Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Answering Leighton Flowers on Libertarian Freedom and Compatibilism

In his podcasts, stalwart anti-Calvinist Leighton Flowers is fond of defining "Libertarian Free Will" (LFW) as "the ability to refrain or not refrain from a given moral action."

In at least one of his blog posts, he has defined the term a little further, as follows:
LFW = "The categorical ability of the will to refrain or not refrain from a given moral action." 

First, let's define the added term, "categorical." According to the Oxford Dictionary, this word means "unambiguously explicit and direct." (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/categorical)

So, updating Dr. Flowers' working definition with this meaning, we have:
LFW = "The unambiguously explicit and direct ability of the will to refrain or not refrain from a given moral action."
No real significance is added with the inclusion of "categorical;" it simply renders the statement slightly more emphatic. As far as the addition of "the will" to this working definition, this also does not seem to add anything of substance. By definition, choosing and deciding are activities in which the will is active. Whether we phrase this as "refrain or not refrain from," or, as I would prefer, "engage or not engage in," a given moral action--this is nothing more than a description of the will's basic function. A person without a will could do nothing of a moral nature.

This definition of LFW summarizes the position Dr. Flowers affirms in opposition to what he thinks Calvinists believe. Nevertheless, I wonder how many well-informed Calvinists would actually dispute the fact that this ability exists?

As a Calvinist and theological compatibilist, I really have no problem accepting Dr. Flowers' definition as a valid description of "will" (or even "free will") and affirming that human beings possess it. Every rational person should find this to be intuitive and self-evident. Of course human beings have this ability. At the same time, my compatibilism affirms that all of the "free choices" of human beings are foreknown and foreordained by a wise and good God. One might ask, "How can this be?" 

From the perspective of compatibilism, we can line up the propositions this way:

P1 Human beings possess the ability to refrain or not refrain from given moral actions.
P2 God has ordained which moral actions each human being will choose to refrain from, and which moral actions each human being will choose not to refrain from.
P3 Human beings exercise their "free will" in choosing to refrain or not refrain from given moral actions.
P4 God exercises His sovereignty in determining how, when, where, and why man's "free will" shall be exercised. 

These are the rudimentary claims of theological compatibilism, which in itself is a very simple concept. From this standpoint, I would affirm Dr. Flowers' definition of LFW within my own understanding of compatibilism, and would find no contradiction. In what it affirms, his claim is true and just needs more added to it. His definition adequately describes man's part; however, God's part is neglected.

Of course, much more rigorous philosophical definitions of LFW have been put forth, and they typically entail a denial of the possibility that specified moral actions are pre-determined in any way. We should oppose that type of LFW as an outright denial of Biblical truth. At least at the level of defining terms, Leighton Flowers does not seem to hold to that type of LFW. And that is commendable, for it leaves the door open to a Biblical compatibilism.

On the other hand, if Dr. Flowers were to put forth a definition like the following, we would have to reject it:
LFW = "the willingness of the will to choose what is good (as God defines it), apart from grace."
What is the difference? If we are only talking about "ability," that is one thing. God gives all of us abilities that we do not exercise. I always have the "ability" to steal food from the grocery store; however, by the grace of God I have so far never had the "will" to do it. I also have the "ability" to purchase and smoke cigarettes. And, fortunately, I have never had the "will" to do that, either. I also have the ability to purchase food and give it to homeless people. By God's grace that has actually happened once or twice. The operative phrase here is "by God's grace."

Sadly, there are also morally reprehensible actions I have had the will to do from time to time, and I did not refrain from doing them. And it is just the same with you, my friend. We are all sinners who have had our wills set in opposition to God and have done a variety of evil things. I thank God that by His mercy I have not done even more evil. If not for His mercy, I surely would have. That I recognize my evils as evil, and that He gives me the willingness to repent and pursue the good, is an incredible mercy. But this is not from any purportedly natural "free will," it is from grace alone!

As a compatibilist, I affirm that my every inclination toward good is graciously given from God. Such willingness would not have sprung up out of my own heart, if grace had not been given to direct me toward the good and the right. If not for grace, I certainly would have refrained from every good act and would have only pursued evil.

As a compatibilist, I affirm that every inclination I have toward evil comes solely from me. I own it and I am fully responsible for it, even if God also foreordained which actions I will choose. His foreordination does not change the fact that it is my own will and I am responsible. I was the one who chose to refrain or not refrain. It wasn't as if I tried to do good and He instead directed me toward evil, saying "I would rather you do this evil thing." And it is not as though He made me do it, in any sense. Foreordination is not that. God forbid that such an unworthy thought should ever be embraced.

Ever since the fall, man's will and very nature have been bent toward evil, and this can only change through God's grace. By nature, apart from grace, fallen man, having the ability to choose between good and evil, will always choose evil. The problem is not rooted in "ability;" it is rooted in "will." Fallen man is "totally unable" to do good only because he is "totally unwilling." Thankfully, common grace results in a measure of good that is accomplished even through the unregenerate. Saving grace results in the introduction of a new, regenerated nature within the believer. A nature that truly longs for what is good. And so, by God's grace, there is much good in the world. We should glorify Him perpetually and magnificently for this!

A Biblical perspective would never credit the choice for good to our own mere ability or willingness (this would be self-deception and vainglory); nor would it ever blame God for our own choices of evil (that would be blasphemous and ignorant).

Biblical thinking can only give God all the glory for all of the good that occurs. And we can only accept full responsibility for our own choices and actions. With this perspective, the believer is driven to keep repenting of his own evil and to continually ask God for more grace so that he can grow and do more good to the glory of God.

As Paul states:
I Cor. 15:10  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
With Dr. Flowers' perspective, one wonders how the believer may ever know that he is experiencing grace, since it all seems to boil down to the exercise of one's own natural ability to "refrain or not refrain" from this or that moral action. When does a person come face to face with the realities of his own corrupt will, and how sharply that will is bent toward evil? Or with the need for God to rescue us from that will, lest we perish? 

If my salvation or sanctification depended on my own ability and willingness to "refrain" from what is evil and "not refrain" from what is good, I suspect that there would be no hope at all for me. 
Romans 7:24-25a  Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
May those who downplay the need for grace in these matters find themselves desperately longing for the only Redeemer who can rescue us from the results of our own ability and will.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Calvinism, Arminianism, Southern Baptist Traditionalism, and Accusations of Theological Dishonesty

Below is a parable that was written in response to the post and subsequent comment thread that are found here:

https://soteriology101.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/calvinist-slight-of-hand-a-brief-arminian-interaction-with-wayne-grudems-arguments-against-the-compatibility-of-foreknowledge-and-conditional-election

That post was re-blogged from here:

https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/calvinist-sleight-of-hand-a-brief-arminian-interaction-with-wayne-grudems-arguments-against-the-compatibility-of-foreknowledge-and-conditional-election

As a side note: For some reason, the person who moderates the Arminian Perspectives site finds my comments unworthy of approving for publication, and has a long history of either denying my comments outright once the substantive points are on the table, or editing out the most important parts before publishing.

Those two posts raise some interesting issues that are worthy of discussion. However, we should take a far greater interest in the not-so-subtle accusations of theological dishonesty found in the posts, and then stated even more strongly in the comment threads. The reason for this should be obvious: any Christian who publicly accuses a fellow believer (or, in this case, an entire group of fellow believers) of a pattern of dishonesty may face dire spiritual consequences in the event that it was his own misunderstanding or confusion (and not a fellow believer's dishonesty) that led him to a false conclusion.

Scripture is clear on both sides of this point:

I Pet. 2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
The person who accuses a brother of one of these evils (deceit) may in face be guilty of another (slander). Other Scriptures also apply:
James 4:11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

Gal. 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
II Cor. 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.
I attempted to post the parable below as a response at the Soteriology101 site and was not successful, most likely due to the length of the material. So, the comment I would have posted there is placed here for your consideration:

Friends, here is a little parable for your consideration, which may illustrate well the dynamic that is occurring on this comment thread (and many, many others across the internet, unfortunately).

Cal Venice and Amond Ian are little kids discussing their respective homes. Let's listen in . . .

Armond: I love my house, it is so great! It has a really solid foundation. You should come over and visit sometime. 
Cal: Cool. Sounds like fun! You might want to visit my house sometime, too. It is very unique and interesting.
Armond: What's so great about your house? Someone told me it isn't even a "real" house and has no foundation. Is that true??? Tell me about the foundation.
Cal: Well, that is partially true. My house does not have the kind of foundation you are used to seeing on a house, it's actually a---
Armond: Is it a foundation made of cement, and planted firmly into the ground, like my house's foundation?
Cal: No, it's not like that at all. It's actually--
Armond: Really? Is it even a house then?
Cal: Well, yes, it is actually a house, but it is much more than just a house. It's a hou--
Armond: That is the strangest thing I have ever heard. If it doesn't have a foundation, it can't be a house at all, right? LOL. 
Cal: If you say so. But my house has four bedrooms, one and a half baths, a living room, dining room, kitchen, family room, quality metal roof, plenty of windows, and lots of awesome closets. It is two stories tall and filled with all of the usual household furniture, like beds and couches and stuff. It has a great HVAC system, plumbing, electricity, and all of that. You'll be surprised when I tell you what kind of house it is.
Armond: You keep calling it a "house" when it obviously isn't one, since it clearly has no foundation. However, other than the odd lack of a foundation, that sounds just like my house! But how can a house not have a foundation? Are you trying to trick me? I'm getting very suspicious.
Cal: No, I assure you I am being completely honest with you. Let me explain further. Unlike your house, which sits permanently on one spot, my house was designed with flexibility in mind. It is able to move around and goes places where a house like yours could never even be built. It's called a--
Armond: Oh, I get it now, your house is nothing more than a two-story trailer!!!!!!! Why didn't you just say so in the first place?
Cal: Because it's not a trailer. It's-- 
Armond: Okay, let's stop playing games and just be upfront and honest about our houses. A house without a regular foundation that moves around to different places is just a trailer. Someone told me your family has been dishonestly acting like you don't live in a trailer for years. But everyone knows your family is a bunch of pretenders who can't admit that they live in a trailer. I even heard a famous architect, Willie Lame Cage, say people who live in trailers don't like to admit it. He's the smartest guy in the world, almost as smart as my dad, James. Or is it Jacob? I can't remember. In any case, you and your family are clearly disingenuous trailer dwellers. Let's fight now!
Cal: Okay, but before we start punching each other, I would like to ask you another question: out of curiosity, have you ever heard of a house boat? 
Armond: A house boat? LOL, what a stupid idea! A "house boat," if such a thing even exists, would be nothing more than a boat! I heard that somewhere, and my teacher, Lee Tin-Flowers, also read it on a website. He says a "house-boat" is just a boat--as much a "boat" as any other kind of boat! Boats are boats, and can't be houses, so there! If you say you live on a boat, then you can't possibly live in a house, and if you say you live in a house, you can't possibly live on a boat. Why aren't you getting this? I knew you were a liar from the moment I first saw you! After I get done beating you up, I'm going to start a podcast and a blog to tell the world how messed up you are. You and your family are clearly disingenuous trailer dwellers who pretend to be house-boaters!

[After this, there is a very long pause, during which Cal ponders whether he should try to explain the compatibility of "house" and "boat." They look at one another suspiciously, considering whether they should start throwing punches, then back away slowly. At last, both boys go home for dinner and then listen to some of their favorite podcasts.]

Lee Tin-Flowers: Am I wrong for questioning what the "house-boaters" say? Am I wrong for saying I see it another way? Here on the podcast, I always like to point out how I once had a part time job as a speed boat driver. I quit that job because I never could understand how boats can be houses. No one in their right mind would try to live on a speed boat, right? I try to tell these so-called "house-boat" people that they actually just live on a boat and can't possibly live in a house, and they never seem to be able to admit it, even though I quote their own favorite website, house-boats-r-us dot com, which clearly states: "A house boat is no less a boat than any other boat." So, as you can see, no matter how many times they try to tell you they live in a house, or a "house-boat" (whatever that is), they just refuse to admit they are actually nothing more than casual boat people without real houses. They also contradict themselves constantly, trying to say they actually do live in houses, which is obviously not true since houses have foundations, and they admit their so-called houses don't have foundations, which means they must actually live in trailers. None of this ever made any sense to me when I was a speed boat driver. It is all just casual boater double speak, as I explain on my website, HouseFoundations101. Go there to read the five best reasons why house-boats don't exist, and why I quit my job as a speed boat driver. Here is a quote from A.W. Tow-boat that proves my point . . .
Armond: Aha! I just knew Cal Venice was a liar, and this confirms it! I'm going to go around telling everyone how he lies! Liar, Liar Liar!!!!!

[Meanwhile, Cal Venice reads a few good books on architecture, engineering and boating, then goes to volunteer at an agency that builds houses for the homeless. Later, he goes to the mission field and gives his life for the cause.]

[Armond and his friend, Trey DeShaun Alice, more firmly convinced than ever of their views on the utter incompatibility of houses and boats, continue to slander Cal and his friends as dishonest liars. They later find themselves standing before a rather concerned Judge who solemnly calls them to account for every word they have ever spoken or written.

THE END.  

Hopefully the tie-ins with determinism, compatibilism, freedom of will, divine sovereignty and human responsibility are clear to all readers.

While we are on the topic of house boats and conversations that miss the point, you might enjoy this video on YouTube:

https://youtu.be/pXUcmVibTUI

One of my favorites.

May you know the blessings of godly fellowship with grace, mercy, and peace in Christ, dear friends!


Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Beza's 38 Aphorisms: A Concise & Pointed Defense of the Reformed Doctrine of Providence


Calling all "theology nerds"!

Although I am generally not a big fan of Theodore Beza's supralapsarianism, this is nonetheless a key Reformed text that deserves our attention and consideration. As a systematic articulation of divine sovereignty and a sound Biblical/philosophical defense of the Reformed doctrine of Providence, these 38 Aphorisms answer directly the false assertions of modern-day anti-Calvinists such as Leighton Flowers. If I was in serious debate with Flowers, I would ask him whether he has read this text and how he answers it, since it directly contradicts his misreading and misrepresentation of the prevailing Calvinistic viewpoint on these matters. Although these statements are dense and demanding of thoughtful reflection, a careful reading is well worth the time and mental effort involved. Right from the start, you will see how this text influenced the Westminster Confession of Faith and the London Baptist Confession of 1689. The many Biblical citations are helpful, too.

HT: http://www.covenanter.org/reformed/2015/8/17/theodore-bezas-thirty-eight-aphorisms-against-castalio and http://www.truecovenanter.com/supralapsarian/beza_against_castalion.html

Presented here for your edification and strengthening in the faithenjoy!

Thirty-Eight Aphorisms against Castalio.

FOR THE STOPPING OF THE MOUTHES OF THE SLAUNDEROUS, AS ALSO FOR THE FURTHER INSTRUCTING OF THE IGNORANT, IN THIS BOTH NECESSARIE AND COMFORTABLE DOCTRINE OF GOD HIS ELECTION, I HAUE THOUGHT GOOD HERE TO SET DOWN A SHORTE SUMME OF THE WHOLE MATTER, CONTAINED IN CERTAINE BRIEFE & PLAINE APHORISMES, TRANSLATED OUT OF A LEARNED TREATISE OF THEODORUS BEZA, AGAINST CASTALION.

Translated by Iohn Stockwood
1. GOD worketh effectually, or bringeth all things to pass according to the counsel of his own will.
2. This counsel doth God execute or fulfill at certain moments of times: yet the counsel itself is everlasting, and going before all things, not only in time, inasmuch as it is before all time, but also in order. For otherwise the will of God should not be the chief rule of the counsel of God: but rather the qualities of things foreseen & foreknown, and driving God to take this or that counsel, should prescribe or appoint a rule to the will of God.
3. This counsel cannot be separated from the will of God, but that we must rob God of his divinity or Godhead.
4. This counsel is not put only in the governing and guiding of the event or that, that cometh to pass, as Pallas is feigned of the Poet to turn away Pandarus Dart from Menelaus breast unto his nether parts fenced with his belt: but hath a working & effectual strength in all things, which Paul hath declared by this word energein, Energein, which signifieth to work effectually.
5. This strength and efficacy is attributed unto God's working, but is not said to be of God. Therefore by this word [Efficacy or strength] is not declared any natural power given by God the Creator, to the things he hath created, that they should do this or that: but by this word is understood the power of God, which he hath in himself to do all things.
6. This universal particle, All, in the saying of Paul, can by no manner of exception at all be restrained, but that God in that point must be made to be idle, according to the opinion of Epicurus. And if we shall say that any thing is done against his will, he shall be robbed of his infinite, or endless power.
7. The conclusion thereof standeth, that God himself, according as it pleased him, to decree all things to come to pass from everlasting, even so also he bringeth them to pass by his power in their time as he willeth.
8. Yet of these things doth there follow none of these blasphemies, to wit, either that God is the Author of sin, either is delighted with iniquity, either willeth iniquity: or that Satan or man in doing of evil, do obey God, or, in that they do evil, they do that that God will, and therefore are without blame. Let all such blasphemies as these, be most far, not only from our tongues, but also from our cogitations or thoughts.
9. And thus it may be proved that these sequels and conclusions that they would gather of our doctrine, are of no force: God doth execute or perform the counsels of his will by second causes and instruments, not as bound unto them as the Stoics did suppose, but freely and mightily making, moving, and guiding them, as it pleased him.
10. Of these instruments there are two principal kinds. For some of them have life, to wit, such as are stirred by an inward moving of their own: others are without life and are only carried of an outward force by others rather than of themselves. Those instruments that have life are also in a double difference. For some of them are endued with judgment and reason, others are without reason, and are carried with a blind force of nature.
11. The instruments which are without life, yea and also they that have life, but are void of reason, are said to do neither well nor ill, because that they are rather caused to do, than to do of themselves: but they which use those instruments, are said to do either well or ill.
12. Instruments endued with reason and judgment, are either Angels, or men, and the same again of two sorts. For Angels, some are good, some are bad: and men by nature are all evil, but by grace there is such difference made between them, that some of them are wholly evil, and some of them are in part good, to wit, so far as the spirit of God hath sanctified or made them holy.
13. Such things as are of this sort, when as in any action they are moved by their own inward moving, are worthily said to work, and therefore in this kind of instruments only falleth the difference of well or ill doing. And in this respect, they cannot properly be called instruments, but rather efficient or working causes.
14. Now I call that an evil action, which hath not the revealed or opened will of God for the end: and contrariwise, I call it a good action which hath respect or looketh to the will of God.
15. The same, albeit they be causes, so far as they work by their own proper motion, yet in another respect they are called instruments, to wit, as often and so far forth as they are moved by another. As when the hangman by the commandment of the Magistrate, killeth a man, or when as by impulsion or setting on of the Devil, men hurt one another: or when as at the commandment, and in the name of any, we do either good or evil unto any man.
16. In this kind of actions, all men see that one & the same work is attributed unto two, to wit, unto the one as to him that moveth, and worketh by another, as by an instrument, and to the other, as to him that worketh himself, for he is in such sort an instrument, that he also worketh by his own inward motion, and not simply, as the Hammer or Axe in the hand of the Smith.
17. Yea, for this double respect, a double work seemeth sometime to be done, insomuch that the one may be laudable or praiseworthy, and the other wicked: as if the Magistrate deliver a man that is an offender unto the hangman to be executed, there is no man but will worthily praise this work: but if the hangman being moved with hatred or covetousness, or any other wicked lust, rather than looking unto the commandment of the Judge, do kill the same offender, certainly before God he cannot escape the crime of murder.
18. Now let us apply these things unto God, whose efficacy or strength, we have proved before to step in, in all things that are done without exception, and in such sort, that by those things which he hath created as by instruments, he doth execute or perform in his time, whatsoever he hath decreed from everlasting.
19. Whatsoever God doth is good, seeing from him, which is the chief good, no evil can proceed. But he doth all things. All things therefore are good, so far forth as they are done by God. And that difference of good and evil, hath only place in the instruments, and in those of whom we have spoken in the thirteenth proposition.
20. For if these instruments be good, and do look unto the opened will of God, they work well, and God also worketh well by them: whereby it cometh to pass, that, that work is always good: as when good Angels do that which God commandeth, and holy men follow, God calling them.
21. Evil instruments (evil I say, not by creation, but by corruption) insofar as they work, they do always work evil, and therefore they worthily incur or run into God's anger: but so far forth as God worketh by them, they do serve to the good work of God, either against their wills, or else of ignorance. For God, by what instruments soever he worketh, worketh always well.
22. Now he so worketh by those instruments, as he doth not only suffer them to work, neither only moderate or rule the event or thing that falleth out, but also he raiseth them up, stirreth, moveth, guideth, and that which is greatest of all he createth them, to the end that he might work by them, which he hath appointed: all which things God doth rightly, and without any injustice.
23. For as often as one evil man sinneth either against himself, or against another wicked person, God without any sin maketh, either that the evil man taketh vengeance upon himself, or that evil men shall punish other evil men, with such punishment as they have deserved: both which works of God are most righteous: and by such examples of his judgments, God lifteth up and comforteth those that are his.
24. But so often as wicked men do hurt the good, the wicked men sin, & in the end, suffer such punishments as they have deserved: yet nevertheless, by them the Lord chasteneth, instructeth and strengtheneth his own, and plainly by the open enemies of his Church maketh his Church glorious.
25. Yet cannot these evil instruments be said to obey God, because albeit God by them bringeth his work to pass, yet they, so far as in them is, and as concerning their own counsel and will, do not the work of God, but their own work for the which they are justly punished. For albeit whatsoever God worketh by the wicked be good, yet whatsoever the wicked work is evil.
26. Neither is this consequent or reason good, God worketh all things, therefore he worketh sin. For the guilt of sin agreeth not but to the vicious and faulty quality, which is wholly in the working instrument.
27. By reason of this corrupted quality, the work which of itself is but one, is made some manner of way twofold and double, insomuch that the one, that is the just work of God, directly fighteth against the other, that is, the unjust work of man.
28. Yet God worketh otherwise by the good instruments than by the evil, for besides that he worketh his work by the good instruments, the good instruments also do work their own work by the same force & efficacy which the Lord giveth unto them: finally the Lord worketh his work by them, and also worketh in them to will & to perform. But by the wicked, as by Satan, or by men, insofar as they are not regenerate or born anew, as often as the Lord executeth or performeth the just counsels and decrees of his everlasting will, he indeed sheweth forth his strength and efficacy in his work by them, either not knowing of it, or against their wills and purposes: but yet insofar as they work their own work, the Lord worketh not in them, but letteth loose the reins unto Satan, to whom by his just judgment he giveth them over being wicked, to be moved and stirred forward, that they may be carried away of their own will and his.
29. Therefore we do not refuse this term, suffering, or granting, neither yet came it in our minds, to say that God so worketh in the evil, as he doth in the good. But because that Sophisters have corrupted the difference of will and sufferance, which Augustine no doubt took of the Greeks, and they received from Augustine, therefore do we flatly refuse it.
30. For the Sophisters set will against permission, or sufferance: whereof doth follow that God suffereth the things which he suffereth, either against his will, or at leastwise being idle,& not caring for them. But contrariwise, lest we should either take from God his endless and unmeasurable power, or after the opinion of the Epicures, say as the thing indeed is, that God neither worketh anything by instruments, but willingly, nor yet suffereth the instruments to work, but willingly, yet in such sort that whatsoever he worketh, he worketh most justly, and whatsoever he permitteth or suffereth, he most justly suffereth.
31. And God worketh in respect of his own work: and permitteth or suffereth in respect of the work that the evil instruments do of their own accord work, or insofar as they are active and not passive instruments, that we may keep the terms used in the schools. Yet doth God justly suffer the thing that these instruments unjustly work, for because that sins, insofar as they are suffered by God that willeth, are not sins: but punishments of sin. For with GOD it is a just thing to punish sins with sins. But these selfsame actions insofar as they come from satan, and evil men provoked by Satan and their own concupiscence or lust, are so far sins, which the Lord in his time doth justly punish. For the Lord doth never suffer sins so far as they are sins, nay he doth always forbid them.
32. Neither is this consequence or reason good: God willeth all things, therefore he alloweth all things. For he willeth many things, and therefore suffereth them, not because he simply alloweth of them, but after a certain sort, for he alloweth them, so far as he suffereth them, even so far as they are no sins, as we said even now: But he disalloweth & punisheth them, so far as he hath respect or looketh unto the evil instruments, whose actions they are.
33. These are Augustine's words, Enchirid. ad Laurent. Cap. 100. "Great are the works of the Lord, for they are excellent in all his wills, so that after a wonderful and unspeakable manner that cometh not to pass besides his will, which is done against his will: because it should not come to pass if he would not suffer it: and doubtless he suffereth it not unwilling, but willing." The same Augustine, Lib. 5. Contr. Julian. Cap. 3. When as he had of purpose disputed against them which make an idle foreknowledge or sufferance, at length he bursteth forth into these words, "We doubtless (saith he) if we suffer those over whom we have power, to do wickedness before our eyes, shall be guilty with them. But how innumerable things doth he suffer (speaking of God) To be done before his eyes, which doubtless if he would not, he would by no means suffer? And yet he is both just and good."
34. The whole Scripture beareth witness, and very common sense or reason doth tell us, that without the will of God nothing is done, no not of those things which seem most chiefly to come to pass by chance or fortune, as Gen. 27.20, God is said quickly to have brought the prey unto Jacob's hands. And Ex. 21.13, As often as murder is committed at unawares, the Lord, saith Moses, caused him to come into thine hands. The selfsame thing is taught as concerning the falling out of Lots, Prov. 16.33. As concerning all the counsels of men, Dan. 4.32. Of the falling of Sparrows, Matt. 10.29. To be short, of all things without exception, Eph. 1.11.
35. And that the will of God, yea and the same most effectually, doth then also step in, when as he worketh by the wicked, may plainly appear almost in every leaf of the scripture. So is he said to have sent Joseph into Egypt, Gen. 45.8. So he stirred up Pharaoh to declare his power in him, Exod. 4.21. So he gave David's wives unto his son Absalom, 2 Sam. 12.11. So he moved the heart of David to number the people, 2 Sam. 24.1. So he commanded Shimei to curse David, 2 Sam. 16.10. So David calleth his enemies the sword & hand of the Lord, Psalm 17.13,14. So the Lord calleth the Medes and Persians his sanctified, and the instruments of his wrath, Isa. 10.5, and 13.6. So he calleth the falling away of the ten Tribes his work, 2 Chron. 11.4. So Job saith, the Lord giveth, and the Lord hath taken away, Job 1.21. So the king of Babylon is compared unto an Axe and a Saw, to wit, because the Lord executed or brought to pass his work by him, thinking on no such thing, Isa. 10.15. So the godly are afflicted or troubled, by the will and Predestination, or foreordaining of God, Rom. 8.29, and 1 Pet. 3.17, and 4.19. So there is no evil in the City which the Lord hath not done, Amos 3.6, and Jeremiah, Lam. 3.37,38. Who is he then, (saith he) which hath said, and it cometh to pass, and the Lord hath not commanded? Out of the mouth of the Lord proceedeth there not good and evil?
36. Go to then, let for example be chosen the most excellent, and also the most wicked deed that ever was: The most excellent, if we behold either both the endless justice, and mercy of the father, or the infinite obedience and love of the son: But the most wicked, if we consider the instruments themselves, to wit, Satan, Judas, the Jews, Pilate, and Herod. This deed (we speak of) is, the death of the son of God, full of cruelty and reproach. In this fact, if we deny the everlasting counsel of God to have stepped in, we shall be convinced or proved to speak false by infinite testimonies of the Scripture. For sure it is, that we were not chosen before the foundations of the world were laid, but only in him appointed to die, Eph. 1.4, and 1 Pet. 1.20. Wherefore he is also called the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world, Rev. 13.8, To wit, not only by the foreknowledge, but especially by the determined counsel of God, insomuch that Herod and Pilate, although thinking of no such thing, yet therefore came together, to fulfill such things as the hand and counsel of the Lord had decreed be done, Acts 4.28. Therefore he could not be taken but at his hour, John 7.30, and 8.29, and 12.27. For he was delivered by the determined counsel of God, and decree before going, Acts 2.23. And was wounded of God for our iniquities, Isa. 53.5. For God is he who spared not his own son, but gave him for us all, Rom. 8.32. Therefore if there were but this one example of God's everlasting providence, which never is idle, it were abundant enough to suffice, to convince, or reprove all those which falsely cry out, that God is made the author of sin, when as we say that nothing cometh to pass, but by the righteous will of God.
37. And yet do we not therefore excuse but rather most sharply accuse Satan working in the disobedient children, (Eph. 2.2.) Even then also when as the Lord most effectually, or strongly, and most justly bringeth his work to pass, both by Satan himself, and also by the bond slaves of Satan, 2 Tim. 2.26. Wherefore we do everywhere acknowledge and reverence the goodness and judgments of God, albeit the reason of them many times do not to us appear. And we condemn both the instruments which are evil, and also naughty and wicked actions, to wit, all the counsels and subtleties of Satan: the envy of Joseph's brethren, and the selling of their brother: the ungodliness and hardness of PharaohAbsalom's mind bent to kill his Father, and his detestable incest: the unadvisedness also of David himself: the wickedness of Shimei: the malice and treachery of David's enemies: the wicked falling away of Jeroboam, and the ten Tribes: the ravenny [violent plundering] of the Chaldeans: the insatiable covetousness, incredible Lechery, intolerable arrogancy of the Babylonians. To be short, all the wicked counsels, and most savage cruelty of the ungodly against the Church.
38. It is also manifest by very many and most plain testimonies of the scripture, that God doth punish sins with sins, and that with no idle, but very strong and effectual, yet notwithstanding, most just permission or sufferance. For it is he that giveth kings in his anger, Hos. 13.11, Neh. 9.37, and Job 34.30. It is he that causeth to err, Isa. 63.17. Because he mingleth amongst them the spirit of error, Isa. 19.14. It is he which hardeneth and turneth the hearts, which blindeth the eyes, which maketh drunk with the wine of giddiness, Exod. 4.21, and 7.3, and 9.12, and 10.1, and 11.10, and 14.4, Deut. 2.29, Josh. 11.20, and 1 Sam. 2.25, and 2 Chron. 22.7, Psalm 105.25. It is he that punisheth his contempt, giving men up into a reprobate mind, Rom. 1.28, And sending the strength of error to believe a lie, 2 Thes. 2.11. It is he which deceiveth Prophets, Ezek. 14.9. Finally, it is he that sendeth also evil spirits, giving them commandment to hurt, & granting them also efficacy or power to deceive, as 1 Kings 22.22,23, and 2 Chron. 18.21,22, Job 1.12, and 2.6.

       Thesethingsbeeingthusmani-
fest by these so plaine testimonies, let the Pellagians,    Freewillians,    Annabaptistes,  Papistes,  and the rest of that filthie rabble, crye out if they liste, till they ware hoarse, and their heartes ake againe, that wee make G O D the Authour of sinne, from which blasphemie wee are as farre, as they are voide of Christian charitie,  insoiudging of us,  ascribinguntoG O D   hisprouidence the whole swinge in all things, which as they proceede from him (as hath beene shewed before) are verie
good, albeit in respecte of the in-
struments, whereby it pleaseth
him in iustice sometime
to worke by, they
may be verie
evill.

FINIS.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Thoughts for a Young Man

A friend once asked me to share some thoughts with his son as his son entered into manhood. These are the thoughts:

The most important gifts God will give you during your life are relationships.
Knowing Him.
Knowing those made in His image.

Relationships live and breathe with humility, but die with selfishness.
Be quick to admit when you are wrong.
Be quick to repent when you sin against God and people.
Take full responsibility for your actions.
Never blame others.
Apply the promises of the Gospel.
Depend on God’s forgiveness.
Rest in His Fatherly care.
Seek His grace to change and grow.
Think about the Cross of Christ every day.
Excel in serving others. It will bring joy!
                                    Pray for others like you pray for yourself.
                                    Serve those around you.
Give to those in need.

Trust in the Lord to give you the humility that is needed in every situation, and the strength to persevere.

Your relationships with God and His people will endure forever.
Most everything else will pass away.
Keep your focus on Christ.

Never give up!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

UNBORN Lives Matter

Somebody tell the Democrats, since they style themselves as defenders of the weak and helpless. Vile hypocrites. Just like their opponents. Just like me.

Somebody tell that good Catholic brother, Tim Kaine. How does he justify the choice to murder? Certainly not by the TRUTH.

May God grant us repentance. Much repentance. And just a little bit of sanity and rationality, too. That would sure make a difference for ALL of the human lives that matter.


You and I were once unborn babies, too. So was Hillary. So was Tim. So were all of the Supreme Court Justices. May God have mercy on us. May all who approve of baby-murder repent and be forgiven before they die and face their Maker. May America admit the Truth and restore the rights of the most defenseless, whose Avenger is the Almighty.

Friday, September 04, 2015

America, I Weep for You: A Reflection on the Heroic Act of Kim Davis

My beloved nation, what has become of you?

Blessed nation, you now persecute Kim Davis and place her in jail. Why? Was it theft or murder? No. Was it fraud or extortion? No. Has she been jailed for attacking or slandering those who are forcing false marriage on our land (through judicial rape, it would seem), or those who turn from the natural male/female love that perpetuates our peaceful and productive existence and continually reorganizes us into biologically balanced families? No. She has caused no harm to them at all. Rather, she is jailed for refusing to deny the self-evident reality of God-created and God-defined marriage, as supported by 99.999% of all human society and all human history (regardless of race, religion, class, ethnicity or politics). She is jailed for acting according to her sincerely held beliefs when faced with new circumstances she did not expect or invite. She is unconscionably incarcerated for choosing to act according to her Christian conscience, because that conscience will not bow to a novel and immoral "law" that seeks to bind her against her will.

America, who freed the slaves, now attempts to enslave the conscience of a free people!

Kim Davis is no saint. However, imperfect as she is, Kim Davis is a modern day hero of American liberty. All freedom-loving Americans should praise her courage and imitate her steadfastness in the face of injustice. She suffers loss for the sake of freedom. Our freedom.

Like the students murdered in Tienanmen square, she has dared to defy an oppressive and overreaching government. America once praised such acts. Now it shamefully prosecutes those who are brave enough to oppose tyranny. America's founding fathers (and mothers!) would stand with Kim Davis in defiance of government coercion and oppression, were they alive today. Is their spirit alive in America today?

We hear much about "law." We hear little about genuine personal liberty.

God will judge the government of America for its defiance of His majesty. Let us pray that this nation repents and turns from its idolatry, blasphemy and stubborn refusal to accept reality as He created it.

America, I weep for you. Will you return from your insanity, or continue to pour moral acid upon yourself and your people, corroding what little remains of your decayed moral foundations?

America, I weep for you. Do you care?

Nonetheless (and all the more), I weep for you.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Faith and Regeneration: Which Comes First?

INTRODUCTION


This is basically a theological version of the "chicken and egg" conundrum. Occasionally it amuses me that Calvinists and Arminians (and others) are so apt to come to blows with regard to this question (I am referring to the theological one, not the chicken/egg question). As far as chickens and eggs are concerned, the answer is quite obvious from this text:

Genesis 1:20-23 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
God created "birds," not eggs, on the 5th day. "Eggs" are the intended method by which they will be fruitful and multiply. I hope you can appreciate what a great mystery has just been solved here. 

Unfortunately, the ordering of faith and regeneration does not have such an easy solution. Let's examine all of the texts related to the topic of "regeneration" to see whether they answer this question.


INVESTIGATING THE TEXT


1. The Greek noun παλιγγενεσία (PALIGGENESIA) appears twice in the New Testament:
Matthew 19:28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
This text is clearly not referring to individual, salvific regeneration, so it has no bearing on the discussion.
Titus 3:4-8 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.
This text, which clearly refers to individual, salvific regeneration, and even mentions faith in close proximity, does not give any hint of which came first.

2. The Greek verb ἀποκυέω (APOKYEO) is used once in the context of spiritual birth:
James 1:16-18 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
There is no mention of the ordering of faith and regeneration here. What is undeniable is that God alone regenerates, and that it is "of His own will" that He has regenerated His people.

3. The Greek verb ἀναγεννάω (ANAGENNAO)  appears twice in the New Testament, both times in I Peter:
I Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
This text, while not explicitly addressing our question, only speaks of the role of faith as a protection for believers after regeneration has occurred. Rather than mentioning our faith as the cause of regeneration, Peter speaks only of God's mercy as the cause.
I Peter 1:22-25 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for
“All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” 
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
This text, while mentioning regeneration and the preached Word of the Gospel, offers us no indication of the ordering of faith in the equation. If anything, we might refer back to verses 20 and 21, which tell us plainly that "through Him [we] are believers in God." This gives all of the credit for the origination of our faith to Christ, and not to our own act of will in exercising faith. The true sight and knowledge of Him (as proclaimed in the Gospel) produces faith, as surely as the sight of a raging hurricane produces awe and dread.

4. The Greek verb γεννάω (GENNAO) is sometimes used in the context of spiritual birth, or regeneration:
John 1:9-13 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
On the surface, this passage might seem to place faith ahead of regeneration. However, the text does not specify at which point regeneration occurred. Rather, it shows that the "right" of sonship was given to those who believed. Thus, the right of sonship follows upon faith. This right is given to those who are born of God and have believed.
John 3:1-8 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
This text says much about the new birth, but gives us no indication of the ordering of faith and regeneration. It simply tells us that regeneration is necessary to salvation. Although faith figures prominently in the remainder of the chapter and the book of John, there is no conclusive evidence of ordering here. 

There are several passages in I John that mention spiritual birth:
I John 2:29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
There is no evidence of the ordering of faith and regeneration here, unless we take "practicing righteousness" to include initial belief in Christ.
I John 3:9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
No evidence of the ordering of faith and regeneration here.
I John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
No evidence of the ordering of faith and regeneration here.
I John 5:1 Everyone who believes (Present Active Participle) that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, (Perfect Passive Indicative), and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him (Perfect Passive Participle).
On the surface, this verse might seem to teach that regeneration occurs before faith. However, it could be interpreted the other way. Thus, there is ultimately no conclusive proof of the ordering of faith and regeneration here. If anything, the verb tenses might point toward regeneration preceding faith.
I John 5:4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
Although faith and regeneration are both mentioned, there is no evidence of the ordering here.
I John 5:18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
No evidence of the ordering of faith and regeneration here.

CONCLUSION

So, if all of the New Testament passages dealing with regeneration are ultimately silent (or at least inconclusive) on this issue, what was the point of this exercise? We arrive at three conclusions:
  1. The subject is not definitively settled by the Biblical text itself (perhaps God has not deemed this to be an area in which we need to have a settled certainty).
  2. Any position that insists on a particular ordering must be driven by something other than the text (such as soteriology, systematic theology or philosophical considerations).
  3. Upon thorough consideration of these texts, three possibilities remain: 
    • Faith precedes regeneration
    • Regeneration precedes faith
    • Both occur simultaneously
I would favor the third option and recommend it for consideration by all. As a Calvinist, the second option would seem to be the next best. Based on the Biblical text, there can be no doubt that regeneration, faith, repentance, justification, reconciliation, sanctification and all other good gifts are given to us by God, and are not from ourselves. That is GREAT NEWS, regardless of your stance with regard to the order.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Discussion of the Ordo Salutis

In case anyone is interested, I am having an interesting conversation with some Arminian brothers here:

http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/interesting-comments-from-john-macarthur-on-the-nature-of-preveninet-grace-the-ordo-salutis/

Pretty interesting stuff.

Here is my attempt to describe a Biblical Ordo Salutis:

http://theoparadox.blogspot.com/2012/09/a-biblical-ordo-salutis-for-biblical.html

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Response to Leighton Flowers: What is the "Dead" State of Fallen Man?

Perhaps, dear reader, you are aware of the criticisms of Calvinism recently put forth by Leighton Flowers, a Southern Baptist preacher, professor and Youth Evangelism Director for the Texas Baptists. Flowers is a prolific podcaster and blogger who presents a distinctively Baptist approach to non-Calvinism. I have listened to nearly every podcast he has released, and have briefly interacted with him on the "About" page of his blog site, Soteriology101.com. In what would seem to be an amazingly courageous move, Flowers has also debated the formidable High Calvinist heavyweight, James White. Unfortunately, this was an epic exercise in missing the point, and I found both of their debate presentations and post-debate follow up responses equally disappointing.

This photo was Leighton's humorous take on
his recent debate with James White
See the debate here: https://youtu.be/lzoZjSTysIs
A BRIEF CRITIQUE

There are a lot of good things to say about Leighton Flowers, so let's start there:
  • He is respectful in his manner of dialogue with opponents
  • He conducts himself with humility
  • He generally speaks positively of Calvinists and accepts them as brothers
  • He articulates a clear theology of salvation from a "traditionalist" (i.e., non-Calvinistic) Baptist perspective
  • He serves as a ministry leader, and is not just a "talking head" with opinions
  • He has a sense of humor (a characteristic that is woefully lacking in so many Calvinist/Arminian dialogues on the internet)
There are some notes of concern as well, and at least one of them is genuinely alarming:
  • He doesn't always have his facts straight (as an example, in one of his podcasts he mentions D.A. Carson as an example of a non-Calvinist scholar - Huh???)
  • He frequently overstates the persuading power of his views, which have not actually proven persuasive to thoughtful, Biblically grounded Calvinists
  • He often presses illustrations to logical extremes that amount to "straw man" arguments
  • He sometimes ignores critical distinctions that are consistently drawn by mainstream Calvinists
  • In contradiction to his typically respectful comments about Calvinists, he has actually said more than once that he believes this passage might refer to them:
    • And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15-16)
We can only assume that Flowers has not thought through the implications of that last point, which are quite inflammatory. Viewed charitably, the statement is a bit out of character, though nonetheless troubling. All in all, Leighton is far friendlier toward Calvinists than many others who engage in this type of debate.

A SIMPLE REFUTATION: IS FALLEN HUMANITY TRULY "DEAD" TOWARD GOD?

Let's take a brief look at an issue Leighton Flowers has often mentioned in his polemic against Calvinism. According to Flowers, Calvinists routinely compare man's "dead" state to that of Lazarus in the tomb, while he prefers to relate it to the state of the prodigal son in Luke 15. The prodigal son was only figuratively dead, right? He still had the natural ability to return to his father, right? So, perhaps fallen man is just "mostly dead":



Leighton's view ignores both the context and the content of Ephesians 2:1-3, which states:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Agreeing with Leighton, the clear implication of this text is not that fallen man is incapable of doing anything. However, it is actually much worse than that. According to this text, fallen man is incapable of doing anything that is not sinful. Humanity's "dead" acts are trespasses against God's law and are worldly, demonic, disobedient, fleshly and lust-driven. Believing in Christ for salvation does not seem to fit with this set of "dead" capabilities that remain in fallen human beings.

Much more telling, and far more detrimental to Leighton's position, is the obvious context of Ephesians 2. See Ephesians 1:19-20, which comes just a few verses prior:
... and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places ...
Without question, the flow of the text shows us that Paul is linking the believers' dead state prior to salvation with Jesus' dead state prior to his resurrection. Was Jesus "mostly dead" in the tomb, or was He "all the way dead"? Does Jesus' death and burial more closely resemble that of Lazarus, or that of the prodigal son?

This context-based exegesis stands like a sumo wrestler in opposition to a weak speculation that draws all of its force from the misapplication of an unrelated passage.

Reminding us of the three most important rules for proper Biblical interpretation: context, context, and context.

The whole Bible, taken in context, will always lead us inexorably to something along the lines of Calvinism. An army of critics will never change this, though they may push back with all their might.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Lessons from Blues Legend B.B. King

Today I read an interesting article about B.B. King's church background and Gospel music roots, which he later abondoned to pursue his Blues career. It seems that there are at least two key observations to be made about the sad turn of events which led to his departure from Christianity:

1. B.B. left the church because his religious interests were more about the music and entertainment factors than Jesus Christ Himself. It is not too surprising that one who was never a disciple would seek to liberate himself from the seemingly constricting requirements of real devotion to the Lord. Hip sounding music easily won out when placed next to the way of the cross.

2. B.B. left a church environment that was (at least in his perception) legalistic and hypocritical. Did he even hear the Gospel in the Southern-cultured, Americanized "evangelical" Baptist and Pentecostal churches he attended? One wonders. Churchy folk certainly did not hide their condemnation of the "blues" musical style, nor of the beer drinking and dancing that often accompanied it. However, King said many church members secretly loved the music!


In short, we are reminded that there is nothing more detrimental to the reputation and health of the local church than unconverted, legalistic, religious hypocrites on the one hand, and the failure to aim for genuine conversion and disciple-making through faithful Gospel witness on the other.

And we might imagine that Reformed believers would have embraced the beer and the music (and perhaps even the dancing--all in tasteful moderation, of course), recognizing these as God's good gifts to be enjoyed, while at the same time holding forth the potent light of the Gospel and calling sinners to repentance and true discipleship.

May our great and gracious God help us not to repeat the errors of a church culture gone wrong in the Deep South of long ago. And today. 

We can thank God for Mr. King's amazing talents, and hope in earnest that he did not die unconverted.

Kyrie Eleison.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Things Children Say . . .

So I've been sitting here watching a series of YouTube videos showing a panel discussion by some leading open theists, in which they respond to their critics and attempt to explain their theology. I have to say I found their reasoning rather unimpressive. After about fifteen minutes of loopy arguments and obvious fallacies, my 10-year old son looked over at me and said, "Instead of watching 'Dude Dumb,' let's watch some 'Dude Perfect!'"

So, here is my alternative to open theism:



Feel free to read into this whatever connections and analogies you might want to make.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

True Calvinist Confessions: "I am a Casual Determinist."

As a committed Calvinist, I unashamedly advocate Casual Determinism. I would venture to say that every sincere Calvinist who holds to Biblical truth should be (and probably is) a Casual Determinist.

Please note that I am not talking about "Causal Determinism," nor am I advocating that philosophical viewpoint. I am discussing and arguing for a Biblical position of Casual Determinism.

What is Casual Determinism?

First of all, what do we mean by determinism? This can be defined as the belief that all events are pre-determined to occur. There are various kinds of "determinisms," which are variously advocated by philosophers and theologians of different stripes. The opposing position, Libertarianism (also known as a belief in "Libertarian Free Will"), holds that it is wholly impossible that events for which human beings may be held responsible are pre-determined. Even a casual reading of the Bible, much less a sound program of exegetical study, would seem to decisively demolish the "Libertarian" viewpoint.

In general, Calvinists (along with conservative Lutherans and others who hold to a high view of Scripture) are considered to be Determinists because they believe that God pre-determines everything. However, while we hold this conviction with tenacity and deeply conscientious devotion, we reserve the right to be rather casual about the details. Thus, we are Casual Determinists. We seek to affirm what is clear from Scripture, and not to go beyond what is written.

In other words . . .
1. We acknowledge that there is a great deal of mystery regarding God's pre-determination of everything.
2. We recognize a clear distinction between the pre-determination of good and the pre-determination of evil. God delights in good. He hates evil. He pre-determines both, but in different ways. While He may pre-determine evil, He never commits it nor approves of it. As for good, He alone is its source and author. Get it?
3. Along with Augustine, Calvin, Edwards, et al, we affirm God's absolute sovereignty without denying the voluntary choice and moral responsibility of human beings.

What are the Benefits of Casual Determinism?

1. Philosophical and theological arguments against causal determinism are rendered powerless because Casual Determinism may or may not entail Causal Determinism.
2. We do not have to deny human freedom in order to affirm divine determinism. We are quite casual in recognizing the fact that some type of genuine human freedom exists alongside determinism. And we do not need to solve all of the mysteries of the universe in order to affirm what the Bible clearly teaches.
3. We can interpret all events through the lens of God's absolute sovereignty.
4. We can speak of circumstances and human choices in the same ways the Biblical authors spoke of them, without feeling that we are somehow attributing evil to God or somehow denying His sovereignty.

We can be rather casual in our determinism because GOD is GOD, His Word is TRUE, and it is not our job to know everything.

Our role is to study His Word, worship His majesty, trust His wisdom, follow Christ, and proclaim His Truth. Regarding these things, we are anything but casual!



Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Christ's Conquest of the Self-Life: A Thematic Study of Philippians

Here is a link to a PowerPoint presentation from a message I shared at church some time ago. There are 23 slides, including a few illustrations. It is based on three of the key themes in the book of Philippians. I hope it is a blessing to you!


Christ's conquest of the believer's self-life is . . .
  1. Conditioned upon God's work in us
  2. Concentrated in God-ordained relationships
  3. Completed in union with Christ