Archive for February, 2012

A Couple of Complications With Calvinism, Part 2

Now, there is a second issue that would seem to be problematic for the Calvinist’s “ordu salutis.” For the Calvinist, man is totally depraved and is therefore unable to respond to God unless and until God first regenerates him thus enabling him to exercise repentance and faith to be converted. Apart from this initiative that is God’s and God’s alone, man cannot and will not be saved. Once God regenerates the fallen individual, repentance and faith are all simultaneous with regeneration bringing about conversion and new birth. As Calvinists are challenged with the charge that they believe “regeneration precedes repentance and saving faith” their response is often “no, that is not what we believe.” Since they believe the process is all simultaneous, then they can honestly say they do not believe “regeneration does precedes repentance and faith.” However, this is not really a totally accurate response and when asked, “Do you believe repentance and saving faith precede regeneration and conversion,” their answer is often more evasive than direct.

Here is a major problem for what is called a monergistic approach to conversion. Monergism posits a belief that God and God alone through the Holy Spirit works to bring about “effectually” the salvation of individuals with no input from the individual himself and so the tenet of “Irresistible Grace” and “Limited Atonement” come into focus. In this position, God and God alone saves individuals who are condemned because of their sin.
There is a major problem with this position. Jesus is BOTH Lord and Savior. The Reformed position certainly focuses on Jesus becoming Savior. God chooses who is and is not saved. The question that needs to be answered is this: If God indeed makes Jesus ones Savior through the gift of faith and grace that He and He alone gives to the new born individual, does He then also by this same gift of grace make Jesus Lord of that person’s life? The argument that propels Calvinism is this notion that God in His sovereignty is a God who “saves those He has chosen to save” as opposed to being a God who “wants to save those He has chosen to save.” Here is the question. If God does save as the Monergistic God of the Calvinist posits, then does He not also make Jesus Lord for the same individual?

Because Jesus is certainly Savior of the new born Christian, how does the monergistic view of conversion apply to the Lordship aspect of the new born Christian? How does the presence of sin in the life of the new born Christian challenge the Lordship aspect of the monergistic role of God in the salvific process? If God and God alone does save and cannot fail in His decretive work, it would seem that God’s salvific work would also make God sovereign in the Lordship aspect of the new born Christian’s existence and that would by necessity lead to a life of sinlessness for the new born Christian. The Reformed Theology proponent holds on to God’s monergistic work in the tenet of irresistible grace whereby the lost, unregenerate individual accepts Jesus as Savior and God who is sovereign accomplishes what He sets out to do. If this same tenet is applied to God’s making Jesus Lord of the same individual, then it would follow that in His sovereignty He would also make the new born Christian immune to the power of sin because he will submit to the Lordship of Christ instead of continuing to be held captive to the old sin nature that God has effectually and efficaciously put to death at conversion.

Since the new born Christian is not set free from sin completely, one of two conclusions must be true. First, salvation is not monergistic or it would make God not only responsible for those who go to hell, it would also make God directly responsible for the sin the saved person commits. If Jesus is indeed Lord in a monergistic mindset where God does not just “want to save” but accomplishes what He decrees with respect to Jesus as Savior, the same must be true of His Lordship in the life of the new born believer and the ongoing effects of sin on the believer. The second conclusion is simple. Since sin is a present reality in the new born Christian’s life and challenges the question of the implicit benefits of an actual Lordship relationship in the life of the new born Christian, God’s monergistic work with respect to the Lordship of Christ in the new born believer is in all actuality challenged and along with it, His monergistic work in making Jesus Savior. If making Jesus Lord is synergistic as opposed to monergistic, so must making Jesus ones Savior be synergistic as well.

A Couple of Complications With Calvinism, Part 1

A principle problem with the Calvinist tenet of Total Depravity or Inability can be seen in the Jewish concept of sin. In Judaism, there is no concept of “original sin”. There is no Jewish concept of the effects of sin being passed on to future generations. Judaism teaches that man is not born sinful. When man is born he neither carries the burden of sin committed by his ancestors nor is he tainted by it. Sin is the result of human inclinations, which must be properly controlled. In the Jewish mindset, sin literally means “missing the mark” like an arrow missing the bulls eye on a target. Man sins when he strays from God’s Law and is disobedient to His Law. The early stories in Genesis teach that these human inclinations “are the result of evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21, see also Jer. 32:30).

Pardon in the Old Testament actually appears for the first time in Exodus 23. “Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him. But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” (Ex 23:20-22) Here the angel is almost assuredly a reference to the One who led the children of Israel out of Egypt and then appeared as the Shekinah glory of God that guided the children of Israel through the wilderness and then led them into the Promised Land. This “angel” is no doubt the One who spoke to Moses in Exodus 33:14, saying, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” This angel is the “presence” or face of God (Isa 63:9,18; Ex 34:6) His “glory” is no other than “the Angel of the Covenant” (Mal 3:1), the Messiah, the Christ ( John 1:14; 14:9; 1 Cor 10:4; Heb 1:3).

Notice the instruction given to Moses to give to the children of Israel. “Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions.” Take heed to give reverent attention to this One because He is God” and obey His voice. Obedience to the Word of God is seen in the Old Testament over and over again. Obedience to God’s Word is the foundation of the Shema, which is considered to be the most important part of Jewish prayer service. It is traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words in this life, and it is customary for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night. This prayer is recited out loud on Yom Kippur demonstrating the overwhelming need for God’s salvation.

The Shema begins with the declaration, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4) relating to the kingship of God. There is an admonition that follows the declaration, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deut 6:5-9) This love demonstrated in obedience to God’s Word becomes the foundation for reward and punishment. It contains the promise of reward for serving God with all one’s heart, soul, and might (Deut 11:13) and for the fulfillment of the laws. It also contains punishment for transgression. There is an admonition directed to the individual Jew as well as one directed at the whole community of all the Jews.

The plea for pardon appears for the first time in Exodus 34, in the story of the golden calf where Moses prayed to God on behalf of the people who had sinned terribly against God; “If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.” (Ex 34:9) The Israelites had transgressed God’s Law and had done so in an egregious manner. Moses prayed to God on their behalf.

Again in Numbers 14, when the people threatened to stone Joshua and Caleb for encouraging the people to trust God and to go into the Promised Land in spite of the report of strong obstacles facing the Israelites, God’s anger burned against them. “And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel. Then the Lord said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” (Num 14:10-12) Moses interceded on their behalf and prayed for God’s pardon for His people. (Num 14:20-24)

“Then the Lord said: ‘I have pardoned, according to your word; but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord — because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it’.” What is interesting here is this: there is no reference whatsoever to any suggestion or even a hint of any concept of total depravity and certainly no concept of in ability on anyone’s part to respond to God. It simply is not in the Old Testament.

Consider Exodus 20:4-6, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image — any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Here and in Exodus 34, and Numbers 14, the Scriptures themselves answer the question of the validity of total depravity; there is none or else there would be no warning concerning disobedience being “visited on the third and fourth generations.” If they were totally depraved as Reformed Theology contends, there would be no validity to the warning.

Ezekiel 18 presents an interesting treatment of sin and redemption as provided for by God. “Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live? (Ezek 18:19-23)

God’s instruction here is clear; “Turn and live.” “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord God. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezek 18:30-32) This is God’s Word of instruction and there is no hint of His being the catalyst of repentance whatsoever. Repentance is the responsibility of the sinner; not the One sinned against. Once again, there is no hint of total depravity or inability presented in the Old Testament.

This is not to say that sin is not present in the Old Testament nor is it to suggest that the presence of sin in the world has no effect on the sinner. David acknowledges this in Psalm, when he says that he was born in iniquity and conceived in sin. (Psalm 51:5-6) Sin is an ever present reality. Sin is an individual problem and even a national problem but the focus of sin is on those committing the sin and the One sin is committed against who will forgive that sin if those committing the sin would “humble themselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from their wicked ways.” (2 Chron. 7:14) David also understood that he and he alone was responsible to God for his sin (Psalm 51:2-5) and he also knew that God and God alone was the One who could and would forgive his sin. (Psalm 51:7-19) David did not repent of his sin because God gave him some special grace to do so; he repented because God’s Word through the touch of the Holy Spirit working in his heart convicted him of his sin and God’s love demonstrated to Him and to Israel is their long and storied past caused David to fall to His knees and cry out to God for forgiveness so that God might bless him and in being blessed, David might be a blessing to others.

Is There a Reformed Conspiracy to Take Over the SBC?

The following is a comment I left at SBC Voices concerning an article, titled, “Is There a Reformed Conspiracy to Take Over the SBC?” The article can be read by clicking HERE.

For the record, there is no Reformed conspiracy to take over the SBC. You are correct. A conspiracy would involve a “secretive” effort. Calvinists are way past that point and are successfully extending their reach farther and farther into SBC Life. There is a marked difference in the Convention and the entities. You are correct in your statement that the SBC is an annual meeting of messengers who vote to do or not to do certain things.

The entities of the SBC are entirely different. The trustees make decisions that determine the direction of the various entities. The trustees of NAMB elected the new President. They voted “sweeping changes” of NAMB in Feb 2011. The same thing is true of the seminaries. Trustees are responsible for the leadership and direction of the entity they are charged to oversee. Same for Lifeway. Trustee appointments are crucial to the overall health of the convention because the entities are kind of like a rudder on a ship. It may be one of the smallest parts of a ship, but it is the most important part when it comes to navigating the direction of the ship.

While I do not claim any conspiracy theories, there has been a definite effort to get key people in key positions in the various entities to give the Reformed Platform the visibility it needs to prosper and the viability it needs to persevere. To try to argue against this is ludicrous. Here is an excellent article that speaks to the positioning of key people in the seminaries, NAMB and Lifeway that are clearly and carefully charting the course for a Calvinistic led SBC. The article is titled, “Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention: Code RED” Most of you know I wrote the article.

Anyone who understands how the SBC works understands that those who control the entities eventually directs the future of the convention. Like it or not, it is the way it is. The Reformed minority has managed to gain control of the entities and that is reality. They have done a masterful job in accomplishing so much with so little attention on what they have done.

The article can be read by clicking HERE.

Total Depravity and Regeneration: Really?

Read Exodus chapter 3.

2 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” 4 So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”

And he said, “Here I am.”

5 Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” 6 Moreover He said,”I am the God of your father — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.

Where in this passage is there any hint of the regenerative work of God so that Moses could hear or even respond to God? It is not there. Read on.

11 But Moses said to God,”Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 So He said,”I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

13 Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”

God tells Moses to go to the leaders of the children of Israel and speak to them and tell them “I AM WHO I AM has sent me.” Where is regeneration indicated or even hinted at in the children of Israel so that they will hear and respond and not reject anything good from God? Notice verse 18, God says to Moses, “18 Then they will heed your voice;”

Not there.

Fast forward to Exodus 19, verses 3 and 4.

3And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 4`Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you unto Myself.

Where is there any mention of even a hint that God has regenerated anyone’s heart here so that the children of Israel who are without regeneration nothing more than totally depraved individuals whose only response here apart from God’s efficacious calling is to reject God’s revelation and Word to be spoken to them by Moses? (So say Calvinists)

It is not there because the whole concept is not Biblical. God spoke to His people through Moses and He expected them to respond and their response determined His response. This is what covenant does. God makes a promise and man’s response becomes the determining factor in the application of God’s promise.

It is like accepting a job offer. If one goes to work and fulfills the obligation of the covenant or agreement to work, THEN there is a payday. This is the concept of covenant in both the Old and New Testaments. Conversion is our response to God’s provision and promise to save those who call on Him and by faith trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Seems so simple to me.

I am so Grateful to be in His Grip!