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Natural Theology Part 1 – Defending Your Faith Part 12

June 30, 2014 1 comment
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A Redemptive-Historical, Modified Idealist Approach to the Book of Revelation

June 30, 2014 1 comment

I was recently involved in symposium on the Book of Revelation sponsored by several churches in Reno, Nevada and held at Sierra Bible Church. Gary Demar defended a preterist, Jim Hamilton a futurist, and I an Idealist approach to the Book. The symposium consisted of three major presentations 55 minutes in length in the morning and three 20 minute responses and question and answer time in the afternoon. Here from my major presentation is my introduction a modified idealist approach to the Book of Revelation.

When I read Wikipedia’s description of the position I am supposed to be defending at this conference, I have to admit that it made me think twice. Here is a portion of Wikipedia’s description of Idealism:

Idealism (also called the spiritual approach, the allegorical approach, the nonliteral approach, and many other names) in Christian eschatology is an interpretation of the Book of Revelation that sees all of the imagery of the book as non-literal symbols…. It is distinct from Preterism, Futurism and Historicism in that it does not see any of the prophecies (except in some cases the Second Coming, and Final Judgment) as being fulfilled in a literal, physical, earthly sense either in the past, present or future, and that to interpret the eschatological portions of the Bible in a historical or future-historical fashion is an erroneous understanding.1

Now I know that Wikipedia is not the final authority about anything, but this still made me wonder what I had let Brian get me into!

 

 

Read the entire article here.

Answering An Arminian Objection-1

It always amazes me how Arminians will take one set of scriptures and use them to try and disprove the Biblical doctrines of the Reformers. By doing so they commit the either or fallacy. By using this fallacious method they are only cherry picking the particular scriptures which they feel support their doctrines. They do not use the method of interpretation known as analogia fides (analogy of faith) and the analogia Scripturae (analogy of scripture). These two hermeneutical principles guide the exegete in determining the right interpretation of any and all scripture. “In other words, there is clearer light to be shed on every aspect of Scripture which is difficult to determine in and of itself; i.e., Scripture interprets Scripture, and the overall theology of Scripture, being consistent in and of itself as that which determines our faith and practice, clarifies itself in consideration of the organic whole.” 1

In my post entitled: ‘Arminian Errors Pt 6,’ I quote from Max MacLean’s ‘Arminianism-Another Gospel.’ In this post MacLean is showing that Arminians err concerning the doctrine known as the ‘Perseverance of the Saints.’ On this post I received a comment from an Arminian who provides some scriptures that is supposed to refute this Reformed doctrine.

Since all the scriptures are true and all scripture should be used to formulate our doctrines, then Arminians commit the hermeneutical fallacy known as eisegesis when they approach the scriptures. The hermeneutical fallacy known as eisegesis does not seek to draw out of scripture what scripture is saying, but instead reads into scripture what isn’t there. This is due to the fact that they hold a particular bias concerning scripture, before they ever approach scripture. Since they hold a particular bias before they approach scripture, they tend to pit scripture against scripture. The scripture that plainly states that an individual will be given eternal life and shall never perish, isn’t true in their minds. Only those scriptures, that they feel teach that a believer can fall away, are true in their minds. Arminianism holds to and teaches that a true saved individual can come to know Christ and then one day decide to give up, after which they lose their salvation.

Before I list and answer the scriptures that I received, I want to quote from some scriptures that teach the opposite of what Arminians believe.

 

Mat 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Mat 7:16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Mat 7:17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
Mat 7:18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Mat 7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Mat 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Mat 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
Mat 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

 

There is no way that Christ could have told individuals, that he once knew, “depart from me for I never knew you;” if in fact at one time he did know them. But notice the context of verse 15 and one will easily see that Christ is speaking to false prophets.

Joh 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

Everlasting life is eternal, just as everlasting death is eternal. An individuals past sins did not keep God from electing that individual. Neither shall his future sins remove God’s gracious hands from him. If the believer falls into sin, God will chasten him. If he is without chastisement, then he never was a true believer. Hebrews tells us this:

Heb 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
Heb 12:7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
Heb 12:8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

And Christ stated:

Rev 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Again Jesus said in John:

Joh 6:47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life

Again Jesus said:

Joh 10:28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
Joh 10:29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
Joh 10:30 I and my Father are one.

Here Christ is claiming to be God. He is just as powerful as the Father. (This is proof for the doctrine known as the Trinity). No man can pluck a believer out of his hands. No man is able to pluck them out of the Father’s hands. Arminianism teaches that God and Jesus wish that individuals would stay with them, but that they are powerless to keep their own saved.

Notice that the Father gives individuals to the Son. Christ prays for those that are given to him by the Father:

Joh 17:9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

Joh 17:20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word

Christ intercedes for those the Father gives him:

Rom 8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

The book of James chapter 5 teaches us that the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much, but Arminianism wants us to believe that the one who is the very definition of righteousness, is weak in his prayers and accomplishes nothing by praying.

Php 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

God begun the work in his elect and will continue that work till Christ come.

Jud 1:1 Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:

Finally Jude writes his letter to those that are sanctified by God and preserved in Jesus Christ. The word ‘preserved’ means ‘to prevent escaping from full military lines, to detain, withhold, holdfast, and keep.

Many other scriptures could have been given to show that all those who have been given to Christ, by the Father, shall never fall away.

Now here are the scriptures, that were sent to me, that are supposed to teach that true believers can lose their salvation:

 

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. (Peter)

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;

17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.

2 Peter 2:20-22 ESV / 15 helpful votes

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

Romans 11:19-22 ESV / 10 helpful votes

Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

Matthew 24:10-13 ESV / 7 helpful votes

And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

 

Now which set of scriptures are true? Are the scriptures that I gave true or are the scriptures that were sent to me true? Both sets of scriptures are true and are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Nevertheless, we have shown that Christ himself stated that he will lose none of those given to him by the Father. No man can pluck them out of his hand. When Arminians tell us that believers can lose their salvation, then they are basically denying Christ’s Prophetic office, Priestly office, and Kingly office. They are saying that Christ is a prophet who lies, that Christ is a Priest whose prayers and sacrifice are ineffectual, and they are denying that he as King, can so rule and govern his kingdom, that his elect stay safe from apostasy in his kingdom.

So our presupposition, when approaching all other scriptures, has to be that Christ prophesies of the loss of non of his elect, that his prayers and sacrifice are effective in keeping his elect, and that Christ rules his elect so that none ever perish.

When cherry picking scriptures, those of the Arminian persuasion, ignore the context that surrounds the scriptures; of which they use to try and prove the doctrine of the ‘Perseverance of the Saints’ false.

Remember when we approach the scriptures, in order to interpret them, we must focus on context, context, context. So let’s now examine the scriptures that were sent to me:

 

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. (Peter)

 

My response: This scripture can be found in the second epistle of Peter, chapter 3, verse 17. Here it is plain that Peter is not saying that we can lose salvation, but is admonishing his readers to beware of not falling from the steadfastness of the truth on which they have been clinging. There is always the danger of falling into error and not holding to the sound doctrines of which the scriptures teach us. Notice that Peter’s very words were that they should beware not to fall into the error of the wicked.

The second scripture is:

 

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

 

My response: Notice that the term ‘the faith’ is used constantly throughout this epistle. 1 Tim 1:2, 3:9, 3:13, 4:1, 5:8, 6:10, and 6:21.

“The Greek word here – ἀποστήσονται apostēsontai – is that from which we have derived the word “apostatize,” and would be properly so rendered here. The meaning is, that they would “apostatize” from the belief of the truths of the gospel. It does not mean that, as individuals, they would have been true Christians; but that there would be a departure from the great doctrines which constitute the Christian faith. The ways in which they would do this are immediately specified, showing what the apostle meant here by departing from the faith. They would give heed to seducing spirits, to the doctrines of devils, etc. The use of the word “some,” here τινες tines – does not imply that the number would be small. The meaning is, that “certain persons” would thus depart, or that “there would be” an apostasy of the kind here mentioned, in the last days.-Barnes”

In other words, there will be a great defection, in these last days, from the doctrines that constitute the Christian faith. Multitudes would go out and preach things that are contrary to the Christian faith. We have been in the last days since Christ’s coming into this world and this defection from ‘the faith’ had begun even during the days of the apostles. Paul rebuked the Galatian Church because they had allowed teachers to come in and preach to them ‘another gospel,’ which was not the gospel of which he preached. These teachers were the Judaizers. Those who came into the Galatia Church with the doctrine that the Galatian Christians must keep the law of Moses and be circumcised had departed from the faith. They were probably the “false apostles,” persons “brought in unawares,” etc., so often mentioned by Paul, and are known in history.

This is why Paul warned Timothy of the fact that many would depart from ‘the faith’ in their preaching of Christianity. Paul did not say that true believers would depart from ‘their faith,’ but that false teachers would depart from the sound doctrines of Christianity. Notice that Paul just gave Timothy an admonish to charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. 1 Tim 1:3-7 Paul told Timothy that Bishops should be blameless and not new converts, so that they would hold fast to sound doctrine, in order to lead their congregations. Paul explained the qualifications of Bishops and deacons, so that men who were faithful to the doctrines of ‘the faith’ would be in leadership.

The third scripture is:

 

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

 

My response: This scripture can be found in Hebrews 3:12. Let’s quote a few more scriptures in order to have some context in which to interpret the scripture given:

Heb 3:12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
Heb 3:13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
Heb 3:14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;

The writer to the Hebrews was given them a warning that they should not be as Israel was in the wilderness. He goes on to say that they should exhort or warn one another daily, seeing that they had been made partakers with Christ if they hold fast the faith of which they had been given. A little insight on why the epistle to the Hebrews was written is needful at this point. Here is a comment from the introduction to Hebrews found in the Reformation Study Bible, edited by R. C. Sproul:

“Hebrews offers a fair amount of information about the original recipients and their situation, while leaving questions of date and destination without certain answers. The original readers spoke Greek and used the Greek translation of the Old Testament. They could follow arguments drawn from the Old Testament and were interested in the Old Testament sanctuary, sacrificial system, and priesthood. They had not heard the gospel directly from Jesus, but from apostles (2:3), had faced previous persecution (10:32-34) and were facing present persecution, including expulsion from Jewish institutions (13:12,13). They were in danger of falling away, perhaps fearing death (2:14-18), although their faith had not yet led to martyrdom (12:4). In addition, they may have been undergoing a transition in church leadership (13:7, 17), and were therefore concerned about security and permanence (6:19; 11:10; 13:8, 14). Finally, they receive greeting through the author from “those of Italy” (13:24).

Drawing these features together, we conclude that the recipients were Jewish Christians of the Dispersion (the scattering of Jews outside Palestine), probably in Italy. This would take 13:24 to be a greeting sent “home” by expatriates…..

Subject to suffering and shame for their confession of Jesus, stripped of the familiar and visible institutions of organized Jewish religion, and confused by the hidden character of Jesus’ glory (veiled in suffering when he was on earth and now hidden in heaven), the readers are tempted to turn from the faith (10:38, 39), to fall into unbelief and so to give up their pilgrimage toward God’s rest and God’s city (4:1, 2, 11; 11:10, 14-16; 13:14). “

The introductory note to Hebrews here shows that the Jewish Christians were tempted to turn from the faith. So being tempted to give up, they were given warning by the author of this epistle. But just because they were tempted and were given warning does not mean that Christ would lose those that belong to him. Jesus told the disciples that on the foundation of his being Lord, that he would build his church and the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. Arminians want us to believe that the gates of Hell can prevail against the church.

The fourth scripture given to me was:

 

16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;

17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.

 

My response: These verses come from Mark 4. If one would take and read Matthew 13:1-16 (this portion of scripture also deals with the same parable) they would see that Jesus was teaching a multitude of people. Some were elect and some were not. The disciples asked Christ why he spoke to them in parables? Jesus stated that he spoke to them in parables so that they couldn’t hear and understand, so that they couldn’t see nor perceive what he was saying (Matthew 13:13-15). The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven is only given to the elect (Matthew 13:11). If Christ were trying to convert everyone in this multitude, then he wouldn’t have used the genre known as a parable in order to teach. We see that in this parable only those who brought forth fruit were they who had the knowledge of the kingdom and who were truly born again. The rest were mere professors for a while and then fell away. This is why Christ stated that: “they have no root.” Are we to believe the Arminian who claims that these were individuals who were “rooted and built up in Christ” (Col 2:7) and then one day they just lost their salvation, or are we going to believe Jesus when he declared that they had no root in themselves and so endured for a while? I am going to believe Christ, not the Arminian.

The fifth scripture I was given was:

 

2 Peter 2:20-22 ESV / 15 helpful votes

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

 

My response: Again I re-emphasize that we are to leave every verse in context, context, context, while interpreting scripture with scripture. The whole chapter, beginning at verse 1, is dealing with false prophets. It is the false prophet who reforms his outward acts while not being truly reformed within. Certainly a false prophet cannot have been converted and then lose his salvation. This is why he is called false. He appeared to have had salvation and then finally gave up his hypocrisy by turning from Christ. Since all scripture is to be interpreted with scripture, then we see in Matthew 7 that Christ warns us of false prophets and states that by their fruits we shall know them. These are they who appear before him and claim to have done many things in his name and he tells them to depart, for he never knew them. Again, if Christ once knew them, then he could never say that he never knew them. So as the scriptures in 2 Peter 2: 1-22 declare, these false prophets outwardly reform themselves and then they turned and went back to their vomit of living.

 The sixth scripture I was given was:

 

Romans 11:19-22 ESV / 10 helpful votes

Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

 

My response: Here is another proof of ripping scripture from context. Paul is expounding on what he had been saying since Romans 9. Election is not based on one’s affiliation with a person (Abraham Romans 9:7), nor a nation (Israel Romans 9:6), but is given to whomsoever God chooses. Paul states that it is not of him that willeth or runneth and that God has a right to show his power in vessels already fit for destruction, in order that he might show his glory towards those of whom he prepared (ordained) to glory. This includes all that are called, both Jews and Gentiles Romans 9:24. Paul then begins to explain why natural Israel was cut off and continues this on up through Romans 11. They were cut off due to unbelief. All natural men have unbelief and God is not obligated to give them faith. Notice in Deuteronomy 29:4-5 Moses tells Israel that even though they had been lead through the wilderness for forty years, nevertheless God has not given them a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day. Since faith is a gift from God (Eph 2:8), then no natural man will believe unless God intervenes and gives him a new heart. Therefore Paul warns the Romans about boasting against natural Israel. Just as the Jews went around boasting against the Gentiles, having the mindset that since they were Abraham’s descendants and part of the nation of Israel, then they had God’s favor. Even so Paul warns the Roman Gentiles against having this same mindset. Paul warns against the same unbelief of which natural Israel possessed. The warnings of scripture are spoken to the church and keep the true saints of God on the path of righteousness. Nevertheless, they shall bring greater judgment on the professors who hear them and yet continue in their hypocrisy of play acting as a Christian.

Finally the last scripture I was given is:

 

Matthew 24:10-13 ESV / 7 helpful votes

And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

 

My response: This final scripture is like the rest that were sent to me, in that it fails to show that Christ’s elect will fall away. Certainly many will fall away, from their professing of faith, of which faith they never truly possessed. The Hebrews had many among them who professed Christ and then when persecution came along they were offended or feared death and fell away. Even so many more will do this during the entire church age before Christ’s second coming.

 

Well this was just a quick response to an Arminian who ripped scripture from context and set out to prove that Christ will lose his elect. Nevertheless, his scriptures, when left in context, prove no such thing. I will leave you with this scripture.

 

Eph 3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
Eph 3:21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

 

 

Soli deo Gloria

 

 

1 Used this definition from an article by my friend Bill Hier. This a great article. Be sure to check it out. http://gracemeans.wordpress.com/2014/05/20/the-everlasting-covenant/

Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism Pt 1

June 30, 2014 1 comment

A consistent charge against Arminianism is that it is a form of semi-Pelagianism. Arminians consistently deny this charge and so it warrants an examination. This paper seeks to examine the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace and to demonstrate that it supports the charge of semi- Pelagianism. In the course of the examination, I hope to show that the doctrine of prevenient grace does not bear the weight of the biblical evidence against it.

Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism

The Pelagianism controversy in the early 5th century pitted the teachings of Augustine’s view of divine grace against that of Pelagius. Basically Pelagianism is understood as teaching that the natural man has “the capacity of self-determination by asserting the possibility of achieving sinless perfection in this life without grace.”1 In popular terms, Pelagianism would be the purest form of salvation by works. Pelagianism denies the doctrine of Original Sin and therefore of the depravity of man. It affirms free will in the libertarian sense in which man has a natural capacity to choose contrary to all possible factors that might otherwise determine one’s choices. Thus, it denies that God determines or decrees the actions of men. This would violate human liberty. Subsequently, the internal work of divine grace is not necessary in order to procure acceptance before God who demands moral perfection as a prerequisite of salvation.2 In affirming libertarian free will, Pelagianism asserts that man has the ability to act with sinless perfection if he so chooses. This is an absolute sort of anthropocentric construct and as such is rejected as heretical by all orthodox Christians including Arminians.

In the wake of the Augustinian-Pelagian controversy Semi-Pelagianism took hold in several quarters by a number of theologians. It was regarded as a middle ground between Augustine and Pelagius and his followers. However, the term semi-Pelagianism was not used until the 16th century Reformation.3 In contrast to Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism states that man is affected by the fall of Adam, but that his free will is retained so that while he is inclined toward sinful behavior, he is not in full bondage to sin. John Cassian, the principal proponent of semi- Pelagianism, states, “There are by nature some seeds of goodness in every soul implanted by the kindness of the Creator.”4 Although, divine grace is necessary for salvation, that grace is resistible due to our natural freedom to choose contrary to its influence. Cassian and other semi- Pelagians rejected Pelagianism as heretical but felt Augustine’s doctrine of unconditional election and predestination went too far in combating Pelagius’ error. Augustine regarded the semi-Pelagians as brothers in Christ. Likewise, the charge from Calvinists that Arminianism is semi-Pelagian, while a serious charge, is not intended to consign Arminianism to heresy. Calvinists who do so have been unfair to the genuine teachings of Arminians.5

In order to be saved, semi-Pelagianism gives priority to the initiation of faith via one’s free will, the latter being regarded as a gift of God’s grace to all men. This in turn provokes God to supply further helping grace that the person must cooperate with in order for his faith to have a saving character to it. The capacity one has in exercising faith is the degree to which God will supply grace toward salvation.6 There is a balance between the human initiative and the subsequent divine initiative.7 Rebecca Weaver says concerning John Cassian:

“Human dependence on grace meant for Cassian that at every stage of the process of salvation grace must be operative; however, the freedom of the human will meant that grace must function in such a way as not to deprive the will of its freedom to choose. The operation of grace as conceived by Cassian, therefore, is highly variegated. God interacts with the multitude of individual persons in the multitude of ways necessary to assist them toward salvation while at the same time preserving their freedom. The notion of grace as variegated was important to Cassian’s position, for it served to protect the self-initiating character of the human will.8”

There seems to be some debate in defining the parameters of what semi-Pelagianism espouses. Our concern here focuses upon the priority of grace versus free will. For example, Roger Olson quoting Nazarene theologian Orton Wiley states in essence that semi-Pelagianism teaches that in the partial depraved nature of man, he makes the first move toward God in procuring salvation but then needs divine grace to move further. The initiating act of man provokes God’s response with the necessary grace to complete salvation.9 Thus, semi- Pelagianism would teach that man initiates the process of salvation and God responds by supplying the necessary grace to help the process along. In contrast, Classical and Wesleyan Arminians argue that God must first initiate the process via prevenient grace and then man responds. In either case, there seems to be no debate that whoever initiates the process, man or God, that a cooperative effort is necessary. Thus, both positions affirm a synergistic view of salvation.

In an article written by the staff of Modern Reformation, a Calvinistic journal, the authors make a distinction between semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism.10 In a helpful chart they categorize both as forms of synergism. However, they make the same distinction that Olson and other Arminians make, that in Semi-pelagianism man takes the initiative in salvation and in Arminianism, God takes the initiative. In either case, grace and man’s free will cooperate in the procurement of salvation. In their chart they make a distinction between 2 types of monergism. On the one hand, there is the monergism which teaches that God alone initiates and completes salvation. This is consistent with the teaching of the Augustinian/ Calvinist understanding of soteriology. On the other hand, there is the monergism of Pelagianism in which man alone initiates and completes salvation. In between these two poles exists various forms of synergism. The authors place Arminianism closer to that of the Augustinian/ Calvinist side and semi- Pelagianism closer to the Pelagian side. The closer one comes to the theocentric monergism of Augustine and Calvin the greater the affirmation of Original Sin and human inability. The closer one comes to the anthropocentric monergism of Pelagius the greater the denial of Original Sin and human inability. Although there is some merit to the distinctions the chart makes under the rubric of synergism between Arminianism and semi-Pelagianism, it would seem the distinctions are more sharply made than the evidence may warrant.

It must be agreed that Arminianism affirms in principle a similar view of Original Sin and human inability that the Augustinian/ Calvinist tradition teaches. Furthermore, there is no doubt that Arminianism teaches the priority of divine grace working inwardly to initiate the process leading to salvation. However, it is not equally clear that semi-Pelagianism consistently affirms that man always is the first to initiate the first move towards God. Historical scholarship has taken note of this. Jaroslav Pelikan indicates that semi-Pelagians believed that sometimes faith preceded the supply of grace and at other times grace preceded the exercise of faith.11 This is confirmed by Weaver’s study. She states that for Cassian, “In the case of some persons, grace will assist the will that already desires the good, whereas in the case of others, grace will arouse the will to good when it is not so inclined.”12 In either case, faith is always exercised via the free will of man by either cooperating with or resisting the grace of God and that seems to be the main point of semi-Pelagiansim. However, as will be argued, the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace in terms of its practical outworking is not a one-time static event, but an ongoing and successive process whereby the unbeliever is drawn by stages to the culminating point of exercising saving faith. Yet, all along that process, the unbeliever must continually cooperate with grace in order to procure more grace. In this sense, Arminianism concurs with the semi-Pelagian notion that free will triggers the grace of God whether strictly in the initiation of the process or according to their view of prevenient grace in the continuing invocation of further supplies of grace.

Scott Christensen-Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism

 

 

1 Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition: 100-600 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1971), p. 313.
2 Pelagius affirmed the grace of God but that it was an external grace in the form of God’s moral law. It has no necessary influence on whether one chooses to obey it or not.
3 For more on the Pelagian and semi-Pelagian controversy see R. C. Sproul, Wiling to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997), especially chapters 1, 2 and 3.
4 Quoted in Pelikan, Catholic Tradition, p. 323-24.
5 Some of the reason for this stems from the departure of Classical and Wesleyan Arminianism by influential figures like Charles Finney whose theology was much more in line with Pelagianism. His subsequent influence on Evangelical Christianity has been debilitating in a pervasive way. See Sproul, Willing to Believe, p. 169-85.
6 Ibid., p. 324.
7Rebecca Weaver, Divine Grace and Human Agency: A Study of the Semi-Pelagian Controversy (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1996), p. 72.
8 Ibid.
9 Roger Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2006), p. 30.
10 “Grace, Sin and the Will: The Structure of the Debate” Modern Reformation 21:1 (Jan-Feb. 2012), p. 12-17.
11 Catholic Tradition, p. 324.
12 Divine Grace, .p. 72.

Without a sense of predestination we will not depend on God, as we should, under every spiritual and temporal affliction

June 27, 2014 1 comment

Chapter V

SHOWING THAT THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION SHOULD BE OPENLY
PREACHED AND INSISTED ON, AND FOR WHAT REASONS.

UPON the whole, it is evident that the doctrine of God’s eternal and unchangeable predestination should neither be wholly suppressed and laid aside, nor yet be confined to the disquisition of the learned and speculative only; but likewise should be publicly taught from the pulpit and the press, that even the meanest of the people may not be ignorant of a truth which reflects such glory on God, and is the very foundation of happiness to man. Let it, however, be preached with judgment and discretion, 1:e., delivered by the preacher as it is delivered in Scripture, and no otherwise. By which means, it can neither be abused to licentiousness nor misapprehended to despair, but will eminently conduce to the knowledge, establishment, improvement and comfort of them that hear. That predestination ought to be preached, I thus prove:-

IX.-Lastly, without a due sense of predestination, we shall want the surest and the most powerful inducement to patience, resignation and dependence on God under every spiritual and temporal affliction.

How sweet must the following considerations be to a distressed believer! (1) There most certainly exists an almighty, all-wise and infinitely gracious God. (2) He has given me in times past, and is giving me at present (if I had but eyes to see it), many and signal intimations of His love to me, both in a way of providence and grace. (3) This love of His is immutable; He never repents of it nor withdraws it. (4) Whatever comes to pass in time is the result of His will from everlasting, consequently (5) my afflictions were a part of His original plan, and are all ordered in number, weight and measure, (6) The very hairs of my head are (every one) counted by Him, nor can a single hair fall to the ground but in consequence of His determination. Hence (7) my distresses are not the result of chance, accident or a fortuitous combination of circumstances, but (8) the providential accomplishment of God’s purpose, and (9) designed to answer some wise and gracious ends, nor (10) shall my affliction continue a moment longer than God sees meet. (11) He who brought me to it has promised to support me under it and to carry me through it. (12) All shall, most assuredly, work together for His glory and my good, therefore (13) “The cup which my heavenly Father hath given me to drink, shall I not drink it?” Yes, I will, in the strength He imparts, even rejoice in tribulation; and using the means of possible redress, which He hath or may hereafter put into my hands, I will commit myself and the event to Him, whose purpose cannot be overthrown, whose plan cannot be disconcerted, and who, whether I am resigned or not, will still go on to work all things after the counsel of His own will.*

* The learned Lipsius thus writes to an unmarried friend, who appears to have referred himself to his judgment and direction:”Sive uxor ducitur, sive omittitur, etc. Whether you marry or live single, you will still have something or other to molest you, nor does the whole course of man’s present sublunary life afford him a single draught of joy without a mixture of wormwood in the cup. This is the universal and immutable law, which to resist were no less vain than sinful and rebellious. As the wrestlers of old had their respective antagonists assigned them, not by their own choice, but by necessary lot, in like manner each of the human race has his peculiar destiny allotted to him by Providence. To conquer this is to endure it. All our strength in this warfare is to undergo the inevitable pressure. It is victory to yield ourselves to fate.” – Lips. Epist. miscell. cent. 1, ep. 43, oper tom., 2, p. 54, Edit. Vesaliens, 1675. About two years after, this celebrated Christian Seneca wrote as follows to the same person (Theodore Leewius), who had married and just lost his wife in child-bed:”Jam fatum quid? AEterna, ab aeterno, in aternum, Dei lex: What is fate? God’s everlasting ordinance – an ordinance settled in eternity and for eternity, an ordinance which He can never repeal, disannul or set aside, either in whole or in part. Now, if this His decree be eternal, a retro, and immovable, quoad futurum, why does foolish man struggle and fight against that which must be? Especially, seeing fate is thus the offspring of God, why does impious man murmur and complain? You cannot justly find fault with anything determined or done by Him, as though it were evil or severe, for He is all goodness and benevolence. Were you to define His nature, you could not do it more suitably than in those terms. Is, therefore, your wife dead? Debuit:it is right she should be so. But was it right that she should die, and at that very time, and by that very kind of death? Most certainly. Lex ita lata: the decree so ordained it. The restless acumen of the human mind may sift and canvass the appointments of fate, but cannot alter them. Were we truly wise, we should be implicitly submissive, and endure with willingness what we must endure, whether we be willing or not. A due sense of our inability to reverse the disposals of Providence, and the consequent vanity of resisting them, would administer solid repose to our minds, and sheathe, if not remove, the anguish of affliction. And why should we even wish to resist? Fate’s supreme ordainer is not only the all-wise God, but an all-gracious Father. Embrace every event as good and prosperous, though it may, for the present, carry an aspect of the reverse. Think you not that He loves and careth for us more and better than we for ourselves? But as the tenderest parent below doth oftentimes cross the inclinations of his children, with a view to do them good, and obliges them both to do and to undergo many things against the bent of their wills, so does the great Parent of all.” – Ibid, epist. 61, p.82.

Above all, when the suffering Christian takes his election into the account, and knows that he was by an eternal and immutable act of God appointed to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ; that, of course, he hath a city prepared for him above, a building of God, a house not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens; and that the heaviest sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in the saints, what adversity can possibly befall us which the assured hope of blessings like these will not infinitely overbalance?

“A comfort so divine,

May trials well endnre.”

However keenly afflictions might wound us on their first access, yet, under the impression of such animating views, we should quickly come to ourselves again, and the arrows of tribulation would, in great measure, become pointless. Christians want nothing but absolute resignation to render them perfectly happy in every possible circumstance, and absolute resignation can only flow from an absolute belief of, and an absolute acquiescence in, God’s absolute providence, founded on absolute predestination. The apostle himself draws these conclusions to our hand in Rom 8:, where, after having laid down, as most undoubted axioms, the eternity and immutability of God’s purposes, he thus winds up the whole: “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”

Such, therefore, among others, being the uses that arise from the faithful preaching and the cordial reception of predestination, may we not venture to affirm, with Luther, hac ignorata doctrina, neque fidem, neque ullum Dei cultum, consistere posse? that “our faith and all right worship of God, depend in no small degree upon our knowledge of that doctrine?”*

* De Serv. Arbitr., cap. 20.

The excellent Melancthon, in his first Common Places (which received the sanction of Luther’s express approbation), does, in the first chapter, which treats professedly of free-will and predestination, set out with clearing and establishing the doctrine of God’s decrees, and then proceeds to point out the necessity and manifold usefulness of asserting and believing it. He even goes so far as to affirm roundly that “a right fear of God and a true confidence in Him can be learned more assuredly from no other source than from the doctrine of predestination.” But Melancthon’s judgment of these matters will best appear from the whole passage, which the reader will find in the book and chapter just referred to.

Divina predestinatio,”

says he, “Libertatem homini adimit”; Divine predestination quite strips man of his boasted liberty, for all things come to pass according to God’s fore-appointment, even the internal thoughts of all creatures, no less than the external works. Therefore the apostle gives us to understand that God “performeth all things according to the counsel of His own will” (Eph 1:), and our Lord Himself asks, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? yet one of them falleth not to the ground without your Father” (Mat 10:). Pray what can be more full to the point than such a declaration? So Solomon, “The Lord hath made all things for Himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Pro 16:), and in chap. 20:, “Man’s goings are of the Lord:how then can a man understand his own way?” To which the prophet Jeremiah does also set his seal, saying (chapter 10:), “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” The historical part of Scripture teaches us the same great truth. So (Gen 15:) we read that the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full. In 1Sa 2: we are told that Eli’s sons hearkened not to his reproof, because the Lord would slay them. What could bear a stronger resemblance to chance and accident than Saul’s calling upon Samuel, only with a view to seek out his father’s asses? (1Sa 9:). Yet the visit was fore-ordained of God, and designed to answer a purpose little thought of by Saul (1Sa 9:15,16). See also a most remarkable chain of predestinated events in reference to Saul, and foretold by the prophet (1Sa 10:2,8).

In pursuance of the Divine pre-ordination, there went with Saul a band of men, whose hearts God had touched (1Sa 10:26). The harshness of king Rehoboam’s answer to the ten tribes, and the subsequent revolt of those tribes from his dominion, are by the sacred historian expressly ascribed to God’s decree: “Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the Lord, that He might perform His saying, which the Lord spake by Abijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (1 Kings 12:15). What is the drift of the Apostle Paul (Rom 9:and 11:), quam ut omnia, quae fiunt, in destinationem divinam referat, but to resolve all things that come to pass into God’s destination? The judgment of the flesh, or of mere unregenerate reason, usually starts back from this truth with horror; but, on the contrary, the judgment of a spiritual man will embrace it with affection. Neque enim vel timorem Dei, vel fiduciam in Deum, certius aliunde disces, quam ubi imbueris animum hac de predestinatione sententia:you will not learn either the fear of God or affiance in Him from a surer source than from getting your mind deeply tinctured and seasoned with this doctrine of predestination.

Does not Solomon, in the Book of Proverbs, inculcate it throughout, and justly, for how else could he direct men to fear God and trust in Him? The same he does in the Book of Ecclesiastes, nor had anything so powerful a tendency to repress the pride of man’s encroaching reason, and to lower the swelling conceit of his supposed discretion, as the firm belief, quod a Deo fiunt omnia, that all things are from God. What invincible comfort did Christ impart to His disciples in assuring them that their very hairs were all numbered by the Creator? Is there, then (may an objector say), no such thing as contingency, no such thing as chance or fortune? No. Omnia necessario evenire scripturae docent; the doctrine of Scripture is, that all things come to pass necessarily. Be it so that to you some events seem to happen contingently, you nevertheless must not be run away with by the suggestions of your own narrow-sighted reason. Solomon himself, the wisest of men, was so deeply versed in the doctrine of inscrutable predestination as to leave this humbling maxim on record. “When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth, then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun, because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it. Yea, farther, though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it” (Ecclesiastes 8:16,17).

Melancthon prosecutes the argument much further, but this may suffice for a specimen; and it is not unworthy of notice that Luther so highly approved of Melancthon’s performance, and especially of the first chapter (from whence the above extract is given), that he (Luther) thus writes of it in his epistle to Erasmus, prefixed to his book “De Serv. Arb., ” “That it was worthy of everlasting duration, and to be received into the ecclesiastical canon.” Let it likewise be observed that Melancthon never, to the very last, retracted a word of what he there delivers, which a person of his piety and integrity would most certainly have done had he afterwards (as some have artfully and falsely insinuated) found reason to change his judgment on these heads.

Jerome Zanchius-The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated and Asserted-Translated by Augustus Montague Toplady

Question 77-Puritan Catechism

CharlesSpurgeonQ. Are the infants of such as are professing to be baptized?

A. The infants of such as are professing believers are not to be baptized, because there is neither command nor example in the Holy Scriptures for their baptism. (Exodus 23:13; Proverbs 30:6)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon-A Puritan Catechism

Chapter 27-The Offices of Christ

The Offices of Christ

 

THREE offices are ascribed by the Scriptures to Christ–those of prophet, priest and king.

I. CHRIST AS PROPHET.

This word is to be taken in its wider sense of inspired teacher.

It is frequently confined, in common language, to one who foretells future events. But it literally means one who speaks for his God, and denotes a divine teacher merely. Thus Moses is spoken of as a prophet, and Christ was foretold as a prophet who should he like unto Moses.

It is in connection with this that the term Logos, or Word, applied to Christ in the 1st chapter of John is appropriate.

With the office of teacher, Christ united, as was common with the prophets, the prediction of future events and the working of miracles. But the office of teacher was his special work as prophet.

This work is discharged in the following ways:

1. In the personal revelations which he made, before the days of his incarnation, to our first parents, to the patriarchs and to others of their day, to Moses and the people of God in the wilderness, and to various others, as Manoah, the children in the furnace, etc. These were made in appearances of human form, in the burning bush, in the pillar of cloud and fire, in the Shechinah, etc., etc.

2. In the inspired revelations which he made through holy men of old, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. The Old Testament Scriptures are composed of a portion of these.

3. While on earth in his incarnation.

(1) Personally as, (a) he set forth by his own acts the divine attributes, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, eternity of existence, etc., and (b) as he exhibited God’s love for man, his hatred of sin, and his love of holiness and righteousness in the work of man’s salvation.

(2) By his instructions, as he taught (a) in words to his disciples and others what he exhibited in his person as to the matters above stated, and (b) the truths relative to the kingdom he was to establish, its nature, its subjects, the relations they should bear to each other, to him and the Father, and their future destiny and glory as well as the condition and fate of those who should reject him.

4. By the instructions he gave through his apostles and other inspired men after his ascension.

5. By the revelation of himself in the lives and character of his true disciples in all ages.

6. By the instructions given through his preached word in all ages.

7. By the revelations of glory he shall make to the church of first-born ones in the world to come.

8. By the revelation which through these, he shall make of the glory of God to the universe of created intelligences.

 

II. CHRIST AS PRIEST.

The office of “Priest” is one of divine appointment. That of Christ corresponds to that of the High Priest under the Mosaic economy, and is foreshadowed by it. The Epistle to the Hebrews sets this forth very plainly and explicitly. The priesthood of Christ, however, varies from that of the High Priest in several particulars. Christ’s priesthood is perpetual, is in one person, without predecessor or successor, making one offering, once for all; an offering actually not symbolically effective, deriving value not from appointment alone, but from its nature also. In this case, also, the victim is the same person as the High Priest. Consequently Christ’s office as priest is to be contemplated in the twofold aspect of priest and victim.

1. As Priest, he offers up the sacrifice, laying it upon the altar of oblation, and through it appeasing the wrath of God, making reconciliation between God and man, and securing, in its proper presentation, the removal of guilt and punishment from man.

As Priest he also intercedes with God for pardon or justification or other blessings for all for whom he died, in all the respects in which his death is available for each.

The first of these priestly offices was discharged upon earth, the second is discharging in heaven. It does not cease with his life on earth, but he is represented as continuing as an ever-living High Priest to make intercession for us, Heb. 7:23-25; sitting down at the right hand of’ God, Acts 2:33-36; Heb. 8:1; 9:12-21. (See the law as to the Jewish High Priest entering in once every year in Heb. 9:27; also in the law laid down in Ex. 30:10; Lev. 16:2, 11, 12, 15, 34; see also Heb. 7:27; 10:10. 1 Pet. 3:18, confines it to their sufferings and does not include the offering.) It is not for the purpose of offering the sacrifice that he is there, Heb. 9:24, 25; but to make intercession for those for whom the sacrifice has already been offered, Heb. 10:11, 12, 14-18. These passages show it was such an offering as actually sanctified (v. 10), and purified (v. 14) them that are sanctified.

While we are not to suppose that he is engaged in actual spoken prayer before God, we are also not to understand by this a mere influence of his sacrifice continued without further activity on his part, but some real activity corresponding fully to the essence of prayer and petition, to which is due all the blessings to which his people attain.

This intercession is made for his people, Luke 22:32, John 14:16; 17:9, 15, 20, 24; Eph. 2:18; Heb. 4:14-16. The passages in Isaiah 53:12 and Luke 23:34 have been adduced as indicating intercession which avails in some respect for all men. But such benefits are not the result of intercessory prayer, nor of Christ’s atoning work conferring general benefits; but they come from the necessary co-existence of the persons thus benefited with those to whom the resulting benefits of the atoning work belong.

2. Christ as the victim.

(1) His qualifications.

(a) His sinlessness; for this position he needed to be pure, holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and one in whom there was no sin. He must be a spotless Lamb.

(b) His humanity; that he might be of common nature with those for whom he died, and that he might be capable of suffering, and of such suffering as man may endure.

(c) His divinity; that his successful Prosecution of the work might be assured, and that his offering might have merit sufficient to ransom those for whom he died.

(d) His federal relation; that he might he a proper substitute for sinners, not any securing righteousness by obedience, but bearing and removing their guilt by making satisfaction for it.

(2) The offering. Thus qualified he was offered up as a victim; his body to the suffering which culminated in his death on the cross, and his soul to the anguish due to the realized presence of imputed sin, to the wrath endured from God, and to the separation from God’s favor while bearing that wrath.

 

III. CHRIST AS KING.

Christ announced to his disciples just before his ascension, “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.” Math 28:18. Peter at Pentecost declared, “that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified;” Acts 2:36.

Constant references had been previously made to his kingdom. It was not simply spoken of as the kingdom of God, and kingdom of heaven, but as closely connected with Christ. Luke 22:29, 30; 23:42; John 18:37.

1. Christ as the God-man is Mediatorial king.

As Son of God he had the right of rule over the universe. Of this he emptied himself and became man, that he might become Mediator and do the work of salvation. Having become man he died on the cross. On this account he has been exalted, so “that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, * * * and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God, the Father.” Phil. 2:6-11. Compare Acts 2:22-36, especially verse 36. “God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified.” Also 1 Cor. 15:24-26.

2. Christ reigns over his spiritual kingdom, securing the final result of the establishment of that kingdom in the persons of all his people when he shall “present the church to himself, a glorious church.” Eph. 5:27.

3. He reigns over his visible churches on earth through the laws he has given, through the Spirit by which he dwells in them, and by his providences, overruling, controlling, and accomplishing all his purposes.

4. The rules over this world as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, causing all things to work together for his ends.

5. He rules over the universe. His sway is not limited to earth.

6. His Mediatorial reign is not confined to human subjects, but extends also to angelic. The angels of heaven are his attendants and his messengers.

7. He even rules over Satan and his evil angels. Their exercise of power for evil is permitted only for a time. Even during that time it is controlled by Christ; so that it is limited by his will, and is, therefore, truly subjected to him.

 

Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887