BOOK REVIEW: Gentle and Lowly

I’ve been reading Gentle and Lowly: the heart of Christ for sinners and sufferers, by Dane Ortlund. I’ve heard this book praised by many people, not all from the same theological background either.

One of my hobbies in life is to analyze things that “everyone” likes. I enjoy being contrarian! I know that if many people like something, it’s probably wrong!

So, those are my upfront admissions! You know where I’m coming from.

The point of the book is that Jesus is a lot more loving than we think. He bases his points on Puritan writings, which I find slightly ironic. Puritans are Calvinists. Calvinists are the ones who have beaten wrath and judgment into our heads.

One of the reasons people don’t think God is as loving as the Bible says is because of Calvinism! Their stress on wrath and justice in the Gospel has diminished love. You can look at all the verses in the Bible that mention the Gospel and you will see love associated with it way more than wrath or justice. Yet Calvinism has majored on those and minored on love.

So, for a guy to use Calvinist writings to prove God is loving and not so wrathful is kind of odd. You will also notice he can’t quote a ton from most of them!

If Calvinism hadn’t taken over the Gospel, this book would not have been necessary.

At the same time, I also think people like the book because it emphasizes love and mercy. Both are fine things, but in so doing he does kind of make it sound like sin isn’t that big of a deal. I know that’s not the author’s point, I’m not accusing him of anything, I actually like most of the book as it is a needed corrective of the Calvinist wrath motif. But I do know people are hearing him that way.

“God loves to be merciful” sounds to most people like, “Should we sin that grace may abound? Absolutely yes, go for it!”

I think the two reasons people like this book are because for once a Calvinist emphasizes love, and his emphasis sounds like an ok to go sin.

Me, being a not-Calvinist, heard his Calvinism throughout the book. He never harped on it much, so it was not a hurdle to my enjoyment. Then I got to chapter 22! He let it all out in this chapter!

How much less could we comprehend what it meant for God to funnel the cumulative judgment for all the sinfulness of his people down onto one man. But reflecting on what we feel toward, say, the perpetrator of some unthinkable act of abuse toward an innocent victim gives us a taste of what God felt toward Christ as he, the last Adam, stood in for the sins of God’s people. The righteous human wrath we feel—the wrath we would be wrong not to feel—is a drop in the ocean of righteous divine wrath the Father unleashed.

After all, God punished Jesus not for the sin of just one person but many. What must it mean when Isaiah says of the servant that “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6)? What was it for Christ to swallow down the cumulative twistedness, self-enthronement, natural God hatred, of the elect? What must it have been for the sum total of righteous divine wrath generated not just by one man’s sin but “the iniquity of us all” to come crashing down on a single soul?

So, there ya have it! Calvinistic wrath in all its glory.

God “unleashed” “divine wrath” on Jesus. It would be more than the wrath we would feel toward a child abuser. God views Jesus as worse than a child abuser is the idea. The “sum total of righteous divine wrath” “came crashing down on a single soul.”

There are no verses that say any of this. Yes, he includes Isaiah 53:6 that our iniquities were laid on Christ, no argument there. But the whole divine wrath on Jesus is a complete abstraction. The Bible nowhere says that God the Father had wrath toward His Son. “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Isaiah 53 has several mentions of God being pleased with the Suffering Servant. There is no wrath. Why would God be upset with Jesus for doing the most loving, sacrificial work ever done to save us from our sin? It makes no sense.

Several times Ortlund says Jesus suffered hell. Again there is no place in the Bible where it says Jesus went to hell for us. The KJV uses “hell” sometimes instead of “the grave,” but other than that, there is nothing about Jesus going to hell. “Today you will be with me in paradise” is the only mention of where Jesus went after His death. Maybe he’s being metaphorical with the hell talk. That’s my best take, otherwise it’s all speculative.

During his explanation of suffering God’s wrath, Ortlund doesn’t quote many verses. There’s a reason for that! Here’s one snippet he throws in to give seeming biblical support:

And in venting that righteous wrath God was not striking a morally neutral tree. He was splintering the Lovely One. Beauty and Goodness Himself was being uglified and vilified. “Stricken, smitten by God” (Isaiah 53:4).

Isaiah 53:4 has more words in it that Ortlund leaves out:

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

There are some key words in here he conveniently leaves out: “we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God.” See, that’s not saying Jesus was stricken and smitten by God; it means that’s how we viewed it. When Christ was on the cross He was being mocked. “He saved others, he cannot save himself.” This was their ultimate victory. They overcame and killed the one who claimed to be equal with God. Humanity’s view is that God was against this so called Messiah. Is God really for a guy who we just nailed to a cross? I don’t think so! God is clearly against this guy.

So, where does all this orgy of God’s wrath on Jesus come from? It comes from extrapolating a lot out of “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Ortlund talks about this passage for a few paragraphs. Allow me to quote his opening phrase about Jesus being forsaken:

“It’s speculation.” (pg. 200).

Yup, it is!

The whole God’s wrath on Jesus angle is speculation, because it says it nowhere in the Bible. If the point were clear, Ortlund would not have to speculate. But he does.

If you read the context of Psalm 22, which begins with “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” You will note that the forsakenness is dealing with physical death. As the chapter goes on you’ll see many prophecies that were fulfilled while Jesus was on the cross. You will also note that the Psalm ends with a clear understanding that he’s not forsaken by God. Yes, he’s forsaken to the point of physical suffering, but essentially he knows he’s ok. His feeling is not the full story.

For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard (Psalm 22:24).

Jesus did suffer, but God did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted. He wasn’t really forsaken. It looked like He was, we esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, but in the end the Lord was with Him and heard His cries.

I guarantee you the thought of God when Christ was on the cross was not wrath against Jesus; it was sorrow. If our sin grieves the Holy Spirit, how much more must it have grieved God to see what was going on here?

In the end, this chapter refutes the entirety of the rest of Ortlund’s book. Ortlund tells me several times that God is my Father and the Father loves His sons. God only has love and mercy and compassion toward His kids. Except of course for His one Son who never did anything wrong; He blasted Him with His wrath! If God can be that upset with His one perfect Son, what chance do I have?

That’s exactly why Ortlund wrote this book, to balance out the wrathful extreme of Calvinist doctrine. I like that people like the book because he’s right when he’s right. He just can’t bring himself to admit that it’s Calvinism’s gospel that caused the problem in the first place!

Oh well. Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

God was never wrathful about His Son this I know, for the Bible also tells me so.

Stick with the Bible. You’ll have a much better understanding of God.

If God Is Doing All the Stupid, How Can We be Comforted By Him?

Calvinists often say they believe God directs every detail of life because it comforts them. Kids can walk away from the faith, politicians from the other side get in office, people die tragically, and other terrible things are couched with, “God is in control and His plan will not be thwarted. He knows what He’s doing.”

People console themselves with this notion that God is behind all the pain and evil in the world.

I, for one, do not understand how this gives anyone comfort. If God does all the evil then the character of God is undermined. If God is the doer of all the evil, then how can I trust Him? How is He one I’d go to for comfort if He’s the cause of my discomfort? Where is the comfort of the Comforter if the Comforter is making me uncomfortable? I find no solace here. I find the problem has just been exacerbated and there is nowhere to go to escape stupid.

I believe God has given a certain amount of freedom for humanity to be stupid. We take Him up on the offer frequently. The reasons why people die, bad politicians get power, kids walk away from the faith, and other bad things happen, is not because God is making it happen; it’s because sin has messed stuff up.

If I were to say all the stupid in the world is a result of God’s will and His plan, I gotta tell ya, I’m not comforted by that at all.

I believe God is above this world, sitting in righteousness, and watching us blow ourselves up with a mournful heart. This is seen repeatedly in the Old Testament prophets. God is not happy about sin and it’s results and never once does He say, “I’m the one making you worship Baal and commit adultery. Don’t worry about it. I’m still on the throne.”

Nope. Instead His consistent message is, “What in the world are you doing? Knock that stuff off and listen to me.”

If the level of stupid in our world is due to God, if He’s the one that’s making people do stupid stuff, then in what sense is He holy, righteous, or trustworthy? If God makes kids walk away from the faith, then why would I trust Him with my kids? I’d be better off without God in relation to my kids.

Furthermore, and the main point, is that nowhere does Scripture require you to believe that God is doing all the evil and nasty stupid stuff down here. In fact, the Bible tells us to pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. The only way that request makes sense is if God’s will is currently not being done on earth.

Asking for God’s will to be done is not simply asking God to push a button. It’s my desire to do God’s will, to teach it, and represent it, to promote it and encourage it. It starts with me.

Much of the talk of God’s complete control of all things is simply a rejection of responsibility. If everything is God’s doing, then I’m not ultimately responsible. It’s some bizarre mystery why my kids walked away from the faith, rather than possibly something I did or something my kid did.

If what happens is due to us, then we have a shot to make things better. If what happens is up to God’s arbitrary, unsearchable will, then we have no shot and I’m not sure why we would worship God for having made such a mess down here with His very odd, holiness-defying will.

The Bible clearly says we have a shot to make things better. Blaming God for all the stupid in the world is not a good look. It’s blasphemous and I don’t think God will take it kindly on judgment day. When we give an account for every deed done in the body, whether it be good or bad, and our defense is, “It wasn’t me; It was you doing it,” good luck with that one.

“Be not deceived, God is not mocked, you will reap what you sow.” We are reaping what we have sown. People die because we chose to go against the one who gave us life. Kids walk away from the faith because youth is curious and adults are hypocritical. Bad politicians get in because generally people who desire control and power are bad people.

Bad things happen because we live in a fallen world. We live in a fallen world because humanity decided to disobey God. The world is a mess precisely because we’re not doing God’s will, not because God’s will is being done.

Knowing that people do the stupid and God is outside of it and above it is what gives us comfort. He’s not part of the problem; He is the solution. Stop blaming Him for our stupidity. He’s not the dumb one here!

God Is In Control?

Whenever there is a crisis or uncertainty, Christians plop out the “God is in control” cliche.

I don’t think I’ve ever said this in such times, mostly because I have no idea what people think that means. As far as I can tell, Christians mean at least one of the following things:

1. God ordains everything.
This is the Calvinistic notion of meticulous determination. That every molecule of creation is doing exactly what God tells it to do. Therefore, in the current crisis, God created the coronavirus and is killing who He wants to kill with it, is making ill the people He wants ill, and is curing the people He wants to cure. There’s nothing to do to stop it. It’s God’s ordained plan. Suck it up.

2. God will protect me.
Many Christians have the idea that since they have Jesus (allegedly), they will be free of all diseases. Jesus protects them from any and all viruses. They are safe from all harm. The power of God works better than any vaccine or medication ever invented!

3. Fatalism.
God is in control; I am not, so, like, whatever. I’ll just do my thing and whatever happens, happens. I will do the bare minimum of precautions, mostly to avoid judgment by others, and just let God sort it out. If I perish, I perish; if I live, I live. Que sera sera.

4. God’s promises stay true.
All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. The good here is conformity to Christ. No matter what happens in good, bad or indifferent circumstances, God can use it to grow me in Christ. They meant it for evil, but God meant it unto good. Ultimately I will be made like Him when I see Him as He is and nothing will stop that.

If I say such a thing, I mean number 4.

I don’t mean number 1, because then God is just mean and nasty. There’s also no point for there being the Devil, the god of this age, the prince of the power of the air. Then we don’t really wrestle against principalities and powers. And, although God defines Himself as love, boy howdy, if this idea is true, what love is this? When God controls every aspect of life, that will be in the righteousness of the New Heaven and the New Earth, where God’s will is always done. There will be no tears, no death, no Fall. That aint here now.

I don’t mean number 2, because everyone dies. Even we who have the Spirit groan and travail in pain. These same people often wear glasses or have contacts. This view cannot be held with any semblance of logic or consistency and causes one to have to justify away reality.

I don’t mean number 3, because there are plenty of verses that say we have responsibilities down here. Fatalism is not a biblical basis for doing life. We reap what we sow. There are consequences for our actions. God gave us a brain for a reason.

I do mean number 4, because that’s the way God speaks of such things. Romans 8 has a large section about the fact that terrible things will happen down here. But none of these things can separate us from the love of God. All things can help conform us to the image of Jesus Christ and nothing will stop that progression to ultimate conquering. Even if we die, absent from the body is present with the Lord. I will be raised up incorruptible. I will be made like Him when I see Him as He is.

God is in control, but it’s important to understand what that means. A wrong understanding will distort your understanding of who God is and will greatly confuse you about reality on this planet.

Getting it right will fill you with hope and alleviate worry. Getting it right will help you let go of this life and lay hold on eternal life. Help you look for the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. When He fully takes over, what a day of rejoicing that will be!

Aint nothing gonna stop the Wedding Feast that’s coming!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Man’s Depravity is Not Total

It doesn’t take genius to know that people are creepy. Sin is natural to us. We are “by nature” the children of wrath.

At the same time, Paul says Gentiles “do by nature” things contained in the law. Which means our nature is not all bad and it aint all good. This would seem to have to be the case if we are made in the image of God and yet fallen. There still has to be some God image in us.

If you express this thought in theological circles, you will get hammered. We’ve been told countless times that we are totally depraved. Calvinism has taken this and stretched it so out of place, they don’t even think you can believe the Gospel.

Not only is this massively contradicted by Scripture, it makes life pretty much pointless. We’re just automatons doing what we’re programmed to do with no choice. Yet God remains ticked off at us for doing what he programmed us to do.

The simple solution to avoid making God into a complete monster, is to admit we’re not totally depraved.

Yup, that’s right, we should drop the traditions of men for the biblical doctrines of God. I know, bizarre, but I’d suggest it.

I’ve held this view for years, yet don’t see many other people going public with the view, because if you do, Calvinists will beat you into the ground. So I’m always encouraged when I see someone else publicly express it.

I came across one today in Ellicott’s Commentary on Matthew 7:11. God is saying that even earthly fathers know how to do nice things for their kids, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

Ellicott says this:

The words at once recognise the fact of man’s depravity, and assert that it is not total. In the midst of all our evil there is still that element of natural and pure affection which makes the fatherhood of men a fit parable of the Fatherhood of God. We mount from our love to His, abstracting from our thoughts the evil of which we cannot but be conscious.

Beautiful. Thank you, Mr. Ellicott! You the man.

Luther and Foreknowledge

The Bondage of the Will slogs along to Erasmus’ argument about foreknowledge. Paul said, “Whom He did foreknow He also did predestinate.” If words mean anything, God’s predestination is based upon His foreknowledge.

But, as we know, words don’t always mean what they appear to mean. A Calvinistic trick is to define the word “foreknowledge” as essentially meaning “predestine.” Luther does the same thing.

If God foreknew that Judas would be a traitor, Judas became a traitor of necessity, and it was not in the power of Judas or of any creature to act differently, or to change his will, from that which God had foreseen. It is true that Judas acted willingly, and not under compulsion, but his willing was the work of God, brought into being by His omnipotence, like everything else.

Luther, who recently said God’s revealed will is different from his non-revealed will and that God does not use words like man does, adds,

There are no obscure or ambiguous words here, even though all the most learned men of all ages should be so blind as to think and affirm the contrary.

Just wondering how Luther knows when words mean what they mean and when they don’t.

Luther goes on about foreknowledge meaning God making things happen and redefining words when he says,

We know that man’s foreknowledge is fallible. We know that an eclipse does not occur because it is forecast, but is forecast because it is going to occur. But what relevance has that foreknowledge for us? We are discussing the foreknowledge of God! And if you do not allow that the thing which God foreknows is necessarily brought to pass, you take away faith and the fear of God, you undermine all the divine promises and threatenings, and so you deny deity itself.

So, here’s Luther’s idea about God words and Man words meaning different things in action. So when God foreknows it’s akin to God doing, but when man foreknows it’s just man knowing beforehand. Words don’t mean things then.

The essential idea of the Calvinistic and Lutheran view of God is that God’s sovereignty means no one else can know or do anything. God can only control what He does. He’s not strong enough to control if man had free-will to do things.

Their attempt to elevate the character of God ultimately undermines it. God is a dictator who can’t allow anyone any freedom apart from His control.

But God foreknowing what is going to happen in no way necessarily implies He does everything or that God can only know what He does.

God is made smaller with this view, not bigger. They are viewing power, ironically enough, entirely from a weak human perspective. This is the God of Islam, not the God of the Bible.

God’s Will(s)

Luther’s Bondage of the Will takes up Erasmus’ question: how can God say He doesn’t like death and sin if, according to Luther, He makes people die and sin?

It’s a good question, one that hits at the central problem I have with the denial of free-will: it impugns the character of God.

The answer you’ll get is massively troubling.

First, they will tell you that you’re an idiot for asking.

Second, they will tell you that God is a mystery.

Third, they will start defining for you the various kinds of wills that God has.

Luther does all three of these things in the four paragraphs that answers Erasmus. Here are a few sentences about God’s different wills.

[Erasmus is not making any] distinction between God preached and God hidden, that is, between the Word of God and God Himself. God does many things which He does not show us in His Word, and He wills many things that He does not in His Word show us that He wills. Thus, He does not will the death of a sinner–that is, in His Word, but He wills it by His inscrutable will.

I agree that God has not revealed everything, that’s just common sense. But Luther says God is not revealing things that are opposite of what He revealed.

In other words, you can’t trust God’s Word because God might not actually will what He said He willed!

Again, as with yesterday’s post, and how, pray tell, does Luther know God wills the opposite of what He said? Where does God tell us that He doesn’t mean what He says? How is Luther figuring this out? And, once again, why is it that God always agrees with Luther while disagreeing with His own revealed will in His Word?!

This is the kind of stuff that makes me write blog posts on days where I didn’t even want to pick up his book because I didn’t want to write another blog post about it.

If Luther is right, you might as well stop reading the Bible, God didn’t mean it anyway. He’s just lying to you. Goodness, what cost must be paid to maintain your doctrines? He’s thrown out the reliability of God’s Word and made God a liar in order to maintain his doctrine. Unreal.

Words Mean Things

I’m in a part of Luther’s Bondage of the Will where he is addressing the verses that Erasmus uses to “prove” man has free-will. So far Erasmus has not used the verses I would use, but we’ll see if he gets there.

So far he is dealing with verses that say “if we obey,” ‘if we are willing,” “if you shall obey.” Erasmus uses these to say that obviously we have a will and ability otherwise God wouldn’t say this.

Here’s Luther’s basic defense. You ready? I know I am!

If I ask how it is proved that the existence of ‘free-will’ in man is indicated and implied wherever the phrase ‘if thou art willing,’ ‘if thou shalt hear,’ ‘if thou shalt do’ are used, she will say, ‘Because the nature of words and use of language among men seem to require it.’ Therefore, she bases her judgment of things and words that are of God upon the customs and concerns of men; and what is more perverse than that, when the former are heavenly and the latter earthly? Thus in her stupidity she betrays herself as thinking of God only as of man.

Luther’s point is this: I know that’s what it says, but that’s not what it means.

He maintains that God uses words differently than people do. It appears as though God is saying that, but God uses words differently so we know He doesn’t mean that.

Couple things:

–If God uses words not like men, how does Luther, a man, know how God is using words? And, more curiously, how is it that God is always using words to back up Luther? Rather coincidental, no?!

–If God uses words not the way man does, wouldn’t God explain that to man at some point? Is God aware that He’s talking to man? Seems like God, who is pretty smart, would communicate to man in such a way that man could understand Him, rather than obliquely saying things.

–If this is true, then all bets are off. You can make the Bible say whatever you want as long as you maintain this is what God really meant.

This is highly frustrating to me. The only thing I can use to make my doctrinal points is the Bible. So when a person tells me the Bible doesn’t mean what it says, then I have nothing left. It’s a winning tactic, but will also keep you from ever hearing and understanding what God actually said.

But that’s the tendency that many Christian Leaders have used and still do. “You idiots can’t understand this book, but thank God you have me! Now listen up because I, for some unexplained reason, really know what God meant.”

I’m not buying it. God said what He meant. He’s not playing games or obfuscating. Words mean things. Take the common sense, literal meaning of His words and you’re gonna be just fine.

All false doctrine at some point makes you have to ignore the common sense, literal meaning of words. Your alarm bells should go off when you hear people say words don’t mean what they say. Every Calvinist I’ve ever talked to has argued about the meanings of words. Luther does the same thing.

Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
–2 Timothy 2:14-15

How to Earn Salvation Without Earning Salvation

Back to Luther’s Bondage of the Will. He says this:

God has surely promised His grace to the humbled; that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled til he realizes that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will, and works and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another–God alone.

As long as he is persuaded that he can make even the smallest contribution to his salvation, he remains self-confident and does not utterly despair of himself, and so is not humbled before God; but plans out for himself (or at least hopes and longs for) a position, an occasion, a work, which shall bring him final salvation. But he who is out of doubt that his destiny depends entirely on the will of God despairs entirely of himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such a man is very near to grace for his salvation.

OK, so a couple things:

First, it should be remembered that at the root of the no free-will, God does all the saving, monergism, predestination/election, emphasis is a sincere desire to elevate the supremacy of God and the weakness of humanity. They are indeed trying to get to humility. This is at the root of what they are trying to do. It doesn’t do any good to blast the Calvinist or the Lutheran as completely deranged. Their intentions are good. Their execution of their intentions misses the mark, in my opinion.

Secondly, this quote makes absolutely no sense. Luther ends the quote by saying the only people who get God’s grace for salvation are those who despair entirely of themselves. Which is fine, I can go with that. But the entire rest of the quote says how there’s nothing anyone can do to get God’s grace for salvation! Isn’t me being entirely in despair over myself a “smallest contribution to my salvation” that he just said I couldn’t do?!

This, again, is where this entire doctrine falls into the realm of non-sensicalness. The previous pages before this quote Luther defends himself against a charge from Erasmus that his doctrine doesn’t make any sense.

Luther’s defense is that, no, it’s not me that makes no sense; it’s God who doesn’t make any sense. I’m just saying what God says, so therefore God is the one who doesn’t make sense.

Now, granted, Luther doesn’t quite say it that bluntly, but that’s what he’s saying.

Your lecture is wasted on me! If, however, you believe these paradoxes [that if God wills all things then He rewards the good that He made us do and punishes the evil that He made us do] to be words of God, then where is your conscience, where is your shame, where is the fear and reverence which you owe to the true God? For what you are saying is that there is no information more useless than God’s word! So your Creator must learn from you, His creature, what may usefully be preached and what not? God was so stupid and thoughtless, was He, that He did not know what should be taught?

This is the classic defense when you point out the contradictory nature of what no free-will leads to. “It’s what God says, your problem is with Him, not me. It’s all a giant mystery.”

I disagree. This stuff makes no sense and there really aren’t any verses that say this is the way the entirety of all human existence works.

Their desire in all this is to elevate God and diminish humanity. I get it. I applaud the efforts. But in so doing they are left with contradiction and illogical conclusions. I think it’s actually much easier to just take everything written on the subject in the Bible rather than select a few passages and philosophize some nonsense.

But they maintain that if you disagree with them, you’re an arrogant jerk who thinks he deserves salvation and knows better than God. What’s my defense against that?

It’s always handy to assume your doctrine is exactly what God says, so disagreeing with you is disagreeing with God. It’s handy, but not often true. It also seems, ironically enough, to be the exact opposite attitude of someone who characterizes themselves as “humbled; one who mourns over and despairs of themselves.”

God’s Immutable Will and Promises

Luther proposes the idea that if God is not fully in control (meaning humans have no free will because God does everything) then we can have no assurance that God will do His promises.

[If it’s not true that] God foreknows and wills all things, not contingently, but necessarily and immutably, how can you believe, trust, and rely on His promises? When He makes promises, you ought to be out of doubt that He knows, and can and will perform, what He promises; otherwise you will be accounting him neither true nor faithful, which is unbelief and the height of irreverence, and a denial of the most high God!

At the root of the “there’s no free will” teaching is a desire to elevate God’s glory and supremacy. I’m all for that, but I think it goes to unnecessary lengths to do so. For in so doing, they actually limit His glory and supremacy.

According to Luther, the only way God can do anything is if He does everything. If God is not in control of every part of creation then He would not be able to do anything. If people are allowed to act freely, do whatever they want, God wouldn’t be able to do what God wanted to do.

That’s just sheer silliness. In no way does our free will eliminate any power from God. God is sovereign over creation, including over the laws that govern what creation does. We have freedom within the bounds He has set.

At any point God can override the laws (ax heads floating on water denied all manner of natural law). It is not hard at all for God to do what He wants. The idea that if Jeff has free will, God would be powerless to stop Jeff, is just crazy!

Yet you’ll hear this argument a lot. Don’t fall for it.

What God would have more power:

A God that can control only what He does, or a God who can control everything at any time no matter what anyone else is doing?

This view of God comes from a human standpoint. If I were to have ultimate power, yes it would mean I would dictate what everyone does. If you could resist me, then yeah, I would not be in control.

But God is way bigger than us. He’s in control of His creation, to the extent He’s not at all afraid to let us run around within the bounds He’s set.

Interestingly enough, Luther, about two pages before the above quote, says denying free will should be easy for Christians to do, because even heathen poets deny it! He goes on to quote Vergil a bunch. “See, even heathen philosophers know we don’t have free will.”

Yeah, I know Martin, that’s one of the reasons why I question whether it’s right!

Denying our free will is a humanistic idea that comes directly from people like Vergil. It doesn’t come from the Bible or from God.

Watch out for the human attempt to ascribe glory and power to God in ways that ultimately completely eliminate His glory and power, but rather elevate human notions of glory and power. To me this is what denying free will does. It’s one more reason I know it’s wrong.

How I Know I Have Free Will

1. Experience
My every day experience lets me know I have free will. I reap what I sow. I can decide to do any number of things with my time right now. Even people who don’t think free will exists, betray it in their behavior. They constantly try to convince me I don’t have it! This is a blatant denial of their belief. Even their experience shows we have free will.

2. Philosophy
Most human philosophies postulate no free will. Atheistic, materialistic, evolutionary philosophy says we don’t have free will, we are products of our genes and must act the way we are coded to act. People don’t want free will. We like to think we are completely unaccountable victims. Unless you violate my rights, of course! Then those people should be held accountable. Experiencing thoughts of revenge and justice are a clear revelation that there is free will. It is one thing for a philosopher to say there is no free will; it is yet another to let people steal all the philosopher’s stuff, rape his wife, kidnap his kids, and so on and philosophically conclude, “Oh well, I’ll let it go, he had to do it, he didn’t have free will.”

3. The Bible
The Bible clearly shows we have free will. Whosoever will may come. Jesus would have gathered Jerusalem, but they would not. There is judgment and accountability, a reaping of what we’ve sown. The general theme of Scripture is one of rebellious free will acting out in hostility against God’s will. Yes there are passages like Romans 9 that say God can override our will, but this is not the norm. If it were the norm for God to override our wills, then why does Romans 9 focus in on Pharaoh? What makes Pharaoh an exceptional example?

4. Sin
The Bible says our heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. A denial of free will sounds exactly like something a wicked and deceitful heart would come up with. At the root of denying free will is a desire to get out of accountability. This is why atheistic evolutionary philosophy denies free will: now we can do what we want, no sin, I have to act this way, so get off my back. Free will does not sound like something people would come up with, and every time people come up with a theory, it typically denies free will. Sinful people do not like free will. It means we’re accountable and responsible to change and be better. It is much more freeing to pretend I have nothing to do with anything and all my mess is someone else’s fault.

5. Consequences
The best test of a theory is to see what would happen if everyone acted on it. Would you like to live in a society where we actually acted like there was no free will? There could be no law, no crimes or punishments, no judges, no juries, no sin. People would do “whatever they wanted” and no one could stop them. Who are you to stop what someone else cannot stop in themselves since they aren’t the ones in control anyway? What gives you the right to put your will above theirs? The result of actually, literally acting as if we have no free will would be absolutely destructive to life as we know it. Which is why no one acts like they don’t have free will.

6. Blasphemy
If there is no free will then God has to be the author of sin. God has to be responsible for all the evil in our world, all our sin, our genocides, the whole deal. Then for God to judge us for doing what He made us do? This makes God out to be a complete monster. Who needs Satan when God is this monstrous? If there is no free will then any revelation from God is completely irrelevant. There is no point for anything. All purpose, all beauty, all kindness, all joy is complete sham. God is a brutal dictator wishing demise on all those who are doing what they were programmed to do. If there is no free will; then God is not love.

You have free will. Judgment Day will make this painfully obvious. You should go ahead and admit it today and get yourself right with God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and act as though you are someone who will give an account for every deed done in the body, because you will. And the defense, “I just did what you made me do” will be swallowed up in your inability to speak for the weight of your guilt before His glory.

Don’t Confuse Your Favorite Theologian with Jesus

I’ve finished reading the 61-page Introduction to The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther, a cause for celebration.

Incidentally, I am reading a translation done by O. R. Johnston and J. I. Packer, so if you know those names, I assume they are the ones who wrote the Introduction.

The conclusion emphasized the centrality of denying free will and promoting the concept of monergism in salvation (the idea that God acts alone in saving people; we have nothing to do with it).

Faith is only something God gives you after He regenerates you, they say. Then they say this:

to rely on oneself for faith is no different in principle from relying on oneself for works, and the one is as un-Christian and anti-Christian as the other.

Eesh. That makes me cringe all over the place. But they go a step further. Disagreeing with Luther is un-Christian and also, get this, don’t know if you knew this or not, but disagreeing with Luther means you disagree with Jesus Himself.

I’m serious. Here’s the quote:

If the almighty God of the Bible is to be our God, if the New Testament Gospel is to be our message, if Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever–is any other position than Luther’s possible?

Double eesh.

Let me answer that question with a very definite “yes.”

Disagreeing with Luther is not disagreeing with Jesus. Statements like this should alert you that you’re dealing with fanboys.

He went through a list of Reformers who held Luther’s views on this issue, including John Calvin, of course. They maintain that all the Reformers, at least the ones they like, all agreed on our inability to have faith and be saved unless God does it all.

One thing all these Reformers, at least the ones they mention, have in common is that they all loved Augustine.

Disagreeing with Luther does not make you disagree with Jesus Christ; it makes you disagree with Augustine. Which is totally fine by the way.

1 John 2:27 says “the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you.” If you have the Holy Spirit you don’t need a man to teach you.

If your doctrine is entirely based on a person, you’re not using the Holy Spirit. If you think you need to adhere to Luther or Calvin or Augustine or me in order to know Jesus, you’re out of your ever lovin’ mind.

People can help teach you, but to think you need a person to know Christ is insane. Never, ever elevate a person’s teaching to a level where you think disagreeing with them is disagreeing with Jesus.

Agree with Jesus; to the extent we agree with Jesus is the extent to which we will agree with each other.

This Introduction has entirely creeped me out.

Jonathan Edwards and Being Saved by Works

Jonathan Edwards is considered by some to be America’s greatest theologian. I don’t know about that.

What I do know is that Jonathan Edwards is a Calvinist of the first order. John Piper credits much of his Calvinistic preaching to Jonathan Edwards.

If you want Calvinist doctrine; read Jonathan Edwards.

Calvinism teaches that man does not have free will. That God ordained before your birth whether you would go to heaven or hell. You have nothing to do with it. The only people who believe the Gospel are people God previously regenerated.

I don’t know if Edwards went for all that, but many modern Calvinists who worship at the feet of Edwards certainly do.

That being the case, I was shocked to read the following quote from Jonathan Edwards the Preacher by Robert Turnbull. Quote is on page 98.

“The only hope of escape [from eternal punishment] is by the free gift of salvation from God. This cannot be won by man’s efforts, but if one is violent in seeking salvation and diligent in fulfilling all the duties God has prescribed, there is the probability that God will give him saving grace–although, of course, He is not bound to do so. Therefore be violent for the Kingdom.”

Did you catch that? Let me quote one part for emphasis:

This cannot be won by man’s efforts, but if one is violent in seeking salvation and diligent in fulfilling all the duties God has prescribed, there is the probability that God will give him saving grace

This is as unbelievable sentence. Not only does it make no theological sense, I’m not even sure it makes common sense. Words cease to mean things when used like this.

It’s just like the Westminster Confession–God has ordained everything that comes to pass, but He’s not the author of sin. He ordains everything but He doesn’t ordain sin? So does He ordain everything or not? Calvinists are famous for making bold statements that are completely undermined in the next sentence. If you question this, they’ll just tell you you’re dumb and it’s all a “mystery.”

Edwards is going all out Pelagian with this one. I wish people would actually read the theologians they so admire. I guarantee you’ll admire them less after a while! Which is perfectly fine because you’re supposed to be following Christ and adhering to His word anyway.

Later on the same page, the author says about the above quote, “Such discourses Edwards claimed were the ones most remarkably blessed.”

The appeals that worked were the ones that were completely contrary to his Calvinist doctrines. In other words, Edwards was a Calvinist until he wanted results. He pragmatically chucks Calvinism to get the numbers!

The author of this book is a huge fan of Edwards. It was close to a hagiography. So I was doubly stunned when I read this page.

I have never met a Calvinist who was a consistent Calvinist. Calvinism makes no sense and everyone knows it. Even Jonathan Edwards knew it. He was man enough to admit it, and sleazy enough to drop it in order to manipulate people.

God bless us, every one.

Appointed to Obtain Salvation

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ
–1 Thessalonians 5:9

Speaking verses we ignore because they freak people out. . .

This verse is troubling for several doctrines.

First, we deal with the word “appointed.” This word means, “to set, place, or put as a passive object.” If I set a book on the table, I am the active agent and the book is passive. The book gets put there by me. It can’t put itself there.

God has not put us in a place where we passively must accept wrath. This undermines the Calvinist idea that some are created by God specifically for the purpose of suffering His wrath in hell.

Second, we deal with the word “obtain.” In the context we are obtaining salvation. To obtain means, “redemption which will give possession. Acquire, purchase, win.”

Ellicott’s commentaty says this about obtaining salvation, “Means more than “obtain;” the Greek means “acquire” by one’s own efforts;” earn and make our own.”

Flipped out yet? Theologically triggered?

God has not put us in a passive position to have to take His wrath. Rather, He placed us as human beings, people who had no say in being born, as passive objects, in this world, a place where we don’t have to get God’s wrath; we can obtain, purchase, or get salvation.

He placed us in a place where we can do something to escape wrath and be saved.

This is where the church has overblown grace. We’ve been told that if there’s something you do to get, purchase, or obtain salvation that this is contrary to grace.

But it’s not. We can meet a condition that obtains salvation. We don’t earn it by works, or by works of the law, or by being impressive to God enough so He saves us. We obtain it through Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ opened a way of salvation through His Gospel, which we can use to obtain salvation. God gives grace to the humble. Being humble is not a work; being humble is the condition to receive grace. You are capable of being humble. Do so and you’ll obtain grace.

There are two ways people could be saved:

  1. completely God’s work, or
  2. we have something to do with it

Calvinism says it’s all God. If it’s all God then we are passive objects being moved by God alone. But Paul says God has not placed us as passive objects to obtain wrath, but placed us in a place where there’s something we can do to obtain salvation.

Therefore, there sure seems to be something I can do to be saved. A response we are capable of making. We respond by faith to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not as a passive object, but as an active object that can acquire salvation.

Much of our Christian doctrine is an oversimplification based on a handful of verses rather than what the Bible says in whole.

I’ll let you hash out the implications of this verse and you can figure out what you want to do with it and why I’m an idiot for interpreting it the way I did.

That’s fine. The verse remains. Do something with it.

Humility Is Not A Work

God gives grace to the humble.

That bothers a lot of people, because they think there is nothing you can do to get grace. The following verse is trotted out as proof text:

And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
–Romans 11:6

This passage, in its context, is talking about the choosing of the nation of Israel for the Messiah to come through. The choosing of the nation that all nations would be blessed by. Salvation is of the Jews.

The Messiah was one Man and could be related to one race of people. That people was/is Israel. Romans 9-11 explains God’s plan of redemption and the interaction between Jews and Gentiles in the revealing of that plan.

I don’t think this verse has anything to do with how people receive salvation by grace.

Another verse quoted is Romans 4:4

Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

Paul’s point is that salvation is not achieved by works of the law, by circumcision, and keeping the old covenant law.

The context flows back into Romans 3, which is all about the Jews and their law. They thought doing Old Covenant law is what saved them. But never once did God ever tell anyone that keeping the Old Covenant law would save them. It was a covenant to stay in the Promised Land.

Abraham was before the law, therefore salvation, which was around in Abraham’s day, couldn’t be by the law. Romans 4 goes on to quote David, who lived under the law, also saying that salvation is not something you work your way into.

Therefore, if the Bible says there are things we do to get grace, and it does, then clearly those things cannot be the work Paul refers to in Romans.

The only way it could be is if the Bible is massively inconsistent on this issue, which some have staked their doctrine to such a claim. Not a good idea, but at least they are being more honest then most!

We are saved by grace through faith. Grace is what God provides; faith is how we respond. Faith is humble.

Every single human being knows they are bad. We have a conscience. A conscience is not proof of spiritual life; it’s proof that you are human. We all feel guilt. Yes, the conscience can be hardened, but it’s still there.

Knowing we are wrong wears a person out. We will seek mind altering chemicals to drown it out, or entertainment and distraction to get it to shut up, or sometimes even suicide.

All our desires of the flesh exist to quiet guilt. Yet the more we use the flesh to quiet guilt, the more guilty we become. It’s hopeless.

When the light of the Gospel shines in and a hopeless, guilt-ridden person hears that God loves them and wants to set them free from sin and guilt through the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, some grab onto that message with humble dependence.

When a person comes to the end, when hopelessness and guilt have trounced their soul, they respond to the Gospel.

This is not trying to fix the flesh, impress God, or in any way purchasing our own salvation. This is an admission that we got nothing and Christ is all.

I fail to see how this is pride and fleshly works.

Humility, love, and faith are exactly what the Gospel draws out of a person who seeks deliverance from themselves.

This is how the Bible speaks of how salvation happens. Any other theory plays fast and loose with Scripture and makes much of it false. Don’t do that. Be humble! Hear God’s Word and respond accordingly.

Getting Grace and Monergism

Many believe there is nothing you can do to get grace. That if you had to do something to get it; it wouldn’t be grace.

The question then is: OK, so how does one get grace?

If there is nothing I can do to get grace, then either

1) I can’t get grace, or
2) Something else must do everything with grace and me getting it without me doing anything.

Every believer knows some people get grace, so option 1 can’t be the answer. Therefore, we are left with option 2.

Option 2 is officially called “Monergism.” Here is a definition of Monergism accepted by Monergists:

“In theology, the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration – that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration.”

Humans cannot respond to God. Everything is done by the Holy Spirit. Once a person is regenerated, then they can believe the Gospel.

Regeneration before believing is nowhere stated in the Bible and often said in the opposite way, such as, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

Nowhere are we told, “Be saved and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Monergism is completely contrary to Scripture. Sure, you can bend a handful of verses to seem like they are saying this, but no, this is not how the Scripture speaks of salvation.

So neither option answers our dilemma of how we can get grace by doing nothing.

Therefore, the only logical conclusion is to assume there must be something we can do to get grace, and this thing we do to get grace, does not mean I earned it or worked for it. It means I met a condition.

This simple understanding seems to fit quite nicely with Scripture.

“God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble,” the Bible says several times. If you’re not humble then you don’t get grace. How does this fit with Monergism?

Monergism would say, “Well yeah, God makes you humble so you get grace.” OK, well, wouldn’t God making me humble while I was not humble be a gracious thing? If so, then God does give grace to non-humble people.

Monergism is held true as long as you’re cool with making Scripture false.

Don’t let your doctrine get carried away and make you call the Scriptures a liar. Stick with the Scripture. Line your doctrine up with it.

How to Get Grace

There are some who read that title and are already ticked off!

“There’s nothing you do to get grace! Grace is God’s undeserved favor. If you did something to get it; then it wouldn’t be grace!”

This is the view of Calvinism and the “I” of their TULIP–Irresistible Grace.

Irresistible Grace says the only way you get grace is if God chooses you to get it. If you win the luck of the draw, God will shove His grace down your throat whether you want it or not.

OK, that was my cynical and not very complimentary definition of Irresistible Grace. It is, however, in essence what it is, just without the theological politeness!

Clearly I do not believe in Irresistible Grace. Grace can be resisted; that’s why there are people in hell.

Saying there is something you do to get grace does not mean we earn grace, merit grace, nor that we worked for grace.

Doing something to get grace merely means we met the conditions upon which grace is granted.

There are several conditions the Bible says we meet to get grace.

First, is faith. We are saved by grace through faith. We believe the Gospel, we believe that Jesus Christ is the only one able to save us. When we believe this, we receive the benefits of God’s grace.

Second, is humility. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Being humble is not a work of the flesh. Humility is knowing your flesh can’t work anything to save itself.

Third, is love. Here I will quote a little quoted verse, Ephesians 6:24, “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” If you don’t love Jesus Christ sincerely; no grace for you!

None of this says we earn grace or worked for it. Grace is a beautiful thing. God, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, provides everything we need for salvation. This is offered by His grace.

Our response is a faithful, humble, love that is drawn to the humble love Christ demonstrated on the cross. It’s grabbing on to Jesus Christ for salvation in love and faith, completely appreciating and being humbled by His salvation.

This is not a fleshly work that puffs up the fleshly nature. This is simply a realization of who we are and who Christ is, and our desperate need for Him.

There is a reason why some get God’s grace for salvation and some don’t. It’s not luck of the draw either. It’s based on your humble, faithful, and loving reaction to the grace and love of God.

Go get some grace! You need it!

R C Sproul’s Calvinism is Mind-boggling

Here are two quotes from RC Sproul. These are not obscure quotes. These are oft repeated quotes from him.

If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.

This quote says that every single piece of creation is doing exactly what God tells it to do. “Sovereignty,” for Sproul, means God is in meticulous control of everything. Being in charge means dictating absolutely everything that everything does. If God is not dictating every element of creation, then God is not sovereign.

So now, the exact same man says this quote:

Every sin is an act of cosmic treason, a futile attempt to dethrone God in His sovereign authority.

Every sin is going against God’s sovereign authority. Sin is cosmic treason.

I don’t get it.

I know this is where the Calvinist chalks things up to “mystery.” But no, this isn’t a mystery, one of the two has to be false.

If every molecule is doing what God tells it to do, then how can molecules join together to commit cosmic treason?

The best solution to the contradiction is not chalking it up to mystery, and it certainly isn’t deciding that nothing is really sin, but admitting his understanding of sovereignty is wrong.

God is sovereign. Sovereign does not mean making every part of creation do what He wants it to do.

God establishes boundaries. Creation is free inside those boundaries. God is in control to restrict any violation of the boundaries. Nothing is out of His reach to intervene.

I do believe sin is cosmic treason. I’ll take that quote over his molecule quote, that one is just nuts.

Don’t get carried away in your theological ideas. Pretty soon you don’t make sense. Incoherence isn’t proof of mystery; it’s proof your theology has derailed.

How To Define Doctrine

I’ve been riffing about this quote the last few days:

A rejection of penal substitutionary atonement is a rejection of the gospel. Either you’re saved through the work of Christ on the Cross, or you’re not saved at all.

This quote makes it sound as if penal substitutionary atonement is the Gospel. Salvation would then be pinned upon believing penal substitutionary atonement.

I believe penal substitutionary atonement is a man-made doctrine, a result of Calvinistic philosophy, and is not inherently Biblical.

“Penal substitutionary atonement” is mentioned zero times in the New Testament, written after there was a revealed and understood Gospel.

Now, I know, “Trinity isn’t in the Bible either, yet you believe in that.” True. The concept is there and the doctrine of the trinity is the best explanation I’ve heard of how the Bible speaks of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Penal substitutionary atonement is not, in my opinion, the best explanation of the Gospel.

Furthermore, having an unorthodox doctrine of the trinity (one that does not measure up to the man-made definition of what the trinity is), does not disqualify you from salvation.

However, I have heard proponents of the trinity say that if you reject their notion of the trinity you can’t be saved. I’m not sure about that.

I do think wrong views of who God is will impact your doctrine on many levels and it is a vital doctrine, but can anyone fully explain it?

The Trinity is never explicitly explained in Scripture, whereas the Gospel is repeatedly explained. The Trinity is a pretty good attempt to draw together hints in the Scripture about God. Penal Substitutionary Atonement is not a very good summation of all the Bible clearly and repeatedly says about the Gospel.

The fact that we have definitions that we like and agree upon does not mean we actually understand it correctly. In other words, just because you think you’re right doesn’t necessarily mean you are right!

Making people believe your idea, no matter how orthodox (accepted) it may be, is still not a basis of salvation.

Back to penal substitutionary atonement. If penal substitutionary atonement is equal to the Gospel, and must be believed to be saved, shouldn’t these concepts be explicitly stated?

Yet the word “penal,” “penalty,” “penalize,” or any other word with “penal” in it is never once used in relationship to the Gospel in the New Testament.

The word “substitute,” “substitution,” “substitutionary,” or any other word with “substitute” in it is never used in the New Testament in relationship to the Gospel.

Allow me to really shock you and say that the word “atone,” “atoned,” “atonement,” or any other word including the root “atone” is never used in the New Testament in relation to the Gospel (“Atonement” is used one time in the KJV when they mistranslated a Greek word).

It seems weird to me that believing penal substitutionary atonement is required in order to believe the Gospel when none of these words is ever used in relation to the Gospel.

There are, no doubt, verses that people can list that hint at these words (Isaiah 53 being the closest to the idea), there may be concepts that are similar, but alas, none of these words is ever used.

I do not have to believe your doctrine in order to believe the Gospel. I do not have to use your non-biblical words. In fact, I prefer not using the word “trinity” simply because it’s not a biblical word. I prefer “godhead” much better, because there is at least biblical precedent for using such a word.

When we explain to people what we believe, what our doctrine is, it is always best to quote Scripture. It is better to say it the way the Bible says it than to quote what people said.

I, in no way, think doctrine is unimportant. On the contrary, I think doctrine is so important that we should be very careful in what we say it is and how we define it. Instead of using our words, ideas, and concepts, it seems better to quote Scripture.

If a person were to ask me, “Hey, Jeff, what is the Gospel?”

I would not answer by quoting the definition of penal substitutionary atonement. I would instead quote 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

I can rest on that. I’d rather rest on the foundation of Scripture than on the teetering, fallible doctrines of men. If someone has a problem with my defining biblical quote, then I end up defending the Bible, which is way better than defending what some guys said.

If your doctrine uses non-biblical words, I am immediately skeptical. I assume human philosophy has entered your doctrine. I also wonder how well you know the Scripture. Is this unfair judgment on my part? Maybe, then again, the Bible tells me to test the spirits and I don’t mess around with that.

Doctrine is important. The Gospel is important. So important that we should be very careful in how we define it, explain it, and defend it. You can’t go wrong quoting the Bible. Do so.

Two Problems With Substitutionary Atonement

Yesterday I did a post on the following quote:

A rejection of penal substitutionary atonement is a rejection of the gospel. Either you’re saved through the work of Christ on the Cross, or you’re not saved at all.

The gist of the quote is that if you don’t believe in Substitutionary Atonement (to be called SA from now on cuz it’s hard to type!) then you aren’t saved.

This is a rather silly position to take. SA is Calvinism. What the author of the quote is saying is that if you’re not Calvinist you don’t believe the Gospel and thus are not saved.

In his quote, only Calvinists are saved. These are the same people who fought against the Catholic Church for saying only Catholics are saved!

I believe it is entirely possible to not believe in SA and still believe the Gospel, because SA is not the Gospel. SA is an attempt to summarize and explain the Gospel.

It gets some things right and presses other things out of measure.

I know it is possible to not accept SA and yet still believe the Gospel, because I do.

Here are my two main reasons for rejecting SA:

1. SA says that Christ died as your substitute. He died in your place. You were supposed to die, but instead Christ did. Although this sounds good and there are a couple verses you can misinterpret to make it sound like that’s what the Bible says, this isn’t right.

If Christ specifically died in the exact place of every believer, then He did not die in the exact place of every non-believer. This leads to Limited Atonement, the L of the Calvinist TULIP. This is, by far, their weakest point. It is refuted by many Scriptures. Limited Atonement is wrong. Anyone can come to Christ for salvation. He died for the sins of the whole world.

Limited Atonement rejects that idea because Limited Atonement is not based on Scripture; it’s based on the Calvinist philosophy of SA.

2. SA says that Christ died instead of you. He was your exact substitute, doing something you don’t have to do now because He did it for you.

This obviously isn’t true because everyone dies! This is also not true from a Gospel standpoint because, according to Romans 6 and many other passages, Christ didn’t just die for you, He wasn’t just some man who did some thing a long time ago for you. By faith you were crucified with Him, buried with Him, and raised up with Him to newness of life. I am crucified with Christ. The old man is crucified with its affections and lusts.

SA is all about Christ dying, not me. The New Testament clearly shows that we die with Christ and are raised up with Christ to newness of life. By faith, anyone can identify themselves with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s not instead of or in the place of; it’s with.

SA is wrong. It ignores lots of Scripture. SA is Calvinism. Heaven contains non-Calvinists. You do not have to believe in SA to be saved. Rejecting SA is not rejecting the Gospel.

Rejecting SA is rejecting a human attempt to explain the Gospel, an attempt that fails in several ways.

Hold fast to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word; hold loosely the ideas and philosophies of people. We’re saved by faith in Jesus Christ, not by faith in John Calvin, Augustine, or anyone else. Please don’t forget that.

Doctrine and the Gospel

I saw this quote on the internet the other day:

A rejection of penal substitutionary atonement is a rejection of the gospel. Either you’re saved through the work of Christ on the Cross, or you’re not saved at all.

I fully agree that you are saved by the work of Christ on the cross or not at all (as long as the resurrection is included). No problem there.

But the idea that my belief in the Gospel equals my belief in a man-made attempt to explain what Christ did, crosses the line.

Substitutionary atonement is not the Gospel. It’s the Calvinist/Reformed understanding of the Gospel.

If this quote is true, then only Calvinist/Reformed people can be saved.

This is one example of many I have seen and heard over the years. This is not an issue with substitutionary atonement; it’s an issue with overstating your case.

The fact that you can read your doctrine into the Gospel does not mean that your doctrine IS the Gospel.

One of the main problems Jesus Christ had with the Pharisees and religious leaders of His day was the demand to adhere to their ideas rather than adhering, by faith, to God Himself.

Believing what people say is not believing the Gospel! Believing a person’s summation of the Gospel is not believing the Gospel!

You do not have to have 100% agreement in doctrine with some elite group in order to get into heaven.

Furthermore, substitutionary atonement was not codified until about 600 years ago. Are we to believe that no one was saved before the Reformers showed us what the Gospel was?

Your job is to know the Lord Jesus Christ. To grow in your love for Him and all He has done and will do for you.

All of this is based upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ, His death, burial, and resurrection. It is not based on adherence or conformity to a group’s doctrine.

The temptation to say “Only people who agree with me are saved because I’m the only one who knows what the Gospel is” ruins people, leads to self-righteousness, and divides the Church.

Stop doing that.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

That’s a direct quote from the Bible and there are other verses like it. None of these verses say “believe what some guy theorized about what Jesus did and you will be saved.”

Know Christ yourself. Know His Gospel. Pray and talk with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. People can help you understand the Gospel (Ephesians 4 makes that clear), but nowhere is salvation promised to those who agree in totality with some random group.

Deal with God. He’s your Judge. Deal with the Word of God, for by His Word you will be judged.

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
–Matthew 15:8-9

Grace To All

Calvinism is Greek philosophy read into a handful of Scriptures. If Calvinism is true, then a massive amount of verses in the Bible are not.

Here’s one:

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
–Titus 2:11

The King James Version above is not the best. It gives the idea that God’s grace that brings salvation has appeared to all men. That all men saw its appearance.

The correct translation of the Greek is better expressed in the New American Standard:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,

or the English Standard Version:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,

I mean, even the NIV gets this one right!

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

The grace of God, which brings salvation to all men, has appeared. All men can receive God’s grace. It hasn’t just appeared to them; it can actually save them. Not just some of them, but ALL of them.

It is not saying that all men will be saved, but that all men can be saved by God’s grace, and His gracious salvation has appeared–referring to Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. Everyone can approach the Father through the Son.


Not just a chosen few only.

Grace is there for everyone to be saved.

The offer of salvation is legitimately made to all people. Not just by us with God ordained means, but legitimately by God who desires all men to be saved.

Titus 2:11 rejects Limited Atonement forcefully.

I like Titus 2:11 way more than I like sticking with some guys theories.

Materialism and Free Will

It’s interesting to ponder why so many intellectuals are so intent (with their own free will) on proving that they have no free will. As the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead pointed out ironically, “scientists animated by the purpose of proving themselves purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study.” In my view, this is connected to the general nihilism of our culture, the collapse of values which has followed from materialistic science. Such absurd views could only arise – and make any kind of sense – amidst the climate of meaninglessness and confusion that scientific materialism has given rise to.

This is from an article in Psychology Today, not even a remotely Christian publication.

The premise of the article is why a flawed, yet oft repeated, psychological study is used to support the notion that we have no free will.

The author speculates that the false study is used because materialism (the view that only physical things are real, there is no spiritual component to life) desperately needs there to be no free will in order to justify sin.

OK, they didn’t exactly put it like that!

The reason why the experiment has been so enthusiastically embraced is surely because its apparent findings fit so well with the principles of materialism. It seems to prove what materialism implies: that human beings are automatons.

If we are automatons, doing what we’re programmed to do with no choice of our own, there can be no sin, accountability, judgment, or other such higher things. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die and none of it was your fault!

A denial of free will is nothing but an embrace of antinomianism. There should be nothing outlawed, as we can’t help what we’re doing anyway.

The Bible, in my opinion, flies directly in the face of such teaching. It’s one of the reasons why people don’t like the Bible and the Gospel.

Denying free will, responsibility, and judgment may make you feel better while living on earth, but what will you do in the end?

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
–Galatians 6:7-8

Who Does God Show Mercy To?

I recently saw this quote on the internet from R C Sproul, recently deceased Calvinist extraordinaire:

If God only exercised justice to a fallen race everyone would perish. But God chooses to grant mercy to some.

I cringe at the way he says this. According to Calvinism, God only extends mercy to the elect.

A verse that popped into my head immediately upon seeing this quote was Romans 11:32

For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

God has done, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, what was necessary to provide mercy to every single living soul ever on this planet. Jesus Christ was the propitiation for the sins of the world. In fact, that’s an important verse:

And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
–1 John 2:2

Christ provided a way for every sinner in the world to receive mercy. This was no disingenuous offer either. Nor was it some semantic thing where it was offered to “all” but “all” means “the elect.” There is no way “the world” here can mean the elect, otherwise who is the “our” in 1 John 2:2?

God extends mercy to all. Sproul, an adamant Calvinist, does not believe this is true. God only genuinely extends mercy to some.

God’s extending of mercy to all does not mean all are saved; it just means all could be saved.

Why are all not saved? Because not all take God’s mercy. This is not God’s choice to damn them (God desires all men to be saved), but a sinners’ refusal to submit to God’s mercy.

God doesn’t choose to grant mercy to some. God chose to show mercy to all, but not all take it.

Sproul is choosing his words carefully. Calvinism is a heartless doctrine. Calvinism cannot legitimately offer salvation to all. They can’t tell everyone that God will be merciful to them.

I know the defense: we don’t know who is saved, so we offer it to all. True, but you’re still lying when you say ALL can be saved when you believe SOME can’t be.

To grant means to formally bestow. Grant is a word that is emphasizing what God does. He either chooses to grant it to you or He doesn’t. It’s up to Him. Therefore, He doesn’t grant it to all.

The Bible is very clear that God offers mercy to all. The Bible is also clear that most don’t take it because they deem it unnecessary, they believe they’re doing just fine on their own.

But to those humble few who are tired of sin and see the light of the Gospel shining in the darkness, they come with desperation to receive the refreshing waters of life to quench their soul’s thirst.

That is the Gospel and how it works. Don’t fall for the Calvinist philosophy that blasphemes the character of God and contradicts Scripture.

Satan, the World, and God’s Will

Satan is the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air, and the prince of this world. The Bible says all these things.

Satan is fighting against and thwarting God’s will. We have been equipped in Christ to resist the temptations of the Devil and to stand opposed to him and his deceptions.

Many oppose this teaching, thinking that if Satan has power and can thwart God’s will, then in some way Satan has more power than God, or that God’s sovereign power is limited by His own creation who can overpower Him.

I find this objection lacking.

God granted this power to Satan, God sets the bounds of what Satan can do, as shown in the Book of Job. God gives His creation freedom within His determined boundaries.

God is still ultimately in control. At no point can Satan, or any part of creation, go beyond those boundaries God has set.

God has given us free will and also gives us the consequences of our actions. Satan rebelled against God’s authority because he wanted more. God gave him some. We’ve seen what Satan has done with it.

God has given people authority on this earth as well. We can resist God and His will. We do it all the time. Before Calvinism hi-jacked Christianity, we used to define sin as “anything contrary to God’s will.”

The fact that we can sin and resist God and His will does not mean we have more power than God, nor does it mean God’s power is subtracted from. God allowed us to do this!

We are created in God’s image. God has free will and so do we (within the bounds given us by our Creator). God uses His will to always do righteousness. We do not. God has provided a means of salvation where we can be recreated in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has before ordained that we should walk in.

God created us to obey Him. We rebelled. Humanity reaped the sowing of rebellion: creation itself now fights against us through the Fall and the Curse.

Satan is still trying to thwart God’s will. Satan does so by deceiving people and using creation to continue to fight against the Creator. Observe the following:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
–1 John 2:15-16

Satan, who can’t create anything himself, has to use what is already created to trap us. So John tells believers not to love anything on this earth! If you love something on this earth, Satan will use that thing against you.

He will turn that created thing, morally neutral in itself, into that which can destroy your soul.

The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are NOT OF THE FATHER!

There’s something else going on down here that is against what God wants. God does not use created things against you. He does not tempt people to sin with earthly things.

If Calvinism is true, then these verses are not. If God ordains whatsoever comes to pass, then the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life have to be from the Father, because all things are, according to Calvinism.

So, again, this is where the Calvinist starts to define different kinds of God’s will and God ordaining means as well as ends, none of which actually answer the basic problem.

If God ordains the means, then again, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life must be from the Father! Push it back as far as you want and you are still in the same place of admitting that God actually is the one who is making you do the lust and the pride.

Again, Satan is redundant and God’s character must adapt characteristics of the Devil if Calvinism is true. In what sense is God still righteous? In what sense is John talking sense when he says there are things here that are not of the Father? Why would Jesus Christ tell us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven if God’s will is already being done here?

I’ll wrap it up with a quote of 1 John 5:19, I’ll even use the Calvinist’s favorite ESV to do so:

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

The world is a problem to us precisely because it is under the control of the god of this world. Satan is using created things to keep you from worshiping the Creator. We are not ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11).

I fear that Calvinism keeps people ignorant of Satan’s devices and this will not work out well for the church.

Satan and God’s Will

I contend that God’s will is not always being done on earth. I feel no need to define different kinds of God’s will as the Calvinist does, because I believe God has one kind of will. God’s will is what God desires. God always desires righteousness; righteousness does not always happen, therefore God’s desires don’t always happen.

God can force His will on His creation, for instance with Pharaoh, but as a general rule He gives His creatures freedom within His sovereign, determined, and fixed boundaries.

Satan is part of God’s creation. Satan, according to the Bible, is a real person who is a real enemy and has real power.

God has given Satan free will to do sinful things within creation according to the boundaries God has set for him (see the book of Job).

When Satan fell from his position of power in heaven (described in passages such as Ezekiel 28:13-19 and Isaiah 14:12-19), Satan gave up his authority in heaven but was granted authority on earth.

Satan, in the form of a serpent, is in the Garden of Eden and throws it into chaos. Ever since, he has been walking about seeking whom he may devour.

Satan is our enemy. His attacks can be repulsed with the Armor of God and he is to be fled from. Satan is described as being the “prince of the power of the air” and “the god of this world.”

Satan offered Jesus Christ the kingdoms of the world. Many think Satan is lying here. But if Satan is lying, then Jesus Christ would know he’s lying, and this would cease to be a temptation in any real way.

Satan was given the power of the kingdoms of this earth. Satan even says this in Luke 4:6. Jesus would know if this were true.

Jesus’ answer is not, “Now Satan, you and I both know you don’t have the power to make that offer.” Nor was His response a diatribe about God’s sovereignty. Jesus told Satan to get behind Him. Only God is worthy of worship.

In other words, Jesus did not dispute whether Satan had authority to give the kingdom to Christ; Jesus disputed the worship part.

Jesus Christ calls Satan “the prince of this world” three times in the Gospel of John (12:31; 14:30; 16:11).

It is my contention, if the words in the Bible mean anything, that Satan has lots of control of this world.

God has granted Satan power to cause trouble down here, and that is what he’s doing.

John Wesley once said something to the effect that if the God of Calvinism is true, who needs the Devil? Under Calvinism, Satan is redundant. If God ordains whatever comes to pass, then having an enemy named Satan is kind of silly since God is doing all the evil Himself.

2 Corinthians 4:4 talks about the “god of this world.” Most are agreed Paul is referring to Satan here. Notice what the verse says in full:

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

The god of this world is blinding people from the Gospel. Satan is blinding people. According to Calvinism, God is the one who hardens and blinds. Again, if Calvinism is true, then Satan is redundant.

Calvinism attributes the characteristics of Satan to God. I find this blasphemous.

Think about it. Paul is shining the Light of the Gospel. Satan keeps people from seeing the light. If Paul persists in shining the light, he is trying to thwart the blinding. Therefore, according to Calvinism, by shining the light of the Gospel, Paul is trying to thwart the work of God.

On the other hand, if you listen to what Paul is saying and adjust your doctrine accordingly, Satan is the one who does the blinding. By shining forth the Gospel, Paul is thwarting Satan’s work.

“God ordains the means as well as the ends” is the Calvinist justification here. God is using Satan to blind people, thus God is really blinding people through Satan.

OK, that really doesn’t answer the problem, it just pushes it back a step. Satan is still redundant. If Satan can only do what God makes him do, and God is using the Satan tool to blind people, then God is still blinding people.

Instead of backing yourself into ridiculous logical corners, just accept the simple teaching of the Scriptures that God’s will is not being done on earth as it is in heaven, and one reason is because Satan is the god of this world and he’s fighting against God’s will.

Grasping the Bible’s teaching on this subject will awaken you to the warfare raging around us and will also help you be sober and watch for the enemy prowling around deceiving people.

 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
–Romans 13:11-12

Calvinism and Ordained Irresponsibility

Classic Calvinism maintains that God has ordained whatever comes to pass. The Westminster Confession of Faith says so, if you’re looking for the source.

Calvinists know this is a sketchy thing to say because it means God ordains sin. In other words, God makes sin happen.

The only answer to this logical conclusion is to simply state it’s not true. The Westminster Confession, after saying God ordains whatever comes to pass, simply says, but in such a way that God is not the author of sin.

I know they want that to be true, but simply stating it in direct contradiction to what was stated before doesn’t really hold any intellectual water.

“It’s all a mystery,” is the answer you’ll get there. We’re too stupid to figure it out, but God’s wisdom can do such a thing.

If God’s wisdom says that God ordains sin without ordaining sin, then God’s wisdom isn’t very wise.

I believe that God is all-wise. I believe His thoughts are higher than ours, and His ways past finding out.

I do not believe God’s wisdom can be contrary to wisdom or intellectual consistency, however. God is a God of order.

The simple solution to the conundrum, rather than impugning the wisdom of God, is to rather conclude that the people who wrote the Westminster Confession of Faith were off the mark.

If you contradict their belief, they will try to convince you that you are wrong, which is ironic. God, according to their own belief, has ordained me to not believe it. How is any degree of their arguing going to change what God has ordained?

The answer to any such challenge to Calvinism is always the same. Whether you question why pray if God ordains all things, or why evangelize if God ordains who believes, or why so much arguing with non-Calvinists if God ordains people to not be Calvinist, here’s the answer:

God ordains the means to accomplish His ordained ends.

Yup, all the stuff you are doing you aren’t doing. God is doing it. So if you do good or bad, God ordained all of it and all of this God-ordained stuff results in God-ordained ends.

Why pray? Why evangelize? Why argue? Why do good?

Because God makes you do those things.

Think about it though. Doesn’t God then ordain my not praying as well? Doesn’t He also ordain my non-evangelism and my non-doing of good? And doesn’t my not doing these things bring about His ordained ends as well?

Saying that “God ordains the means to His ordained ends” does not answer the question, it merely pushes the question back a step.

In the end, Calvinism says God does it all; you do nothing. Therefore, you are not ultimately responsible, judgment is God judging Himself, Satan is redundant, and we are all helpless automatons.

That is Calvinism. And that is why Easy-Believism is a thing. Nothing I do matters anyway; it’s all God. No worries.

Calvinism is pretty much exactly the doctrine you would expect the human heart to come up with. Everything is someone else’s fault and I’m not accountable because I’m not doing anything voluntarily.

Don’t believe it.

But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile
–Romans 2:5-10

Calvinism and Easy-Believism

“Easy Believism,” to define terms, is the belief that the Gospel is a set of facts you agree with that matter nothing at all once they are believed.

Practically, Easy Believism  looks like this:

You are presented with the Gospel, that Jesus Christ died for your sins and rose again. If you believe this, you say the sinner’s prayer, or get baptized, or do some other initiation rite, and then carry on. No strings attached. No obligation. No accountability. Nothing really matters now; you’re saved! And, once saved always saved, so live it up! Believing the Gospel makes sin OK. Anyone who tells you you’re supposed to stop sinning and do good instead, is a legalist and should be avoided.

That is what Easy-Believism is. The vast majority of Christians are in this camp in one form or another. Many may not express these words, but they live as though these words are true.

Easy-Believism is not biblical. It’s based entirely on human ideas, wishes, and philosophy. The underlying theological system behind it is Calvinism.

Calvinism’s main tenet of faith is Substitutionary Atonement. This is the idea that our sins were imputed to Christ who died on the cross and rose again. Christ’s righteous deeds were then imputed to us. Therefore, we have swapped out our sins for Christ’s good deeds. This is expressed by saying “Christ kept the law for us.” Or, “God doesn’t see what I do; He only sees what Christ did for me.”

Substitutionary Atonement has problems.

If Christ died in place of each believer, then atonement becomes limited. Christ could have only died for eventual believers. Therefore Christ did not die for the sins of the world as the Bible states, but only for the sins of the elect. The offer of forgiveness to whosoever may come is disingenuous at best, and deceptive at worst.

The idea that we were saved by Christ keeping the law for us, means we are saved by works and not by Christ’s death and resurrection, which makes the Gospel essentially vain.

If God only sees Christ’s good deeds credited to me and not my own deeds, then all warnings in the Bible about not sinning and giving an account for every deed done in the body, seem pointless. God would then be the worst judge possible because He can’t see who it is He’s judging. Judgment all seems rather ridiculous anyway, because God ordains everything we do, so why bust us for doing what God ordained for us to do?

Substitutionary Atonement is the ground of Calvinism. They stand and fall together. Substitutionary Atonement is also the ground of Easy-Believism. Throw Calvinism’s warped concept of predestination on top of it–you are saved by God’s sovereign choice and there’s nothing you can do about it–and Easy-Believism is sealed up in a nice, tight package.

According to Calvinism, I can’t believe anyway unless God saves me first. This is the easiest of Easy-Believisms. We are not even accountable to believe under this system!

I am fully aware that every Calvinist who would read this would say I’ve constructed straw man arguments and that I don’t understand Calvinism.

I would disagree. I’ve read Calvin’s Institutes and wrote a paper on each chapter. I’ve studied extensively Calvinist writings and sermons. I’ve had the argument hundreds of times. Calvinism is wrong. Substitutionary Atonement is wrong.

You are accountable to believe the Gospel and you will give an account before God for every deed done in the body.

I’m aware that no one likes this message, but it is the message of Scripture. The fact that you can find humans who have an established theology that contradicts this and makes you feel better about things, does not mean you’re hearing truth!

It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment. It’s coming. Don’t play games.

Calvinism and Evolution

Both society and the institutional church help people justify their irresponsible, sinful behavior.

The Bible says we’ve all been given life by our Creator and are accountable to listen to Him. The only ones who can truly listen are those who have been born again and receive divine assistance by coming to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Obedience is the point of salvation. God saved you to obey Him. Ephesians 2:8-10 most succinctly says this. We aren’t saved by obeying; we obey because we are saved, it’s what salvation creates us to do.

Perhaps the leading justification society gives you is based on evolutionary thinking. An unguided, random process brought us all here. We are products of this process and are driven by evolutionarily received genes. We have no choice really, but to obey our genes and drive evolution forward.

“Sin,” for the evolutionist, is anything that thwarts the greater good of evolving the species. “If it’s not hurting anyone, go for it” is the basic morality. But even if it does, quite frankly, it’s all part of the process taking out weaker elements.

I have heard evolutionists say that all the stuff that people do must be there for a reason. Evolution wired it into us and there must be a wise evolutionary reason it’s there. Somehow, and this is all a big mystery, this random process requires the rape of women to further its cause. So sin is really not that big of a deal. Ultimately, we praise evolution because everything that happens advances its process.

Most of the justifications the church gives for our irresponsibility comes out of Calvinism. Calvinism says that God has ordained whatever comes to pass from eternity past. If we sin, it must be because God wired it into us, there must be some reason why its there. Somehow, and this is all a big mystery, God requires the rape of women to further His cause. So sin isn’t really that big of a deal. Ultimately, we praise God because everything that happens advances His glory.

It’s rather startling how similar the takes on reality are in these two systems. Both end up denying free will. Both end up denying accountability and responsibility. Both end up chalking up bad stuff to mystery, not quite sure why it’s there, but suck it up, it must be for our good.

The common defense of the Calvinist is that not all Calvinists act like this. Famous Calvinists will be propped up and defended “They never acted like sin was no big deal.”

True. I find both Calvinists and evolutionists to be inconsistent in fully living out what they say they believe.

Calvinism leads people to believe that sin isn’t that big of a deal. Easy-Believism is not a non-Calvinist invention! I’m not saying that all Calvinists adhere to Easy-Believism, but all consistent ones do!

Calvinism, in many people’s opinion, comes from Greek Philosophy. Calvin based his stuff on Augustine, who based his stuff on the Greek philosophy he grew up in. Calvinism is rooted in philosophy.

Evolution is a philosophical construct as well. Sure, it sneaks in under the guise of science, but its the underlying philosophy that leads people to see evolution in the supposed evidence.

Human philosophy generally downplays sin, personal responsibility, and accountability. No one wants to be held accountable for what they do. But guess what? God is not a human! God’s wisdom is not rooted in human philosophy and guess what God thinks about responsibility and accountability?

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
–2 Corinthians 5:10-11

Ephesians 1 is About Hope, Peace, and Assurance

Ephesians 1 is an amazingly huge chapter. Not by length, but by subject.

Unfortunately, much of Ephesians 1 has been hijacked by Calvinists. This takes away the fun of actually studying the passage and finding application.

When you get sucked too deeply into the Calvinist/Arminian debate, all you see in Scripture is your side. That’s it. Nothing else exists. Everything is about this issue and this issue alone.

Which is too bad. Just like Romans 9, Ephesians 1 has a very cool point to make.

Ephesians 1 points us backwards first:

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
–Ephesians 1:4

Our minds are expanded to eternity past, before anything was. There, before there was anything physical, there was God.

God had creation in mind. He knew how things would go if He created a creature in His image and gave them freedom to rebel. He knew we would rebel.

But God had a plan. At some point in the future, God would enter His creation and sacrifice Himself for it, demonstrating His great love toward us.

We, believers today, are baptized into the Body of Christ. He chose us to be in Christ, to receive salvation by means of what He did.

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
–Ephesians 1:7

Right now we can benefit. We can have complete confidence that salvation is in Christ because this was ordained and determined to be the case since before the world was created.

There is forgiveness in Christ because God determined there to be many years ago. We can have confidence in Him.

But salvation isn’t just about the present or the past, it’s also about the future.

That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
–Ephesians 1:10

There is coming a time when all things will be gathered into Christ, all the created things will be redeemed, including those who came to Christ for salvation now.

This will fully be seen and experienced in the New Heavens and New Earth where righteousness will reign.

This future promise will happen. We can know it will happen because He’s given us the Holy Spirit:

ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,  Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
–Ephesians 1:13b-14

The Spirit is the first-fruits–the initial harvest that guarantees more is coming. He’s our down-payment on our future inheritance.

You know if you have the Spirit now, that this eternal regathering under the rule of Christ is yours too!

Paul is pointing us back to give us assurance in God’s plan of salvation–it was planned before the world was created. Then he points us forward to give us more assurance–the Holy Spirit in you is the guarantee you’ll receive the rest of the inheritance. Knowing this better time is coming gives us hope and peace.

Paul writes Ephesians 1 to encourage us. He writes it to give us hope, peace, assurance. Salvation is God’s plan. It’s a solid plan; you can trust it! He gives us His Spirit to help us hang on through this present evil world until we make it to the next.

Take confidence in your God and His promises. Don’t take a beautiful chapter like this and make it about arguing over Calvinism. It aint worth it!

Resisting Irresistible Grace

Irresistible Grace is the “I” of the Calvinist TULIP.

It refers to God’s ability to save all whom He has ordained to salvation. He overrides their will; by His grace He makes them believe.

John Calvin described God’s grace in salvation like this:

“All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by his word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.
–Calvin’s Institutes, Ch. 10, section 1

Two things:

  1. You will notice that Calvin chalks people’s salvation up to God’s timing (it’s the first underlined phrase above). This gets at yesterday’s post. We blame God for taking so long to save people, yet God says He’s waiting for us so He can be gracious. If God is waiting to be gracious (God’s words, not mine) in what sense is this Irresistible Grace? Sounds fairly resistible to me.
  2. You will notice also some hedging in Calvin’s words. There are so many verses in the Bible that say we have something to do with our salvation, that even Calvin has to back it off a bit. He says, “they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.” If I have to be made willing to come, how is this me coming freely? This is the irrationality of Calvinism, always dismissed with “It’s a mystery.” It is a mystery. It’s a mystery how people can believe such Biblically contradictory stuff.

R. C. Sproul recently died and found out Calvinism was wrong.

But I think Dr. Sproul knew it was wrong before he got before God. Here’s what Sproul had to say about Irresistible Grace:

“The idea of irresistibility conjures up the idea that one cannot possibly offer any resistance to the grace of God.”

Hm, I wonder why people “conjured” up that idea? Perhaps because that’s what the word means! Here’s how Webster’s defines irresistible, “impossible to resist.”

Sproul’s problem is that his doctrine puts him in opposition to common sense. He feels a need to back off the term.

“However, the history of the human race is the history of relentless resistance to the sweetness of the grace of God. Irresistible grace does not mean that God’s grace is incapable of being resisted. Indeed, we are capable of resisting God’s grace, and we do resist it.”

Irresistible Grace can be resisted. Got it?

The Holy Spirit changes the inclination and disposition of our wills, so that whereas we were previously unwilling to embrace Christ, now we are willing, and more than willing.

It’s important to understand who the “our” is here. Sproul is obviously referring to Believers. According to Sproul you will be a Believer if God has ordained you to be a Believer.

If God has not ordained you to be a Believer, you are not part of the “our.” Therefore, if you are ordained to be a Believer, you will not resist God’s grace; God will change your will so you accept it.

Therefore, Sproul still believes in Irresistible Grace, he’s just tired of people picking on this irrationality, so he decides to use a different word for God’s grace that sounds nicer.

“I have a little bit of a problem using the term irresistible grace, not because I don’t believe this classical doctrine, but because it is misleading to many people. Therefore, I prefer the term effectual grace, because the irresistible grace of God effects what God intends it to effect.”

Sproul prefers Effectual to the “misleading” Irresistible. In essence they both mean the same thing–God’s desires will be brought about regardless, which he admits with that last weird sentence–irresistible grace effects what God wants to effect. How is this any different? Sproul just wants to sound like he’s softening things, backing off a bit because he knows this doctrine is ridiculous.

Yes, I am reading into his psychology behind the word change. To me it smacks of deception, because he means the same thing, he just picks a softer word to represent the same hard doctrine.

I think R. C. Sproul’s Calvinism is wrong. I think he thinks that now, too.

“Therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you
Isaiah 30:18

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