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.


  1. If God is looking for glory, then that would make Him some sort of self absorbed, self referential being, out to get and not give. Nothing I can find in the Bible supports that idea. I can't see in any of the verses you quoted about God's glory, that His motive is to gain glory. More that His motive is to display the glory that He already has. How is God going to get glory, He already is the most glorious entity that there is.

    The verse quoting Jesus saying " so-one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him " is a favourite of those who want to read predestination and election into the scripture. They apparently don't look to any further to notice that Jesus was debating with trenchant opponents at the time and He said further " Everyone who has listened to and learnt from the Father comes to me ' . In other words these opponents of Jesus were not drawn to Him because they were not Godly people in the first place, if they were genuinely God fearing Jews they would be able to recognise Jesus for who he was and be drawn to Him. It's not some theological snippet of election, it's about disobedience.
    The examples that Paul gave about Jacob and the Pharoah have nothing to do with election to salvation. The Bible doesn't say any such thing. That pair were predestined to carry out a role in God's covenant with Abraham. To extrapolate from that, a theology of predestined salvation is not logical.

    Further, any alleged predestination to salvation and unconditional election makes a mockery of all those passages in the Bible where people are called to choose, to believe, to listen, to decide . Why ask people to decide if they have no choice, surely God is not a deceiver. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because they had rejected Him, they resisted His grace. That makes no sense if irresistible grace supposedly follows election. And I have to say that it seems to me just a cop-out to say that making sense proves nothing about scriptural truth. Jesus is the Logos, John tells us, of course it has to make sense.

    1. I really appreciate your initial paragraph here because I see something that we really agree on. Both in the creation process and redemption process, God was never in need of anything that compelled Him to create or redeem. He is the self-existent One. It is the overflow of His perfections that are used to create and redeem; not some lack that drives Him. So, yes, I agree with your distinctive here that God is not trying to wrest more glory from us for Himself. It is really for His ever present glory to be seen and savored. This is a purpose of His, however, His highest purpose as outlined in Scripture, for His ever present glory to be seen and savored. Therefore my point in speaking of His glory still holds, though no new glory is created nor is there any need in God which drives it.

      In your second paragraph, I could not disagree more, and I suppose this is where we part company theologically. You said, "In other words these opponents of Jesus were not drawn to Him because they were not Godly people in the first place, if they were genuinely God fearing Jews they would be able to recognise Jesus for who he was and be drawn to Him." You see, Romans 2 and 3 show us that there is no one who truly seeks God of his own accord. Everyone runs after their own sin. They are dead in it. Which makes complete logical sense with John 6:44 that we would need God to wake us from our death and draw us to Himself.

      As far as the examples in Romans 9, Paul/Holy Spirit was not just referring to their "roles" because the language is very soteriological. Love, hate, compassion, mercy, hardening, vessels of wrath and mercy are all words and phrases that point to more that just the earthly roles they played, especially being vessels of wrath or mercy. Further, you can say that extrapolating a theology of predestined salvation is not logical, but you really need to be able to show that in some concrete way.

      To say that it makes a mockery of all those passages is definitely your opinion. Reformed people do believe people are called to choose, to believe, to listen, to decide. What we further believe, and what Scripture teaches, is that until God initiates, until He quickens our spirits, we won't do any of those things. We will continue down the Romans 2 and 3 road of following hard after our sin. For those in the Reformed camp, it does make sense that God does have vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy so that when the Gospel is preached to all, the vessels of mercy respond because God opens their hearts to do so and the vessels of wrath reject because that is what they want to do and God leaves them to what they want. To say that is unfair of God is incredulous because He did not have to save any of us for our sinful choices. But, because He is merciful, He did select some that He would overcome their death to sin and revive them to eternal life. It does make sense. If men are truly left to themselves apart from God's choice and enablement, then you have no one going to Heaven because no one (of themselves) seeks God. We all sheep have turned astray to our own way. So to leave us to ourselves and yet expect that some will choose Him makes no sense at all.