Wrap up the series on how to evaluate whether a conspiracy theory has merit in my newest blog post here.
Friday, December 31, 2021
Wednesday, December 29, 2021
Someone said that they don't like 2022 because it's 2020 two times. Get it. Twenty-twenty two. Twenty-twenty two-times. They were being funny.
I remember when we got the call that said we had to cancel school and in a real hurry in March 2020. We went to zoom classes. Putting an entire school on zoom in a week was huge.
I know people and churches that had really bad things happen for them in 2021. I'm not going to name them, but you know or know of people who died in 2021, maybe a loved one. We wish they were here still. They're not. I know several from just this year, two I was very close to. I know emergency room nurses who've had a very difficult time.
This is the end of 2021 and men and groups rank events, books, politics, music, movies, and people. Did last year's predictions come true? What will happen in 2022? People rank the best. They rank the worst. Now that we have the internet, it's a good way for someone to get traffic, especially if they post a separate page for every number in their list.
I want us to consider how we make a list of the worst things that happen in a given year. How does a Christian determine that? What is actually really bad? What hurts the most? Who or what causes the most damage? The media evaluates events for us. They look at an event as the end of the world, the next year it happens again, and they don't mention it, because they don't want to shame the one who did it.
When we read the Bible, God doesn't mention national freedom as an important issue. It's important in the United States Constitution, but not scripture. If something causes you to violate God's Word, God addresses it. Daniel had a mandated diet in Babylon. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had mandated worship of an idol. Then Daniel had mandated that he could not pray. Daniel ate. The three Hebrews did not bow. Daniel prayed. The mandates were less the concern as much as what saints did with each mandate.
Jewish leaders mandated Peter and John, don't preach. They answered, we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. We obey God rather than men. The worst thing to happen wasn't mandating not preaching. It was preachers not standing when told not to preach. That didn't happen in that case.
Not obeying what God said, that's one of the worst things happening in a given year. Is there anything worse? I think there is. Changing what God said and eliminating it as something He even said; that's worse. Perverting biblical doctrine and practice so that people are hearing sometimes the opposite of what God said, that's worse than not doing what God said. They are similar, but if the doctrine and practice of God's Word is still safeguarded for future belief and practice, that's more fundamental in importance.
Twitter feeds and social media said in 2021 the worst thing was either the vaccination or those not getting the vaccination, and then masked or unmasked. The country was split right down the middle on this issue. Perhaps worse than that was that the vaccination or the mask was such a big issue. While people are mocking government policy on Covid-19, something far worse could be happening. Or is that the worst? Maybe you could argue for that.
When we decide the worst things happening, we could compare events. January 6 at the U.S. capital or the murders in Chicago? January 6 at the U.S. capital or the protests in the previous summer? Abortions or children who live and hear a false gospel, damning their souls forever?
Here's my attempt at a list of the worst things that happened in 2021.
5. A significant percentage of young people left biblical churches.
Studies show a significant increase in people in their twenties leaving church. This is close to seventy percentile. I don't like the fads and philosophies I see embraced by young people, but giving up is the worst. That influences all the other decisions they make.
I watched a chapel service for Bob Jones University and the speaker said to the congregated group of young people that the crowd would split right down the middle between liberals and conservatives.
4. Self-centered, materialistic, and superficial living increased in magnitude among all church members.
For years church leaders try to keep their people with social activities and fun. Church growth means adding more people, not true conversion and disciples. In the minds of the church members, this is fellowship. More than ever, professing Christians cannot endure sound doctrine. Lives are filled up with temporal things. Biblical doctrines conform to a casual, comfortable lifestyle. Normal biblical doctrine, practice, and standards are now too offensive.
The worship of churches is very often entertainment, and the people can't tell the difference. The people are more worldly than ever and you can't distinguish between the church and the world. What the world was not long ago, the churches are today.
3. The number of churches preaching a confused, watered down, or false gospel increases.
Churches either remove repentance from their doctrinal statements and plans of salvation or they redefine it so that it isn't repentance anymore. This affects also what these churches teach on sanctification, because believers aren't expected to live according to the Bible. More than ever when you ask a professing Christian what the gospel is, he or she cannot tell you.
If someone does something akin to "pray this prayer with me" and gets a salvation statistic, that does not result in someone saved. It results in someone more fooled than he or she even was before.
2. The number of churches active in preaching the gospel reaches an all time low.
If a tree falls and no one hears it, did it make a noise. If a church has the gospel, and no one preaches it, does it have the gospel?
People are so distracted with their phones, social media, politics, and what's happening through the media, that less gospel preaching occurs. More than ever, people are so filled with doubt and then lacking in confidence, that they don't have the assurance to be bold. The less gospel preaching, the less salvation and more are lost. Increase in eternal death is worse than increase in physical death. Average life expectancy dropped in 2020 more than any time since World War 2. Less gospel preaching results in less eternal life expectancy.
1. True worship of God decreased.
True worship gives God what he wants. What people want clashes with what God wants. God created the world for His pleasure. True individual worship decreased. True corporate worship decreased. Just like the worship of God decreased in apostatizing Israel, it is across the world. Rather than giving God what He wants to hear, God received what people wanted more than ever in 2021.
The natural consequence of not preaching the gospel or preaching a false and watered down one is that true worship also decreases. It results in greater apostasy, turning from the true God, and God receives less worship.
Honorable Mention. Honorable mention for 2021? Abortions have dropped since their high in the 1980s, 2017 the lowest since Roe v. Wade was passed. Still, however, the murder of thousands of innocent babies is the worst physical event every year. It just can't compete with spiritual and eternal events, as worse than them.
Also honorable mention, increased role confusion. Role confusion increased significantly in the world, more effeminate men and more masculine women. This affected the abortion rate. The lack of reproduction that comes from man and woman relationships results in less abortion. There are less babies to abort. God designed the family to pass along the truth to the next generation. When families break up, this results in less truth, less worship, less preservation of what God wants in the world. Role confusion breaks up the family as much as any one cause.
Those are the worst of 2021. Natural disasters, pandemics, and political issues can't compare with the spiritual and eternal ones.
Sunday, December 26, 2021
People have their favorite verses in the Bible, beloved ones they commit to memory. They know them well. Every verse, every word of the Bible is important, but there are key passages in it. If you think of Jeremiah, certain texts stand out. One of those is Jeremiah 31:31-34, the classic location for the new covenant.
I read Jeremiah again recently in my Bible reading. Something else stood out. If you google, "new covenant," the first paragraph of the first link, which is the Wikipedia article, reads:
The New Covenant (Hebrew ברית חדשה berit hadashah; Greek διαθήκη καινή diatheke kaine) is a biblical interpretation originally derived from a phrase in the Book of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34), in the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament in Christian Bible).
31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
28 And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the LORD. 29 In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge. 30 But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.
Friday, December 24, 2021
Continue to discover Biblical methods of evaluating whether a conspiracy theory has merit in my newest blog post here.
Wednesday, December 22, 2021
As I begin to write this post, it feels like something canceled on twitter, youtube, and facebook. No one must think this or this way. It must not be said or written. Perhaps a future reeducation camp in store for someone who crosses this boundary.
I was speaking this week to someone from China and the subject of effeminate Chinese men came up. This story made the news at the beginning of September 2021. You can find articles at major news outlets, such as ABC News and the Washington Post, reporting that as Xi Jinping, the general secretary of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), starts a third term, the government cracks down on every sector of society with a "rectification" campaign. As part of pressure to align with the government's vision of a powerful China and a healthier society, the CCP has banned effeminate men on television.
Apparently the trend or growth of effeminate men in Chinese society spread across the border of China through South Korea. South Korean and Japanese singers influenced Chinese pop stars toward unacceptable "niang po," a Chinese insulting slang for effeminate men, which means "girlie guns." The National Radio and TV Administration said that broadcasters must “resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal esthetics.”
In a positive way, China's government has ordered its broadcasters to encourage masculinity, a practice just the opposite of that of the United States. Its government says it wants to put a stop to abnormal beauty standards. The Washington Post article quotes Rana Mitter, an Oxford professor of modern Chinese and politics as saying:
The party does not feel comfortable with expressions of individualism that are in some ways transgressive to norms that it puts forward.
China does not see a future without two clearly delineated roles between men and women. Where does China get that idea? China wants effeminate women and masculine men.
Is there hope for any country that forsakes the God-ordained or natural roles of men and women? 1 Corinthians 11:14 and Romans 1:26-27 read:
Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature. And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
China sees something abnormal or a transgression of natural norms and stops it. The United States encourages it and prohibits discouragement. Listening to a podcast a few weeks ago, Jordan Peterson in an interview seemed to bemoan or mourn the illegality in Canada of conversion therapy. Not long ago society required masculinity and the fulfillment of the male role in society. Now it's bullying to do so.
Churches now cooperate with the perversion of men, ignoring effeminate behavior. Imagine someone in a church telling a boy to stop acting like a girl. Churches now exalt soft-spoken, effeminate sounding and acting men, calling their mannerisms the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Today's tone police cancels masculine tone. Churches need their own rectification campaigns.
Will men do anything? Will the ostensible godly men of churches do anything?
If the Lord tarries and you live, prepare for world takeover by the Chinese, the country with the last men standing.
Other articles from What Is Truth on the subject.
Sunday, December 19, 2021
A Hebrew word for "repent" in the Old Testament is nocham and it's mainly used of God. It first appears in Genesis 6:6: "And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart." The Old Testament makes those kinds of statements several times. Compatible with that, consider the last two verses of the Old Testament (Malachi 4:5-6):
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Elijah comes, who is John the Baptist, and preaches to Israel. The LORD motivates Israel with His coming and smiting the earth with a curse. If they listen, God withholds the curse. If they don't listen, the curse comes. The curse may or may not come. This is a warning. So what happens? A relatively few listen. The rest are cursed. This isn't predetermination. This is how the sovereignty of God works. God does intervene with the warning and then later with the curse or punishment.
To read Malachi 4:5-6 any other way, complicating it with a wrong view of determinism, would pervert the plain meaning. The two ideas of Genesis 6 and Malachi 4 are complimentary: (1) God repents of what He was going to do because of what men have done, and (2) Men repent and God changes what He was going to do. Both of those concepts, which are in scripture in multiple places, speak of men, including unsaved ones, having a free will. They can make choices.
Men making choices doesn't limit God. God makes up the rules, His laws, and He uses the responses of men to orchestrate His will according to providence. Man is not the determiner. He doesn't make the rules or the laws. The Lord uses the wrong response by man and the right response by man both to still accomplish His purpose.
God does predetermine events. He knows everything. He has the power and wisdom to do whatever He wills. His will is perfect. Because all of this, God has free will to the greatest extent.
The Influence of Calvinism
Calvinists say, "Man doesn't have free will, he has natural will, which is not free." There are many ideas behind it, but nothing in scripture backs it up. The idea, that I read, is two main influences on the Protestant view of free will, Augustine and then later Luther's writing, The Bondage of the Will. The Bible will get you a certain distance toward the point of Calvinism about free will, but it doesn't get you all the way.
Calvinism, out of what seems like desperation, crafts a title, like R. C. Sproul uses, the "humanist view of free will." He surmises this view is the majority view of believers, but when I read the view, I can't imagine anyone believes it. Is this a scientific study based on poll research? He defines it this way:
[T]he choices we make are in no wise conditioned or determined by any prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition. Let me say that again: this view says that we make our choices spontaneously. Nothing previous to the choice determines the choice—no prejudice, prior disposition, or prior inclination—the choice comes literally on its own as a spontaneous action by the person.
Every choice comes because of prejudice, prior disposition or inclination. A high enough percentage thinks there is prior inclination or disposition, that I would say everyone believes that, just the opposite of what Sproul says.
The Bondage of the Will
Just because someone acts on the basis of his strongest inclination at the moment of that choice, terminology used by Jonathan Edwards in his work, Freedom of Will, does not contradict freedom of will. An unsaved man lacks in moral ability, but there are other means by which someone can choose Jesus Christ. He has the freedom to choose.
Romans 3:10-12 say man neither seeks after God nor understands God. Ephesians 2:1-5 say the lost are dead. I read though that the truth sets some free from being a slave to sin (John 8:32-36). All these though say to me that man can't initiate the salvation. That's also what I read in the Bible; we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Can there be spiritual death and bondage to sin and free will? I'm writing, yes, but it's also because it's what I read in scripture. If man can't do anything, because he's in bondage, then he's not responsible for anything. Yet, he is responsible. He's responsible because God does reveal Himself to man. I read this in Romans 1 among other places.
When men asked Jesus in Luke 13:23, are there few that be saved? His answer put it on man and his obvious not striving to enter into the narrow gate. Everything fits this way. You read the parable of the soils in Matthew 13. Jesus starts teaching in parables so as not to harden their hearts. A less hard heart results in greater reception to the seed. The truth can harden a heart. Jesus talks about four types of hearts and all of these are about reception of the truth.
The Word of God, God's Revelation
The Word of God, God's revelation, is the supernatural cure for spiritual death and bondage to sin. Hebrews 4:12 says the Word of God is powerful. It is the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17).
Revelation that defeats bondage and spiritual death starts with general revelation, which is general in its audience. This is the grace of God that appears to all men (Titus 2:11). Jesus said the truth is what sets someone free (Jn 8:32). Determination isn't what sets people free. Regeneration isn't what is said to set people free. Jesus freed dead Lazarus from the grave with His Words (Jn 11:43). God said, let there be light and there was light (Gen 1:3). Paul wrote, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom 10:17).
Faith is not a work. It is a gift. Philippians 1:29, "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake." It is given to believe on Christ. 2 Peter 1:1, "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." These saints obtained like precious faith.
God gives faith. God gives it by means of His revelation. He gives it by means of the Word of God. Without revelation and without the Word of God, someone cannot believe. God initiates salvation. Salvation is of the Lord.
I don't mind the claim of "a tension." I think there's a tension. The tension comes with two possible questions. For the Calvinist the question concerns why someone or who is predetermined to Heaven or predetermined to Hell. For a non Calvinist at least like myself the question concerns why someone responds to God's revelation and some don't. I have many verses behind the tension that I believe. All of scripture fits that tension. The Calvinist says something like, God is sovereign over everything and He doesn't have to answer, like the Potter doesn't have to answer to clay.
I can agree with the Calvinist about tension. God can do whatever He wants, and it's always righteous. He's always righteous. We are clay and He is the Potter. However, the Potter gives answers all over His Word.
Let's say you're the parent and your child asks why? You answer, I'm your Dad, that's why. That's true, but that's not the kind of answer that we get again and again and again in scripture.
I would say that man's will is in bondage. Maybe I and the Calvinist agree. Perhaps it's just how the bondage is removed. Scripture says that God's revelation is the delivering agent. Since the Calvinist believes in determinism, it seems to me that he makes up this regeneration by the Holy Spirit that precedes faith. I'll leave it at that.
Faith pleases God and faith comes by hearing the Word of God. God isn't glorified by adding something to scripture even if it's for the purpose of glorifying God. I've noticed with Calvinists today, that for apparently completely depending on God's sovereignty, they use Finney-esque new measures to accomplish church growth. I can listen to most Calvinists and hear them tie church growth success to human methodology. This is where I tell them I'm more Calvinistic than the Calvinists. I'm not trolling them. I think it's true.
In another ironic turn, I say, the truth shall set you free. The Calvinistic view of free will is not biblical. It is not the truth. I have often heard and read Calvinists say that they just got their Calvinism from scripture. I can't imagine anyone reading the Bible and getting a deterministic position. Unlike the Bible, it is conflicting and perplexing. From the very beginning of scripture to the end, the Bible tells a story in which men make choices based on free will.
Friday, December 17, 2021
Continue to read my series on how to evaluate whether a conspiracy theory has merit in my newest blog post here.
Wednesday, December 15, 2021
If you look at a picture of the attendees of a professional baseball game during the 1940s, you see the crowd filled with men in suits and ties. I don't know if they called them fans then, but were they legalists? Anyone who would wear a suit and tie to a baseball game must be a legalist. That's what I've heard about men today who wear that to church. They're legalists.
On the other hand, if someone now wears skinny jeans and a t-shirt while he preaches, that, my friends, is, what I've been told, someone who understands the grace of God. He's also recovering from fundamentalism. Maybe you didn't think it was that simple, but that's how men, who refer to themselves as "recovering fundamentalists," do characterize those who wear a suit, shirt, and tie, when they preach the Word of God behind the pulpit.
Men who wore suits to ball games in the 1940s had their reasons. They didn't wear suits everywhere they went and doing anything they did. Men for similar reasons in the 1950s wore suits when they traveled on an airplane or other kinds of public transportation. In many instances still today, men will wear a suit to a wedding or a funeral. This was a way to show respect in a culture that put a premium still on showing respect.
Some still consider events and places sacred. You've heard the question, "Is nothing sacred any more?" Events and places once treated sacred are not any more. A culture where little is sacred surrenders its means, its symbols and expressions, for treating anything sacred. It blurs the distinctions between the sacred and the profane.
Mark, good vid. I appreciate your spirit and the work you do. I would love to see Nathan's organization change its name to something less demeaning to the IFB faithful. "Recovering" is commonly used for sinful vices and applying the term to Bible believing Christians/churches is more apropos to the enemies of the cross. Your ministry is special and done so well. I appreciate the sensitivity that you have. The average believers in fundamental Baptist churches are sincere brethren and demeaning them with broad strokes is unhelpful and can be unloving. I also would tend to respect the common dress expectations of a church (when invited as a speaker) rather than to parade differences on things of lesser significance. Keep placing the emphasis on lovingly, respectfully but courageously affirming the truth regarding our precious Book.
I totally understand where you're coming from. I think I've made my peace with the name, because as an internet writer (blogs and YouTube) I have come—a bit reluctantly—to realize that some amount of "clickbait" in one's headlines is part of the game. I say some amount because me and my old editor at the Logos Blog agreed we would never promise something that didn't come true. But we knew we were fighting for eyeballs. You can see that in my video title here: "The IFB Off-Ramp." That's probably a bit more attention-getting that strictly necessary.
Do modern version advocates, most often critical text proponents, follow scripture as the basis for what they do? Both Ward and the RF say that's what it is. I don't hear anything scriptural in particular coming from either of them in the interview, except for Ward's brief reference to 1 Corinthians 14:9 and his intelligibility argument. I'm not going to address that again here.
Sunday, December 12, 2021
Part of the confidence and tone of certainty about predetermination and free will seems to come from ambiguity that conflicts and perplexes. A Calvinist will talk to you with a look of absolute conviction. It's as if he's bluffing. He knows something you don't know and you can't see. You're looking, you want to know like he does, but you just don't see it.
Some people talk about a kind of faith not anchored in scripture, which is mere fideism. I've had that charge made against me on the doctrine of preservation. Calvinism takes fideistic leaps in the dark.
A fairly recent article by Tom Hicks in the Foundation Journal (Fall 2016, Issue 106) he explicates Robert Shaw in his 1845 The Reformed Faith: An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith (p. 81) in writing:
The doctrine that God eternally and unconditionally decreed all future things necessarily follows from the fact that God is independent, all knowing, and unchangeable, which is what chapter 2 of the confession (WCF) teaches. Since God is independent, it follows that His decree cannot depend upon anything in the future or anything outside of Himself. Since God knows all things, it follows that God must have first decreed all things. And since God is unchangeable, it follows that God must have an unchangeable decree at the foundation of all that He does.
They say that God decrees all future things. So what do you want to know? Does God decree sin? Does man choose to sin? These are good questions, the answers of which seem contradictory. It is at the very root of Calvinism. You take away these foundational doctrines and you've got a different system. What matters, wouldn't we ask, is what does the Bible say? The right position takes into consideration all of scripture according to the plain meaning of the text.
Listening to the late Calvinist R. C. Sproul explain the Arminian view of free will, he said Arminians came to their position to save or rescue God from a reputation of unloving and harsh, an uncaring manipulator. He didn't provide any basis for this contention. It is a typical kind of argument that I hear in discussions. What if Calvinism was a pendulum swing from Roman Catholicism, the latter teaching man can work his way? Could Calvinism have swung too far toward an unscriptural view of free will to ensure a position of salvation by grace with all for the glory of God?
In another clip by Sproul, he compares someone who believes in free will to an atheist. He explains that this is because if God is not sovereign, then God is not God. There is an informal logical fallacy here, called equivocation, because it's a matter of a definition of the term, sovereignty. Is sovereignty the understanding of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF), chapter three, paragraph one?
God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
The London Baptist Confession says almost identical words. The authors said "God . . . ordain(s) whatsoever comes to pass." This echoes an interpretation of Ephesians 1:11 to which I've referred already in this series:
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
"Ordain whatsoever comes to pass" seems to match "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." Do those mean the same thing? I don't think so. "Worketh" in Ephesians 1:11 is energeo. BDAG takes into consideration all its usage and says it means: "to bring something about through use of capability." Does that compare to "ordain"? The Universal World Dictionary in 1706 says ordain means "to command or enjoin, to appoint or design."
When I look at the meaning of words, I'm considering the history of the doctrine. What were they saying, when they said "ordain" in the WCF and LBC? I'm looking at old dictionaries around the same time to have a better sense of what they meant. However, a modern dictionary says that "ordain" in the religious sense means "to destine or predestine, to order or command" in the context that its being used.
Working all things according to the counsel of his will in Ephesians 1:11 is very similar to working all things together for good in Romans 8:28. God is not working all things period. He is working in a way or manner that all things fulfill God's purpose, which is the understanding of "counsel." Working in that sense is not the same as ordaining all things. What I'm describing fits much better with the rest of scripture also.
A. A. Hodge was the principal of Princeton Seminary from 1878 to 1886 and wrote A Commentary on the Westminster Confession. He amazes the convoluted ends he goes to reason that God controls or determines every single event that occurs in the entire universe at every moment. He writes:
The plan of God comprehends and determines all things and events of every kind that come to pass. (1) This is rendered certain from the fact that all God's works of creation and providence constitute one system. No event is isolated, either in the physical or moral world, either in heaven or on earth. All of God's supernatural revelations and every advance of human science conspire to make this truth conspicuously luminous. Hence the original intention which determines one event must also determine every other event related to it, as cause, condition, or consequent, direct and indirect, immediate and remote. Hence, the plan which determines general ends must also determine even the minutest element comprehended in the system of which those ends are parts. The free actions of free agents constitute an eminently important and effective element in the system of things. If the plan of God did not determine events of this class, he could make nothing certain, and his government of the world would be made contingent and dependent, and all his purposes fallible and mutable.
With the extent that Hodge goes with his explanation of God determining "all things and events of every kind that come to pass" and the comprehensiveness of it, he still writes:
It must be remembered, however, that the purpose of God with respect to the sinful acts of men and wicked angels is in no degree to cause the evil, nor to approve it, but only to permit the wicked agent to perform it, and then to overrule it for his own most wise and holy ends.
Herein lies a contradiction. God does not contradict Himself. Either they are both true or they are both false. I understand that God does not ordain anyone to sin. I fully comprehend Hodge's unwillingness to say that God determines evil. The WCF and LBC say the same. However, the comprehensive determinism of the first general statement clashes with the following statements.
James (1:13) writes:
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.
Why would someone say he's tempted of God? From where would that thought or conception arise? If the sovereignty of God is deterministic, then God could be blamed by someone for his sin. God determines things, yes, but not all things. That should be in the general statement. James 1:13 sounds like, man has choices. God can't be blamed for sin, because man chooses to sin. God determines His will, His purpose, but not everything, but it's also His will that man has a choice, a free will.
I am to explain the nature of a decree. The text calls it a purpose, a will. For God to decree is to purpose and fore-ordain, to will and appoint that a thing shall be or not be. And such decrees must needs be granted, seeing God is absolutely perfect, and therefore nothing can come to pass without his will; seeing there is an absolute and necessary dependence of all things and persons on God as the first cause. . . . He worketh all things, says the text. God has decreed whatsoever comes to pass; and nothing comes to pass but what he has decreed to come to pass.
Later in the same commentary, however, Boston writes:
God decreed the permission of sin for great and glorious ends. It is true, sin in its own nature has no tendency to any good end. If it end in any good, it is from the overruling providence of God, and that infinite divine skill that can bring good out of evil, as well as light out of darkness. . . . God decrees the permission of sin, as above explained, yet is not the author of sin.
The decree of God seems to allow for permission even in its definition. If anything is permitted by God and not all determined by Him, what is the basis for that exception in the decree? This is again where Calvinism conflicts and perplexes. Nothing comes to pass but what God has decreed to come to pass, but regarding sin, God merely permits it, not determines it.
Conflict and perplexity revolves around the compatibility of comprehensive or total determinism and permission only to do evil. If God decrees or ordains all things, which means predetermine all of them, why did God not also ordain the thoughts or intentions of Joseph's brothers in Genesis 50:20?
But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
Either God used their evil thoughts against Joseph or He ordained them. If He didn't ordain them, only permitted them, and then used them, God doesn't determine all things. If God doesn't determine all things, then why believe that He determines or ordains who goes to Hell or who goes to Heaven?
God is sovereign. He determines what He wills. In His sovereignty, however, scripture reads that God willed or wanted free will for man. Genesis 50:20 offers a good example of this, since Joseph's brothers chose their evil thinking or intentions, but there are many others.
(To Be Continued)
Friday, December 10, 2021
Tuesday, December 07, 2021
Calvinists say that other systems limit God's sovereignty or control. Apparently when those systems assign to man free will, they limit God's sovereignty. Instead of God being in total charge, man is partly in charge. Calvinists would also say this means that in salvation, ostensibly man is getting involved to the degree that it's not salvation by grace anymore, but salvation by works.
When I listen to Calvinists, trying to believe them, and they refer to all the passages they use to prove their point, saying them in very earnest, serious tones, getting hearty "Amens" from their adherents, I am not convinced. They are stretching and reading into the passages, sometimes changing the meaning of the words to get their conclusions.
For most of my adult life, I've said that "God is sovereign over His own sovereignty" (here and here). Sovereignty isn't more or less than what God says it is. What we believe about sovereignty must come from all of scripture and not proof texts. The word sovereignty itself is part of the system, because it's not a word in the Bible. Our understanding of sovereignty should arise from the Bible.
Because God is in control, possesses all power, He can accomplish what He wants in any way that He wants. Very often in scripture is the word, "will," and for this doctrine, significantly, "the will of God." God uses His power to accomplish His will. That doesn't mean God determines everything. The Bible doesn't read that way.
I'm not saying that God couldn't determine everything. He has the power to do anything He wants to do. Everything can be in His control without His controlling everything. If God is not controlling everything, that doesn't mean He isn't in control. God is in total charge. Many verses teach this. However, it's also easy to see that He exercises that sovereignty, that charge or control, by also allowing man free will.
Calvinists divide between natural will and free will, free will only possessed by believers, true Christians, or truly converted people. They say the unbeliever does not enjoy free will. There are verses they use to surmise this point, and I see how they get the point if those were the only verses that applied to their view, but there is much more.
I think that I believe on sovereignty as much as it can be believed. I am attempting to believe exactly what the Bible says, no matter what the cost. I believe salvation is of the Lord. I believe that faith is a gift. God alone keeps me saved. I can list other beliefs I have that relate to the sovereignty of God.
Many Calvinist debates or heated discussions, I 've witnessed, see the Calvinist accusing the non-Calvinist of not believing his verses of scripture. He also alleges that his foe does not believe in grace. He doesn't believe in the sovereignty of God. He limits God. Somehow then too, God isn't getting the glory.
One avenue, strategy, or technique -- I don't know which of those it is -- is expressing the peace, the joy, and the strength one derives from a true understanding of the Calvinists view of sovereignty. During hard times, just think this particular view of God and it will make you feel good. I think this during those expressions: "It doesn't make me feel better if it's not true." I get as much peace as I can get from the truth.
In the extreme, the Calvinist says this person does not have faith. He does not believe in the grace of God. He is not giving God the glory. In essence, he also rejects scripture.
A browbeaten person might, usually a professing Christian, because the Calvinist will not do this with an unbeliever, someone who does profess faith in Christ, might finally relent. He recruits Christians to his position of Calvinism. When they finally become a Calvinist, they finally have the key that opens the scripture, as if it is inculcating a hermeneutic.
Passages Used to Deny Free Will
Crucial in a right interpretation and even application of scripture is going as far as the text and also not going further than the text. The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 1:11 says that God "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." To prove that God determines everything, a Calvinist points to the words, "all things." Indeed, God determines or controls every single happening of all time. That's what the verse is telling us. This is an example of a Calvinist going further than the text to conform to the system.
I think you could look at that verse and say that God has His will and He works all things to accomplish His purpose and will. That isn't determining everything. He is in charge and in control, but that isn't controlling everything. This important verse to Calvinists doesn't say as much as they read into it.
To elaborate on what I see it saying in light of everything else the Bible says, I say that God's will is His end or His purpose. He makes sure occurs what He wants to occur. He must have power over everything in every moment to accomplish that. He must have vast wisdom. He must be able to be every place at once. He must know the past, present, and future like it is a kind of eternal present.
God in His sovereignty and power gives free will to man. He allows men to make choices. He still works everything to the end that pleases Him, that He wants. God either allows or causes every single thing that happens, so He is involved with everything.
I am not going to deal with every single verse a Calvinist might use. He may say there are better ones than what I'm listing. Another one is Genesis 50:20:
But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
Passages that Present a Problem with the Calvinistic Doctrine of Free Will
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.