History of Salvation In The Old Testament (ESV Study Bible)
There are a huge number of informative resources in the new ESV Study Bible. Here's an excerpt from an article called Preparing the Way for Christ; which traces the references to salvation in Christ throughout the books of the Old Testament.
The article gives a brief redemptive historical approach to salvation history for each book of the Old Testament and then lists specific references from almost every chapter of each book (along with related New Testament passages) which anticipate our redemption through Jesus Christ, what God has accomplished for us:
History of Salvation in the Old Testament:
Preparing the Way for Christ
After God creates a world of fruitfulness and blessing, Adam’s fall disrupts the harmony. God purposes to renew fruitfulness and blessing through the offspring of the woman (3:15). Christ is the ultimate offspring (Gal. 3:16) who brings climactic victory (Heb. 2:14-15). Genesis traces the beginning of a line of godly offspring, through Seth, Enoch, Noah, and then God’s choice of Abraham and his offspring (Gen. 12:2-3, 7; 13:14-17; 15:4-5; 17:1-14; 18:18; 22:16-18; 26:2-5; 28:13-15).
Through Moses God redeems his people from slavery in Egypt, prefiguring Christ’s eternal redemption of his people from slavery to sin.
The righteousness and wisdom of the law of God prefigure the righteousness of Christ, which is given to his people. The anticipation of entering the Promised Land prefigures Christians’ hope for the new heaven and the new earth (Rev. 21:1-22:5).
The conquest through Joshua prefigures Christ conquering his enemies, both Satan (Heb. 2:14-15) and rebellious human beings. The conquest takes place both through the gospel (Matt. 28:18-20) and in the destruction at the second coming (Rev. 19:11-21).
The judges save Israel, thus prefiguring Christ. But the judges have flaws and failures, and Israel repeatedly slips back into idolatry (2:19), spiraling downward to chaos. They need a king (21:25), and not only a king but a perfect king, the Messiah (Isa. 9:6-7).
The line of offspring leading to Christ goes through Judah to Boaz to David (4:18-22; Matt. 1:5-6). Boaz the redeemer (Ruth 2:20), prefiguring Christ, enables Naomi’s disgrace to be removed and Ruth, a foreigner, to be included in God’s people (prefiguring the inclusion of the Gentiles, Gal. 3:7-9, 14-18, 29).
David, the king after God’s heart (16:7; Acts 13:22), prefigures Christ, in contrast to Saul, who is the kind of king that the people want (1 Sam. 8:5, 19-20). Saul’s persecution of David prefigures worldly people’s persecution of Christ and of Christ’s people.
David as a model king brings blessing to the nation until he falls into sin with Bathsheba (ch. 11). Though he repents, the remainder of his reign is flawed, pointing to the need for the coming of Christ the perfect messianic king.
The reign of Solomon fulfills the first stage of God’s promise to David to establish the kingdom of his offspring (2 Sam. 7:12). Solomon in some ways is a model king, prefiguring Christ. But his decline into sin (1 Kings 11), the sins of his offspring, the division and strife between Israel and Judah, and the continual problems with false worship indicate the need for a perfect king and an everlasting kingdom (Isa. 9:6-7) surpassing the entire period of the monarchy. Many passages in 1 Kings have parallels in 2 Chronicles.
Following the history in 1 Kings, Israel and Judah continue to decline through their false worship and disobedience, leading to exile (2 Kings 17; 25). Some good kings (notably Hezekiah and Josiah, chs. 18-20; 22:1-23:30) prefigure the need for Christ the perfect king, while Elisha prefigures the need for Christ the final prophet (Heb. 1:1-3). Many passages in 2 Kings have parallels in 2 Chronicles.
David as the righteous leader and king prefigures Christ the king, not only in his rule over the people of God but in his role in preparing to build the temple. First Chronicles looks back on the faithfulness of God to his people in the entire period from Adam (1:1) to David (3:1) and even beyond (3:10-24; 9:1-34), indicating the steadfastness of God’s purpose in preparing for the coming of the Messiah as the offspring of Adam (1:1; Gen. 3:15; Luke 3:38), offspring of Abraham (1 Chron. 1:28; Gal. 3:16), and offspring of David (1 Chron. 3:1; 17:11, 14; Luke 3:23-38; Acts 13:23).
Solomon as a wise king and temple builder prefigures Christ the king and temple builder. After Solomon the line of Davidic kings continues, leading forward to Christ the great descendant of David (Matt. 1:6-16). But many of the later kings go astray from God, and they and the people suffer for it, showing the need for Christ as the perfect king. Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29-32) and Josiah (chs. 34-35) as righteous kings prefigure Christ. Second Chronicles has parallels in 1-2 Kings but focuses on the southern kingdom (Judah) and the line of David, and it shows focused concern for the temple and its worship, anticipating the fulfillment of temple and worship with the coming of Christ (John 2:19-21; 4:20-26; Eph. 2:20-22; Rev. 21:22-22:5).
The restoration and rebuilding after the exile, in fulfillment of prophecy (1:1), prefigure Christ’s salvation (Col. 1:13) and the building of the church (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 2:20-22). They also look forward to the consummation of salvation in the new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1).
God providentially brings deliverance to his people through Esther, prefiguring final deliverance through Christ.
Job’s suffering and relief prefigure the suffering and glory of Christ.
By expressing the emotional heights and depths in human response to God, the Psalms provide a permanent treasure for God’s people to use to express their needs and their praises, both corporately and individually. Christ as representative man experienced our human condition, yet without sin, and so the Psalms become his prayers to God (see esp. Heb. 2:12; cf. Matt. 27:46 with Ps. 22:1). The Psalms are thus to be seen as his words, and through our union with him they become ours.
Wisdom ultimately comes from God and his instruction, which anticipates the fact that Christ is the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 2:3) and that in him and his instruction we find the way of life and righteousness (John 14:6, 23-24). Through the Spirit we may walk in the right way (Gal. 5:16-26).
The meaninglessness, frustrations, and injustices of life “under the sun” call out for a solution from God. Christ through his suffering and resurrection provides the first installment (1 Cor. 15:22-23) of meaning, fulfillment, and new life (John 10:10), to be enjoyed fully in the consummation (Rev. 21:1-4).
Song of Solomon
The Song of Solomon depicts marital love. But after the fall merely human love is always short of God’s ideal, and so we look for God’s remedy in the perfect love of Christ (Eph. 5:22-33; 1 John 3:16; 4:9-10). The connection with Solomon (Song 1:1; 3:7, 9, 11; 8:11) invites us to think especially of the marriage of the king in the line of David (Ps. 45:10-15), and the kings point forward to Christ the great king, who has the church as his bride (Rev. 19:7-9, 21:9).
Isaiah prophesies exile because of Israel’s unfaithfulness. But then God will bring Israel back from exile; this restoration prefigures the climactic salvation in Christ. Christ as Messiah and “servant” of the Lord will cleanse his people from sin, fill them with glory, and extend blessing to the nations. Christ fulfills prophecy in both his first coming and his second coming.
Jeremiah’s prophetic indictment of Israel is largely rejected, prefiguring the rejection of Christ’s prophetic message to Israel (Luke 11:49-51). God’s judgment on Israel for apostasy prefigures the judgment that Christ bears as substitute for the apostasy of mankind (1 John 2:2). It also prefigures final judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). Restoration from exile prefigures final restoration to God through Christ (Heb. 10:19-22).
The lament over Jerusalem anticipates Christ’s lamenting over the future fall of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44). In both cases, Jerusalem suffers for her own sins. But suffering for sin finds a remedy when Christ suffers as a substitute for the sins of his people (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:22-24).
God judges Israel’s apostasy through the exile. Israel suffers for her own sin, and in so doing anticipates God’s final judgment against sin (Rev. 20:11-15). But the suffering also anticipates the suffering of Christ for the sins of others. The subsequent blessing in restoration prefigures the blessings of eternal salvation in Christ (Eph. 1:3-14).
Daniel and his friends exemplify the conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world, a conflict that will come to its climax in Christ, in both his first coming and his second coming.
The unfaithfulness of Israel calls for a permanent remedy, which will come in the faithfulness of Christ to the Father and the faithfulness that Christ then works through the Spirit in his people. God’s love for Israel foreshadows Christ’s love for the church (Eph. 5:25-27).
The day of the Lord, the day of God’s coming (see note on Isa. 13:6), brings judgment on sin but also may include blessing. Both aspects are fulfilled in both the first coming and the second coming of Christ.
God comes to Israel with both judgment for sin and promises of restoration. The judgment and restoration anticipate the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, as well as the final judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). The demand for righteousness is fulfilled in the righteousness of Christ (Rom. 8:1-4).
The judgment against Edom, a traditional enemy of Israel, contributes to the blessing of God’s people. The judgment and vindication prefigure the vindication of Christ and the judgments against his enemies, both in his first coming and in his second coming.
Jonah’s rescue from death prefigures the resurrection of Christ (Matt. 12:39-40). The repentance of the Ninevites prefigures the repentance of Gentiles who respond to the gospel (Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:47).
God pronounces judgment on Israel, prefiguring final judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) and the judgment that fell on Christ (Gal. 3:13). He promises blessing through the Messiah, anticipating the blessings of salvation in Christ (Eph. 1:3-14).
Judgment on Nineveh, a traditional enemy of God’s people, prefigures final judgment and final release from oppression (Rev. 20:11-21:8).
God’s use of a wicked nation to accomplish his righteousness foreshadows the use of wicked opponents to accomplish his purpose in the crucifixion of Christ.
The rebuilding in the time of the restoration from exile prefigures the eternal salvation that comes in Christ.
Disobedience and compromise are eliminated with the coming of Christ and his purification.
Perhaps one of the most helpful ways to use this article is the online version of the ESV Study Bible which comes free with your purchase of the hard copy.
Lectures to My Students by C. H. Spurgeon (.pdf)
HT: On the Wing
Twelve What Abouts - Paperback Edition - Now Available
“After finishing a sermon from Ephesians 1, I was immediately confronted by three hostile young visitors who asked the question, ‘What about John 3:16?’; as if the Bible contradicted itself. This non-thinking, non-theological, feelings-oriented mindset is typical of today’s postmodern generation. Pastor Samson has given us a warm and simple (without being simplistic) introduction to the Doctrines of Grace, so this type of ignorance can be biblically combated. This book is a very helpful tool to give to a young Christian or to someone newly encountering the truths of free and sovereign grace. Distribute it widely.” – Earl M. Blackburn, Heritage Baptist Church, Shreveport, Louisiana
I now have the paperback edition of the book in my hands. It has a very attractive front and back cover, the print is large enough to read (my mother loves this aspect), and at 160 pages, it can be read in just a short time. I hope that in time the book will come to be something of a Pastor’s or Bible Teacher’s “best friend” in terms of having something simple, clear and easy to read available for those who struggle with the very weighty issues of God’s Sovereignty in salvation. - JS
You can buy it from monergismbooks at a 44% discount here.
The paradox of sin's captivity
"The will of man without grace is not free, but is enslaved, and that too with its own consent." - Martin Luther
Its called "stockholm syndrome", an apparently paradoxical phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them
Saved by Grace Alone or Saved by Grace Plus Free Will?
You cannot consistently assert that we are saved by "grace alone" and then in the same breath declare that the natural man has a free will to come to Christ (John 6:65). Man needs salvation precisely because his will is in bondage to sin. And that which is in bondage is not free. For the need for grace does away with free will altogether. Its not Christ plus our good will that saves us but Christ alone who grants us everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe.
Visitor: What is salvation?
Response: The short answer is salvation is deliverance from God's wrath and salvation from sin....Saved from the just consequences of our rebellion against God, it was accomplished when God took those consequences upon Himself when Jesus was nailed to the cross.The wrath of God abides on all men apart from the grace of Jesus Christ, who alone lived the life we should have lived and died the death we justly deserve.
Visitor: Okay, what is free will?
Response: Free will is something that exists only in people's imagination. Fallen man does not have a free will. He is NOT able NOT to sin. All people except Jesus Christ have broken God's law and have sinned. Therefore none can save themselves or lift a finger toward their own salvation. God must intervene if man is to have any hope at all. And He has done it in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Visitor: How does a person know if they are saved then?
Response: By grace you look to Christ's Righteousness and not your own. The Scriptures indicate that we are saved if the Word of God has come in divine power into our soul such that our self-complacency is shattered and our self-righteousness is renounced. Second, the Holy Spirit convicts us of our woeful, guilty, and lost condition. Third, God reveals to us the sufficiency of Jesus Christ alone to meet our desperate case and by a divinely given faith causes us to lay hold of and rest upon Him as our only hope. Fourth, when the Spirit changes our heart He gives us a love for God, a love for His word and an appetite for spiritual things; a longing for holiness; a seeking after conformity to Christ. This does not mean that you are sinless, but that you desire to obey Christ and feel anguish when you disobey Him. (A.W. Pink)
Visitor: What if I've felt this my whole life?
Response: Then it is likely that the Holy Spirit opened your heart to the gospel at an early age.
"...he who in his soul believes that man does of his own free-will turn to God, cannot have been taught of God, for that is one of the first principles taught us when God begins with us, that we have neither will nor power, but that he gives both; that he is "Alpha and Omega" in the salvation of men. - C. H. Spurgeon (Free Will, a Slave)
"In vain people busy themselves with finding any good of man's own in his will. For any mixture of the power of free will that men strive to mingle with God's grace is nothing but a corruption of grace. It is just as if one were to dilute wine with muddy, bitter water. But even if there is something good in the will, it comes from the pure prompting of the Spirit." -John Calvin, Institutes
40 Arabic Words
Dr. James White writes, "The Qur'an denies, in a single ayah (verse), that Jesus the Messiah was crucified. By denying this historical reality, the Qur'an forces its followers to not only reject one of the most certain events of history itself, but by so doing it separates them from the life-giving message of the cross of Jesus Christ.
In this video we compare the 40 Arabic words of Surah 4:157 with the 33 Greek words of Galatians 2:20. Here are the texts (as translated by the co-author of the lyrics, James White):
Surah 4:157: And in reference to the Jews who said, "We killed the Messiah, Jesus the Son of Mariam, the apostle of God," they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but it was made to appear to them. And indeed those who differ in the matter are surely in doubt about it. They have no knowledge about it except following mere assumption. But of a certainty they did not kill him.
Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified together with the Messiah. So it is no longer I who live, but the Messiah living in me. And this fleshy life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, the one who loved me and gave himself in my place.
It is our sincere hope that Muslims will know we present this with true love in our hearts for them, and in the hope that they will see their need for Christ's work, and will submit in repentance and faith to His lordship."
For more information on the Christian faith, and for responses to the claims of Islam, see the videos on this channel, and the information available at www.aomin.org.
Why Are Secular Progressives So Threatened by the Christian's View of Homosexual Behavior?
Why do the the secular progressives feel so threatened when homosexual behavior is called a sin by Christians? Is this sin unique among sins? The recent fury by the Hollywood crowd over Kirk Cameron's honest answer to a journalist's question got me to thinking about this.
For thousands of years the church has declared many various things as sinful; practices that are in direct rebellion against the Creator. These are acts that God Himself revealed to men as opposing his Lordship. The church has always declared the sinfulness of sex outside the covenant of marriage (before and after marriage), the sinfulness of idol worship, greed, hatred, pride and arrogance, self-righteousness, murder and many more. And the largest proportion of these are directed toward the church's own sin. You can see this every morning in our prayers and every Sunday (in confessional churches) during the corporate confession of sin where we remind ourselves that we are sinners and do so by then naming specific sins we ourselves are all guilty of ... and the very grace in the gospel constantly reminds that we are no better than others (this is such an easy sin for all of us to fall into), and we also remind ourselves that but for the grace and mercy of God in Jesus Christ alone would would have no hope at all. We confess daily that if we based our ability to please God and earn eternal life on our own broken sinful lives, that none of us would make it, since we all justly deserve God's wrath. Humanity, therefore, needs a Savior because it is in slavery to sin and bent on rebellion against the only one who can deliver us. None of us are immune from sin and our personal sin is not above the sin of the gay person. We are all equally damned without God's grace.
When we tell others that something they are doing is sinful behavior in the eyes of God it is not because we hate them or think we are better than them. On the contrary, it is a call from other sinners like them to escape their slave-master and flee to Jesus Christ, the one who lived the life we should have lived and, in our place, died the death we justly deserve. None of us are born free. Only Christ can set us free.
Now, the secularist may not agree with that and think it is foolish to believe in God, but it is only spreading the greatest ignorance to imagine that when the Christian says homosexuality is sin that it somehow promotes hatred, bigotry and bullying, all sins that are equally bad, if not worse, than homosexual behavior itself. When we declare these other practices sinful, I noticed that the progressives do not call it hatred. They may laugh and shrug their shoulders but they do not think it is bigotry. So why is it then that this particular sin is singled out? It seems to me that the purpose has more to do with the political rhetoric used when someone wants power, than anything based in reality. If Christians are bullying people because they are gay, then in all likelihood they are not Christians. I think deep down the progressive secularists know that Christians declare God's law, not out of hatred but of love. We can even see this in popular culture. On Seinfeld, When Elaine's Christian boyfriend did not warn her about hell, she complained that he did not care about her because if he thought there was a hell, he should at least warn her about it, even though she didn't personally think there was a hell.
This is not not say that there are not so-called Christians who hate or are bigoted. It is to say that this is not the motive behind the vast majority of those in the true church. We rail against bigotry and hate in ourselves every bit as much, if not more, than we do someone's perverse sexual behavior. Homosexuality is really not something we think about very often. But if you ask us or if you would have us vote our conscience when the issue comes up then we will. Christians will never, and I repeat NEVER, change their mind about this. God's law always triumphs over social pressure. Time to be tolerant yourselves and get used to it without calling other people hateful. This reaction is evidence of Christophobia rather than anything resembling what is going on in our minds.. That is merely to spread false reports and may help a political cause but it does not match reality.
Remember it is one thing for individuals to commit a sin and yet know its wrong and feel remorse about it. All men do this and such sin is forgivable. But it is entirely another matter when society begins to call good "evil", and evil "good"... by calling good "bigotry". This is the height of mass self-deception.
Psalm 51:5 - 'Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.'
"Dead Men Cannot Hate"
Here is a failed attempt to demonstrate that the Reformed view of (unregenerate) man being dead is illogical.
Visitor: A dead man can not walk to an emergency room but neither does a dead man hate.
Response: I believe you may have missed the point. The Bible teaches that those who are dead to spiritual things are quite alive to sin and the flesh. The Bible teaches there are two kinds of people in the world 1) spiritual and 2) natural. The natural person cannot understand spiritual truth and by nature thinks it is folly and is therefore hostile to it (1 Cor 2:14, Rom 8:7). He is completely dead to it - beyond his native moral capacity. The apostle says a person needs the mind of Christ to understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:12). Otherwise they just continue on in their love of darkness (John 3:19, 20) So the dead in sin (the spiritually dead) are those in the state or condition without the Holy Spirit. This is a fact which is quite prevalent in the Bible... that is, unless you want to claim (against Scripture) that a person can come to faith in Jesus Christ apart from the work of the Holy Spirit.
In another place Jesus even says of them, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." - John 8:44
Essentially Jesus is here saying to them, "Like father, like son. Like the devil they have no truth in them and lie because that is what they do by nature."
Next Jesus says to them, "Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8: 46-47
In other words, the reason they do not hear the truth and do not hear God is that they are spawn of the devil. They are not God's children so It is not in their nature to hear spiritual truth. Their ear only hears the things which oppose God. i.e. they are Dead to spiritual things but alive to sin.
But Jesus shows the only way some escape from slavery....In the same passage Jesus said to them,
“Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father. - John 8:34-38
Man is naturally a slave to sin. He commits sin and cannot do otherwise. Only a work of grace, apart from their assistance or cooperation, can set them free from slavery and adopt them into God's family. Those born of God are children of God.
Sons of Korah
Although the contributors to this site have a variety of opinions on relatively minor matters, it is, as the name suggests, openly and unashamedly Reformed in its essential theology and viewpoints. And really, what is a more historically Reformed practice than psalm-singing? Simply speaking, the psalms were meant to be sung. There are few things more helpful in the daily battle for sanctification than to have the psalms always running through one's heart; and putting them to music is a tremendously valuable way to assist in that endeavor. Therefore, I'm always on the lookout for resources to aid in congregational or personal singing of the psalms. One group I came across some time ago, which has been a huge blessing to me, is the Sons of Korah. They put a modern, non-metrical translation of the psalms to music. Their songs are exclusively psalms, quite often psalms in their entirety, set to emotional, affective music which reflects the content of the individual psalms very appropriately. They already have five full albums available, with a sixth coming out anytime now. I would highly recommend them to anyone. Their website is sonsofkorah.com. Here's a youtube sample for you to check out:
Libertarian Freedom and God
As you know, those who believe in "libertarian free will" declare the ability to choose otherwise...
Given that God is absolutely holy and without sin by His very nature, it would actually be heretical to declare that God has libertarian free will ... for it would mean that He would have the "freedom" to do otherwise ... i.e. to be unholy, if He so chose to be.
However, the Bible defines freedom relative to sin (See John 8)... so God being absolutely holy makes Him the most free. This is great evidence that libertarian free will is a philosophical construct and not based on biblical presuppositions of freedom.
No Kicking and Screaming...
"The doctrine of ‘irresistible grace’... is simply the belief that when God chooses to move in the lives of His elect and bring them from spiritual death to spiritual life, no power in heaven or on earth can stop Him from so doing... It is simply the confession that when God chooses to raise His people to spiritual life, He does so without the fulfillment of any conditions on the part of the sinner. Just as Christ had the power and authority to raise Lazarus to life without obtaining his ‘permission’ to do so, He is able to raise His elect to spiritual life with just as certain a result.
God ordains the ends and the means. The ends is the salvation of God's elect. His decree renders their salvation a certainty... Just as God's grace is irresistible, so the result of that grace (regeneration, the imparting of a heart of flesh after taking out the heart of stone, etc.,) is just as certain. God changes the heart so that my act of faith toward Jesus Christ is the natural result of my changed nature.
I am a new creature, not because the old rebel decided to become something other, but because of the resurrection power of God by the Spirit. The very idea of someone kicking and screaming seems a bit ironic, in light of the Reformed insistence upon the deadness of man in sin. Surely the heart of stone contains no desire to be changed, but ignoring the impartation of resurrection life as the means by which a radical change in the will of the elect is effected again presents a fundamentally distorted view of the (Reformed) position..." - Dr. James White
The doctrines of grace are intricately related one to the other. It is easy to see in this case how "irresistible grace" relates also to the "perseverance of the saints." This is because the One who starts the work, finishes it. To quote John Newton's hymn Amazing Grace, "Twas grace that caused my heart to fear... and grace will lead me home."
"As grace led me to faith in the first place, so grace will keep me believing to the end. Faith, both in its origin and continuance, is a gift of grace." - J.I. Packer
Book Review: Love, Freedom, and Evil, by Thaddeus J. Williams
All throughout Church history, arguments have been waged and books have been written on the topic of human freedom and divine sovereignty and grace. The conclusion that there remains little, therefore, to be said on the topic seems reasonable, but is belied by the still unabated stream of publications tackling that thorny issue from one angle or another. One thing that stands out about the plethora of modern works touching upon the subject is that it has become virtually axiomatic to assume that, if love is to be genuine, it must be sovereignly exercised by a free will. That is the platform upon which various positions are erected: books that are primarily philosophical or logical in nature tend to synthesize from this starting premise, and those primarily scriptural in nature tend to look for ways in which scripture can be interpreted in harmony with it, or else blow it away with brute force, never pausing to consider how or if its axiomatic status can survive a basic logical scrutiny.
I found Thaddeus Williams' contribution to the discussion, Love, Freedom, and Evil, to be helpful primarily because it addresses this axiom head-on, with a common-sensical, disarming manner. Can scriptural arguments be made against libertarian free will? Yes, they can be, as Williams himself illustrates, providing a very helpful discussion of the themes of divine love and sovereignty in John's gospel. But the problem is, it is an unnecessary obstacle to people's credulousness to leave an unsubverted axiom intact, when making the scriptural case for the sovereignty and irresistibility of divine grace. It's like telling people, if you would believe what the bible says, you can no longer believe that the sky is blue.
Does the premise that authentic love requires libertarian free will deserve its axiomatic status? Williams would argue, and very convincingly so, that the answer is a resounding “No!”. The self-evident nature of the argument for libertarian free will is pulled off only by a classic bait-and-switch, and when the terms are kept consistent, the argument for divine sovereignty is not only scripturally compelling, it is also common-sensical.
Williams is entering a scholarly philosophical discussion, he is not writing a popular or devotional book. It is helpful, therefore, that he constantly uses simple, adept metaphors and illustrations. This makes his argument easy to grasp and to follow. It lends a kind of ingenuousness to the work. He is not winning a philosophical argument by expert arguments beyond the ken of a common person. That can be done, but the downside is, it's not very convincing to a common person. On the contrary, he's simply showing that, when you define your terms properly, common sense is on the side of scriptures. The confidently assumed axioms of Rob Bell, Greg Boyd, and a whole host of other libertarians, are built upon a cunning sleight-of-hand.
The overarching metaphor of the book depicts human freedom in the realm of divine love and grace as a freedom with respect to machine, gunman, heart, and reformer. Must genuine love have freedom from the machine – that is, must it be more than the programmed response of an automaton? Both sides would answer, “Yes”. Must it be un-coerced, that is, must it have freedom from the gunman? Again, yes. So far so good, on both counts.
However, libertarian arguments assume more. They start out with the common-sense premise that true love cannot be mechanistic or coerced, and then change the substance of the premise so that it demands that it cannot be a necessary orientation of the heart. If my heart is so swayed by passion that I cannot help but love, then my love cannot be genuine; I must be able to make a volitional choice to love or not to love, regardless of what my heart desires.
But when this unspoken shift from freedom from the machine and gunman to freedom from the heart takes place, the common-sense, axiomatic nature of the premise is overturned. If a father's heart is so full of emotion at the sight of his newborn daughter that he simply cannot help but love her, does that mean his love is no longer genuine, that it is coerced or mechanistic? Any father with common sense would be able to answer this question; but common sense leads away from the assumed axiom of the libertarian free will camp. I cannot help but love my daughter, but my love for her is genuine – and not just in spite of that lack of freedom to choose not to love her, but rather, because of it. As Williams helpfully shows, at this point, it is rather the libertarian who runs athwart common sense; for he demands that, if love is to be genuine, an “indifferent agent may choose for desires, but must remain desireless when so choosing”. In other words, for love to be genuine, the lover must be desireless (could one read, loveless?). When the bait-and-switch is discovered, the common-sense nature of the libertarian argument is eviscerated.
But the problem with philosophical arguments for libertarian free will goes deeper than that. For the libertarian axiom to hold true, not only must any genuine lover have freedom from the machine, the gunman, and the heart – he must also have freedom from the Reformer (that is, from God who reforms the sinner's heart). This is the point upon which Williams' discussion of John's gospel is so helpful. The question is not ultimately whether men can resist God's sovereign power in the gospel – it is more fundamentally whether they can resist his infinite, intra-trinitarian love, by which the Father promised a people to the Son out of love for him, the Son undertook to win a people for the Father out of love for him, and the Spirit determined to bring those people into that eternal bond of love. The essence of this sovereign love of God for his people is not that they might be free from him, but that they might be one with him. The libertarian axiom that, if my love for God can be genuine, I must be free at any time to choose for or against loving him flies in the face of the kind of love God shows within the Trinity, the same kind of love to which and by which he unstoppably calls us.
Williams ends his argument by suggesting that a simple preposition change is necessary to straighten out the confused categories of the bait-and-switch axiom of libertarian free will, and turn it into both a common-sensical and a scriptural axiom. Instead of saying true love requires freedom from the machine, from the gunman, from the heart, and from the Reformer, try this: true love requires freedom from the machine, from the gunman, of the heart and of the Reformer. When God is free to set our hearts free from slavery to sin, then there is love indeed. When the Reformer freely works in the hearts he created and designed to respond to himself in love, what kind of freedom does he bring? To quote Williams, a freedom “from the burden of self, freedom from excessive rule-keeping, freedom from enslaving impulses, freedom from satanic principalities, from condemnation, from hopelessness, from alienation, from meaninglessness, from anti-love forces within, in short, Freedom from Sin. Such freedom moves us a considerable distance from libertarian free will.... With this new freedom we approach not only something like the freedom Jesus experienced, but also move closer to what He perhaps had in mind with the words, 'If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed' (John 8:36)”.
Love, Freedom, and Evil: Does Authentic Love Require Free Will? by Thaddeus J. Williams - Available now at Monergism Books
The Doctrine of Salvation by Grace Alone is a 450 year old Western Paradigm?
Visitor: The Doctrine of Salvation Grace Alone is a 450 year old Western Paradigm.
Response: "450 years old?" C'mon ..... Both the words of the Bible itself (1000s of years old) and Christian history after the closing of the canon demonstrate that your statement is false.
Not only does the Bible declare it but early Christians did as well, including the quote at the top of the page of this blog from the Council of Orange (529 AD)
"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6).
Even before that Augustine drew the same conclusions from the Bible. Among the many things he said, here are just a few:
"In some places God requires newness of heart [Ezek 18:31]. But elsewhere he testifies that it is given by him [Ezek. 11:19; 36:26]. But what God promises we ourselves do not do through choice or nature; but he himself does through grace."- Augustine
"To will is of nature, but to will aright is of grace." - Augustine
"The nature of the Divine goodness is not only to open to those who knock. but also to cause them to knock and ask."- Augustine
"Without the Spirit man's will is not free, since it has been laid under by shackling and conquering desires." - Augustine
The question is not whether you like Augustine or his statements but rather to show you beyond further question that this doctrine is clearly over 450 years old.
Your idea of the meaning of "grace" seem to not go beyond more than an offer. It does not do anything for the person to change their heart. So I must ask why do you pray for unbelievers then? It would be absurd to pray for them if God can do nothing more than persuade from the outside. This is really nothing more than we do when we preach the gospel to them. No we pray because only God can help them. So while you may believe in the necessity of Christ but you refuse to acknowledge that He alone is enough to supply everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe, which is declared widely through all through Scripture.
If regenerating grace depends on our will or cooperation then it is no longer grace (John 1:13, 3:6 & 6:63) but instead it is no different than the humanistic philosophy of the present age which declares that "God helps those who help themselves." But even a cursory reading of Scripture will make clear that grace is not a reward for faith, but the cause of it.
Can't keep the joy to myself!
WARNING: This is what happens in the Gorilla enclosure when a television is left on for over an hour, tuned to the Christian channel!
Now, that's what I'm talkin' 'bout sister!!!