God's Sovereignty and Belief by Force?
Visitor: I believe God is sovereign. I also believe in free will, because the whole of Scripture does not seem to support God wanting robots. Is He the One who reveals to me His grace? Yes, the Holy Spirit precedes anyone who makes a decision to put their faith in Christ. Is He the One who sustains my belief? Yes, but I do not believe by force. Just as I would not want my girlfriend to love me because she did not have a choice, so the narrative of Scripture suggests that the Lord would not want people who only love Him because He predetermined they would love Him. Do I believe God knows who will and who will not receive His free gift of salvation? Absolutely! He is outside of time and can see both behind and beyond the present as we understand it. Do I believe He forces people to accept it? Hardly. Thank you for sharing regardless though Rachel. This is a theological issue that I wrestle with. Ultimately, whether it is predestination or free will (or as some have argued, BOTH!), the most important issue is whether people trust in Christ or not for their salvation. Whether or not someone upholds predestination or not is a secondary issue in comparison to primary (salvation) issues.
Response: Jesus teaches that He came to save us, not to help us save ourselves. He gives us everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe:
"The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing...No one can come to me unless the Father grants it" John 6:65
"All that the Father gives to me will come to me" John 6:37
Have you considered that you may be thinking about force in the wrong way. If your toddler ran out into the street into oncoming traffic (like we do into sin) then would you (as a parent) stand at the edge and simply tell him that you will only help him if he first meets your condition? No. If you are a loving parent you would run into traffic at the risk of your own life and make certain your child was safe, REGARDLESS of what your child's will was at the time because you know better than the child what is good for him. Likewise we are saved by mercy, not force. We do not deserve to be saved yet God, while we were still dead in sin, Christ made us alive in Christ (Eph 2:5) God's love for his own is unconditional. As soon as you add conditions then it is no longer grace. It would be like ascribing your repenting and believing to your own humility, wisdom, sound judgement or good sense and not to Christ alone. The Bible emphasizes effectual grace and predestination because it is safeguarding the gospel truth than salvation is by Christ alone. God does not love us because we meet his conditions. He loves us and grants us a heart to understand, eyes to see and ears to hear (Deut 29:4; 30:6) so that we may meet His condition to believe.
Does the Bible really teach that there is no such thing as chance?
Visitor: Does the Bible really teach that there is no such thing as chance? My version still says that "time and chance happen to all."
If everything - absolutely everything mind you - was decided before that first "let their be" then Ryle's last paragraph simply makes no sense. All that talk about what we should seek and strive to do and believe is advice impossible to follow because what I believe as well as what I do were, apparently, fully and finally established before the foundation of the earth. Radical Calvinists will vehemently disagree with me about my ability to make any choice - however trivial - but only because God decided some time ago that they would. Nothing to do with them though, just grace that they back the right horse. Me though? Apparently there is a God in Romans who makes things he hates and will eventually destroy. Weird though, don't you think, not to mention any of that in Genesis 1, where things are only "good" and "very good"?
The Bible teaches that God is all-seeing (Psalm 33:13-15), never-sleeping (Psalm 121:3-4) and cares deeply about His people (Romans 8:38-39). He assures us that "you are of more value than many sparrows" (Luke 12:6-7).
The text and all of Ecclestiastes is speaking from a human perspective, so time and chance refers to man who does not know his time. Read the text in context:
Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. For man does not know his time. Ecclesiastes 9:11-12
The text is saying that man's steps are all decided in heaven by God. It is neither might nor weakness that determines the outcome, but God alone. Chance is not some entity working out there in opposition to God, but refers to what happens to man, without his cooperation. Everyone is subject to chance because each person does not know his time or what might befall him from above.
A false, untenable, absurd result follows from your denial. Your view would have us believe that God doesn't pay attention to us or does not care. If your view were true then you must affirm that there are some things that take God by surprise. If so then you have made chance a greater or more powerful entity or phenomena than God Himself and you would thus dethrone Him.
Instead why not simply read and yield to the Scripture rather than philosophize?
The Bible teaches that men are fully responsible for their sin even though God ordains that all things, including that sin, infallibly come to pass. See the following texts:
"...you yourselves know this Jesus, delivered up according to the DEFINITE PLAN and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. Acts 2:22-24
"for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do WHATEVER YOU HAND AND YOUR PLAN had PREDESTINED to take place." Acts 4:27-28
Your view simply cannot account for these texts apart from some serious acrobatics. I would encourage you to yield to the Text and stop kicking against the goads and Scripture.
For whom did Christ die?
Dr. James White v. Dr. Michael Brown
In reflecting on this "debate" Dr. White wrote:
First, I am somewhat uncomfortable with the term “debate” in this instance, for a number of reasons. This might be one of those times where “discussion” is really the better term. The actual interaction time was limited, only about 53 minutes total, after which time our discussion was driven by the audience in the main. And though we both attempted to be as brief and concise as possible, still, without specific time controls, complete equality was not possible to obtain. And particularly in the second discussion we (I think quite properly) had more actual personal interaction on a pastoral level.
Whatever term we choose to describe the discussions, they were most certainly unusual for most of Christian television anywhere in the world, and in Europe in particular. While there may be lots of panel discussions recorded for broadcast, this kind of open and honest disagreement based upon the highest view of Scripture and inspiration, by two participants, both of whom have studied the biblical languages (Michael being the expert in Hebrew, and I having the advantage in Greek), is certainly not your normal fare on what is called Christian television. On that level alone I am very pleased that these programs will be available for viewing for at least the foreseeable future.
This is not the first time Michael and I have demonstrated that you can disagree strongly and still do so respectfully...
Regarding the Atonement Discussion
I did all I could to start the debate on the right foot, which is hard to do in less than five minutes. But I focused upon what must be the heart of any such discussion: the vital relationship between the extent of the atonement and the divine intention of the atonement. This element, together with 1) the covenantal nature of the death of Christ as the very ground and source of the New Covenant and, 2) the intimate, necessary, and glorious nature of Christ’s high priestly role and hence the connection of atonement and intercession, formed the heart of my argument. I believe a fair analysis of the encounter would confirm that these arguments were not undercut by anything Michael offered. Instead, it was plain to me that his opening arguments were based not on the provision of a biblical doctrine of atonement, but upon a general denial of particularity in salvation itself. He focused far more upon emphasizing “all” passages than upon providing any kind of positive doctrine of intentionality or accomplishment in atonement. This was not a failure on Michael’s part, it is the nature of non- Reformed soteriology in general. It simply does not go deeply into the biblical revelation at this point, for the deepest most illuminating texts on this topic (Romans 8, the Hebrews chapters) are all connected to sovereignty, election, priesthood and intercession. This is why Michael was forced (and this, to me, was the deciding moment in the debate) to divide, conceptually and practically, the atoning work of the High Priest and the intercessory work. So, Christ dies for every individual, even for those already under God’s judgment, but Michael sees how impossible it is to keep that priestly work unified, so he denied that Christ is interceding for those who are already under judgment. Now if he could just follow that thought to its conclusion and see the power of it! Instead, he seemed to wish to deny the fact that even in Israel you had the physical offspring of Abraham and the spiritual offspring of Abraham, and that it is the remnant (λεῖμμα), those who are of faith, who were in view in the sacrifices and the priestly ministrations. So he wished to insist that the sacrifice of atonement on the day of atonemente was for all of Israel, and hence potential in nature. I disputed this on a few accounts, but time did not allow an in-depth discussion.
I would simply point out that 1) the offering in Leviticus 16 is limited to the covenant people of God; it did not make atonement for the Egyptians or Moabites or Assyrians. It was, by nature, covenantal and hence “limited”;
2) there is good ground for arguing for a limitation even within the Old Covenant context based upon the obedience and faith of the remnant of Israel (many bore in their bodies the covenant sign but were not of the remnant as they were not of faith); but most importantly
3) the New Testament text makes the limitation explicit in the phrase τους προσερχομενους δι αυτου τω θεω, those drawing near to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25). In any case, the powerful argument based upon Christ’s high priestly ministry, together with the inarguable fact that the ones for whom the sacrifice is offered and the ones for whom the High Priest intercedes are identical, was clearly presented and defended. I truly wonder how many who heard that program heard about these wondrous truths for the first time? What a privilege to have the opportunity to proclaim them!
Of course, if someone in the audience does not remain focused upon the topic, they may well be distracted by the other issues raised, especially by the audience interaction. Texts such as 1 John 2:2, 1 Timothy 4:10, etc., which I have discussed in depth in my published works, again show that the primary objection to particular redemption is found in a rejection of particularity as a whole, i.e., in objections to election. I can only hope that those who found those objections weighty will take the time to dig into the interactions Michael and I had previously on those topics.
Here then is Part 1:
Part 2: Questions and Answers
The Trial (Tract)
THE CASE OF GOD THE FATHER AGAINST ______________________________ (FILL IN YOUR NAME)
PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: SATAN (THE ACCUSER OF THE BRETHREN - Zechariah 3:1)
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: THE LORD JESUS CHRIST (1 John 2:1)
JUDGE PRESIDING: GOD, THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGE (Psalm 7:11)
IN ATTENDANCE: A VAST COMPANY OF ELECT ANGELS (1 Timothy 5:21)
“it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” – Hebrews 9:27
You now stand before God, the Righteous Judge, faced with the charge of great and terrible acts of high treason in the courtroom of heaven.
Gabriel, the high ranking angel addresses the court saying, “All rise! The Righteous Judge is coming into His chamber!”
The Judge declares His court to now be in session and asks for all to be seated.
Without any delay, Satan stands up and addresses the court. He states that the record will show that you have broken all ten of the Ten Commandments. On countless occasions you’ve lied, you’ve stolen, you’ve used God’s name in vain, you’ve hated (which Jesus said was murder of the heart) and you haven’t put God first, before anything else in your life, just to name a few. Satan will prove your guilt on all counts.
Also, there is indisputable video evidence as well as reliable witnesses to attest to the facts in this case. Even your thought life stands as testimony against you, for the Scripture says, “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)
After the case is made against you, there is a hush in the court. The prosecuting attorney has shown that you have indeed committed acts of high treason against God. It seems inevitable that you will be found guilty.
Satan then addresses the Judge and says, “A good God must be a good Judge. The facts are clear. You must find this one guilty. Your own record in Proverbs 17:15 states, ‘He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.’ For you to acquit this one would mean that You are not righteous Yourself. You must find this one guilty as charged. I rest my case.”
The Judge then calls upon your Defense Attorney to address the court.
Eyes, Ears and Heart
"But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear." - Deut 29:4.
And yet, even after reading this, some still think they can have these things without God granting them. Perhaps if they try hard enough. Indeed, by nature people have a will ... and they can make a choice ... but they need regenerating grace to make the RIGHT choice. Without God giving them eyes, ears or a new heart (i.e. full regeneration) the choice is still driven by a spiritually dead man who loves darkness and hates the light (1 Cor 2:14; Eph 2:1; John 3:19, 20) but thanks be to God, while we were still dead God made us alive in Christ (Eph 2:5).
Notice in the very next passge in Deuteronomy God declares this very thing to the children of promise:
"And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live." Deut 30:6
We must relentlessly pray and repeat the truth of the sufficiency of grace in Christ to the church ... or it will be lost among the ceaseless babble of men as it largely was in the middle ages.
Life, the Universe and Everything
Why is there something rather than nothing? Why are we here? What is man’s ultimate purpose? What is God seeking to achieve? Why did God make everything? In this audio sermon, I seek answer these ultimate questions and show how it is perfectly right for God to be about the goal of bringing glory to Himself and how revealing that glory to us is the ultimate expression of His love. - John Samson
Response to the 'Foreknowledge' View of Election
A response to Dr. Gaines (1)
In a full program covering a number of issues, Dr. James White begins an examination of Dr. Steve Gaines' sermon on the sovereignty of God from back in September. It is a very useful response to what is known as the "foreknowledge view of election" (the idea that God chooses people in eternity past based on His knowledge of their future actions in time - looking through the corridors of time He sees certain people responding positively to the gospel and then elects them on that basis). Dr. White shows this to be a completely unbiblical position. The response to Dr. Gaines' sermon begins around the 1 hour mark of the show:
A response to Dr. Gaines (2)
As Dr. James White noted on his blog. "We continued our review of the September 8th sermon by Dr. Steve Gaines, examining whether his simple foreknowledge view can really withstand scrutiny, and also noting the disastrous results of refusing to recognize the difference between the prescriptive will of God and the decretive will of God."
Dr. White writes, "Continued our review of Pastor Steve Gaines’ sermon on election from 9/8/2013 today. Started off, though, with about 20 minutes on the will of God, the divine decree..."
James writes, "Had to start off with a little Caner news (specifically, materials from the police report of the criminal complaint Ergun Caner tried to use to stop us from giving our presentation in Lindale last year). The wave of documentation continues to grow and grow, and the shrill attacks of Caner and his defenders (Lumpkins, Rogers, Penn, et al) only show they well know the truth. But I got through that fairly quickly and managed to finish up my review of Pastor Steve Gaines’ sermon from September of 2013."