Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Purpose Driven Social Gospel at Davos

Perhaps someone could explain what business a pastor have to do at the Davos World Economic Forum, which is not evangelism by the way. Let's listen to Rick Warren's words from Davos and ask yourself this question, Is that what pastors are supposed to do? (Nevermind the other issue of Drucker's 3-legged stool)

Where is the Gospel, Rick? Why are we supposed to cooperate with other "faiths" to solve the global giants instead of saving the lost souls of their adherents?

[HT: Christian Research Net, Watcher's Lamp]

Amending a previous post

Well, it seems I need to amend a not so recent post regarding Exclusive Psalmody, as I have came to know the complex descriptive terms and concepts embraced by Exclusive Psalmodists in their technical word of "element" to describe the various parts of worship. Basically, "element" refers to an autonomous, independent part of worship which is directly controlled by the Regulative Principle of Worship, while "circumstance" refers to something which is peripheral to or the method which accompanies the "element" and is not subjected to the Regulative Principle since it is an application like what time should we conduct the worship service, where to have it in etc.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Does God desire repentance, and the repentance of all Man? (part 1)

In the post entitled Tentative positions on the topics of 'Common Grace' and the 'Free Offer', I've made the statement that

God delights in repentance because it brings conformity with His Law. Therefore, to say that God likes and loves repentance does not imply that God desires the salvation of someone, although repentance would necessarily lead to salvation. As an analogy, just because person X wants to eat lots of ice-cream does not imply that he desires to be fat, although he would be fat (simplistic scenario), as his reason for so desiring is that he just loves the taste of ice-cream.

In this post, I hope to deal particularly with this statement, as it may seem counter-intuitive. Does God desires repentance but not salvation of everyone? What does the Bible say about this issue? And how does this impact how we proclaim the Gospel? Later, continuing the interaction with certain points made by Tony Byrne on an old TeamPyro blog post, we would look as to how some Reformers and Puritans tackled the issue also.

Now, when we talk about God 'desiring to save people', typically the whole issue should be placed within what is known as the preceptive will of God, or the commands of God, as in this is contained what God commands people to do. This is especially so if we are not to have anything to do with the heresy of universal or common salvific grace, and thus of necessity limit such a desire to the preceptive will of God. So then the biblical question is: Does God command people to be saved, or rather as I have contented, God commands people to repent?

A glance through the Scriptures does not seem to support the contention that God commands people to be saved. Rather, they seem to support the idea that God commands people to repent and be saved. Some passages that states this can be seen as follows:

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling, (Is. 30:15)

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. (Is. 45:22)

Because you have disheartened the righteous falsely, although I have not grieved him, and you have encouraged the wicked, that he should not turn from his evil way to save his life, (Ez. 13:22)

“But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. ... Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? ... Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. ... For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” (Ez. 18:21, 23, 27, 32)

Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? (Ez. 33:11)

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, (Acts 3:19-20)

When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11:18)

As it can be seen, the message of salvation both in the Old Testament and the New Testament not only links repentance and salvation, but places primary importance on repentance. The message of the Gospel is even stated as "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand" (Mt. 4:17). We can even see the primary importance of repentance as seen in Acts 17: 30 where God is said to command all people everywhere to repent.

As it can be seen, the Scriptures teaches that with regards to the commands of God, God commands repentance, not salvation. Yes, God commands people to repent and be saved, but not to be saved as fiat. Since the fuit of repentance is salvation, it is thus valid to say that God desires people to repent and be saved, but not just merely 'be saved'.

God thus commands all Man to repent of their sins, and this is His preceptive will for their lives. As I have stated, theologically, this is due to the fact that repentance is a virtue God desires, in the same way that God hate rebellion, and therefore that God desires repentance has nothing to do with His desiring salvation but more because such an action is pleasing in and of itself.

That said, how should we preach the Gospel? We should not preach the Gospel like the Arminians or the Neo-Amyraldians; that God desires everybody to be saved. Rather, we should follow the Bible more closely and tell people that God desires their repentance leading to their salvation. As such, the focus should be on their need to repent rather than God's desire to save. Presented this way, the Gospel would glorify God more and be used by the Holy Spirit to bring more of His elect to Him, to the praise of His wondrous grace.

In the next post on this topc, let us look at some of the Reformers and Puritans' view on this topic.

[to be continued]

Biblical Dialetics? An expose of the abomination that calls itself 'Progressive Christianity' **Update**

**Update**: It seems that Pastor Rayburn is actually pastor of Faith Tacoma Church (PCA), and that he was giving a series of sermons in Harvest OPC then. Thanks to John for the feedback regarding the error, which is corrected now.

*Update*: I probably have erred on the identity of "Rabbi" Duncan, so I'lll withdraw that part. Thanks to those who feedbacked to me the information.

I have on the Net recently came across a former friend, Jonathan Koh, a former Reformed Charismatic turned visibly apostate, and who mentioned that he is now attending the Word-faith New Creation "Church", though presumably not a member. As he is adamant in promoting his heresies and false ecumenism online, I think it would be instructive to look at one aspect of his heresy for now; that of the embrace of the philosophy of dialectics. Unlike his Emergent friends, Jonathan is not so slippery and thus it is easier to hold him on the statements that he has made.

Just some background so it would be seen where I am coming from. Jonathan was a person seemingly passionate for the cause of Christ and the Reformed truth when he joined my former church, Covenant Presbyterian Church, when I was still rather young (~ 16-18 years old I think) and didn't know much about anything, though newly converted then. He taught my younger brother in their cell group and was a friend of ours. One thing I remembered was when he tried to taught my brother's cell about the topic of predestination, of which I didn't have a view (If pressed, I would answer like an Arminian) then. Needless to say, from the responses, I garner that almost nothing went through to them, due to the topic being 'very profound'. He also organized all night prayer meetings and for some time, it seemed that the youth ministry would be progressing towards greater growth in biblical spirituality.

However, his idealism created a dissonance within him as he was naive enough to think that doing such would create revival, and the resistance of the higher leadership to change was not helping matters, leading to disillusionment. And the flaws within himself began to show, as his foundation on the truths of the Reformation began to show itself as being shallow (Mt. 7: 26-27). He was then also interested in sociology and political science, of which he read some of their works then also. His epistemological shallowness began to show as the lies spun by the Liberals and their allies in the media on topics such as Israel and the so-called "Palestinian occupation" began to be imbibed by him without discernment. And of course, those causes are very safe, costing little in terms of personal sacrifice and pain compared to the cross and discouragement of ministry, and the people ARE indeed passionate about what they do. Not to mention that Satan will not be actively working against you if you take up such causes. Anyway, he left the church when he went to study overseas and we lost contact with him soon after.

This is just a brief summary of Jonathan's life as I came to know him then. Since then, he has changed a lot especially in his embrace of postmodern epistemology, or rather called 'Modernism part II'.

Let it be said that I do this not out of anything but love, although Jonathan in our recent exchange was very judgmental in libeling my motives, as if he is God and knows them. I hope this warning and expose would have a three-fold effect. First of all, it is sincerely hoped that the Holy Spirit would convict Jonathan of his heresy and that he would repent of this. Or if he doesn't, then the truth would harden his heart in preparation for future wrath (Rom. 2:5). Secondly, for those who look on, by his example, it is hoped that we be warned of the particular heresy that Jonathan has fallen into, and that we can learn to exercise discernment and learn from his mistakes. Being enthusiastic about the Christian faith, and of the Reformed truths even, means nothing, for in Jonathan's case it could be the case of the seed which sprung up on rocky ground, and were destroyed when the sun of trials come (Mt. 13:5-6). Thus, it pains me to do this, but where the truth of God is concerned, God is above all others, and I will not allow such heresy to remain unchallenged.

With such a long introduction, let us look at the piece written by Jonathan Koh his website/blog here.

In this article, Jonathan promotes the philosophy of dialectics. From his piece, it can be seen that the strain of dialectics he is promoting is a form of the Hegelian dialectic of thesis/antithesis-synthesis in keeping contradictions together as part of the truth. The dialectical method he is promoting is that seen here, in an attempt to "overcome formal dualism" in positing transcendence of the truths of so-called contradictions found within the Bible. This is made very explicit in the various quotes Jonathan placed there in which the very idea of holding contradictions in tension and resolving none of them but instead celebrating both is put forth. As examples, Jonathan quotes:

I would run after nothing and shun nothing… the truth is not in the middle, and not in one extreme, but in both extremes. (Charles Simeon)

Preach the antinomies of truth, and carry each out a far as it is possible to carry it. But don’t attempt to reconcile them. These two lines [/ \] will meet if produced far enough. But if I try to make them meet, I give one or other of them a twist, and so reduce it from being a straight line. ... (Rabbi Duncan)

Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites by keeping them both, and keeping them both furious. (Chesterton)

There is revelation only as the contradictions are held together. (Jacques Ellul, The subversion of Christianity)

We would look at some of his supposed contradictions later, but suffice it is to say that one such contradiction that he puts forward is the 'contradiction' between faith and works. Does Federal Vision ring a bell here?

First of all, I couldn't care less about the 'reputations' of these people, as Scripture alone is my authority. That does not mean that their reputation does not mean anything, but God's Word reigns supreme. The person that Jonathan mentions upon hearing his sermon is one Pastor Robert Rayburn, a PCA pastor preaching then in an OPC church. I do not know Pastor Rayburn, but I would be charitable to Pastor Rayburn, and until evidence is found, assume that Jonathan misunderstood him. With regards to the other authors, I have no idea since when a Roman Catholic could be termed as an authority in epistemology, especially with regards to the truths of Scripture. That again shows Jonathan's embrace of anybody who seems intellectual, even if the person is teaching heresy; the worship of the Academy.

And with that, let us look into the issue proper. Does Scripture promote the Hegelian dialectic? Of course, examples could be given and will be analyzed later as to whether they truly are contradictory, but for now, let us analyze the issue epistemologically.

It can be easily seen that the Bible does not promote such irrationalism. First of all, the entire thought pattern of the Bible is dualistic, from Genesis to Revelation, without any mixing of the thesis/antithesis pair. God is set in opposition to Satan, good vs evil, obedience vs disobedience, election vs reprobation, love vs hate, saved vs lost, light vs darkness and we could go on and on. Those who truly read the Bible for all its worth will develop a sharply antithecal mindset and see things in thesis/antithesis pairings. An example of such antithecal wording can be found in phrases like 'for the one who is not against you is for you' (Lk. 9:50ff) and 'And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire' (Rev. 20:15). To make it very apparent, to be a Christian is the opposite of being a non-Christian. One cannot be a Christian and a non-Christian at the same time.

This brings us to the fundamental issue — the law of non-contradiction. Jonathan probably did not study logic, but to deny this law is just plainly absurd, for the denial of the law of non-contradiction is definitely not the affirmation of such a law (Reductio ad absurdum). Yet, this is what dialectics seeks to have. We must remember that dialetics does not just deal with seeming contradictions or paradox, since these are solvable. Rather, they deal with flat-out contradictions which are irreconcilable or antinomies. Therefore, to embrace the Hegelian dialectics epistemologically is to commit epistmological suicide, which Jonathan has done. In Jonathan's view therefore, one can deny Christ and yet be a Christian and go to heaven (ie Brian McLaren), since there is no need to be logically coherent. In other words, the only authority for Jonathan's words are himself or the Academy (when his views happen to be the same as theirs), all being totally irrational, unbiblical and unlivable. Debating therefore with Jonathan, like probably with any of the Emergents, is useless, for they are not committed to being rational. They can say anything they want, and affirm and deny the faith in the same breath. And of course those who criticize them would be deemed to be 'Modernistic', which show their either ignorance or denial of what Modernism actually is.

After dispensing of the heresy of the dialectic, let us look at the various examples which are so-called antinomies or logical contradictions. Jonathan listed the doctrine of people being at the same time sinners and yet saints (justified), how the Kingdom of God is here and not yet, how Jesus is wholly Man and wholly God, the doctrine of the Trinity, and how the Bible teaches justification by faith yet judgment about works. It is the biblical position that none of these are antinomies, since if they contradict each other, then the Christian faith is in error, since God is not God and not-not God at the same time, and God states that He is truth (Jn. 14:6) and is logical (Jn. 1:1), not both truth and error, and both logical and illogical at the same time in the same sense

Take the first example given. Christians are sinner yet saints. However, this is not a contradiction because we are not sinners and saints in the same manner. We are sinners by nature, and saints by legal declaration and through adoption, and not both sinners and saints in the same manner. In the same way, an adopted child is not the child biologically but is the child by adoption, thus he/she can be said to be both the child and not the child of a couple. Ditto for the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God has come in the spiritual sense secretly. It is in this sense that the Kingdom of God has come. Yet the Kingdom of God has not come in the sense of Christ coming visibly to all and bringing the entire creation into judgment, and fulfilling all history, and thus it is not yet come. Failure to differentiate between the senses creates a false contradiction where none actually existed.

With regards to the others, that Jonathan mentioned them shows how far from orthodoxy he has strayed. The hypostatic union of Christ (100% human and 100% God) is not illogical. It is a mystery in that we cannot comprehend totally what this means, but it is not a contradiction, unless you add the premise that the class of humans and God is mutually exclusive. But upon what can we maintain that? Just because no human is God does not mean that there can never be one person who is both God and Man. The contradictions will only exist if a faulty premise is maintained about the mutual exclusivity of the natures of God and Man. Such a position is counter-intuitive to be sure, but it is not illogical. With regards to the Trinity, the orthodox position has always been that God is three persons in one essence/nature. A contradiction would only arise if God is three persons in one person, or three nature in one nature., because 3 ≠ 1. But just as there is no contradiction in saying 3x = 1y, but contradiction in saying that 3x = 1x, from whence the contradiction? Jonathan by using such examples only show he does not even understand, or is purposefully ignoring, the formulation of these historic Christian doctrines.

The mention of faith and works is at the core of the Reformation, and if the undermining of the hypostatic union and the Trinity ring hollow in the ears of modern Evanjellifishes, then perhaps they might want to consider the more practical mess you will get when you add works in order to gain salvation. The Bible is explicit that faith and works are mutually incompatible (Rom. 3:28, Rom. 4:4-5, Gal. 2:16). What then about Jonathan's statement? If what is in mind here is the fact that believers will be rewarded for their labors, then there is no contradictions, for such works count after salvation by faith. In other words, works still play no part in salvation. However, Jonathan actually have in mind something deeper. What he has in mind is the Scriptural commands of obedience, which would thus cut directly into the whole Lordship controversy issue. However, that is only a contradiction if one refuses to follow the plain teachings of Scripture. The commands of obedience can only be obeyed by Christians, since they received a new regenerate heart (2 Cor. 5:17) and thus have a new nature that can obey God. To place obedience as a prerequisite for salvation implies that unregenerate unbelievers can somehow strive towards obedience, which the Bible explicitly denies, as no one seeks for God. (Rom. 3:11). I am surprised that Jonathan does not seem to realize this as he claimed to be a Calvinist earlier in his life, and thus should know about the doctrine of Total Depravity.

It is a sad day when a person apostatize from the faith, and especially someone who held a lot of truth and had great passion before. Yet, such people have been prophesied before in Scripture and we are to avoid them like the plaque they really are.

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (1 Jn. 2:19)

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. (Heb. 6:4-8)

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb. 10:26-31)

And with regards to the comment that Scripture is obscure, this is what Scripture says:

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:14-16. Bold added)

Weekly Meditations: Is. 1 (2)

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master's crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”

Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.

Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds;they are not pressed out or bound upor softened with oil.

Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence foreigners devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners. And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.

If the Lord of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.

Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.

“When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feastsmy soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.

(Is. 1:2-17)

We have seen in our last study how angry God is against His people who have compromise and sinned against God through syncretism and 'tolerance' of errors. And as such, they have become as it were estranged from God, people whom God know not of although they are called to be God's people. Despite having a veneer of religiosity, God looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7ff) and knows the secret thoughts of Man (Ps. 139:2b). In God's eyes, secret sins are no different from open sin and therefore God will punish self-righteous people even though they seemed righteous on the surface, as in the case of the Pharisees.

In verse 5, God expresses a desire for His people to turn to Him. In light of the 'common grace' controversy that I am currenly involved in, such a desire is to be understood as an anthropopathic expression directed towards a certain end and as the expressed (preceptive) will of God. As such, it does not expressed what God has actually decreed in the final sense, but of God's outward emotive (not emotional) response to the situation. Although God is sovereign and in control, and He has allowed eve decreed such a falling away to happen, the situation still evokes a emotive response from God, as God is not an uncaring Father. Such a response is dictated by God's character as the Covenanting God who loves His Covenant people, and does not at all refer to what God ultimately desires. (For those who are interested, I use the word emotive because God expresses emotion. Whereas 'emotional' refers to being in a state influenced by the situation, the word 'emotive' just refers to God expressing emotions, of which such expressions are the result of the application of God's character to the situation.)

Seen in such a light, God in verse 5 is is calling His wayward Covenant people to Himself. Due to their sins and secret wickedness in rebellion, they are under the curse of God and therefore are struck down. God calls His people to consider their outcome. He calls to them to at least even think about their own skins, as it were. Their rebellion against God has and will continue to cost them much. Verses 5b- 6 liken their condition in graphic terms, to those who are so diseased that sores, bruises and all kinds of wounds are found everwhere on their bodies. Worse still, they are not bound up and taken care of. Given what we know of the Jewish laws regarding leprosy and uncleanness (Lev. 13), what kind of image would be conjured up other than one of revulsion? Yet that is what the Lord is likning Israel to. Israel by her rebellion is an abomination unto the Lord and is absolutely disgusting to everyone. God is thus calling on Israel to consider how disgusting she actually is, and implores her to turn from her wickedness in repentance towards God.

In verses 7-8, the Spirit of the Lord proclaims through Isaiah the judgments that Israel had began to experience and which she would finally face — destruction. Although the army was relatively strong during the days of King Uzziah (2 Chron. 26:6-15), Isaiah saw through the temporal strength of Judah and the Spirit showed him that the corruption of the people would lead to their downfall, which they began to experience later on though during the days of the wicked king Ahaz, and which the northern kingdom have experienced much more severely. The judgment of the Lord upon His covenant people will be swift and devastating, and Isaiah praised God for even leaving behind any survivors. Comparing themselves to the wicked cities of ancient times, Sodom and Gomorrah, Isaiah proclaims his gratitude to God in preserving the people of Israel, even a remnant, instead of wiping them all out like what He did to Sodom and Gomorrah.

Continuing on with the fitting analogy, the Spirit of the Lord implores the rulers of Israel (both Israel and Judah) to heed the words of God (v. 10). From verses 11-14, God shows His utter detestation of the sacrifices and offerings that Israel is offering up to Him. Although God commands sacrifices, sabbaths and feasts, yet their surface-level observance is an offence to Him. After all, all these things are meant more for Israel to instruct them and as serve as signs of the Gospel than for God, as if God will starve if no sacrifices were offered! God detests their false religiosity and hates them (v. 13), with the result being that God will hide His face from such people and not visit them with favor. In fact, God treats them as murderers, stating that their "hands are full of blood"(v. 15).

Verses 16-17 are thus the works that God exhorts Israel to do. Israel is exhorted to stop doing evil (v. 16) which corresponds to washing themselves clean. On top of stop doing evil, they are exhorted to do good. They are to 'seek justice', 'correct oppression', 'bring justice to the fatherless' and 'plead the widow's cause' (v. 17). On the surface, this seemed to promote meritorius good works, or the heretical teachings of Liberation Theology. Yet, such readings miss the entire point of all these exhortations, as interpreting these texts according to the whole of Scripture (the Analogy of Faith) would yield their true meaning. As Jesus had said in Mt. 7:16-20, we shall know people by their fruits. So therefore God through Isaiah is exhorting them to bear good fruits in these good works, as they can only do such good works as biblically defined when they have repented and have turned back to God. Contrary to the heretical Marxist interpretation of such commands in Scripture, the phrase 'seek justice' refers to true justice, not 'justice' for perceived unfairness but kingdom justice like punishing those who murder children and excommunication of those who destroy the faith of others. 'Correct oppression' is the kingdom responsibility to proclaim and help others be free of the oppression of sin, and also not to take advantage of others; 'Bring justice to the fatherless' and 'plead the widow's cause' is to ensure that those who are disadvantaged are not discriminated against and oppressed by those who want to impose their values on others like Marxists. All of such are fruits of the Spirit and therefore God by focusing on the fruits is exhorting them to change at the roots with the result being the visible expression of a repentant and changed heart.

As we have looked at this passage, let us continue to seek God and turn to Him. Reader, have you been compromising recently? Have you allowed the things of the world to enter and squeeze out God? If so, please repent. Seeing the bitter and evil fruit that has been reaped by such unfaithfulness to God, why should you continue on in rebellion? Truly God is imploring us to turn back to Him while there is time. Repent therefore, and show forth your repentance in true good works. For God does not take any pleasure in the death of anyone. So repent and live! (Ez. 18:32)

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Well, I have just made a new banner for my blog. Hope it looks fine, though it didn't turn out as I have expected, due to problems with dimensions. But then, anyway, my graphic skills are not great. And I have updated the rules again, just FYI.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Book Recommodation... and a step back

I have just finished reading a very interesting book written by Dr. C Matthew McMahon, which is incidentally his doctoral thesis. The book is entitled The Two Wills of God — Does God really have two wills?, and it is a dissertation on the lofty and sacred topic of the will of God. More specifically, it addresses the topic of "common grace", the "well-meant or free offer", the will of God towards the elect and the reprobate, and of course the proclamation of the Gospel. This is done through proving the biblical position from the Scriptures, and then showing from the writings of the Reformers and the Puritans, as well as the major creeds and confessions of the Chuch, that this is what the Church and the giants in Church history also believes, though of course there is no total unaminity on all points under contention, but by and large they reject the relatively modern novelty introduced by people such as John Murray and Ted Stonehouse.

After reading the book, I can say that I would highly recommand it, if you are interested in the topic of course, which I am after having interacted with the common gracers.

That said, I would like to take a step back. I would suppose that probably some people who may attempt to read the posts on this topic may be confused, as I have presupposed a lot of rather complex doctrines when discussing this issue. So for those who may want to know more, I have presupposed the Doctrines of Grace aka Calvinism, the immutability of God, the omniscience and sovereignty of God, assymetrical double predestination, the Covenant of Redemption, that God works everything out for His own glory, that the difference between God and man is not by way of analogy but of degree, and thus logic epistemologically applies to God and His decrees too (though logic ontologically depends on God).

As it could thus be seen through my posts on the topic so far, my starting point is the glory of God, not the love of God. As to why such is the case, the short answer is that the glory of God is the magnification of His person in ALL His attributes, while focusing on the love of God may cause us to pit this against His other attributes and unbalance the emphasis placed on His various attributes. This is especially the case since it is very human to import our human notions of what love is, even sub-consciously, and impose it on God.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Rightly reading the words of others: A friendly reply with regards especially to Ken Silva (part 2)

[continued from here]

Rob Bell

With regards to Rob Bell, I am having problems accessing the entire article, so I will just take it thatRick's quotes are in context, and I don't see why not. If that is the case, then Rick does have a point. That said, I do not think Pastor Ken is totally wrong here. Examine that entire statement that Bell made:

Jesus was killed because of how He confronted a particular socioeconomic religious system. He’s a first-century Galilean revolutionary who proclaimed a Kingdom other than the kingdom of Herod,

Given that Bell's article was on why his church is nonpartisan politically, does he need to write such a statement which is clearly wrong. Regardless of hos you slice and dice it, how can the Gospel square with the statement that Jesus 'confronted a particular socioeconomic religious system'? The Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, not a political kingdom. The most you can mention the Pharisees, who most definitely feel threatened, but being threatened ≠ Jeus being confontational. Next, althouh Jesus is from Galilee and is probably considered a revolutionary by the religios leaders, is it proper even to call Jesus as a "Galilean revolutionary"? And theworst pat of the entire statement is that he proclaimed a "Kingdom other than the kingdom of Herod". Although that phrase is technically correct, when placed together with the phrase "Galilean revolutionary" depicts Jesus' kingdom as being political and challenging Herod's one on the political level. And that is liberalism. Just because Bell uses error to teach a relatively benign point (of being nonpartisan) is no excuse as if his error is minor.

Erwin McManus

Here is where Rick in my opinion relly blundered. Pastor Ken Silva here is using satire against McManus, who was criticising the lack of genuine compasson in serving and reaching people who are lost, within the churches. I have no idea what Rick means as to what he thinks Silva is saying, but you can read it for yourself below:

Wait! Isn't what McManus saying true? Isn't the self-indulgence in American churches an issue? Isn't that one of the things Silva also takes issue with? So what is McManus saying that is wrong. Based on Silva's remark it seems it is only that it is McManus saying it and therefore McManus must be a hypocrite.

What Pastor Ken is saying is that McManus' words are just like the pot callin the kettle black. In other words, McManus is rightly criticising such a lack of genuine compassion in reaching the lost in the churches, yet he himself does not have genuine compassion in reaching the lost and is in fact leading them astray through his embrace of the Emegent heresy.

In conclusion, it can be seen that the allegations against discerment ministries in general and Pastor Silva in particular are baseless. It is regretful that such things should happen, and it is hoped that discernment should be promoted through this exchange. Also, we should stop shooting those on the front line and shield the enemy within, but realize who are the true enemy instead. May more people come to agreement and attack the wolves within in the Emergent heresy, and stop all such infighting which impede the growth of the truth Kingdom of God.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Rightly reading the words of others: A friendly reply with regards especially to Ken Silva (part 1)

I have been interacting with my friend Rick Ianiello over at his blog post here. Due to various reasons, Rick does not think too well of discernment ministries in general, and Pastor Ken Silva is one of the people he has a problem with. Both of them are my friends, and I also have no interest in defending people per se as compared to God and His truth. Nevertheless, I think it is good that there should be no unnecessary conflict (key word: unnecessary) within the body of Christ, and it is in this spirit that I would like to defuse the criticism aimed against Pastor Ken. That does not mean Pastor Ken is sinless, or that he does not have areas of improvement, or even that he is totally correct all the time. But we should always be gracious to fellow believers and discern properly what they are saying in the best possible light. Unless the person is out to destroy the Church or corrode God's truth, we should aim so as to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3).

It is in this spirit that I would like to approach this task of mine. Rick has posted a more extensive critique of Pastor Ken's articles in a subsequent blog post here, and I would interact with this so that we can rightly discern the words of others.

The very nature of discernment ministries

Rick made a remark that it is alright to expose error, but typically ministers of the Gospel are not preoccupied with that and do exclusively. He is definitely correct, in so far as we are not called just to expose error, but to teach the truth, and see exposing error as something we must do because we love Christ, not because we love to expose people. It is definitely true also that discernment ministries are focused on this seemingly negative work, and I guess perhaps Pastor Ken's large output of articles exposing various groups here and there would definitely place him in the unenviable spot of being seen as overly focused on exposing error.

Now, this being said, let me offer a response to the charge of undue focus on exposing error. Discernment ministries are by their very nature focused on exposing error. If you go and read discernment websites, don't go there expecting to find nice little devotionals, exegesis of Scripture, expounding of doctrine etc unless they fit in with the theme of discernment. And that's why Christians are not meant to read articles on discernment ministries as if that is their Quiet Time material. Such articles are to be treated as news and information so that we can know what is going on in the visible Church and enemy forces she is facing both from within and without. It is so that we would be less naive and less easily duped by the enemy. So to attack discernment ministries as being unbalanced is a fallacious charge, since they are specialized ministries in the first place.

Of course, then the question will move to whether such ministries ought to exist in the first place. Since I have likened the articles put forward by discernment ministries as news, let me continue on with the analogy. Disernment ministries would therefore be analogous to a media company. Is news necessary? Why, of course, unless you want to be ignorant about what is happening around the world. There is just too much news that you cannot expect any single person to go around experiencing or finding the information from the direct people involved in such news. Similarly, with communications being global such that for example this article can be read and will be read by people from Singapore, US, UK and possibly even by an African or Arab if he stumbles onto it, and the increase in new movements everywhere within the visible Church, it is impossible that we can keep up with the latest going ons, which may well inpact all of us. For example, something which originated in Orange County, California has the ability to create division in the churches even as far away as South Africa or Singapore. Yes, pastors and elders are supposed to do the job, but pastors are overtaxed. With the harvest plentiful and the workers being few, those who are supposed to do the job oftentimes just do not have the time and energy to keep up with all this new information. Not to mention that most churches are not functioning as God intended with politicking, power-grabbing going etc, not to mention the problems faced created by the embrace of all forms of unbiblical church polity. Compounding this, the strength of the church is sapped becuse of the effort needed to stem the tide of heresy, which could easily be diverted elsewhere if proper church discipline was to be administered and the command of biblical separation obeyed. As such, we need specialized people in discernment ministries to help us, so that all parts of the Body of Christ aid each other in the work of God.

With regards specifically to Pastor Ken, it must be seen that both Christian Research Net, and Apprisng Ministries are discernment websites. As such, it should be natural that almost anything there would be with regards to exposing people. As such, there should be no grounds for complaint. We must also realize that such posting probably does not take a lot of time, and that the rest of the time may be spent on other forms of "positive" ministry like preaching, expositing the Scripture to his congregation etc. Now, I do not know whether that is the case, but it could be, and just as we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, we shouldn't judge a person solely by the stuff posted on websites which have such a purpose. We must realize that people may use the Internet for one purpose only, and not others, and we shouldn't judge a person based on the one side he has revealed on the Internet (surface judgment cf Jn. 7:24).

Let me give you a personal example. Not too long ago, I was accused and judged with regards to service in the Local Church, or more specificaly, I was judged to be spending too much time just stirring up controversy and not serving the body of believers. And how did the person came up with that? Perhaps it was due to the amount of posts I posted, plus I was tackling many issues and especially exposing the Purpose Driven paradigm. While I did spend a significant time blogging and being on the Net, the person is judging me based on appearance, not knowing the true situation back where I am, nevermind that my largest blog category then and now was on the Christian life! Just because I did not blog about my other 'non-electronic' areas of ministry (as if I must boast on my blog what I did for the Lord) means I am automatically condemned as being someone who is like the Pharisee. And furthermore, that person has the mindset that anybody can just decide to serve in a church in any capacity anytime and they would just allow you to do so. Needless to say, that person has judged wrongly. And therefore I do not like to judge on surface appearance. In the same way, just because Pastor Ken seems to spend a lot of time expsing error may not be so and actually may just be taking up 10% or less of his ministry time. It may be either way, but we do not have proof either-way. So let us be gracious and think of him in the best possible light.

On Doug Pagitt

Rick does not like Pagitt either. However, he finds fault with others who questioned Pagitt about his various beliefs. In summary, Rick thinks that Pagitt is not as bad as how oters make him out to be because his focus is not on such matters.

Now, I must first of all state that I have listened to the Crosswalk program with Ingrid Schlueter, and Todd Friel's Way of the Master program with Doug Pagitt. However, I have not listened to the one MacArthur commented on the article Pastor Ken linked to, so I can't comment on that. First of all, I agree with Rick with regards to his evaluation of Todd Friel's performance on that show, in that Friel's question was too cookie-cut and is something suited for those who deal with a historical evngelical mindset. This is not to say that Pagitt's inability to understand the question is a good thing (he should since he claims to be a pastor), but it wasn't a good thing. Nevertheless, I disagree with Rick's conclusion over the matter, in that I find Pagitt to show forth his views as heretical at the end.

It must be stated that Rick, perhaps being in the Vineyard movement which stresses a 'Kingdom-based' theology, sees things less dualistically and more 'holistically', in the sense that some things are 'both/and' rather than 'either/or'. That seems to be the take on Rick's defence of Pagitt. Yet, the problem is that such will not work in defending Pagitt. Remember that Pagitt is here in the Todd Friel radio program stating that topics such as heaven and hell, salvation from God's wrath and hell are things which are not important. Notice the word 'not' there. Pagitt is already disregarding the entire focus of historical soteriology. If truly he is embracing a 'both/and' theology, then he would agree with Friel but then add that there is more to the issue than just heaven and hell (ie Rick Warren's approach). By stating that salvation as understood historically is unimportant is an attack on the very nature of Gospel itself, not as Rick thinks is a postulation of a 'both/and' theology.

With regards to the part about the interview with Pastor Bob Dewaay, I guess Rick perhaps overlooked the fact that readers are given a link to buy the CDs/ DVDs of the DeWaay/ Pagitt debate, where they can make the conclusion themselves. And the issue here is that Pastor Ken is using the authority of two pastors to prop us his case, just for those people who have more respect of your position when they know other (more influential) pastors agree with you perhaps. Anyway, is being vague (which the Emergent Church loves to be) somehow a Christian virtue? I don't think so.

Now, we will look at specific quotes. Rick quoted this:

Ingrid Schlueter: So what you’re saying is that the question of whether the Gospel exists in other religions is a thrilling question that we should be asking.

Doug Pagitt: I think it’s the biblical question. Yes, I think it’s the right biblical question. I think, I find that you couldn’t read the New Testament without that question being raised and without the answers to it being the answers that we should be paying to; which is there is no culture or religion which holds God in complete isolation or purity. (15:25-15:56)

To this Rick added in another segment of what Pagitt said:

There is always the act of the Spirit outside of our religious systems. That's true of ... all religions. There is nobody who should be able to say that what we believe is the end of the story and that there is nothing else that God can contribute through people in the world. Or that there is nothing else that God is ever going to do in the world. That is a serious overstatement. There is no Christian expression which is not also a cultural expression. We do not have a culturally neutral Christianity. So what we have in any system of belief ... we are now engaged in a culturally invented Christianity which has its limitations.

Rick tries to defend this by talking about culture and Christianity. He syas:

Secondly, isn't Pagitt correct that we package our Christianity based on our culture? As one who travels the world, I get to see first hand that Christians everywhere are not alike in all that one may easily consider part of the Christian tradition.

I'm really sorry, but sometimes I just want to scream. I am an Asian Chinese and I think so far the only orthodox Evangelicals who try to defend something like that with such arguments are the White caucasians (Really sorry for stereotyping). To be sure, there are many different cultural expressions of Christianity, yet to think that this fact somehow creates a relativizing force on all cultures in general, and into faith in particular is ridiculous. We all came from Adam, from Noah, and were dispersed at the Tower of Babel, so please quit thinking as though we are all so alien. All cultures are not equal, neither are they all correct or all wrong. But all of this have nothing whatsoever to do with the faith and the Gospel itself. Furthermore, Pagitt is advocating religious pluralism, not just cultural humility. Religion, not just culture.

And this whole thing about seeing good in other religions etc is one of the fruits of the most perverse form of "Common grace" (Richard Mouw's type) teaching around. God is the source of all good, and all Man are desperately depraved and wicked (Total Depravity). Whatever good the unregenerate have is a reflection of the little which originates from God, so why should we look for good in them when we can find it in God and so much more and purer? Why do we need acknowledge good in culture and religion even though they have a bit of it, since theirs is a mere shadow compared to the fullness found in Christ. It is like marveling at the microscopic wavelet caused by a swimming bacterium because it looks similar to the large waves left in the wake of a killer whale.

And noticed that Pagitt says that God is working in other religious systems? Is God really doing that? I submit to you no. How can God be working in a system which is rank idolatry at best? God is working to brig poeople to Him, not to 'redeem' religions.

The next portion of the interview is also interesting:

Ingrid Schlueter: So we could interpret what you’re saying as how is God at work; how is the Gospel present within Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism—all of the different religions of the world.

Doug Pagitt: Yeah, for sure because—I mean—Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, those are not—I me—they are the right way to say ‘em. They are “isms,”right; so they are a school of thought, and they are also embedded in a particular cultural setting. And so I think someone could say, “yes, I can see how God—how God is expressed, talked about, understood, through these schools of thought.” Which I find to be quite helpful and they’re not all in contrast with my Christianity. (17:05-17:47)

And Rick adds the following segment, which doesn't actually help Pagitt,

And I could find other parts of those same systems that I think I could say I don't think that is at all the way God operates in the world. But I find that very same thing inside the Christian context.

Rick thinks Pagitt is saying that

He acknowledges clearly that there is false teaching in these other systems. He just isn't willing to say every word that flows from someone in another culture is false

Unfortunately, this is not what Pagitt is saying. Pagitt is first stating that there are good points within all religions which come from God; in other words he has already conceded that truth can be found in other religions and that God is working within them. As mentioned, this is the most twisted form of "common grace" ever to be seen and it leads to religious pluralism. In distinction, biblical Chrisianity's position has always been that we start with the truth of God which we have, and that any truth which is found in other religions is a shadow of the truth found in Christ. Just because some religions have some truth does not make that entities to learn from. For example, almost all religion tell you that stealing is wrong. Are we to say that we can learn from them because of that?

So wrapping this up, how can it be denied that Doug Pagitt is a heretic? The statements by Pagitt implicate him through and through.

Ecumenical fairytale and Rick Warren

The next thing to look at is Ken Silva's piece An ecumenical fairytale. In this piece, it is true that Pastor Ken did not specifically quote anyone, but this is the type of piece along the lines of the PoMotivator posters by TeamPyro. In other words, this piece presupposes that you have read all the previous material and therefore are able to follow along with the satire. I know Rick hates the PoMotivator posters, so I don't think he will like this piece by Pastor Ken too, but other than that, I don't see any other problem.

And with regards to Rick Warren, I had replied that because Norman Vincent Peale mentored Robert Schuller, and that Schuller had influenced Warren, therefore the link is there. Furthermore, Warren can be technically correct, but that is a red herring, for the main question is not whether Warren has met Schuller and they are great fishing buddies for example, but whether Schuller's ideas on things like church growth have been passed down to Warren. This is not a guilt-by-association tactic as supposed, but is valid since the thing being passed down is not something facile like 'have been taught by this person before', but that they do share the same mindset with regards to church growth for example; in other words a transmission of ideology.

We will look at Rob Bell and Erwin McManus later, in the next post.

[to be continued]

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Weekly Meditations: Is. 1 (1)

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master's crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”

Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. (Is. 1:2-4)

We have started off the series looking at the backdrop in which Isaiah wrote this book which was named after him, and in which he performed his prophetic ministry. As a prophet, Isaiah was to deliver the words of God to the people (unlike the secular definition of a prophet being one who foretell the future). In this particular case, Isaiah was prophesying to the house of Israel during the time of the godly king Uzziah (before he died just before chapter 6). We thus can see Isaiah through the revelation of God knew the hearts of the people to be far from Him, although they were close to Him in appearance, since the first 5 chapters of Isaiah were written during the godly reign of King Uzziah.

God started his accusation against Israel by leveling the charge of rebellion and deliberate forgetfulness against His people. The Lord brings heaven and earth as witness against them, not that they could actually function as such as they are inaminate and nothing is more reliable than God's given Word (Mt. 24:35; Mk. 13:31; Lk. 21:33), but because humanly speaking, these two are the two physical realities that does not seem to change, and encompasses the two visible extremes. Therefore, God by asking them to hear and witness what He has to say is showing everyone in the universe including the principalities in the heavens that whatever God will say is true and will be seen as such. Truly, God will be justified when He speaks.

God in verse 2 and 3 portrayed the picture of the raising up of children, the children being Israel, and yet these children are ungrateful and rebelled against Him. He compared them with brute, stupid animals, who yet know their masters, yet Israel who are men do not know God. His people are worse than the basest of animals as they cannot even recognize and know the God who raised them up and treated them kindly.

Now, this analogy is obviously meant to show the moral outrage that such rebellion should be. Is anything worse than turning your back on the one who raised you up? This is detestable in any oriental culture, of which the ancient Hebrew culture can be considered a part of, and only slightly better of even in liberal Western society. To repay back evil for good is bad enough, but when you repay your parents evil for their good is a total outrage, which God is conveying to the people that their actions towards him is like such, especially towards a perfect parent like God.

Remember that the people of Isaiah's day were nominal believers, being under the godly King Uzziah. Yet their entire attitude shows their departure from God, and that their hearts are far from Him. By not truly acknowledging him as God but just making God into a religion with all its rituals and formalities (Is. 1:11-14), God treated such ritualism and dead legalism as rebellion.

Hard words indeed, but one we have to grapple with also. Remember that in the days of King Uzziah they were still compromising the faith and their worship by utilizing syncretism (2 Kings. 15:4), worshipping Yahweh using pagan alters and maybe even rituals. God detest anything which detract away from Himself, even just 'small, ninor sins', and regards things like syncretism, even 'a little bit of syncretism', as rebellion against Him.

In verse 4, Isaiah proclaims the plight of the people of Israel. They are stated as being sinful, laden down with iniquity as well as "offsprings of evildoers" parallel to the concept of "children who deal corruptly". Thus, whether through guilt or sin, they are all culpable. They are spoken of being forsaken of the Lord. Since they rebelled against God, God left them to their own devices and they have became estranged from God their rightful Father.

From all this, it can be seen Isaiah started off on a 'harsh' note. The prophet minces no words and through speaking forth the words of God, he cuts to the issue at hand. Israel has by and large forsook their God and rebelled against Him. Although they keep the rites and comands on the surface, they are being religious for the sake of being religious, rather than because of obeying the God who loved and brought them up.

As an application for this week, let us think about this and learn from wayward Israel. Are we doing things for the sake of being religious? Are we merely going through church formalities and rituals just for their own sake; that it make us fulfil our church duties? Or worse still, are we compromising the biblical standards in our Christian walk and service, and see no problem with it? If so, please do repent of such errors and turn back to a geniune relationship with Christ. Compromise is rebellion against God, and God will not accept lame human excuses of it being a 'small sin', 'just a bit of compromise', because He is a perfectly holy God who demands absolute perfection (Mt. 5:48) and any 'small transgression' of the Law is held accountable before God as if he broke all of the Law (Jas. 2:10).

Tentative positions on the topic of 'common grace' and the 'free offer'

After my previous studies and various interactions leading to the previous posts, I have sortof settled on a more matured view of the entire issue with regards to 'common grace' and the 'free offer', and would attempt to consolidate them into precise written form from the many thoughts and interactions I have had.

1) God gives to all His creation what can be called 'Common providential grace', or simply providence. It is emphatically denied that He gave to His creation 'Common salvific grace'.

2) By 'Common providential grace', this refers to the general benevolence of God towards His creation, in upholding and substaining them, in providing for their needs in general, in giving rain, sunshine and other physically good things to everyone, and in restraining the sinfulness of Man.

3) By 'Common salvific grace', this refers to the favor which God grants upon all Man in such a way that He intends all things for their good, including that He desires them to repents and thus be saved.

4) Closely related to the idea of 'common salvific grace' is the idea of the 'well-meant offer'. We reject the 'well-meant offer' but embrace the concept of the 'universal unconditional offer'.

5) By 'well-meant offer', or 'sincere offer', is meant that God has a sinere and ardent desire that all Man should repent and that God desires their salvation.

6) By 'universal unconditional offer', is meant that God's offer of salvation is not discriminatory against people from any tribe, nation or tongue, ethnicity or 'skin color' — hence universal, and that it does not have a condition which Man must fulfil to obtain this offer — hence unconditional. (Well, beside being human)

7) The proclamation of the Gospel should be done with the 'universal unconditional offer' and not the 'well-meant offer'.

8) In evaluating such issues, attention must be made to the entirety of Scripture.

9) The idea of collective and individuals is very important and must be affirmed within this topic, or everything would end up in irrationality. The best known example of ideas about the collective is that of people in the Covenant, which is implied from Covenant Theology.

9) It is affirmed that Scriptures talks about God desiring to save sinners in a ways that He intends their repentance. Such talk in Scripture like Rom. 2:4 however must be noted in their context, which shows that God's desires and intentions here are expressed towards the collective and realized in the elect within the collective Covenant people.

10) Another important point to take note is that the class of evil people ≠ the class of reprobates. Therefore, that God is good towards the wicked cannot in any sense mean anything with regards to the issue of whether God is good towards the reprobates, since God has His elect even within the wicked (cf the example of Nebuchadnezzar, not to mention some of the Ninevites of Jonah's day)

11) The writings of the Reformers and Puritans are in full agreement with such a view. In fact, they are more truthfully interpreted as teaching such since they hold to Covenant Theology, which forces the differentiation between the collective and the individual.

12) The passage of Ez. 18 can be said to apply only to the Jews and therefore to the collective Covenant community circa Rom. 2:4. However, in Ez. 18:23 and Ez. 18:32, God declared that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. We can interpret this text to mean that God is comparatively happier (anthropomorphically speaking) in repentance than in judgment, yet this has nothing whatsoever to say about God desiring their salvation in an absolute sense.

13) On a parallel track, God delights in repentance because it brings conformity with His Law. Therefore, to say that God likes and loves repentance does not imply that God desires the salvation of someone, although repentance would necessarily lead to salvation. As an analogy, just because person X wants to eat lots of ice-cream does not imply that he desires to be fat, although he would be fat (simplistic scenario), as his reason for so desiring is that he just loves the taste of ice-cream.

14) As such, God's command for all to repent is not that He desires any individual salvaton per se. God only intends the salvation of the elect, but He delights and wants repentance of all because they bring the person in conformity to His Law and thus bring glory to His name.

15) The Gospel is thus a sincere command instead of a sincer offer. It is thus based on a higher, more theocentric basis of the glory of God based upon the command to conform to His Law, instead of the anthropocentric basis of the plea of God to rebel sinners begging him to accept them (ie I want to save you, but you would not allow me to).

Hope this is fine.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

On the common grace controversy: Rebuttal to Tony Byrne regarding the 'common grace' interpretation of Rom. 2:4

[continued from here; topic continuation from here and here]

We have previously read and exegeted the text of Rom. 2:4 in its context in the post here. I should have addressed Byrne's interpretation of Rom. 2:4 first, but I was too focused on the quotes Byrne quoted from the Reformers and Puritans to notice this. Now that we are done, we can go back and look once more at Byrne's particular interpretation of this verse, as stated here.

Before we start, let's add some clarification to the exegesis of Rom. 2:1-5, with regards to how the concept of the kindness of God obligating people to repent instead of leading them to repentance is derived. The truth is, it is both, but to different peoples. This kindness of God whose intention is to lead people to repentance will find its fulfilment in the elect individuals who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. And the salvation of these individuals from the Jewish stock, and therefore meaning from the OT Church, would indicate that God's intention to save as a collective have been fulfilled. Therefore, God's kindness is meant to lead people to repentance (v. 4) and it DOES lead people to repentance. That not everybody is led to repentance is not the issue, since the verse is talking about people collectively here.

The concept of obligation is derived from the tension of the God's intention for the collective and its overflow benefits to the reprobates within the collective Church. Since the reprobates individually belong to the collective whose intention was unto salvation, they should turn to Christ in repentance, seeing that God has showered them with so much blessing (the 'benevolence' of God). They therefore are obligated to repent because of God's benevolence to them as they are in the Church collectively.

Now, Byrne in this short post of his focuses mainly on the force of the Greek word agei. However, that isn't the issue for us. It may pose a problem to true hyper-Calvinists, but for us who can learn to differentiate between the individual and the collective, this is not a problem for us. We can always affirm that God's patience is meant to lead people to repentance in the collective sense (primarily with regards to the Covenant people and then to others), but not in the individual sense, and most definitely not to the class of reprobates both collectively nor individually.

Interestingly enough, Byrne perhaps unwittingly showed us more into his Amyraldian bent by mentioning the 'universal aspect of the atonement', which undermines his stated belief in the 'L' of TULIP. Now, I am not saying that those in the modern Amyraldian camp do not believe in Limited Atonement; they may, but their atonement is limited in the sense only of ultimate intent, not of God's intent in general, and that is what Byrne seems to be teaching too.

Some may remember that I have done a couple of series previously on the proclamation of the Gospel, in which I have defined the term Neo-Amyraldism as being the belief in the two wills of God (or two-fold will) as long as one will or part intends the salvation of all (universal aspect of the atonement) and the other will or part intends the salvation of some (Limited Atonement). The reason why I used the term 'Amyraldism' as te root form to describe the modern 'common grace' belief is because both classical Amyraldism and this belief are derived from Calvinism, and both have a disjunction in the wills and decrees of God. Classical Amyraldism postulated a disjunction by making the latter will of God with the intention to save some abrogate the former will of God to save all, although in fairness it must be stated that God in the middle decrees Man to save so that He cannot save all. The modern variery postulates a disjunction too, but it is even worse because now both wills operate at the same time (the timeline of the world), and on the same level (soteriology). Since no other belief is so close to Calvinism and postulates a disjunction within the wills of God on the same subject title (the Will of God) on the same level (soteriology) as Amyraldism, therefore the term Neo-Amyraldism is best suited for describing the 'common gracers'.

I would end this series, and being interaction with Tony Byrne on this topic with a look at this statement:

1) Common grace is based in intentional love (see Matt. 5:44-45).

Mt. 5:44-45 teaches the general benevolence of God towards His Creation. First of all, this has nothing whatsoever to do with salvation or soteriology so such is not teaching 'common salvific grace'. Secondly, Byrne is commiting the fallacy of amphiboly when using the phrase 'intentional love' and also 'common grace'. For example, Byrne uses the phrase common grace in his point 2 with regards to Rom. 2:4, which even if that was correct (it has been shown wrong above), refers to 'common salvific grace' while in Mt. 5:44-45, it refers to 'common providential grace' or just providence. With regards to the phrase 'intentional love', is Byrne using it to mean that God has a reason behind his providence, which is the meaning of Mt. 5:44-45, or that God has an intention to use that for something else like wanting people to repent, which is what Byrne would use it for at the end. Note his summary statement of the chain of thoughts:

5) Common grace is intentional love (point #1) granted to all men so that they might be encouraged to repent (point #2) and be saved (point #3) by means of Christ's satisfaction (point #4).

I'm sorry, but this is just plainly unorthodox. This denies Limited Atonement in its true sense, and makes God out to be the eternally frustrated and schizophrenic God who is always making a genuine effort to save all but yet he doesn't actually wants to save all. However, I agree with Byrne that Calvinists should return to something more akin to Calvin's theology, or that of the major Reformers and Puritans, and that Byrne too should heed his own words instead of reading their writings through the glasses of American individualism.

[The End; for now]

On the common grace controversy: The Reformers and Puritans on Rom. 2:4
Or A rebuttal to Tony Byrne's misquotation of their words

[Topic continuation from here and here]

I will now take the first step to engage Tony Bryne and the various stuff that he has posted onto his blog in order to prop up his support of Neo-Amyraldism. Anyway, here is the post I will primarily be interacting with. Please note that as stated in my first post on the topic, I will just need to show that the words of the Reformers and Puritans can need be interpreted differently from how Byrne is (mis)interpreting them, and in a way consistent with the worldview of the Reformers and Puritans, in order to prove that Byrne is not being correct in his appropriating them to support his neo-Amryldism. Without further to do, let us look at the quotes.

This is the first quote purportedly from Calvin, as taken from Tony's blog, which is claimed to support the Neo-Amyraldian view of 'common salvific grace':

"...the Apostle anticipates their arrogance, and proves, by an argument taken from a reason of an opposite kind, that there is no ground for them to think that God, on account of their outward prosperity, is propitious to them, since the design of his benevolence is far different, and that is, to convert sinners to himself. Where then the fear of God does not rule, confidence, on account of prosperity, is a contempt and a mockery of his great goodness. It hence follows, that a heavier punishment will be inflicted on those whom God has in this life favored; because, in addition to their other wickedness, they have rejected the fatherly invitation of God. And though all the gifts of God are so many evidences of his paternal goodness, yet as he often has a different object in view, the ungodly absurdly congratulate themselves on their prosperity, as though they were dear to him, while he kindly and bountifully supports them.

And hre is the full commentary of Rom. 2:4 as taken from the real source:

It does not seem to me, as some think, that there is here an argument, conclusive on two grounds, (dilemma,) but an anticipation of an objection: for as hypocrites are commonly transported with prosperity, as though they had merited the Lord’s kindness by their good deeds, and become thus more hardened in their contempt of God, the Apostle anticipates their arrogance, and proves, by an argument taken from a reason of an opposite kind, that there is no ground for them to think that God, on account of their outward prosperity, is propitious to them, since the design of his benevolence is far different, and that is, to convert sinners to himself. Where then the fear of God does not rule, confidence, on account of prosperity, is a contempt and a mockery of his great goodness. It hence follows, that a heavier punishment will be inflicted on those whom God has in this life favored; because, in addition to their other wickedness, they have rejected the fatherly invitation of God. And though all the gifts of God are so many evidences of his paternal goodness, yet as he often has a different object in view, the ungodly absurdly congratulate themselves on their prosperity, as though they were dear to him, while he kindly and bountifully supports them. (Online source)

Notice the words which Tony has conveniently ommitted, which sounds out the context upon which Calvin make the statements that he has made. The words which are ommitted are:

It does not seem to me, as some think, that there is here an argument, conclusive on two grounds, (dilemma,) but an anticipation of an objection: for as hypocrites are commonly transported with prosperity, as though they had merited the Lord’s kindness by their good deeds, and become thus more hardened in their contempt of God, ... (Bold added)

We can see that the later statements made by Calvin used by Byrne to prop up his doctrine of 'common salvific grace' actually do not do so. As it can be seen, Calvin applies these statements to the class of those he called the 'hypocrites'. It is these people whom God is blessing in order to 'lead them to repentance'. Who these people are must be seen also in the larger context. In Calvin's commentary of Rom. 2:1, the class of 'hypocrites' are mentioned as those who 'dazzle the eyes of men by displays of outward sanctity' and yet transgressed the law. Calvin therefore had in mind the religious hypocrites who are found within the bosom of the Visible Church (until they are kicked out if they are indeed ever kicked out).

And since such is the case, Calvin's exposition of Rom. 2:4 takes on a more comprehensive light. What Calvin is teaching is NOT 'common salvific grace', but that the kindness, forebearance and patience of God is directed towards those who are within the Visible Church. As Calvin mentioned about their arrogance due to God's benevolance to them (on account of their being in the Covenant), yet he shows that, just like the Jews which Paul had in mind, the benevolance of God towards them is in order to obligate them to repent and turn to Him.

With that, let us turn to Byrne's pointers which he thinks Calvin is here teaching:

1) The "design" of God's "benevolence" is "to convert sinners to himself."

2) God's "goodness" is associated with this conversion seeking benevolence that some mock and show contempt for in their vain "prosperity."

3) God's "benevolence" and "goodness" are then associated with his "favor."

My response to this is to define the group of 'sinners' which Calvin had in mind. Calvin had in mind here the religious hypocrites, not just any sinner.

4) Conversion seeking goodness, benevolence and favor are then associated with God's "fatherly invitation," and those who are to receive "a heavier punishment" are in view, i.e. the reprobate who hear the "fatherly invitation."

5) "All the gifts" that they receive are evidences of God's "paternal goodness" toward the "ungodly."

6) God is said to "kindly" and "bountifully" support them through their prosperity.

All of such is true as long as we know whom Calvin was talking about; he was talking about religious hypocrites within the Visible professing Church, not just any Tom, Dick and Harry.

Other quotes from Calvin suffer from the same problem. Byrne has shown himself unable to grasp the very idea of the collective, and of course of Covenantal Theology. Disagree with the concept of Covenant Theology if you may, but at least he should realize and respect that the Reformers and Puritans believe in it and applied it to their theology. Even the early Baptists (ie the English Particular Baptists) had a framework more similar to Covenantal Theology compared to the individualistic American mindset, which is displayed by Byrne in his misquotation of the Reformer John Calvin. The refusal to differentiate between individuals and collective, which is the only way to understand Rom. 2:4 without causing it to create a logical contradiction in the Bible (something which Neo-Amyraldism does), is jettisoned by these baptists who are do not know when the Bible talks about individuals and when the collective is being mentioned.

Byrne then mentioned the Puritan John Flavel, and in another post posted a full excerpt from his now archived book:

2. The Lord exercises this patience towards sinners, thereby to lead them to repentance; this is the direct intention of it. The Lord desires and delights to see ingenuous relentings and brokenness of heart for sin; and there is nothing like his forbearance and patience in promoting such an evangelical repentance. All the terrors of the law will not break the heart of a sinner, as the patience and long-suffering of God will; therefore it is said that the goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering of God, lead men to repentance. Rom. 2:4. These are fitted to work upon all the principles of humanity which incline men to repentance; reason, conscience, gratitude, feel the influences of the goodness of God herein, and melt under it. Thus Saul's heart relented: "Is this thy voice, my son David? and Saul lifted up his voice and wept. And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I; for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil." 1 Sam. 24:16, 17. Thus the goodness and forbearance of God doth, as it were, take a sinner by the hand, lead him into a corner, and say, "Come, let us talk together; thus and thus vile hast thou been, and thus and thus long-suffering and merciful has God been to thee; thy heart has been full of sin, the heart of thy God has been full of pity and mercy." This dissolves the sinner into tears, and breaks his heart in pieces. If any thing will melt a hard heart, this will do it. How good has God been to me. How have I tried his patience to the uttermost, and still he waits to be gracious, and is exalted that he may have compassion. The sobs and tears, the ingenuous relentings of a sinner's heart, under the apprehensions of the sparing mercy and goodness of God, are the music of heaven.

Or course, conveniently overlooked from this is the context. This was most probably taken from a sermon preached by Flavel, and nothing from here proves anything related to the novel idea of 'common salvific grace'. Remeber that the Reformers and Puritans generally hold to Covenant Theology, and the principle of the collective, thus there is no problem with stating that Christ exhorts and desires to see sinners save; that he is kind to sinners as a group (which is after all an application of Rom. 2:4). Flavel here is exhorting sinners as a collective to repent, not writing a theological treatise on how God has given 'common savific grace' to each individual sinner which seeks their ultimate well-being. The confusing of the two again is the reason why Byrne continues to read his novelty into the writings of these great men.

Lastly, we would look into John Howe's words as written by Byrne here. I could not ascertain the source, however, and I don't have the book, so I will just take it that Bryne has quoted it in context.

3. Consider the forbearance of God towards you, while you are continually at mercy. With what patience doth he spare you, though your own hearts must tell you that you are offending creatures, and whom he can destroy in a moment! He spares you that neglect him. He is not willing that you should perish, but come to the knowledge of the truth, that you may be saved; by which he calls and leads you to repentance, Rom. ii 4. On God's part, here is a kind intention; but on man's part, nothing but persevering enmity.

I agree with Byrne that Howe seems to be alluding to 2 Peter 3:9 ("He is not willing that you should perish") and 1 Tim. 2:4 ("come to the knowledge of the truth, that you may be saved"). However, that makes Byrne's case even worse. For unless you agree with the Arminian eisegesis of the texts of 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Tim. 2:4 to teach a universal intention of the atonement, a correct exegesis will show that these texts are properly applied to the people of God and specifically the elect of God. Howe is using those texts to call the individual elect in his invitation to the collective whole, using Rom. 2:4 as the text in order to convict the individual elect sinners of sin and bring them to the Savior.

In conclusion, as we have seen, Byrne does not understand the worldview of the Reformers and the Puritans, and use his individualistic American cultural glasses to interpret their writings. By failing to understand the idea of the collective, Byrne falsely read the novel idea of 'common salvific grace', first invented in its present form sometime after Van Til, Murray et al arose, into their words. Of course, if he subscribes to New Covenantal Theology, then that would confound things, since he cannot read Rom. 2:1-5 as stating that God is gracious towards His covenant people in the Jews in order to lead thm to repentance, becase one of the distinctives ofNew Covenantal Theology is the denial of any salvific intent in the covenants made in the OT.

We would end this off by looking at Byrne's understanding of Rom. 2:4, in his post here, in the next post.

[to be continued]

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Exegesis of Rom. 2:1-5 (Updated)

[topic continuation from here]

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. (Rom. 2:1-5)

This is a powerful passage in the book of Romans. Also, Rom. 2:4 happens to be one of the intended proof texts for the theory of 'common salvific grace' and the 'well-meant offer', of which I am convinced it is neither. It is therefore important that we should exegete the text within its context and see what the passage teaches, and thus what Rom. 2:4 actually teaches. Does it actually teach what the Neo-Amyraldians say it teaches? I contend not.

Rom. 2:1 starts off with the word 'Therefore'. It is thus a continuation from the previous chapter, showing forth that the conclusions in Rom. 1:18-32 specifically logically leads to the concepts that will be mentioned in Rom. 2:1 onwards. Rom. 1:18-32 exposes the depravity of Man in general who, 'although they knew God, did not honor Him as God nor give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened' (Rom. 1:21), and ended stating their depravity to such an extent that they 'not only do them [evil deeds], but give approval to those who practice them' (Rom. 1:32b), a most wicked proposition indeed.

After exposing the depravity of Man in general with an eye towards the Gentiles, Paul uses the fact of their depravity to silence the talk of the Jews, who are denoted in the phrase 'every one of you who judges'. That Paul now turns to the Jews and is talking to them can be seen in the metnion of the Law later in Chapter 2, and also the mention of 'Jew' and 'Greek' in verses 9-10, corresponding to the two group of audiences Paul had in mind in Chapters 1 and 2 respectively., not to mention that verse 17 specifically identifies Paul's audience as the Jews. A little undertstanding of the view Jews had of Gentiles then would show also that the Jews had a judgmental attitude towards the Gentiles, priding themselves on being the chosen people of God while the Gentiles are all going to hell. Paul, in verse 1 therefore, turns the table against the self-righteous Jews who judge everyone but themselves, thinking themselves as being a guide to the blind, light to those in darkness, instructor of the foolish, teacher of children and possesor of the Law (Rom. 2: 19-20). Yet, Paul expose their wickedness in their deeds — doing the same sinful things the Gentiles do, and bring hypocritical. Paul reminds the Jews of their common knowledge in the Law that the judgment of God rightly falls on those people who do such things (v. 2). Paul then applied the Law and rebuked them because they think that they can escape the judgment of God even though they do the same things they themselves condemned as deserving punishment if they are done by the Gentiles (v. 3), thinking that their status as God's people would exempt them from judgment. Of course, Paul will discount such hypocritical self-righteous teaching in verses 6-10, ending off with the statement that God does not show any partiality (v. 11).

In between verses 1-3 and 6-11 are the ones that we are going to focus on. In verse 4, Paul is stating that God shows kindness, forbearance and patience in his dealings with these Jews, and that such is meant to lead them to repentance. However, the hard and impenitant or unrepentant hearts of the Jews would mean that the kindness, forebearance and patience of God would have no effect. Therefore, such would increase the meausre of wrath against these Jews in the Final Judgment, and thus they will be more severly punished by God.

Now, we have already seen that Rom. 2 is talking about the Jews. As such, Rom. 2:4 is most definitely talking about the Jews. The Jews as the Covenant people of the Old Testament thus show that the main focus of the text is to the Covenant people of God. Therefore, this means that the text cannot be used to prove anything regarding the 'common salvific grace' theory or the 'well-meant offer', as this is not primarily directed towards everyone. Now, application can definitely be made to apply it to those who are self-righteous from other religions, but then applications can never be made to use prove doctrine of any kind, especially the scared doctrines regarding the will of God. Even granting that it talks about the world doesn't help their position, for it is one thing to apply it to the collective class of 'world', and another to apply it to individual reprobates within the world.

Nevertheless, aren't there possible reprobates within the Covenant people of God? Most definitely! However, the fact of the matter is that God works primarily through covenants, and therefore whatever is said about the collective may not be applicable to the individual within the group, especially one that will be removed from the group if exposed for what they actually are. For example, in the passage of Rom. 2:4, most definitely the Jews who refused to repent are possibly reprobates, yet they being in the Covenant people would mean that God's kindness, foreberance and patience would be over them to lead them to repentance, yet not as intended towards them in particular as individuals, but to them as part of the collective Covenant people.

Through all this, there is an added dimension to the entire matter. As this was written to the Jews, God's kindness, forebearance and patience was expressed to them mainly in the Old Testament — the Law and Prophets. We thus can see that the Law was intended to lead people to repentance, contra New Covenantal Theology, and thus God's kindness, foreberance and patience obligates them to repentance. However, it was unable to not becuase the Law was weak, but because we are weak (Gal. 3:10). And this is the point that Paul was going to drive home later. After showing forth the hopelessness of both Jew and Gentile of having a righteousness of works, with a summary in Rom. 3:10-18, Paul would then set forth the Gospel of free grace through Christ Jesus later, which was his intention all along.

In conclusion, through this short exegesis, it is hoped that we have a better understanding of Romans. Also, we have seen that Rom. 2:4 cannot be used to prove the theory of 'common salvific grace' or the 'well-meant offer'. What it does prove is that God is always kind, patient and forebearing with His covenant people, and in bringing the elect to faith and repentance also. Reprobates within the Covenant community (the Church) are treated with patience also because they are part of the collective, not because God has intention to save them. At the same time, such kindnes shown to them obligates them (gives them more responsibility) to repent and store up wrath against them for rejecting this undifferentiated kindness of God.

We wil next look into various writings by certain Puritan and Reformed divines, to see whether their writings actually promote the theory of 'Common salvific grace' and the 'well-meant offer', as Tony Byrne claims they do.

[to be continued]