Friday, April 22, 2011

A Daily Proverbs Study by Pumice

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Athanasian Creed

(6th Century)

1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;
2. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
3. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.
5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.
6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.
7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.
8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.
9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.
12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.
13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.
14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.
15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;
16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;
18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.
19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;
20. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.
21. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.
22. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.
23. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
25. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.
26. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.
27. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
28. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.
29. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
30. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.
31. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world.
32. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
33. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.
34. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.
35. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.
36. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.
37. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;
38. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;
39. He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty;
40. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;
42. and shall give account of their own works.
43. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
44. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.

Monday, April 18, 2011

If Capital Punishment is a Sin, Is God a Sinner?

Roger Olson has made the charge that capital punishment is a sin. Well, I think he can make a good case that justice has been denied several times in the state of Texas and elsewhere but it seems quite a stretch to make such a blanket statement regarding a penalty that was given by God Himself well before the law of Moses.

“ And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” (Ge 9:5-6 AV)

Was the LORD sinful in making this a requirement of His standard of Justice? God forbid and if that, why would any pastor, teacher, theologian or elder make such a preposterous statement? The death penalty debate has been a long simmering issue among various church factions and a case of mercy can be made by both sides of the issue. However it behooves us to keep in mind that God’s standard of Justice might strike us as harsh but there is a purpose behind it and for it. The law of Moses as an example was to establish the laws and regulations for a covenant relationship between God and His chosen people. It was intended for that people, both Hebrew and foreign within her borders. On the other hand, the Noahide laws were given to mankind through Moses establishing the need and right of civil governance among mankind. Genesis 9 is as much a part of our expectation today as it was when it was given. We find all of it encoded within Moses law as well. So can we call realistically capital punishment to be sin? In my opinion, not if we believe and love the Word of God for to do so is to call the LORD a sinner. I believe Roger’s caption is ill-advised.
The following is my reply to his blog post which for his own reasons chooses not to reply.

Texas seems to have serious problems with how it tries, convicts and investigates it’s capital murder cases. I am of the opinion that capital punishment be suspended there and other places with similar problems until these serious breaches of justice can be dealt with. However, I think your argument against capital punishment is flawed in several ways.
First, it ends a person’s opportunity to exonerate himself or herself.
That is true but death itself ends the same opportunity for all
Second, it ends a person’s opportunity to accept Christ and live a God-honoring life in prison ministering to other inmates and guards.
I think it is more appropriate to state that the criminal ended his or her own opportunities with the commission of the crime.
Third, it usurps God’s place and assume’s a God-like right and power to take the life of a person created in God’s image and likeness.
God established this punishment as far back as the Noahide laws and it is codified in Moses law as well as expectations set in Romans 13 (with some disputing that latter interpretation) - added to state that the command given in Gen 9 states the very reason for demanding the death penalty is because man was created in the image of God and this turns Roger's argument onto its head.
Fourth, it has no social benefit. It only serves a blood thirst for vengeance.
It’s purpose is justice and properly executed justice always has social benefit.
Fifth, no modern, Western country still has capital punishment.
That is neither a theological or ethical objection and it assumes the modern, Western cultural mindset to be ethically superior to those other cultures.
Sixth, capital punishment is barbaric and cruel–if not to the person being executed (and who can know for sure?), to his or her family.
Is it any more barbaric and cruel than sticking someone in a cage for the rest of their life? Is God barbaric and cruel for instituting capital punishment?
Seventh, innocent people are executed.
This is probably your best argument against it although it is not a theological argument. Innocent Hebrew men could have been put to death at the testimony of several witnesses and while those witnesses might be morally culpable for their falsehoods, the state is not. However, as I noted in opening. I think the process needs to be halted until the means of justice is more thoroughly examined.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Justification Other Than by Faith?

And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. – Gal 3:8

Is there a justification before the LORD grounded in light received? If Jobal, a man on the other side of the world, has received any measure of spiritual light, is this general revelation a ground of justification? Jobal, a non-believer in Jesus Christ, is certainly one of the heathen mentioned above yet some would have a doctrine promoted that God will justify a man based on what measure of light he has received rather than an explicit faith. Some will state that Jobal is justified by the work of Christ on the cross without an explicit faith in the person of that work. However, the scriptures seem to state something quite different.

 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; -  Ro 3:24-25

Here we find the work of the cross, the shed blood of Jesus Christ, made efficacious by faith in that particular work. It was not the work or atonement alone that saves. Faith is also required. Our Calvinist fellows are often found to equate the atonement with salvation itself using that distinction to oppose unlimited atonement. The passage from Romans not only sets that error aside but it also goes to the heart of the inclusivist error that some of us have been engaged in recently. There is no propitiation lacking faith and therefore it is not the work of Calvary that saves. The work of Christ is a provision made effective only through faith and in that it is not appropriate for the inclusivist to state that this atonement satisfies the requirement for justification. This is clearly applicable to the heathen as well as the Hebrew as noted in Gal 3:8. Was Rahab of Jericho saved by general revelation or did she find redemption through faith? The scriptures tell us she found her refuge by faith.

 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. - Heb 11:31

Why is it that the inclusivist relies on philosophy and emotional appeals yet cannot present a scriptural argument supporting a general revelation salvation? If a scriptural case cannot be made, why argue against the scriptural case that can easily be presented?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Arminian Takes on the Question of Universalism

William Birch, one of classical Arminianism’s more august bloggers with his site, The Arminian, has been commenting of late on the issues of inclusivism and universalism. Both have been at the forefront of theological discussion recently due in no small measure to a rather contentious book entitled Love Wins by Rob Bell. This is not about Bell or his book and I have convinced myself to avoid both the book and the author unless compelled through other related issues. Instead, it is the idea of universalism and Birch’s response to it that intrigued me. Dr. Roger Olson, a noted Baptist professor of theology at Baylor University, posed a question recently that prompted William to respond. To paraphrase (although the question can be found here), if God somehow irrefutably convinced you that He was going to ultimately save all persons regardless of the life they lived, how would this affect your Christian faith? Olson certainly refutes the Universalist position and to summarize William, I understand him to state it would be “devastating” to his faith. I certainly concur with that assessment and his post goes right to the heart of the matter.

I look at this issue of Universalism from another perspective as well. Aside from its devastating impact on evangelism i.e. no need for such if all are ultimately saved, it moves the focus of salvation from a decidedly Christocentric perspective to one grounded in universal election. Election becomes paramount and Christ subservient to an already elect humanity.  Christ no longer died to save souls but died to be a cog in the wheel of God’s plan of salvation. All the typology and purpose of a chosen people in scripture becomes filler for the grist mill and the Bible itself mere empty pages devoid of purpose. Whether with a bible in hand or a primer provided by Aton LeVey, truth and falsehood lose any purpose or distinction and each ultimately become equal lies. Dr. Olson’s question probes the very edge of the worse blasphemy imaginable, that God is a liar and that the Christian faith is a canard. Because of that I have no alternative but to consider Universalism to be antichrist and damnable and that conclusion brings me to consider Olson’s question dangerous and inappropriate if it is left open ended without a discussion of it’s true impact on Christian faith.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Does God Owe You a Chance?

Some people on the other side of the street are going to hell. Just as likely, some people on this side of the street will accompany them. By the grace of God and knowing I work out my salvation with reverent fear and silent trembling, I trust in Christ for salvation knowing He is my kinsman redeemer. In this modern world, an evangelized nation, city and street, everybody from one end to the other has had a “chance”. They have heard the Gospel. They know of Jesus Christ. Yet, most reject that “chance” and remain ensconced in their sins and with others like minded. However, there are people and have been through the ages that have not heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What of them?

There is a fresh faced kumbaya singer on the street corner. She has a big toothy smile and is all happy and joyful. She seems like she would be a pleasant neighbor and doesn’t present any threat at all. Doesn’t she deserve a chance? Well, she lives in Asheville, NC and she has heard of Jesus. There is another likable person on the other side of the world whether in China or India or some remote place that hasn’t heard of Jesus. That person didn’t get a “chance”. While the two people might not share in their “chances”, they both share in something else. If we remove the fa├žade of goodness, that outward mask of civility, and present Christ, it is likely to generate a common response, one of enmity. The street corner singer has a real hatred for Christ. She hates everything associated with God’s justice, with the need for repentance and the essential requirement of submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. She will sing songs of peace but it is not the peace of Christ. She will sing about love but it is the lust of an intolerant and carnal love she has in mind. In rejecting both the witness of God in this world and the specific Gospel of Jesus, God has given her over to her inclinations (Rom 1). The person who has not heard of Christ can be joyful and pleasant as well and might even acknowledge that there is a god. The god might look like a fat man squatting or could be 18 feet tall, carved out of a single tree trunk. Does this person have a love and desire for the true God who demands faith? Not any more than the singer in Asheville. They both share an enmity with God (Rom 8:7). Even the souls seeking an unknown god at Mars Hill had no love for the God of Paul. Scripture instructs us that no man seeks after the LORD, no man does good (Rom 2).

The heart of men is desperately wicked (Jer 17:9) and the only thing that brings a change to the wickedness of fallen man is the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ (John 14:6). “Does God owe you a chance?” we are sometimes asked. The liberal and emergent man might state yes, God owes every man a fair chance otherwise He is not just.  Yet, hasn’t He already given every man a witness to Him, given every evidence of His existence to every man that comes into this world? (Rom 1) Hasn’t God already provided what is necessary to seek Him and yet, men continue to reject Him and hate Him as well as those who love Him. Will their excuse for hating Him be they didn’t have a chance? The street singer has been given innumerable chances and continues in her enmity. What gives cause for some to think it is otherwise for those souls on the other side of the world?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Crazy Calvinist Corner

Along with a myriad of troubles reconciling the goodness and Justice of God with Calvinist doctrine, occasionally one of today’s neo-Reformed will offer an interpretation that just falls flat on its face from the weight of its eisegesis.  Consider the following passage from the Apostle Peter.

“ ¶ But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” (2Pe 2:1-2 AV)

This is a particular teaching that is used to refute Calvinist limited atonement as well as lend some support for the falling away of souls once saved. The former issue seems the stronger application in this case. The phrase “the Lord that bought them” is generally seen by most commentators to refer to the purchase of souls or the redemption secured by Christ. John Calvin stated the following in his commentary regarding this passage.

Even denying the Lord that bought them. Though Christ may be denied in various ways, yet Peter, as I think, refers here to what is expressed by Jude, that is, when the grace of God is turned into lasciviousness; for Christ redeemed us, that he might have a people separated from all the pollutions of the world, and devoted to holiness and innocency. They, then, who throw off the bridle, and give themselves up to all kinds of licentiousness, are not unjustly said to deny Christ by whom they have been redeemed. Hence, that the doctrine of the gospel may remain whole and complete among us, let this be fixed in our minds, that we have been redeemed by Christ, that he may be the Lord of our life and of our death, and that our main object ought to be, to live to him and to die to him. He then says, that their swift destruction was at hand, lest others should be ensnared by them. 

Aside from the apparent contradiction between Calvin’s thoughts and the limited atonement position of today’s neo-Reformed, Calvin is clearly referring to the purchase as redemption and attaches this redemption to the very false teachers warned about in the passage. It is an odd Calvinist commentary given the dogma of TULIP however I think most Arminians would generally agree with him.

To avoid the outwardly Arminian inclinations of the passage, today’s crazy Calvinist in the corner insisted that the redemption acquired through Christ’s purchase was a non-atoning redemption. How he arrived at that without reading a book of his theology into the text is beyond me but nonetheless that is the defense. I cannot find a non-atoning redemption or purchase in my bible.  Perhaps my Calvinist fellow will help me.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

My Final Post (maybe) Regarding Rob Bell

The following links provide a four part series on Rob Bell’s recent book, Love Wins, by Timothy C. Tennent, Ph.D., President of Asbury Theological Seminary. This is an excellent commentary. Tennent writes "... In my estimation, Rob Bell, and apparently quite a few evangelical pastors, need a thorough re-grounding in the biblical doctrines of God’s love, sin, the kingdom of God, the necessity of human response and ecclesiology...”.

Part One: Why Rob Bell needs to return to Seminary… and bring along quite a few contemporary evangelical pastors

Saturday, April 02, 2011

A Guide to Internet Discussion and Debate

From Simoleon Sense

The Broad Way of Inclusive Theology

“ Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Mt 7:13-14 AV)

The words of Jesus in the above passage seem fairly straight forward so that most should be able to understand that the road to salvation is a far less traveled path than the highway to hell. Looking around my community, neighborhood and workplace, I know from the above that it is likely the majority of souls in my particular corner of the world will have nothing to do with the scriptural presentation of Jesus. They will continue with their lust and their vices and will even do a lot of “good things”. The worst of the devils seem to have a knack for looking real good when they are up to their worse. My community is full of churches. It has its mosques. It even has a fair contingent of far eastern religions. What it doesn’t have a lot of are Christocentric, orthodox fellowships that take the Bible to actually be representative of the Word of God, believing what is contained therein. I can think of half a dozen emergent, “seeker-sensitive” churches all within a twenty minute ride of my home that will put on quite a show on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings but the leadership of not one of them will accept the above verse in its literal importance. It is more important to the “seeker-sensitive” emergent pastor to fill his comfortable seats sometimes two and three times on a Sunday morning and there is no shortage of people willing to go to the show. You can feel really good, listen to good ‘jams’ and find out what good things are going on in the community this week. You can even get a good cup of java and a muffin to hold you over until your Sunday after meeting brunch. What you don’t get is profound. What is not stated is the Truth. What is not stated at all is the above passage and it is kept quiet because it offends the ear of those comfortable with their philosophies and their brittle clay selves.  The Apostle called it satisfying the “itching ear”.

Jesus went on after stating the above.

“ Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Mt 7:15-20 AV)

One of the defining characteristics of the Inclusivist theology, at least as proposed by men such as John Sanders, co-author of What About Those Who Have Never Heard? Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized ( Ed. by John Sanders. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995. ) is the idea that men can be saved by whatever measure of faith they have even within the false religions of the world. It is not faith specifically in Christ but a general faith in a generic god. Muslims, because they supposedly worship the “God of Abraham”, are recipients of a faith in God and therefore can have a salvation in Christ due to that portion of “light” revealed to them. Of course this is not a scriptural argument but as with the seekers, it satisfies an itching ear. By any reasonable scriptural standard, Muhammad is a false prophet who relegated Jesus to a secondary status. Paul referred to such men as those who present “another Jesus” and we are to have nothing to do with them. They are of the world. Why would saints be called to remove themselves from the influences of the world only to have the world itself and its false religions promoted as another way to Christ and His salvation (2 Cor 6:17)? The truth is there is no other way to Christ but through Christianity and its covenant relationships with a people called, predestined, justified and sanctified in Jesus Christ. That is an offense to the world and a hard cup to swallow for those who dwell on fairness and “chance”. Suppose the opening scriptural passage had been written differently?

“ Enter ye in at the broad gate: for straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and few there be which go in thereat: Because wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leadeth unto life, and nearly all there be that find it.” (Wishful Thinking 7:13-14 AV)

That is the mantra of the inclusivist church but it has nothing in common with the truth of Jesus’ words.

*I want to point out and make clear that by inclusivist I and most other exclusivists do not refer to the issues of accountability i.e. children, the mentally infirm and abortions. There are some who insist on making that a measure of their defense of general revelation and post-mortem inclusivism however it is a special pleading that is inappropriate to bring into the matter.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Justification by Faith and Inclusivism

One of the foundation stones of Christianity is that no man can work himself into the good graces of God. Something else is required for God to look favorably upon a sinner. It is not the law written in letters or the law written in the heart of men everywhere that offers any suggestion of salvation. Instead, the Word of God instructs us, without question, that we are justified in the eyes of God by His grace through faith, for the New Testament believer, in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is faith that is a requisite of God’s judgment bringing salvation to a sinner (Rom 3:19-31, Rom 5:1, Gal 3:19-29). It is faith by which Abraham was deemed righteous by God, a faith in God’s promises (Heb 11). Is this something found through the general revelation of God as expressed in the Book of Romans  (Rom 1:1-32)? The text does not state such. Instead these passages explain why God gives men over to a reprobate mind and why God’s justice is fair. No man seeks after the LORD and there are none that do good (Rom 3:10-12). Even with the marvelous revelation of God’s creation, none seek Him lacking His grace and no one finds His refuge lacking faith in His Son. So how is it that a man with general revelation yet never affirming faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ attains any measure of justification in the eyes of God? James Arminius addressed the matter of the will and the necessity of Grace for any man to do anything pleasing to God.

This is my opinion concerning the free-will of man: In his primitive condition as he came out of the hands of his creator, man was endowed with such a portion of knowledge, holiness and power, as enabled him to understand, esteem, consider, will, and to perform the true good, according to the commandment delivered to him. Yet none of these acts could he do, except through the assistance of Divine Grace. But in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good. When he is made a partaker of this regeneration or renovation, I consider that, since he is delivered from sin, he is capable of thinking, willing and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine Grace. - Sentiments

Is the general revelation of Romans 1 that of salvation, a work of saving grace men refuse lacking the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Has God granted a measure of grace that allows fallen men without any sense of the Gospel to affect their own salvation? That is the position of the semi-Pelagians but it is not an Arminian doctrine. Perhaps an Arminian can hold to inclusivist theology but what damage is done to his understanding of justification? My own opinion, worth only as much as I value it, is that Justification by Faith and Inclusivist theology (i.e.  Salvific general revelation and post-mortem evangelizing) cannot stand together. At some point one saved by “general revelation” is going to be held to the standard of justification God has revealed to men, that of faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.