Chrysostom Vs. Augustine on Man's WIll
John Chrysostom (347-407), held to this opinion,
“All is in God’s power, but so that our free-will is not lost, . . It depends therefore on us and on Him. We must first choose the good, and then He adds what belongs to Him. He does not precede our willing, that our free-will may not suffer. But when we have chosen, then He affords us much help . . . It is ours to choose beforehand and to will, but God’s to perfect and bring to the end.” … Salvation is of God and of man!"
Now contrast this view with Augustine (354 – 430):
"God's mercy ... goes before the unwilling to make him willing; it follows the willing to make his will effectual."
- Augustine, Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love.
"The nature of the Divine goodness is not only to open to those who knock. but also to cause them to knock and ask."
"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."
'Can we possibly, without utter absurdity, maintain that there first existed in anyone the good virtue of a good will, to entitle him to the removal of his heart of stone? How can we say this, when all the time this heart of stone itself signifies precisely a will of the hardest kind, a will that is absolutely inflexible against God? For if a good will comes first, there is obviously no longer a heart of stone.'
Exile to New Creation in John's Gospel (Part 1)
The gospel according to John is rightly a "beloved" book book of the Bible (pun intended). It's central message concerning Christ and his redemptive accomplishments are simple enough that even the "unlearned" can understand. Yet, it is also so richly profound that a lifetime can be spent mining the depths of its theology and the bottom is never reached. It is my intention in this multi-part series to look at one of the rich underlying theological themes of John's gospel. As the title bears out, the theme is exile to new creation. This first post will draw out some preliminary matters addressed in the first five verses of the Prologue. The theme of exile, return from exile, and new creation are hatched in these opening verses. Furthermore, I will address how these relate to the stated purpose of John's gospel. The Prologue is especially important in understanding the theology of John's gospel for Carson rightly states, "The Prologue is a foyer to the rest of the Fourth Gospel, simultaneously drawing the reader in and introducing the major themes" (Carson, 111). Furthermore, as I develop this theme I will draw primarily from the Old Testament book of Isaiah as there seems to be a correspondence and connection between the prophecy of Isaiah and the Gospel of John (see James Hamilton "The Influence of Isaiah on the Gospel of John," Perichoresis 5/2 (2007): 139-162).
Isaiah's prophecy looks to a time when God creates something that is new; a new heaven and a new earth. The terminology used in Isaiah mirrors that which is used in Genesis 1. The trajectory of the Bible points us to the fact that God will dwell amongst his people. Where God, in the original creation dwelt amongst them in the first garden temple so to in the final creation God would dwell in the midst of his people (Rev. 21:1ff). Israel was a type of what was to come as the Lord dwelt in her midst (Deut. 6:15). However, sin spoiled the original creation. Man was exiled from the garden temple of Eden (Gen. 3). Israel, which had the tabernacle and temple where God dwelt with his people, was exiled because of violation of the covenant stipulation given at Sinai. This exile of Israel was pictured by Isaiah as a time of darkness (see Isaiah 9) and return from exile is ultimately pictured as the light dawning in the darkness. The exile is more than just a physical relocation, it ultimately looks back upon the condition of all of humanity being in exile from the Lord because of both Adam's sin (corporate) and our own personal sins. Thus, the light dawning or shining in darkness is the redemptive work of God being made manifest in the Lord Jesus Christ who is the light who has come into the world.
How does this relate to the beginning of John? What is invoked is creation imagery. The Word who was both with God and was God is the one through whom "all things were made." Therefore, as we read John with Old Testament anticipation we ought to be clued in to the dawning of the new creation coming by means of the same "without him was not any thing made that was made." Furthermore, John melds together both creation and exilic return language "the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." The very one whom the original creation was made is the one through whom the new creation comes. Isaiah 65 speaks of a new creation, which is marked by life, peace, blessing, and prosperity. The almighty God will bring about a new creation and it is through the agent of the original creation; the Lord Jesus.
In John 1:5 there is a contrast between light and darkness. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. Darkness is the sphere of evil. It is where sin is carried out (John 3:19). Darkness is the sphere of sin and wickedness, but it is also more. It is the sphere of positive evil where people walk in darkness conducting themselves in manners of sinfulness and wickedness (Jn. 8:12). The one who walks in darkness is lost (Jn. 12:35). Darkness is something that people need delivered from (Jn. 12:46). Furthermore it is the realm of Satan who is a liar and a murderer. The light (Christ) has come into the realm of darkness; the realm of sin; the realm of evil; the realm of exile. Yet, the darkness does not prevail. Sin does not prevail. The light pierces the darkness or overcomes the darkness. The darkness never overcomes the light. Darkness only exists when there is no light.
The point that is made here is that when the almighty God came into the world as a man, he was triumphant in his mission. He overcame the darkness. Of course this begs a question? What did he overcome when he overcame the darkness and how did he overcome it?
Light and darkness are not equal forces. In many lines of thought light and darkness or good and evil are two equal forces that are locked in this cosmic battle of sorts. There is no sure outcome. It is a push/pull relationship. Sometimes good triumphs while other times darkness or evil triumphs. The picture is one of this cosmic tug of war. There is no assurance of any outcome. However, this is not the picture that is given in the Scriptures. Good and evil; light and darkness are not equal forces. The Lord God and Satan are not equal powers and the realm of darkness will never prevail over the kingdom of light. The darkness does not overcome the light. The light is triumphant. The light overcomes. The Lord Jesus is the triumphant God who overcomes darkness (Satan, sin, and wickedness).
Isaiah 9:2 "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined." John picks up this theme from Isaiah. Isaiah is speaking of the Lord Jesus (see also Matt. 4). Those who walk darkness on them the light has shined. It isn't that Jesus simply overcomes Satan, sin, and wickedness in the world; he overcomes it even in our own hearts. The darkness is the world estranged from God; spiritually ignorant and blind, fallen and sinful. This described us. But we have seen a great light; the Lord Jesus Christ who has shined upon us that we would have life.
How Jesus is triumphant? Or by what means is he triumphant? This speaks to Jesus' resurrection and his ultimate return.
The greatest day of darkness was Good Friday. The day on which the Lord of glory was crucified. It is recorded that when Jesus was crucified their was darkness over the land. However, on the third day, the light emerged from the tomb. He was triumphant over sin, Satan, and death. The light overcame the darkness. The reality is we must be firmly focused upon the Lord Jesus who emerged from the tomb triumphant. Sin is overcome. The exile is being brought to an end. The return from exile is becoming a reality.
How do we understand the fact that the Bible tells us that Jesus is triumphant, but we still see evil in the world; we still see death. Satan has been vanquished at the cross and resurrection and he is like a wounded animal now. He is in the death throws, but when the Lord returns, the triumph that was accomplished at the cross and resurrection will be finally brought to its consummation. The light will fully and finally triumph over the darkness and God will dwell with man.
How do these themes relate to the stated purpose of John's Gospel? John explicitly states that which he wrote was "so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (20:31). In the overall scope of the of John's Gospel the realm of darkness is equated with sin, exile, and darkness. However, conversely, light is equated with the Lord, righteousness, and life. Therefore, those who "return from exile," so to speak, are those who identify with Christ and believe in his name. Consequently they are the ones who have life.
As Christ Jesus entered the world at his first advent, the light pierced the darkness and those who dwelt in darkness upon them a light has shined. The one who is the light is the source of life and he gives life and light to those who dwell in darkness that they would share in the new creation where God dwells with man in a garden temple that transcends the first one in that it fills the whole earth.
In our next segment we will look at another key section of the Prologue that further establishes who participates in exile to new creation.
All the Grapes Given to Me are Eaten by Me ...
Question: If all the grapes a friend gives to me are eaten by me, what percentage of the grapes that my friend gives me are eaten by me? Not a trick question, the answer should be obvious.
Likewise if all that the Father gives to [Jesus] will come to faith in him (John 6:37), what percentage of those who the Father gives the Son will come to faith in Him? Spiritual truths like this often remain unseen even though they are not hidden in the Text. If you answered 100% to the first question and not the second then I would encourage you to reevaluate your approach to Scripture and I pray the Lord would open you heart and eyes to this critical truth.
The Foreknowledge of God - Events or People?
To know someone in the Bible is to have intimate personal knowledge of. This is a consistent way of expression all through the text of the OT and NT. So God is speaking of foreknowing a PERSON or PEOPLE, not foreknowing EVENTS. THOSE he foreknew. So its meaning in Rom 8 is pointing to those persons He first set his affection on ... "in love, he predestined them" as it also declares in Eph 1:4,5. In Romans 8 it also says "those he called, he justified." How many of those that he called did he justify, according to this text? ALL those he called, he justified...so it follows that all those he foreknew were justified.
Second, the Scripture also uses this language to describe Jesus. "He was foreknown before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20). Does this passage allude to the idea that God knew beforehand what Jesus would do? It is much more personal than this. In the case of Christ, God’s foreknowledge was more than merely a prediction of what he will do. It would be rather strange and awkward to say the Father merely foreknew the coming of Christ. The Bible declares that Jesus was appointed to the office of Christ. And all circumstances relating to His coming were arranged in advance. History was made for Christ, not Christ for history. So it obviously does not have the same meaning synergists seem to think it does.
Lastly, the meaning of foreknowledge used as "foreknow free decisions" only begs the question .. if God only foreknows people's acts and then chooses them based on them, and since his foreknowledge of future events is exhaustive even before they take place, then their decision could not be otherwise. It is set in stone. If God knows with certainty who will come and who won't before creating them, then why did he create them that way? This is a kind of impersonal fatalism rather than the personal determinism or a loving God. It must be true that all Christians recognize (1) that God foreknows the future exhaustively, and (2) that He has created the world knowing what the future will bring. For example, before the foundation of the world, God knew that Amy would make a free decision to become a Christian. Somehow, then, before Amy was born, God knew of his free decision. So even at that time, Amy's free decision must have been inevitable. Why was it inevitable? Not because of Amy's free will, for Amy was not yet born. Not because of God's predestination, because the synergist denies that possibility as a matter of theological conviction.. It would seem that the inevitability in question had some source other than either Amy or God. Something impersonal or worse.
Why does God allow so much suffering and evil?
"Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?" - Amos 3:6
In light of the events of the last few days, I re-watched a message from the West Coast Ligonier Conference (2008) by Dr. John MacArthur on the question of evil and suffering in this world. It was a very good use of an hour as it fixed my heart and mind on the truth claims of the Bible regarding God's Sovereignty over evil in this world. I very much recommend this teaching found here. - JS
Here are some notes I made as I watched:
WHY DOES GOD ALLOW SO MUCH EVIL AND SUFFERING?
FOUR FORMS OF EVIL:
MORAL EVIL – Personal sin (transgression)
SUPERNATURAL EVIL – Sophisticated corrupt spiritual identities that seek to torment, entice, deceive and seduce (heresy and false religions have their source in the demonic – the doctrine of demons – 1 Tim 4)
THE EVIL OF HELL (eternal punishment)
1) Evil exists.
2) God exists.
3) God wills evil to exist (He takes full responsibility for all that occurs). If He did not permit its existence, it would not be here.
Evil occurs because God, who could have prevented it, permits it. The permission of evil is under the control of God. To say that it is permitted is to underline the point because God is not Himself evil and could not be the author of evil (James 1:13). It is vital to stress this. But it is not as if, when evil occurs, God temporarily loses control of the universe that He has created and sustains and governs.
"...though Christians face the difficulty of explaining the presence of evil in the universe, the pagan has a problem that is twice as difficult. Before one can even have a problem of evil, one must first have an antecedent existence of the good. Those who complain about the problem of evil now also have the problem of defining the existence of the good. Without God there is no ultimate standard for the good." – R. C. Sproul
In order to try to get around what some people think to be a poor reflection on God regarding point number 3, two main theological errors have been put forward.
1. Process Theology – in simple terms, the idea that God is learning and growing and developing as He reacts to the events of time.
2. Openness Theology – the idea that the future does not yet exist and so not even God knows it. However this goes against clear statements of Scripture. God knows the end from the beginning, is omniscient, and this is why such much of the Bible is prophetic in nature.
Westminster Confession of Faith: 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.
Sufficiency vs. Necessity
The central difference between Reformed and non-Reformed theology is that the former affirms that Jesus Christ is SUFFICIENT to save to the uttermost while later believes that while Jesus is NECESSARY, but He is NOT SUFFICIENT. The Reformers never charged Rome of believing one could be saved apart from grace. That wasn't the debate. The debate of the Reformation was never ever about the necessity of grace, it was about the sufficiency of grace. Reformed Theology emphasizes more than anything else, the sufficiency of Christ in salvation. There is nothing more essential to its position and this is what sets it apart from other all other theologies.
The word "sufficient", in this case, means that Jesus Christ meets all the conditions for us that are necessary for our salvation, not only some of the conditions. It further means what Jesus does for us on the cross meets all of God's requirements for us, including giving us the new heart which is needed to believe and obey (Ezekiel 36:26).
Evangelicalism broadly believes in an insufficient Jesus whose love is conditional, that is, that we must first meet a condition if He will help/love us. Can you imagine a parent who saw their toddler run out into traffic and first required them to meet a condition before the parent would run out to save them from oncoming traffic? No, no, no... parental love is unconditional and would run out at the risk of their life to save the child regardless of the child's will at the time because the parent loves his child and knows better than the child what is good for him/her. If this is true about love in everyday life, how much more is it true of God. No person would say that the parent who required the child to first meet a condition was more loving. That is why the argument about the necessity of free will to have true love is fallacious. In the Bible, God gives conditions, but in Jesus He meets all the conditions for us.
“God knows we have nothing of ourselves, therefore in the covenant of grace he requires no more than he gives, but gives what he requires, and accepts what he gives.”
― Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed
The Importance of Jesus' Fulfilling All Righeousness For Us
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." - Matthew 3:13-15
What an odd passage. Jesus comes to John to be baptized. John, knowing Jesus' identity, tries to stop Him and tells him it should be the other way around. Jesus tells him to do it anyway in order to' fulfill all righteousness'. Huh? What righteousness? Isn't Jesus already righteous, we ask? What actual need would there be to fulfill any more righteousness? While we all acknowledge that Jesus is indeed righteous in His essence, but I propose to demonstrate from the text of Scripture that, in order to become a perfect substitute for us, Jesus also needed to fulfill all righteousness as a man from our side, a man who is 'born under the law' who needed to perfectly keep it in order to be able to impute righteousness to us. Yes we must be quick to acknowledge that our Lord’s atoning death removes sin. Clearly, the curse of the law is removed because Jesus endured the penalty for us. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Gal. 3:13). Indeed, as the text of Scripture declares, in order for human beings, who are sinners, to have eternal life the guilt and penalty of sin must be removed. But Jesus does this not only by dying the death we justly deserve but by living the life we should have lived. This means, along with punishment for sins, that we must also have a perfect record of obedience to God’s law. When these two conditions are fulfilled people can be justified or declared righteous, before God. Therefore, justification contains one negative and one positive element.
Evil as a Social Construct
The random acts of violence in our society demonstrates how desperately wicked we are. What profoundly sad news this week from both coasts. When people in the news ask why? My question in return is why not? If we have no ultimate standard to appeal to in our society, and are simply left to our own self-declared authority, then how is a massacre any different than a day at the beach? I am not claiming that I am any better or beyond evil, since I share in the same fallen humanity, but the Law of God acts as a restraint, and if it is not taught to our children then we are abusing them and are more likely to grow up despairing in the meaninglessness of it all, so why not be bad? What is bad anyway if there is no real truth, but a social construct and nothing more.
A revealing quote from a leading atheist speaks volumes:
"The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference." Richard Dawkins, God's Utility Function, Scientific American, p 85, November 1995 ...Consistency demands, then, that we should be indifferent to all so-called "evil" events, including the events that transpired this week. This bleak and inconsistent worldview, I believe, has played a large part in taking us down the road to the meaningless destination to which we have arrived ... with no inherent right or wrong and where no action is necessarily preferable to any other, giving rise to an environment where life has no objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Of course, not one atheist or nihilist can live consistently under this idea, demonstrating that they know, in their heart of hearts, that objective meaning really exists.
Profoundly Bad Theology Promoted with Such Certainty
In response to a recent short post called "You Always Resist the Holy Spirit" an visitor names James, who is skeptical of Reformed Theology, posted the following rant (with my response following):
""no man can regenerate or resurrect himself""
I see many parallels with this type of fallacious reasoning with atheism.
Atheism boxes itself in with naturalism and leads them to fit absurdities into that box such as colliding particles give the illusion of freewill.
This dead body premise is just as ludicrous as the premise of naturalism. It causes you to have to twist the overwhelming majority of scripture into your tiny box.
This statement about not being able to resurrect yourself, or some from of it, is mentioned in just about every justification for Calvinism. That alone should allow you to see how weak your arguments are.
So people resist the Holy Spirit because the cant resurrect themselves? You dont, at all, see the resemblance to atheistic arguments on the internet every day by just completely hammering the obvious interpretation with your "dead body" analogy?
The atheist have their "naturalism" flash card that allows them to deny whats plain.
You should just make "dead body" flash cards and hold them up every time scripture clearly contradicts you.
Dont misunderstand though--Im not equating the 2 or saying Calvinist aren't christians but you both use the same tactics of using circular reasoning and faulty premises because your arguments cannot stand any other way.
I dont see how you'll ever be able to reason correctly on the subject until you drop the dead body premise--which seems almost how a child would read Pauls analogy
Tell me something. According to Scripture, can an unregenerate person, that is, the person without the Holy Spirit, believe in the gospel? Can an unbeliever turn to Jesus Christ apart from any help of the Holy Spirit? (1 Cor 2:14, John 6:63-65, 37). If not, what are you arguing about?
This is not the unaided human reasoning of the atheist, no. We are talking about the word of God. That the unspiritual person is unable to understand spiritual truth unless the Spirit opens his eyes and heart (Ezek 36:26, Acts 16:14). Honestly, all I saw from your response was human philosophy without one Scripture to give authority to your argument. Who is appealing to atheistic arguments now? From all appearances it would be you (unless you can prove me wrong), because it would seem you believe, in this case, your human reasoning trumps the Scripture. If I am wrong here, then please take the time to enlighten me and demonstrate it by answering the above question whether a person can come to faith in Jesus apart from the Holy Spirit? And please use Scripture as your authority in your answer.
The person who is without the Spirit may be alive to the world, but he is dead to Spiritual things. Apart from a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, natural man loves darkness and hates the light (John 3:19,20). According to your reasoning above, it would follow that a person can believe in Christ apart from the Spirit, which is a theology which has no connection with biblical Christianity or any form of historic Christianity at all. Such a view was condemned in the early church ... a heresy called Pelagianism... that a person can come to faith in Christ in his own native abilities, apart from any work of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is necessary, then why would that be the case given that the natural man is not dead to spiritual truth (as you claim)?
In light of these things in Scripture your argument simply cannot stand. How is it that you were willing to go out on such a limb, with such conviction, to promote these ignorant ideas to have them so easily demonstrated to be false. With respect, I would encourage you, in cases like these, to communicate with much more humility about your own reasoning, especially if you are not going to appeal to Scripture as your final authority.
"Even when we were dead in sins, [God] hath quickened us together with Christ." - Eph 2:5
Answering a Critic of Reformed Theology
Pastor Jim McClarty - an ex-rocker, current preacher, saved by astounding grace (and my friend) provides very good (biblical) responses to a critic of Reformed theology:
Because I am a very public advocate for Calvinism (which is a nickname for the historic theology that lays at the heart of the Protestant Reformation), I occasionally hear from critics. Sometimes, their arguments are logical and well-presented. Other times, they’re little more than rants. Usually, they’re somewhere in-between. And I answer most of them — avoiding the really silly or truly angry ones.
The reason I’m sharing this particular exchange is because it includes assumptions and arguments that are typical and that show up in my in-box with increasing frequency. Some folk simply cannot conceive of God being absolutely sovereign so they attempt to argue against it by insisting that such sovereignty would necessarily make God evil. And that’s where we’ll jump into the exchange –
The Critic writes:
When the philosophy that drives Calvinism is projected to its logical conclusion, even Satan’s activity is an extension of God’s sovereignty. God sovereignly controls Satan’s every move.
Not only is that the logical conclusion of Calvinism, it’s the logical conclusion of Biblical sovereignty. The alternative is to have an uncontrolled devil running roughshod over God’s creation. But, the Bible is full of examples of God limiting and binding Satan. Consider Job. Or Satan’s desire to sift Peter, but Christ intervened. Even Legion could not take the herd of swine without Jesus’ consent.
Or, to look at it another way, we know that in the book of Revelation Satan is bound and put into an abyss for 1000 years. Afterward he is released, vanquished, and placed in the Lake of Fire. Now, since we know that God has the power to do that, why has He not done it yet? The only rational answer is: Satan plays a part in God’s economy. When God is done with him, He will judge him and seclude him eternally.
Remember, God’s way are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. As high as the Heavens are above the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. Just because we struggle with the idea of God’s absolute power, that doesn’t mean it isn’t true or that God cannot exercise it.
This makes God the author of everything evil, and the most wicked sinner of all.
The Bible repeatedly declares God’s holiness and righteousness. So, if Calvinism led to the idea that God was not only the “author of evil,” but the most wicked of sinners, the whole theology would have been abandoned by thoughtful churchmen years and years ago. The reason Calvinism continues to thrive is that it recognizes God’s sovereignty and His holiness. Straw man arguments about how that makes God sinful are just banal.
Theologically, God does not have to be evil in order to create evil in His universe. Just as darkness is the natural state of all unlit matter and energy is necessary to produce light, God can produce evil in His creatures simply by withholding His goodness. He does not have to be positively evil to do this. He merely has to withhold Himself and allow the natural darkness to have its way.
Some Calvinists actually admit what I said and seek to defend it from Scripture. If ultimately God sovereignly is in control of everything, and if free will of man, angels, or even Satan, is ultimately under the control of God, then the responsibility for all wickedness and evil must be placed at the feet of God Himself.
There are no Calvinists who “actually admit” that God is “the most wicked sinner of all.” Please attempt to present our position in a manner consistent with what we ourselves say about it.
Volumes have been written on this topic. God is the creator, sustainer, and purpose behind all things. But, that is not tantamount with being the author of evil. That’s why Satan exists. Satan is the instrument through which necessary evil occurs in God’s universe. Think, for instance, of how God used Satan to bring calamity to Job. God allowed it and limited the extent of it. But, it was Satan who performed it.
Or, who brought about the fall in the Garden of Eden? Satan. But, was that God’s design? Yes. Christ is the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8) Why have a sacrifice prepared prior to creation unless the Fall is ordained and inevitable? But, God did not sin in ordaining the lapse. He used an intermediate cause: Satan.
Everything God does is designed to bring Him the greatest glory. And that includes His control over the events of human history and celestial eternity. The responsibility for everything that occurs in God’s universe can rightly be laid at His holy feet. But, that is not the same as charging Him with evil, which no man can do.
Isa 45:5-7 — “I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.”
If you are going to attempt to limit God’s sovereignty, then what exactly will you use as your plumb line? How far is God capable of going before He reaches the edge of what men will allow? What events is God involved in and what events require His absence? And how will you discern between the two? Where exactly is the limitation on the One who calls Himself “Almighty”?
Easy Believism and Semi-Pelagianism
J. I. Packer once rightly said, "sinners cannot obey the gospel, any more than the law, without renewal of heart."
So with that in mind the "easy believism" (no-lordship) folks have completely misunderstood the biblical concept of grace. They scoff at Lordship because they think it is regeneration by faith and works, all the while touting their self-generated faith. Fact is, if God has done a work of
grace in us, then faith and works (both equally impossible for man) will exist because it is God who is the author of both. Jesus is the "author and finisher of our faith."
"easy believism" is a doctrine that is pretty much a debate that came from certain groups of Dispensationalists who think that you could have prayed a prayer to accept Jesus 10 years ago and now have become a Buddhist monk ... but since you prayed that prayer, you are "once saved always saved" no matter what you are doing now. Reformed persons have ALWAYS believed in the biblical doctrine of the preservation of the saints, that is, that God will preserve his people and make them persevere to the end.
Second of all easy believism people embrace the false doctrine that faith is not a gift of God .. i.e. they reject the biblical teaching that faith springs from a renewed heart (John 6:63-65, 37). So easy believism actually ends up being a form of semi-pelagianism because they attribute their faith and repentance to their own wisdom, humility, sound judgment and good sense.
Also as John MacArthur has noted, "grace is not merely God's response to the sinner's initiative. Quite the opposite. Because He is gracious, God takes the initiative, drawing the sinner (John 6:44, 65), granting repentance (Acts 3:26; 5:31; 11:18), and awakening the heart to faith (Acts 13:48; 16:14). Every aspect of the believer's response--conviction, repentance, and faith--is the result of God's gracious work in the heart. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).
The easy believism folks reject the above idea of "grace-wrought faith" outright ... so it could not be further from what the Reformed tradition believes. Easy believism is a self-generated faith, apart form the grace of God, which makes it semi-pelagian at best.
The Bible declares that Belief (or faith) is not difficult but IMPOSSIBLE for the natural man. So the opposite of easy faith is not "difficult", but much more; an act that the natural man is utterly morally impotent to carry out. So those who think faith is "easy" or "difficult" are both wrong, according to the Bible. If someone thinks faith is "easy" or even possible, apart from grace, then they do not understand our condition as human beings or our real need of grace. Those who think faith is something easy are making the same mistake as those who think good works save. Both are trusting in some self-generated meritorious act, rather than Christ alone who provides everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe and obey.
Bart Ehrman's New Essay Lacks Historic Substance
Bart Ehrman's new essay in the soon to be out-of-business Newsweek magazine is simply crazy talk. The idea that some kind of spiritual knowledge can be acquired from something that is not historical is gnosticism. If Christianity and Judaism are not a religion grounded in history ABOVE ALL, such as the actual events of the incarnation, crucifixion and physical resurrection, then it has lost all value and Christianity is not true. These are not moral stories like Aesop's Fables that give us lessons to live. Anyone reading the OT and NT will easily see this... Rather, these are writings from witnesses to historic events. If they are not true, then we have been duped and are to be pitied more than any people. (1 Corinthians 15:14-19). There is no possibility that so many people in the first century could have conspired to make up these events and then be willing to die for them, unwilling to recant. If it were not true they would have known it. Further, anyone at the time could have easily verified or denied the truthfulness of the written history. Many people who saw the events were still alive when the letters of the apostles were being passed around. It is frankly, IMHO, much more difficult to believe Ehrman's version of the story.
You are a Chosen Race ...
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession" 1 Pet 2:9.
The language Peter here applies to new covenant believers is the same used of Israel in the Old Testament (Deut. 7:6-9) which does away with all specious arguments that "chosen" has different meaning for OT and NT believers.
The entire Bible declares that there is only ONE people of God. In contrast with what a whole generation of American believers have been taught, God did not make an "earthly people" when he created the ethnic Jews and another "heavenly people" when he created the the NT Church. This is an unbiblical bifurcation which no man was meant separate. Peter continues to quote from Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Exodus, and Malachi -- and employs the same language the Old Testament uses to describe Israel to describe the church. The Church and Israel are the "one new man" Paul speaks of in Ephesians chapter 2.