Monday, July 27, 2015

Third Response to Mr. Grahame Smith

Let me first say how much I appreciate Mr. Grahame for his kind and thoughtful way in which he has chosen to enter this debate. I have been admonished and encouraged by his tact and Christ likeness in his writing, something I hope to emulate more as I write.

Original post here:
Here is my response in blue italics:

Message to Ross Riggins-Intro to comments for Rom 9

While studying Bible passages about Reformed position, God's sovereignty, and man's free will, Romans 9 is often a favourite proof-text it seems. The chapter contains multiple passages, which appear to support Reformed theology. However the entire chapter must be placed in context with other parts of God's word..

Context is king for sure! While Romans 9 and John 6:44 are seemingly favorite proof texts, they are NOT the only ones. They are some of the most commonly referenced and most straightforward so that is why I initially threw them out there, not at all clinging to them as my only basis for my adherence to reformed theology. It is all over the Bible, and in my opinion, the burden of proof falls on those who do not adhere to reformed theology because the language so plainly reads in such a way as to give rise to reformed belief.

Just my opinion, I know.

After careful examining the context of Romans 9, it reveals to me that Paul was really explaining God's right to predetermine and use the nation of Israel to produce the Messiah. From what I can see the Jews profited greatly from this process, however, such a relationship did not guarantee God's mercy unto salvation. 

There is no doubt that there is a context here about the nation of Israel. I do not think the purpose is to primarily explain God's right to predetermine and use the nation of Israel to produce the Messiah. I think Paul/Holy Spirit is wanting to show what God's plan for Israel actually is.

God maintained and exercised His right to use nations to accomplish His promise to Abraham, and furthermore, He demonstrated His prerogative to save individuals as He deemed best.

He demonstrated His prerogative to save individuals as He deemed best?? That sounds very Calvinistic to me.

 As long as Israel would seek to establish their own righteousness by the law of Moses, over-emphasizing their national part in God's plan, they would fail to be saved. God's promise for mercy was ultimately extended to whomever would live by faith, not necessarily those who required the law of Moses, nor necessarily those who descended from Abraham.


The spiritual salvation of individuals, especially a predestined, unconditional election, is not the subject of Romans 9 in my view. Vindication of God's judgment regarding the nation of Israel is the primary point. However, detailed analysis of the immediate context, plus the context of the Old Testament passages, which Paul quoted, clearly teaches that God's mercy has always been conditioned upon man's repentance.

Vindication of God's judgment of Israel is a good way so summarize parts of Romans 9 and 10, even 11. I would say that God's mercy has always been conditioned upon faith in the promise of God. Now, that faith will always have action with it, whether it be repentance or simple obedience. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.

Paul's book to the Romans was written to a church containing both Jewish and Gentile Christians. Their opposing backgrounds presented difficult problems for the congregation. Paul developed common solutions for a common need, in spite of their cultural differences. He elaborates on God's nature and justification, and he reminds them of their responsibilities to God as well as to each other. Paul anticipates the questions and reactions of each side and replied accordingly. In my view his letter is extremely logical, moving from one issue to the next along a consistent theme of justification by faith in the gospel for the Jew and Gentile alike. The main points I gleam from this chapter are:
1. Introduction of theme, and Gentiles' condemnation for descent into depraved idolatry.
2. Jews' condemnation for disobedience to the law of Moses.
3. All stand guilty before a just God. Therefore, justification by His mercy and our faith.
4. Justification by faith apart from perfect keeping of Jewish law.
5. Hope and comfort by faith through God's love and Christ's sacrifice, contrasted with death, guilt, and condemnation introduced through Adam's sin, perpetuated by all.
6. Dead to sin through baptism into Jesus' death, and resurrected for new life in God' service.
7. Jews freed from bondage of law of Moses, through Christ's death, and all freed from bondage to sin through Jesus' deliverance.
8. Free from carnal mind to walk after the law of the Spirit. Security in God's love in the face of tribulation.
9. God's right to reject national Israel for salvation after using them to produce the Messiah.
10. Israel's rejection of a universal call to both Jew and Gentile to believe on the Lord.
11. Israel's fall through unbelief, Gentiles salvation by faith, and salvation of a Jewish remnant through grace.
12. Moral Applications: Therefore, be transformed and live sacrificially, devoted unto God.
13. Submit to the government and neighbours - put on Jesus Christ.
14. Do not condemn or cause brother to stumble, based on scruples as a Jew or Gentile.
15. Serving others and glorifying God with one mind - Paul's personal plans.
16. Paul's salutations and warning to avoid divisive amongst the brethren.
Romans 9 is immediately preceded by the profound encouragement, promise, and hope of security in the Lord. (Please read Romans 8:31-39 for background.) 

I have to give credit to my parents for having us kids memorize Romans chapters 6 - 8 when I was 15, and credit to my church which had me later memorize chapter 5 and 6-8 again. So thanks to them I am aware of the context.

After Paul's, both Jew and Gentile readers might have questioned him based on the case of then current Israel. At that time, Jewish persecution was increasing. Their rejection of the Lord was becoming more complete, while the Gentiles were turning to the Lord in droves. Yet, it was clear at that time, that as a nation, the Jews were rejecting God and being rejected by Him. Both Jew and Gentile might ask, "Had God not elected and predestined Israel?" Paul seems to have anticipated such a question, because he moved from a proclamation of God's love and the elect's victory in Christ to the situation regarding God's elect nation, Israel, in chapter 9.

I agree with all of this last paragraph. Where we differ is in what Paul accomplishes in Romans 9. Yes, he very effectively gives a defense of God's rejection of the people of Israel, but how does he do that? By getting very specific, to the person specific, in how he chooses to show mercy or hardening. If he sovereignly chooses even at the individual level, He most certainly does so at the national level. We know it is the individual level because He mentions specific, individual persons. We know it is not just roles He is referring to because the language He uses is very soteriological: the promise (faith in the promise which yields righteousness), love, hate, mercy, compassion, hardening, and especially vessels of wrath for destruction and vessels of mercy which receive the riches of His glory (sounds like more than just earthly reward for role service) and then finally Paul identifies himself in the group of these vessels of mercy whom God called out of the Jews and gentiles. There is too much soteriology and individualism to assume a fly-over summary conclusion that this is only nation talk.

Ross the theological basis for this summary I will email to you as it will be much too long for the blog to handle. Blessings..

Looking forward to the email. I cannot promise a speedy response as just these short blurbs are taking enough of my time as it is. Again, I appreciate the spirit of these exchanges and wish us both a greater understanding of God's Word.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Second Response to Mr. Grahame Smith

The initial blog/comment thread can be seen here:

Here is my response:

Ross my intro to Romans 9 more to follow as promised. Big chapter big topic......
Paul was explaining to the Jews that if God wanted to use and save the Gentiles that God in His sovereignty had that right. In order to understand what God is saying through Paul one has to read what is before and what is after chapter 9 to get the big picture. Rather than taking one passage from Romans one must look up specific words to see what they originally meant and also what they meant in context of what was being discussed and to whom it was being addressed. You have to consider the entirety of God’s word and not just certain passages or chapters. IM sure you know this. When put in Biblical and historical context there is nothing in Romans 9 in my view for those in the Reformed Theology position to justify the doctrine of predestination.

Wrong. Paul clearly gives his reason toward the beginning of chapter 9 for why he is about to say what he says. Romans 9:6,7 - But it is not as though the word of God has failed (meaning that since many of the people of Israel have rejected Christ over which Paul is in great sorrow, see vs 1-5, and then he goes on to say why it has not failed). For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring... Paul's reason for all the rest of the chapter stems from these verses - showing how the word of God has not failed because it's not just the physical children, but through the children of promise, vs. 8. Paul goes on to show several things in the following verses
  • The promise was Sarah will have a son (as opposed to the child of the flesh, of Abraham's trying, Ishmael)
  • God chose Jacob before either had done good or bad, why?
    • That God's purpose of election (choosing) might stand
      • Which is not because of works but because of God's call
  • God loved Jacob, but Esau He hated
    • The Greek word hate here is miseo meaning hate, love less, even a semitic form of divine choosing of one clan over another; in other words, God chose to at least love Esau less, or at most, hate him.
Now if all that is not enough, if you think you can still twist it to mean God does not choose some individuals as opposed to others, Paul raises the objection he would only raise if what I am saying he meant was what he really did mean. Romans 9:14 - What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. If his words to us were less provocative as you claim they are, then he would not have raised this possible objection.

 For example: Predestination, and election are always connected with foreknowledge. Romans 8, “whom he foreknew he predestined” not to salvation, but to be conformed to the image of his son. Predestination and election are always unto a blessing never unto salvation in my understanding.

This is incorrect. Just a verse later Paul writes, "And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." Right there you have predestination grouped with those who are justified and glorified. If that does not mean salvation then I cannot fathom what else it means. To be saved, to have salvation, means to be justified and then when we die, to be glorified. So to be predestined is to be predestined to salvation according to the Bible.
Why even mention foreknowledge if God just does it? No, the ones that he knew would respond to his grace and to the gospel, he has marked out blessings for them.

Where does it ever say that? It never says in the Bible that God chose based upon what we would do or how we would respond to His Gospel. In fact, the opposite is declared. Back to Romans 9:11 "though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad..." It is pointed out that God's decision is NOT based on anything we do or don't do. 

Now these vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, these are the ones that God knew what they would do. He knew their evil hearts. He knew their rebellion. 

Again, Romans 9:11. Not that God did not know what they would do or not do, but this verse declares that His choice is irregardless of what they do or don't do.

If you go back a ways to Pharaoh, it wasn’t that God made Pharaoh be the bad person that he was, but God knew the heart of Pharaoh and he arranged for Pharaoh to become Pharaoh, just to be there at that time. It does say that he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but on the other hand, Pharaoh hardened his own heart before God did that. And if you go back and read the story God tells Moses one of the first things he says is, “I know he won’t let the people go.” Well then why does God harden his heart? If Pharaoh is as Reformists teach totally depraved, God wouldn’t have to harden his heart. Pharaoh is scared to death because of the plagues that have been released onto the Egypt's so out of fear he let the people go. However his heart wouldn’t have changed as demonstrated he chased them with his army. So if you go back in the Hebrew, the word for “hardened” means “strengthened”. He strengthened; he gave him the courage to be his true self.

The Bible tells us that both happened so we believe both happened. Reformed theologians would say that God hardened his heart, but that he hardened his own heart as well. There's no discrepancy in God doing it and man also doing it. If God brings a trial into my life, and I persevere through it, there is a sense in which I did it. I persevered. Yet, I know that God was giving me the Grace to do so. Therefore, He ultimately did it. Pharaoh hardened his own heart. But God ultimately did so as well. Whether God actively hardened his heart in a point in time, or He just left pharaoh's heart to do what all of our hearts naturally do on their own when it comes to God's will, that's open to conjecture. If I don't mow my grass for weeks, it has grown wild and out of control. What's the difference in saying the yard is out of control, or Ross does not take care of his yard? It's really a matter of perspective and just how you wish to say it.

I think the translation hardened is a good one because the idea of "made strong" applies to being hard. It is further confirmed by the word Paul chooses to use in Romans 9:18, which is definitely translated hardened. A little NT commentary on an OT passage!

More later if you wish.....

I would like more, but more of what I requested which was a serious dealing with Romans 9. The comments you made were really cursory: you made a summary of the passage which the text shows as incorrect and then really only came back to Romans 9 to talk about pharaoh. There's a LOT more in the passage than just pharaoh.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Response to Mr. Grahame Smith

The original post can be found here:

Ross here is my first response more may be necessary. I’m sure it will generate further debate. Blessings..

The verse you mention opens up a a large doorway to explore…..Jesus said "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up on the last day.'' (John 6:44). Now this verse speaks the truth that we cannot find God on our own. Very true. God does initiate the call to us through God the Holy Spirit. But the context is in relation to who Jesus is speaking to…the Jews! He wants them to let go of their rules and the law so they can get to God through Jesus.

Blessings to you, and I am grateful we can have this conversation. I will be first one to say that proper exegesis will always involve an awareness of the speaker and the audience, but in the context of this verse, it does not seem to be relevant. He has just fed the 5,000, they are wanting to make Him king because He feeds their bellies, and He is telling them to not work for any old food, but for the kind found in Him which brings eternal life. He could have said the same to really any group of people.

Rom 9 31-32 where it says they couldn’t get their because of their mind set on works. In my understanding of Calvinism God only grants salvation knowledge of Him to preselected few.

As predicted no real treatment of Romans 9, but moving on to other verses. Perhaps you are planning on coming back to this passage.

But that is not what this verse is saying. John 12:32 clarifies what Jesus is saying here, when I am lifted up from earth I will draw all men to me. The lifting up Christ was referring to was being crucified. In the Greek meaning the drawing part is not salvation but rather conviction of sin, righteousness and judgement by God the Holy Spirit. So All people are drawn because Jesus said so but conviction doesn’t mean acceptance of what is being offered ie forgiveness and salvation. Free will has to be added to it by us. In essence this verse is about God having to reconcile us to Him through Christ before access was granted to all men because of the cross…. Then this is followed by the drawing of all men to a decision point to believe or not to believe in Christs salvation.

You are correct that when Jesus says being lifted up means crucifixion because the crowd questions Him saying the Christ was to remain forever so how could He be lifted up (die). However the context of John 12:32 has been completely missed. It is not trying to dissect what Jesus means by "drawing". The point of the passage begins in verse 20 when some Greeks came to the feast to worship and began asking to see Jesus.What? Gentiles seeking Jesus? Jesus sees the birth-pangs of the church age of Jews and gentiles breaking in upon the world which immediately encourages Him to give a discourse on His up coming death in which He will "draw all men to Himself"... all men meaning Jews and Gentiles. Its very plain from the context of what is motivating Jesus speech here. For you to say that this passage delineates what the drawing entails is reaching. Imposing free will on to this passage is just that: imposing. Simply not there.

The context of all this is further expanded when you consider (John 6:45) which reveals how God draws men unto Himself. "It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me." Note the words "taught" and "every man" (all drawn the same way; by being taught) and "hear" and "learn" and "come". These are not presdestination words. They are common, everyday words which are used to describe how it is that people are drawn to Christ.

What is it that is taught and heard and learned? The means or method by which God "calls'' or "draws'' all men is the Gospel. "And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." (II Thessalonians 2:14). There is no special, mystical anointing of the Holy Spirit, but rather, the Holy Spirit calls men through the gospel; and it is the gospel that is the power (Romans 1:16). God draws people unto Himself through the teaching of the gospel. The preaching of the gospel is God's power, his drawing power, to save (I Corinthians 1:18-21). Therefore, all people, when they hear the gospel, at any moment, have the ability to respond to God's gospel call. They also have the ability to reject it (Acts 13:45-48).

These words could not be more "predestination" words as you put it. The whole idea of God predestinating is Him having the choice and Him taking the initiative, which the latter is completely spoken of in this particular verse. A few verses back, He refers to the former: "But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out." John 6:36-37. Jesus speaks of the reason why some people hear and come and why some hear and do not. He does not say free will. He says the clincher, the deciding factor in that is whether they are the ones the Father has given to Him. Could not be more clear. I could not agree more that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation. As far as Acts 13:45-48, this could not support what I have said more. Jesus words from John could equally be applied to Paul's audience here in Acts: the reason you do not believe is because you are not of the ones the Father has given to Jesus. This is further affirmed by the end of verse 48 which says that as opposed to those who were not His and therefore rejected, as many as were appointed (were His) they believed. It's all right there!

Furthermore when you consider the terms of elect or the chosen they must be considered in light of the earthly connotation of the Old Testament meaning coupled with the spiritual meaning in the New Testament message. When you do that it’s clear God never defined in scripture that the elect term meant some people will be predestined to be saved while others miss out. Hebrews 4:1-10 helps with this conundrum.

The Promise of Rest

4 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them,[a] not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. 3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said:

“So I swore in My wrath,

‘They shall not enter My rest,’”[b] although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; [c] 5 and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.”[d]

6 Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, 7 again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said:

“Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.”[e]

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

It seems clear here that while the promise of salvation remains anyone need not fear coming short of it. Simply the only way you can miss out in entering His rest is also declared here ie through the lack of faith, hardening of hearts and because of disobedience ….all human choices and actions not Gods predestination. Thus Predestination is not mentioned here as a pathway into heaven, the pathway is defined as the preaching of the word, the hearer believing, then expressing faith in Christ mixed with conviction (Holy Spirit) who then can enter the rest. Thus through obedience to Christs call they were saved.

I am not really sure the reason for the Hebrews passage here. Anyone who adheres to reformed theology would agree with this Hebrews passage, that we need to make our calling and election sure. God's electing, predestinating work does not in any way preclude man's responsibility to respond in faith. So a hearty amen to this passage. You make a mistake when you see a passage like this weighing in heavily on man's responsibility and therefore assume that God's sovereignty clearly laid out in other passages could not mean what the context clearly indicates. God's Word teaches both, so we need not neglect both. They may seem to contradict, but that is just part of the beautiful mystery of Grace. You make a mistake also when you say "Simply the only way you can miss out in entering His rest is also declared here ie though lack of faith, hardening of hearts and because of disobedience..." as though it is all up to us, and God is not involved. One great example of this is Acts 16:14 where Lydia is presented the Gospel. It is not merely a choice she makes to harden or accept. Instead, God gives us a brief window into His Sovereign work: "Lydia... was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul." The obvious other conclusion would have been had God not opened her heart, she would not have believed. We are all in state of rebellion and deadness in sin as Romans 2 tells us. Until God "opens our hearts" to believe, we will keep unbelieving.

This is further supported by God declaring that His desire is that no one should be lost. No one! God is "...patient, not wishing for any to perish." (II Peter 3:9). God is "compassionate" (Matthew 9:36; Psalm 86:15) God is "...just" (Romans 3:24-26). God is "Sorrowful" that many are lost (Ezekiel 18:23; 31,32; cf. Matthew 23:37). To suggest that man cannot respond to God's gospel apart from a special anointing or calling that God gives to them that He does not give to all others makes God responsible for the lost being lost. But that does not fit with the Biblical description of God's character and nature. God made salvation available to all. Salvation is available for all men, not just a select few. Jesus died for everyone (Hebrews 2:9; John 3:16). God wants all to come to know the truth (I Timothy 2:4). The invitation is open to all He has already issued His call, and it has gone out unto the whole world. Any of us can choose to answer it, or not.

I agree with these passages about God's desire and His compassion. They are what the Bible tells us about God and His character. But to assume that just because this is His description means that He does not still do what the Bible in other places tells us He does is a mistake. 1 Peter 2:7-8 tells us: "This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, 'The stone which the builders rejected this became the very corner stone,' and 'A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense'; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed." While God's character is compassion and a desire to love all, it is clear from His word that He has sovereignly chosen not to extend that to everyone. Why is His own business. We cannot ignore the rest of what the Bible says about God because we do not like it.

Sinners are saved by God's grace when they respond in faithful obedience to the gospel that draws them to God (Matthew 7:21). God is always ready for men to repent and obey (Acts 17:30). It is those who will do so are spared His wrath and obtain salvation through Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:9). This is an important concept to recognize. God has not predestined individuals to be saved or lost, but rather, His bride is predestined to be with Him and He has also predestined the method by which we are saved. If we obey the gospel, we are baptized "into Christ" (Romans 6:3,4). God has also predestined all those "in Christ" to be "blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 1:3). But it is up to us as to whether we will obey or not.

I confess I am running out of time before work to really treat these last two sections, but just quickly, for you to say that the elect is not individuals but just a group seems to be really reaching in the text. Where does it say it is just a hypothetical group? It does not clearly state this so I would be hesitant to use it as base of argument. I appreciate the debate. Hopefully, I will have more time in the future.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What Are Trumpets Known For?

An orchestra is an amazing assembly of instruments. The way so many can come together and contribute to a single piece of music is mystifying and intriguing. Each section and each individual instrument follows the music under the direction of the conductor and the result is a unified theme, resounding in the concert hall. Each instrument is unique and add its own color to the music. Each instrument is known for certain qualities and sounds. The violins add their vibrato, carrying the music theme often, and will occasionally go to the higher register, hitting some shrill notes. The woodwinds seem so gentle, carrying along the melody in an almost sweet way. Then there is the brass which can be played quietly, but is often used to produce a bombastic march. In particular, the trumpet, is usually thought of as a particularly loud and all-consuming sound. I cannot escape the similarity between this instrument and the current forerunner in the Republican presidential nominee race.

Donald Trump is loud. He is vitriolic. He is needlessly obnoxious. I would let politicians be politicians, but this man has gone a bit too far. When he spouted off his less than savory and thought out immigration remarks, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and was willing to accept that he did not mean that most of Mexicans are rapists, but that he meant the Mexican government was sending such types over the border. I gave him that. I appreciate him taking on a hot topic very strongly. However, his most recent remarks about John McCain are just too much. I do not know much about John McCain. I do not know his record with any credible certainty. I could not speak to his work or lack thereof for veterans. I will even admit his reference to Trump supporters in Arizona as "crazies" was wrong and McCain should apologize for ever referencing any group of Americans that way. BUT, I do know that McCain served our country in the military. I do know he was captured and tortured. I know that lasted 5 years. I know that makes him a military war hero. No questions asked. Whether you were captured or not, you don that uniform and risk yourself by serving in a war in any capacity then you are a hero. Trump did concede amid boos that McCain is a war hero, but the line of "I like people who don't get captured" is just disgusting. In what I think is an attempt to "get back" at McCain for his crazies comment, he has made a statement that appears to say that Trump only likes winners and since McCain was captured, he's not a winner. Trump seems to be implying that he only likes winners perhaps like himself. How proud can you be to think you belong to some group of people who are always winning and never lose?! I cannot read his mind, so I do not know if my judgments of his thoughts is anywhere near correct, but something is amiss in his mind, especially if the general public receives his comments negatively and he still refuses to apologize.

My wife and I were discussing Trump a week or so ago, and we were discussing what appears to be just a very prideful demeanor about him. The thought that came to my mind was that "pride goes before a fall". Trump has been so busy pointing the finger at people, calling people names, saying what a horrible job people have done, while simultaneously proclaiming how he will do so much better (with very little real detail I might add). He has been so caught up in pushing himself that I believe he has really had a "fall" with this statement. The main problem for conservatives at this point is that we are faced with Hilary Clinton on the Democratic ticket. We need someone to really give her competition. If Trump does lose support, he has left the door open for him to pursue a Ross Perot 3rd party option which will ensure a Clinton victory. Conservatives are almost forced to continue to support him to avoid what would surely follow. I am grateful that God is in control of kings and all such as are in authority. May we pray that even as Donald Trump continues to bulldoze his way through this primary, that God will humble his heart, not his resolve. May God temper his tongue and not conservative policy.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Response to Mr. Neville Briggs

There was going to be some difficulty to respond to Mr. Briggs the way I wanted to on Kevin DeYoung's blog so I am going to do it here.

Here is his response with my thoughts in italics:

It’s not my definition of love but the Biblical definition.

That is what we are debating, isn't it?!

The apostle Paul in his wonderful poem about the meaning of love, said that love is not self seeking. If God is looking for glory, that sounds like self seeking. Jesus said that His love was manifest in His laying down of His life for others, He also said that He came not to be served but to serve. . So I take it that God’s love is about others. Not getting something for Himself.

Two things here: Love is not self-seeking and God is not looking for glory. The first is only partially right and the second is just wrong according to Scripture.

1) Love is not self-seeking - This is true in the context of man. Jesus, the God-man, set us an example (Phil. 2) of looking not on our own interests but on the interests of others so He made Himself nothing. He gave us this example so that we should walk in His steps. So for man, by the example of Jesus, love will always look like giving, serving, sacrificing... never in making much of ourselves. Does this apply to God proper, God the Father? This brings us to...

2)God is not looking for glory - The whole scope of Scripture simply does not support this claim:

Isaiah 43:7 (NASB95)
Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom have made.”

Isaiah 48:11 (NASB95)
For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.

John 17:24 (NASB95)
“Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

Ephesians 1:5–6 (NASB95)
He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

Yes, Christ came and made Himself nothing but gave, leaving us an example that we should do
likewise. But to conclude that this is the only way the Godhead loves, or to say that for God to be
seeking His own glory is not loving just does not line up with Scripture. God seeks His glory, and He
takes it seriously! The beautiful thing about our God is that in seeking His Glory, that is great for us
because He is a loving, giving, merciful God. Therefore He seeks His glory in being a gracious God
and saving sinners. Seeking His glory does not preclude Him from being a gracious, giving God according to Scripture.

The Calvinist doctrine of election looks like abortion because the abortion practice is usually self seeking so called ” right to choose”. If you are going to go against abortion, to be consistent you must go against Calvinist election and God’s alleged right to choose those not to be saved.

What's missing in this assessment is the complete difference between a mortal person choosing who lives and dies and the Creator God choosing who lives and dies. There is a great immorality in a human choosing which other humans live or die, but God has that right because He is the Creator.

I can’t find this alleged God’s choice anywhere in the Bible, what I see all the way through the Bible is God urging and pleading with us to make the choice to relate to Him.

Nowhere in the Bible?

John 6:44 (NASB95)
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

Romans 9:15 (NASB95)
For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

Romans 9:18 (NASB95)
So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

The other puzzle I have about Calvinist doctrine is this idea that the unelect/ unsaved are suffering God’s wrath, when God has decided before they ever existed that they would be unelect/unsaved, How can God have wrath against someone before they ever came into being, before they said or did anything. The Bible clearly states that God’s wrath is against people because of their thoughts and deeds. Calvinist election is illogical and sounds unjust and cruel, God deciding beforehand who He is going to be against or for, without conditions, that’s rubbish, the Bible clearly states the conditions.

I am not aware of any Calvinistic doctrine that states God is already wrathful at the non-elect before they are ever born. If He is, it is because He is outside of time and the sins we commit in time, He already knows about and is experiencing the anger He has against them. Let's also remember just because something "sounds" a certain way is by no means a marker for whether it is Biblical or not.

Does Jesus love all the little children, He must , because Jesus said, ” God so loved the world,” which would be everyone including children. Jesus certainly never said ” God so loved His own glory ”

God does love the world, and He does love children. Yet how he does this yet is fully committed to His glory are not competing ideas, but complementary ones.

Sorry if I sound a bit strident, but I will contend for the character of God who is Love, not to be misrepresented.

No apology needed. These are important issues that we all feel strongly about. My conviction is that we cannot let our emotions or our preconceptions of God determine what truth is. We must let the Bible, the whole Bible, every verse, be the standard by which we frame our thoughts of God, His love, and His choice.

Disappointment in God's Not Dead

To clear up any misconceptions about the title of this post let me first say that I am very glad that God is not dead, and that He is surely alive!

My disappointment does not rest in his viability, but in the movie of the same title. My disappointment is not in Christians wanting to use media as a source of witness, nor is it in Christians engaging in philosophical debates as a means of witness. My disappointment comes toward the end of the movie when the momentum takes us to a critical moment. The age-old question was raised which is a harder question to answer than whether God exists or not. The question of all questions: why evil? If this supposedly good God is supposedly all-powerful, then how or why does He allow evil? It's a huge moment in the movie. Whether you are enjoying the movie up to this point or think it's the cheesiest thing you've ever seen, everyone's attention perks up a bit. What is he going to say? How will he answer? What is the answer? Everyone at some point has wondered about this, whether at the bedside of a dying mother, or seeing famine, disease, and war-ravaged Africa take its toll on her children. How could my good, sovereign God choose this, or even allow it?

We all hold our breath as we wait for the sublime to come out of the protagonist's mouth, and what follows could not be more disappointing. "Free will," he quips, almost simplistically, like we all should have just known that. What's more, he just assumes that everyone will think, "Of course, free will, that explains it!" He does not develop why us having free will coincides with God allowing evil in the world. He goes on to say that God wants us to freely choose Him so that we can get to heaven with our free will intact. My immediate question is why is keeping our free will intact so important? My real question though is whether that idea is even Biblical?

Is free will Biblical? Why is determining that important? If it isn't Biblical, why can't we bring our ideas to the Bible? In any belief system there has to be a rock solid foundation. There has to be a standard by which everything is measured. Otherwise you do not have a belief system or even a religion but just a bunch of people running around believing whatever they want to. For the Christian, the Bible is the perfect standard, not the pope, not your pastor, not the TV evangelist, not tradition, not even and especially not ourselves. The Bible is the source of everything we believe, and if at anytime we believe something that contradicts the Bible, then we are in grave error and in danger of heresy. The question again is this: does the Bible teach free will? First of all, the term free will is never found in the Bible (except one place in the book of Philemon, but it's just the phrase, not used as meaning what we are now considering). Those who believe we have free will would explain that in terms of our ability to choose Jesus as our Savior and would look to passages such as John 3:16 where it says "whosever believes" will have eternal life. Somehow the phrase "whoever believes" equals free will to them. But does it? Does that verse say anything about our wills or whether our wills are free? Definitely not the latter and not really the former. The verse is really just a statement verse: whoever (so anybody) believes (puts their faith in Jesus) will have eternal life. If you believe, you have eternal life. It's really just a simple cause and effect verse that says nothing about our wills being free. It mentions us believing which does include an act of the will to believe, but it never says enough to establish whether that will was free or not. Does the Bible anywhere say anything about our wills, our nature, and whether we choose of our own free will? It does. Consider these passages:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. - John 6:44
Focus on the first 3 words for just a moment: No one can, no one can, no one can. This phrase speaks of absolute inability. What are we absolutely unable to do? We are absolutely unable to come to Jesus unless the Father draws us. That's what the Bible says, not me. It does not speak of our wills directly, but whatever the condition of our will, we are certainly not free to come on our own.

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-
3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved-
6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. - Ephesians 2:1-9

This passage speaks of us as being dead to God, and alive only to sin. It speaks of us not free to pursue God if we want, but of us simply pursuing passions that make us the object of God's wrath. So what changes our bad situation? Our free wills? No it says "but God". Are you sure our free wills did not play some part? It seems to answer this by making sure we know that God did His saving work, "even when we were dead in our trespasses." A free will able to choose God while we are dead in our trespasses does not seem possible. Why? Because death is death. Why is death so terrible? Because we cannot change it. If we could come back alive of our own free will when we die, dying wouldn't be so bad. But by the very nature of our slavery to death not our freedom in it is what causes the horror of death. Why would we think we had the ability to will to change our being dead in trespasses to choose God?

9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,
10 as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; 
11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." 
13 "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." 
14 "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." 
15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood; 
16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 
17 and the way of peace they have not known." 
18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes."  - Romans 3:9-18

The point of this passage is not only can no one earn their way to heaven, they don't even want to. No one seeks God (on their own). Again this passage does not specifically say whether our wills are free or not. They may be. But what this passage teaches us is that even if our wills are free, our nature is so depraved that left to ourselves we would never exercise our will to choose God. Left to ourselves we choose sin every time. We may not have committed all the sins listed explicitly in this passage, and it may look like we sought out God when we went to church and prayed a prayer. No one is saying those things did not happen or that they were meaningless. What the Bible says about those experiences is that if they were genuine, it was because God put that desire in your heart. You would not have if left to yourself. He willed it to happen. He made you alive as it says in Ephesians 2 so that you could want to believe and not perish, but have eternal life.

Therefore, my disappointment in the movie is that one of the major conclusions at the height of the movie is erroneous. God does not leave us to freely choose Him so that our free will remain intact, and that somehow accounts for evil in the world. No! God breaks into my life while I was running from Him in my heart and changed my heart so that I would will to believe and love Him. He is the Savior of my helpless state... not my ability to exercise free will.

Why evil is in the world is a question for a different blog post.