From Aomin: God and Evil; The Trauma of Sovereignty

11 03 2010

This is a good article by James Swan that I read over at www.aomin.org

God and Evil: The Trauma of Sovereignty

03/09/2010 – James Swan

I’m not particularly keen on reinventing wheels. Part of the fortunate heritage of the Reformed worldview is that much better minds than mine have studied the Biblical text, then formulated its information into concise doctrinal statements. Of course the statements are only as good as the verses they’re based on. For instance, chapter three of the Westminster Confession of Faith states:

God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass:[1] yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin,[2] nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.[3]

1. Psa. 33:11: Eph. 1:11: Heb. 6:17
2. Psa. 5:4; James 1:13-14; I John 1:5; see Hab. 1:13
3. Acts 2:23; 4:27-28: Matt. 17:12; John 19:11; Prov. 16:33

If one were going to dispute this statement, it shouldn’t be by philosophic speculation, tradition, or an emotional feeling. It should be done by proving the Biblical texts used don’t support the statement being made. Such though typically isn’t the case. The counter charge often begins with the assertion that Reformed theology turns God into a puppet master and the author of evil. The ingredient said to be missing is free will. It’s touted that by adding free willto a biblical summary statement, a completely different view of sovereignty emerges, one which absolves God of being the author of evil and provides humanity with true freedom. Some go as far to say that the God of Reformed theology is far from Biblical.

Before a Reformed person pounces on such a counter view, one thing shouldn’t be overlooked. Those who find Reformed theology illogical often have no other intent than to vigorously defend the honor of God as not being the author of evil, and wanting to place responsibility for evil and sin clearly on the shoulders of mankind. The irony of course is that the Reformed don’t hold God to be the author of evil, nor do they consider men to be mere puppets. We agree with them that God is good and men are responsible. We’re on a similar page in some respects, but the theological explanation as to how we both got there is very different. There are also crucial ramifications on other important areas of soteriology based on those differing explanations.

When non-Reformed people argue against the Reformed understanding of sovereignty, I have to immediately ask them how they also avoid their own argument. If we apply their argument against their own position what happens? They similarly believe God created all that is, and knew the beginning from the end before He created. If I knew in advance that a person was going to get in their car by their own choice, and while driving down the road strike and kill someone, and I let them do it,I share responsibility. It’s actually a severely culpable responsibility because I knew and they didn’t. When God chooses to create knowing full well what evil will happen, and creates anyway, I don’t see how a non-Reformed person can avoid the same charge they place on us. Also, if God knows what we’re going to choose when he creates us, do we really have free will? We certainly can’t choose otherwise at that point. Further, to really make a free choice, those choices would have to be uncaused by circumstances surrounding us. Don’t genetic and environmental factors place quite a burden on the proper and pure operation of free will? The long chain of events leading up to our point of choosing can’t in any way be caused by God for our choices to be truly free. If God is behind that long chain of events, shouldn’t God share at least some responsibility?

Many of you probably realize the above arguments are those typically launched by atheists against theists that use free will to absolve God of evil and determinism. One thing should jump out immediately: garden variety non-Reformed people really share a similar dilemma as the Reformed. Rarely though will a non-Reformed person admit that their view of sovereignty if scrutinized by an atheist, ends up with the conclusion that people are puppets and God is ultimately the author of evil. When the non-Reformed argue against us, they need to explain why they aren’t arguing against themselves. Then they should explain why they use our paradigms when trouble or evil enters their lives. They can’t escape their own heart of faith that knows “God is in control” and that all works according to His purposes. Everything is a free will adventure until tough circumstance befall a non-Reformed person. Then come cries for God’s sovereign control.

The battle therefore really shouldn’t be the Reformed versus the non-Reformed. The battle should be Christian theism versus atheism. The battle is between belief and unbelief. If you have non-Reformed friends that attack your Reformed understanding of sovereignty, with love and respect you have to show them they are standing right next to you facing common enemies: the world, the flesh, and the Devil. If their own arguments work just as well against their own position, they don’t have valid arguments. Then it’s to the Biblical text, to see whose view fits the evidence of Scripture. There, free will as understood by the non-Reformed crumbles under the weight of clear Scripture.

One of the problems with non-Reformed argumentation on this subject is it’s application of extra-Biblical reasoning rather than simply taking sola scriptura to its logical conclusion. This isn’t readily admitted. No Christian wants to admit their core belief on this issue is tainted. Of course, making generalized statements typically isn’t safe, but I’ve found probing through typical non-Reformed explanations of sin and the nature of the will ultimately turn “The carnal mind is enmity against God for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” into “That man has a will and the ability to choose from his heart (indeed that he must in order to please God) is abundantly clear from the repeated references to ‘heart’ throughout Scripture” (Dave Hunt, Debating Calvinism pp.339-340). The Reformed hold whatever views we have of God’s sovereignty and man”s will must be based only on the Scriptures. If God says he’s sovereign, we’re enslaved to sin and responsible, and he’s not the author of sin, that is precisely who God is and how the world is. It doesn’t matter how many times the word “heart” is used. If the Bible repeatedly describes the will and heart as enslaved and dead in sin, that’s indeed what it is.

Only the eyes of faith want to know who God is and what the exact plight of man is according to Scripture. By worldly standards, a sovereign God and a spiritually dead sinner sounds absurd, utterly foolish. The God invented by mankind is more of a loving aged grandfather. It holds all each person, though they make mistakes, all have a spark of goodness within them simply needing to be ignited. Contrary to this, 1 Corinthians tells us how a central tenet of our theology, the cross of Jesus Christ, is foolishness to the world. The passage should serve as a reminder that much of what we believe as Christians will be considered foolish. Is it foolish to believe that a sovereign God created everything from nothing, knew the beginning from the end, is not the author of evil, and that men are responsible? I say without the eyes of faith, it is, but it’s just as foolish as other central beliefs of Christianity:

Christians believe that a virgin gave birth to the Son of God. Is this not just as “foolish” as believing God is sovereign, not the author of evil, and that we are responsible?

Christians believe that this baby was fully God and fully man, infinite and finite at the same time. Is this not just as “foolish” as believing God is sovereign, not the author of evil, and that we are responsible?

Christians believe that God almighty spent his infancy being taken care of by a woman, nursed and diapered. Is this not just as “foolish” as believing God is sovereign, not the author of evil, and that we are responsible?

Christians believe that God Almighty had a job. He was a carpenter. Is this not just as “foolish” as believing God is sovereign, not the author of evil, and that we are responsible?

Christians believe that a man deemed to be a criminal by his own people and by the governing powers was God. God Almighty, the most powerful force that is, was nailed to a cross and died in weakness. Is this not just as “foolish” as believing God is sovereign, not the author of evil, and that we are responsible?

Christians believe that God has communicated to us via a book. The book is perfect, even though written by sinful human beings. The book also is authored by God the Holy Spirit. Is this not just as “foolish” as believing God is sovereign, not the author of evil, and that we are responsible?

This of course is only a partial list. We could go on, exploring many more facets of Christian theology. I think non-Reformed Christians often forget the deep mysteries of the faith. There are simply facets of Christianity that can’t be dissected philosophically or understood completely. God’s sovereignty and human responsibility is just as mysterious as all those things listed above. As Christians, we don’t simply pick and choose what we’re going to believe based on if it makes sense to us. When our non-Reformed friends chastise us for believing something that sounds utterly foolish, we need to remind them of all the foolish things they likewise believe along with us. We have to press them to choose either the world’s wisdom of the loving grandfather and humanity’s spark of goodness, or the foolish paradigm of a holy sovereign king and enslaved sinful humanity.

Attempting to get an infinite being off the hook because of his sovereignty is a difficult plight for anyone claiming to adhere to Christian theism. It’s a built in failure that the finite will never be able to fully comprehend the infinite. I can’t even wrap my brain around the fact that a simple line with two points on either end has an infinite amount of points in between. How is it possible I can see the beginning and ending of a line, yet have infinity in the middle? As Christians, we’re surrounded by more mysteries than we even realize. But some of those mysteries are holy. In terms of getting God’s sovereignty off the hook, perhaps it would be wiser to simply stand back in awe of his holiness and infinitude.

Simply because it is a mystery though, doesn’t mean Reformed people don’t have any Biblical information to prove their view. The Bible repeatedly shows us that God decreed all things, and that people are still held accountable for their actions, especially their sinful actions.Theologians refers to this as compatibilism: God’s decree is compatible with a person?s will. They don’t contradict each other.

In Genesis 50 we find Joseph, whose brothers sold him into the evil of slavery, who lied to their father breaking his heart, claiming Joseph was dead. In front of his brothers, years later Joseph states, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” The two statements in Hebrew are in direct parallel. Joseph’s brothers meant evil by their actions, but God intended the same actions for good. The text shows one action with two intentions. This same principle can be found in Isaiah 10: 5-12, where God uses Assyria as an instrument of judgment on the rebellious people of Israel, and then holds Assyria responsible for her sinful attitude and desires against Israel. The text shows one action with two intentions, a sinful intention and a holy intention.The most important example of compatibilism though is Acts 4:27-28. Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles and the Jews all sinfully join forces to crucify Jesus. Yet God?s predestined the entire event for his holy purpose.

R.C. Sproul wrote a chapter a number of years ago entitled, “The Trauma of Holiness.” Similarly, I think looking at this issue as “the trauma of God’s sovereignty” is a good beginning. We need to remind the non-Reformed of the danger is defining God’s sovereignty differently than the way the Bible has expressed it. It’s not simply an issue that we can be haphazard with. It demands reverence, caution, and meekness. The Belgic Confession rightly puts the humble spirit of a Christian before us on this issue:

As to what God does surpassing human understanding, we will not curiously inquire into farther than our capacity will admit of; but with the greatest humility and reverence adore the righteous judgment of God, which are hid from us, contenting ourselves that we are pupils of Christ, to learn only those things which he has revealed to us in His word, without transgressing these limits.





Brian Broaderson…what Jesus do you worship?

10 02 2010

C’mon Calvary Chapel…learn what you argue against…





An excerpt From John Gill’s “The Cause of God and Truth.”

10 02 2010

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

I thought that I’d post a short section of the public domain book by John Gill “The cause of God and truth.” This particular section is about the assumption that many make about 2nd Peter 2:1.

Give it a read…

Section 54—2 Peter 2:1.

This passage of scripture is often produced as a proof both of the saints’ final and total apostasy, and of universal redemption; or that, besides those that are saved, Christ died also for them that perish. Dr. Whitby mentions the several answers which different men give to these words: one says, Christ bought these persons only to be slaves; another, that he died to rescue them from temporal, but not eternal punishments; a third, that he died for them because he gave a sufficient price for them; a fourth, that they denied that Lord whom they professed to have bought them; and a fifth, that they denied him, who, in the judgment of other men, had bought them. Upon which he observes, that they are so extravagant, that it is as easy to confute as to recite them.

1. I do not think myself concerned to defend any of these senses of the text mentioned, judging neither of them to be the meaning of the words, and so have nothing to do with the reasonings made use of in the confutation of them; though, perhaps, the two latter are not so extravagant as represented. However, in order to give the genuine sense of this text, let it be observed,

2. That Christ is not here at all spoken of; nor is there one syllable of his dying for any persons, in any sense whatever. The word despo>thv, Lord, does not design Christ but God the Father of Christ. The only places besides this where this word is used, when applied to a divine person, are Luke 2:29, Acts 4:24, 2 Timothy 2:21, Jude 1:4, Revelation 6:10, in all which places God the Father is plainly intended, and in most of them manifestly distinguished from Christ; nor is there anything in this text or context which obliges us to understand it of the Son of God; nor should this be thought any diminution of the glory of Christ, since the word despo>thv is properly expressive only of that power which masters have over their servants; whereas the word ku>riov, which is used whenever Christ is called Lord, signifies that dominion and authority which princes have over their subjects. Besides, Christ is called King of kings, and Lord of lords, and the only Potentate; yea, God over all, blessed for ever.

Moreover,

3. When these persons are said to be bought, the meaning is, not that they were redeemed by the blood of Christ, for, as is before observed, Christ is not intended. Besides, whenever redemption by Christ is spoken of, the price is usually mentioned, or some circumstance or another which fully determines the sense of it; (see Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 6:20; Eph.1:7; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; Rev. 5:9; Rev. 14:3-4), whereas here is not the least hint of anything of this kind. Add to this, that such who are redeemed by Christ, are never left to deny him, so as to perish eternally; for could such be lost, or bring on themselves swift destruction, Christ’s purchase would be in vain, and the ransom price be paid for naught. But, 4. The word buying regards temporal deliverance, and particularly the redemption of the people of Israel out of Egypt; who are therefore called the people the Lord had purchased. The phrase is borrowed from Deuteronomy 32:6; Do ye thus requite the Lord,

O foolish people and unwise? Is not he thy Father that hath bought thee? Hath he not made thee and established thee?

Nor is this the only place the apostle Peter refers to in this chapter; (see vv. 12, 13, compared with Deuteronomy 32:5). Now the persons the apostle writes to, were Jews, the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithyna, a people who, in all ages, valued, themselves upon, and boasted mightily of their being the bought, purchased people of the Lord; wherefore Peter makes use of this phrase much in the same manner as Moses had done before him, to aggravate the ingratitude and impiety of these false teachers among the Jews; that they should deny, if not in words, at least in works, that mighty Jehovah, who had of old redeemed their fathers out of Egypt, with a stretched out arm, and, in successive ages, had distinguished them with peculiar favors; being ungodly men, turning the grace, the doctrine of the grace of God, into lasciviousness

 Hence,

5. Nothing can be concluded from this passage in favor of Christ’s dying for them that perish; since neither Christ, nor the death of Christ, nor redemption by his blood, are here once mentioned, nor in the least intended. Nor can these words be thought to be a proof and instance of the final and total apostasy of real saints, since there is not anything said of these false teachers, which gives any reason to believe that they were true believers in Christ, or ever had the grace of the Spirit wrought in their souls.

, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 





The clay pots and the potter…when will we realize our place?

11 01 2010

Recently I have been reading a book called  “The Potter’s freedom” by James White. It’s a response to Norman Geisler’s book: “Chosen but Free.”

As I was reading, a few passages really struck a chord in me…(as I’ve had a few conversations lately with Christians who abhor the idea that God is sovereign in his dealings with men…Volcanoes? No problem, Rain? No biggie….but the will of man? That’s the one place that men will never let God be God…) and so I thought I’d post at least a couple of them to show the absurdity of this elevated view of the will of man.

Here are those passages:

First is the passage, recording God’s actions in using Assyria against Israel as is seen in Isaiah 10:5–19

5 “What sorrow awaits Assyria, the rod of my anger.

I use it as a club to express my anger.

6 I am sending Assyria against a godless nation,

against a people with whom I am angry.

Assyria will plunder them,

trampling them like dirt beneath its feet.

7 But the king of Assyria will not understand that he is my tool;

his mind does not work that way.

His plan is simply to destroy,

to cut down nation after nation.

8 He will say,

‘Each of my princes will soon be a king.

9 We destroyed Calno just as we did Carchemish.

Hamath fell before us as Arpad did.

And we destroyed Samaria just as we did Damascus.

10 Yes, we have finished off many a kingdom

whose gods were greater than those in Jerusalem and Samaria.

11 So we will defeat Jerusalem and her gods,

just as we destroyed Samaria with hers.’ ”

12 After the Lord has used the king of Assyria to accomplish his purposes on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, he will turn against the king of Assyria and punish him—for he is proud and arrogant. 13 He boasts,

“By my own powerful arm I have done this.

With my own shrewd wisdom I planned it.

I have broken down the defenses of nations

and carried off their treasures.

I have knocked down their kings like a bull.

14 I have robbed their nests of riches

and gathered up kingdoms as a farmer gathers eggs.

No one can even flap a wing against me

or utter a peep of protest.”

15 But can the ax boast greater power than the person who uses it?

Is the saw greater than the person who saws?

Can a rod strike unless a hand moves it?

Can a wooden cane walk by itself?

16 Therefore, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,

will send a plague among Assyria’s proud troops,

and a flaming fire will consume its glory.

17 The Lord, the Light of Israel, will be a fire;

the Holy One will be a flame.

He will devour the thorns and briers with fire,

burning up the enemy in a single night.

18 The Lord will consume Assyria’s glory

like a fire consumes a forest in a fruitful land;

it will waste away like sick people in a plague.

19 Of all that glorious forest, only a few trees will survive—

so few that a child could count them!

God is seen using Assyria to bring judgment against Israel, yet when the Lord is finished using Assyria in this act, then He punishes them for it…God’s freedom in His dealing with men permeates scripture; here, Isaiah calls men pots and God the Potter:

Isaiah 29:16

16 How foolish can you be?

He is the Potter, and he is certainly greater than you, the clay!

Should the created thing say of the one who made it,

“He didn’t make me”?

Does a jar ever say,

“The potter who made me is stupid”?

Isaiah 45:9

9 “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator.

Does a clay pot argue with its maker?

Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying,

‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’

Does the pot exclaim,

‘How clumsy can you be?’

We can understand God as the great vending machine in the sky, but can we accept Him as the all powerful, King that He is?





The Free-Will song…uh…did you forget something?

15 11 2009

Defending the truth put this video up and I thought it was very well done.

The exaltation of the free will of man in the church today has risen to Idolatrous proportions, and as this video shows…this…libertarian free will is a baseless assumption.





Free book download: “By Grace Alone” by Pastor Jim McClarty

8 11 2009

I’ve read this book several times, and given my last copy out.

I stumbled across the free PDF online and so I thought you’d like to check it out. If you like what you read here (and you can read the whole book if you wish) then buy one from Pastor McClarty; Pastor of Grace Christian Assembly…and thereby support a solid ministry. This is a time when any crackpot can spread whatever false doctrine they wish, but in this, you’ve found a gem; Pastor McClarty writes clearly and engagingly. He supports every point with clearly explained scripture.

Here is an excerpt:

As a Bible teacher, I am often asked, “What does your church believe?” It
hardly suffices to answer, “We believe the Bible.” Most Christian churches
would say the same. So, the purpose of this book is to clarify what we at
Grace Christian Assembly believe and why we believe it.
I am not the first writer to attempt presenting these doctrines in the
contemporary forum. But these are weighty subjects. So, far too often,
this material is presented in a manner so full of theological jargon that
the average layman is left as perplexed at the last page as he was at the
first. Therefore, it is my hope and intention that this presentation is clear
and concise and fully accessible to every reader “with eyes to see.”
The first rule of Bible interpretation has always been: The Bible says
what it means and means what it says. The second rule is like the first:
Scripture interprets Scripture.
It is not at all uncommon for preachers to “hunt and peck” through
Scripture, searching for out-of-context verses that appear to support the
particular theology, tradition, or “philosophical presupposition” the man
or his denomination holds dear. But, the Apostle Paul warned –
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain
deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the
world, and not after Christ (Colossians 2:8).
For this reason, we have supported each of these doctrines with a
variety of Scripture references. But, we are quick to point out that this is
far from an exhaustive study. When it comes to considering the work and
nature of Christ, even the apostle John had to conclude “…if they should
be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain
the books that should be written” (John 21:25).

 

Check it out HERE





Out of the abundance of the heart; the mouth speaks…

6 09 2009

The bible says that what’s in a person’s heart is what comes out of them. Hatred? It will surface. Anger? It’s gonna come out. Jealously? Wait for it…it will come out.

There is a person (actually there is more than one; another winner is OpenAirPreacher) on You tube who has such hatred in his heart that it’s just astounding. Who does he hate?

Satan?

Sadly, no…he hates a great brother from Christian history; John Calvin.

The bible says that whoever hates his brother is a murderer and no murderer will enter Heaven…here is a video illustrating the difference between the “fruits of the spirit” like love, patience, kindness, and….well….you’ll see.

Thanks to Jason for this video.








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