into the eye and say, Well yeah, that is why I am a Christian, because I am better.”

That is because he is asking the wrong question. Jesus has addressed that issue in several places in the New Testament. First we have this:

Luke 17:

7 But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
8 And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?
9 Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.
10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

I follow that dictum. After I have done all that God has required of me to do, I say I am an unprofitable servant. I don’t claim or pretend to be better than, or superior to anyone else. And there is no telling that my friend or neighbor who is rejecting the gospel today, might repent and accept it tomorrow, and become a more committed disciple than I am. That, however, does not mean that there is no merit in keeping God’s comments. The only thing it means is that I am not the one who is qualified to judge. I don’t sit in judgement on my own righteousness, or anyone else’s. That is reserved for God. Here is another scripture he may have missed:

Luke 14:

11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

I am not the judge of my own righteousness, nor of anyone else’s, nor required to be​. God is the​ judge of that. I do what God commands, and leave judgement up to him. But that does not mean that there is no merit or virtue in keeping God’s commandments​. Here is another:

Matthew 7:

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

Luke 6:

37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

I am not required to sit in judgement on anyone’s righteousness, including my own. Judgement belongs to God. But that does not mean that I should not attempt to be righteous, or that my righteousness ​has no merit in the sight of God. RC Sproul then continues his hypothetical conversation with the Arminian as follows:

“I say are you a Christian and your buddy isn’t a Christian because you are smarter than they are? Well no! Because they know if they say Yes, I am going to say, Where did you get your intelligence from in the first place … And I say, Let me ask you this, Is there a right response to the gospel that God commands? Does God command all men to repent and embrace Christ? Yes! I said now your neighbour here has rejected that command, and has disobeyed God, has he done something wrong? He said Yes! I said, But you have done the right thing! So ultimately the reason why you are in the kingdom and that guy isn’t in the kingdom is because of your virtue, as distinguished from his vice! Well I don’t want to … I say I know you don’t want to say that. You would rather cut your tongue out before you say that, but that is what we say … is the inconsistency of Arminianism. This is what they have to say if they really believe in the final analysis that the thing that gets them in the kingdom is their right choice which the good thing to do, rather than the bad choice that the reprobate made. And I say you need to be saying the rest of your life, Thank God I said yes! Not thank me that I said yes.”

Wrong! That is not the conclusion it leads to. The right conclusion is the one I showed above. The biblical response to that is as follows:

John 5:

28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life [i.e. salvation]; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

I didn’t say that, Jesus did! When RC Sproul discusses the question of salvation being a “reward” in heaven, he tries to get round it by saying that once we get to heaven, the rewards we get in heaven is based on merit; but salvation itself is not based on merit. Salvation itself is only by unconditional grace. But that is not what John 5:28–29 teaches. According to this scripture (and many more, some of them already quoted), salvation itself is based on merit, not just the rewards we receive in heaven once we are saved. Calvinism numbs the mind and blinds the eyes to prevent them from seeing the truth that is plainly taught in the Bible.

At 31:05 minutes into the video the question is asked, “Could you comment on how we are to recognize a false teacher. What makes a false teacher a false teacher?”

To this John MacArthur gives the following reply:

“I have just been going through all of that: 2 Peter 2; Jude; 1, 2, 3 John; you know the essential tests they are all essentially doctrinal tests and you go back to the doctrines of grace of course, you go back to the further drivetrain of our faith, the Trinitarian God, an understanding of the doctrine of sin and helplessness of man, the Incarnation, the perfect life of Christ, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, perfect understanding of the God-man, all man and all God at the same time, the incredible incarnation reality, salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, imputed righteousness. I think just the drivetrain of those doctrines of grace that we were talking about, are what mark the true teacher. And John points out repeatedly that they start with an assault on Christ, there is either an assault on the humanity of Christ, or on the deity of Christ, and Paul talks about if anybody preaches another gospel, which would include perhaps some aberration regarding Christ or some addition of works to grace. I think anybody who tampers with that is for certain a false prophet. I mean it would be categorically in the place of a damning lie. A hypocritical liar as Paul writing to Timothy calls them. A hypocritical liar, somebody who is espousing doctrines of demons, at that particular point. There are a lot of ways people can be false and hypothetical and driven by money, and pride, and power, and all of that; but the core of it is some aberration of the gospel, and the elements that are necessary for the gospel.”

What that amounts to saying is that a “true teacher” is somebody who preaches Calvinism, otherwise he is a false teacher! He has got that the wrong way round. Anybody who teaches Calvinism is unquestionably a false teacher. That is settled. No arguments over that one. If he is not preaching Calvinism, he may or may not be a false teacher depending on a number of other factors.

The criterion that Jesus laid down for determining a true teacher from a false one, however, was that we should judge them by their fruits (i.e. their works). See Matthew 7:15–23. Calvinism is the very antithesis of that. It discourages “good fruit” at the most fundamental level—theologically. It tells you that you don’t need to do any good to be saved; just “believe,” and you are done! The entire theology is built from ground up to discourage people from doing good and abstaining from evil. It is hard to imagine a more damnable, a more perfidious heresy that has ever been conceived.

At 58:22 minutes into the video John MacArthur says the following:

“I know there are errors in my theology, I am not under any illusions, I know that. I said that one time and somebody said, Why don’t you change them? And my response was that I just don’t know where they are. I know they are there, but I don’t know where they are. You show me where they are and I will change them! I mean that is not a problem.”

Well, he has come to the right place to find out! I have shown him many of his theological errors, let’s see if he will change them. But his errors are too fundamental for him to be able to easily change them. To change them, he would have to ditch Calvinism and “Reformed” theology altogether, flush TULIP down the toilet, and embrace the Book of Mormon. That is not going to be an easy thing for him to do. He is too​ committed to his abominable heresy to be able to easily give it up. The whole of “Reformed” theology is heretical. It is the doctrine of the devil. It is built on dishonesty, deception, hypocrisy and guile. It is rank heresy. It is the gospel of damnation rather than salvation. Avoid like a plague!