Since high school, it has been my practice to read through the Scriptures each year.  Upon readings in more recent years, I have been struck repeatedly by strong expressions of divine exasperation.  Of course, I acknowledge God’s awareness of what free choices human beings will make, and I recognize that God can use free human choices and rebellion to accomplish his sovereign purposes.  Humans can harden themselves (e.g., Mark 3:5) and then God, if he chooses, may add to this hardening (e.g., Mark 4:12); that is, human self-hardening gives way to “phase two” when God withdraws his grace and further removes humans from repentance, “giving them over” to the consequences of their own self-initiated resistance to God’s grace.  Let me add here that Kenneth Keathley’s book Salvation and Sovereignty (B&H Academic) does a fine job of expounding on themes surrounding this divine-human interplay.  I further recommend the work of Thomas P. Flint and William Craig (which also offer a Molinist account) for those who want to go even deeper into these areas.

I am hoping to do some writing in this area of divine exasperation, and I thought that I would check with faithful Parchment and Pen readers to get your take on the following verses.  As I read them, they strongly suggest God’s legitimate expectation of spiritual fruitfulness, repentance, or obedience. That is, what hinders their repentance is not God’s withholding grace so that they cannot repent.  Indeed, abundant grace has been given that justifies the expectation of repentance—even if God in his foreknowledge knows it is not forthcoming.  Despite God’s initiating grace, humans continue to “resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51)—to grieve him (Ephesians 4:30) and quench him (1 Thessalonians 5:19).  God commands all people without exception to repent (Acts 17:30); so presumably God’s initiating grace is available for all to do so.

What is your take on the following sampling of verses that reflect “divine exasperation”?  

  • Genesis 4:6-7:  “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?  If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.’”
  • Psalm 81:10-11: “Open your mouth wide, and I [God] will fill it.”  Israel’s response? “But my people did not listen to My voice, and Israel did not obey Me….Oh that my people would listen to Me…!”  God goes on to say that if they did listen, he would subdue their enemies and feed Israel with the finest of wheat (vv. 13-16).
  •  Isaiah 5:1-7:  “Let me sing now for my well-beloved a song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.  He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it and also hewed out a wine vat in it; then He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones.  And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard.  What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?  So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.  I will lay it waste; it will not be pruned or hoed, But briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.”  For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel and the men of Judah His delightful plant.  Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.”
  • Jeremiah 5:3: “O Lord, do not Your eyes look for truth? You have smitten them, but they did not weaken; you have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent.”
  • Jeremiah 5:21-25: “‘Now hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see; who have ears but do not hear.  Do you not fear Me?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do you not tremble in My presence? For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, an eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it. Though the waves toss, yet they cannot prevail; though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it.  But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and departed.  They do not say in their heart, “Let us now fear the Lord our God, who gives rain in its season, both the autumn rain and the spring rain, who keeps for us the appointed weeks of the harvest.”  Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have withheld good from you.’”
  • Ezekiel 6:9: “How I [God] have been hurt by their adulterous hearts.”
  • Ezekiel 18:23, 32: “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked?” “Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies…. Therefore, repent and live.”
  • Matthew 23:37: Jesus laments over Jerusalem: “How I longed to gather you . . . but you were unwilling.” (It appears that it wasn’t Jesus or his Father who was unwilling!)
  • Luke 7:30:  Israel’s religious leaders had “rejected God’s purpose for themselves.”
  • John 3:16-17: “God so loved the world [which stands in opposition to God/Christ] . . . God did not sent His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
  • Romans 10:21: “All day long I have stretched out my hand to a disobedient and obstinate people.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:20:  “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
  • 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9: God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”; God “is not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance.” Surely the sense of the text cannot be turned around to mean that God is willing that certain people should perish and not come to repentance!
  • 1 John 2:2: Christ died for the sins of “the whole world [holou tou kosmou]”—the same “whole world” that lies in the hands of the evil one (1 Jn. 5:19) and that Satan leads astray (Rev. 12:9).
  • Revelation 2:21-22: Regarding the Thyatiran false prophetess “Jezebel,” Jesus says: “I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.”

What do you all think?  If these are not genuine expressions of divine exasperation and genuine divine calls to freely repent in response to God’s grace, how are we to understand them?  I’d appreciate your input.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    270 replies to "Divine Exasperation"

    • C Michael Patton

      As a compatiblistic Calvinist, I take these as very real expressions of divine desire. Knowing that God knows the future and (from a Calvinistic standpoint) knowing that people cannot come to him without his sovereign grace, I know that these can be very confusing. They are to me.

      But the fact of God’s transcendence, omniscience, and sovereignty does not give us any right to teat these any less real. I always dislike it when people play the “anthropomorphic” card, saying that these are just human emotions being ascribed to God (really “anthropopathic”). I don’t believe in anthropopathicism. I might be unique here, but what would the parallel be to claiming these are anthropopathic? They have to have some function and communicate something true about God.

    • Rev 3:16

      You make excellent points, but I’m afraid this is one the those topics (which grow in number) that will either fall on deaf ears or amount to the rest of us as “preaching to the choir.”
      To use Michael’s analogy I learned from the Intro Theology, we have have a “stage of truth” upon which rests all the factors we utilize to determine truth.
      However, one topic he didn’t cover, at least directly, is how much influence America is under chiefly by Sigmund Freud and his disciples.
      On many peoples’ stage of truth, right up at the front standing taller than any other is self.
      While Michael talked about how powerful one’s feelings/emotions and experience are in determine one’s Theology, I believe this religion of “self” can use many factors, even the mind – why I think just speaking of them separately without addressing the goal – the preeiminence of self at all costs, renders other discussions inefficient.
      Even challenging Sigmund’s doctrines in many church circles is met with immediate scorn. Heck even challenging that we should listen to pyschology itself will result in the same treatment.
      Notice, now there’s two things a “Christian” shouldn’t challenge – the Authority of Scripture and Psychology!
      That phenomenon is when my discernment attenenas were raised.
      I got “saved,” was immediately grounded in the fundamentals and discipled, then noticed something else was given equal weight as Scripture, yet no one has yet to prove this behavior from Scripture to me.
      So here’s my point. How when one’s self, self-preservation, self-importance reign supreme in one’s mind can we expect them to be open to ANYTHING critical of their behavior or thoughts when we’ve already given ex-cathedra abilities to practioners of psychology.
      And please no one reply with labels to argue against my point, such as “Christian…,” as if a labels proves anything.

    • cherylu

      Rev 3:16,

      I’m sorry, but I don’t understand how your comment applies to the question Paul asked in the OP. Would you clarify for me, please?

    • Bible STudy

      I believe that God hardens hearts that are hardened. I also believe that no one can resist repentence if God doesn’t want them to. I believe God is sovereign and in complete control. And yes, I realize the scriptures that speak of resisting the Holy Ghost. However, in my understanding we must and will warn the world not to resist the Holy Ghost because it is God’s will that he may use us to lead them to repentence. However, if God doesn’t want them to repent, they wont. It is difficult to understand with our tiny minds, but God is in complete control of everything.

    • xulon

      I’ve always wondered about, “And Jesus answered, ‘O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?'” (Matthew 17:17) Answering a man who asked for healing for his son.

    • Jerry Brown

      I think it is pretty fair to say that God does not need us, he was around forever without us, so his expressions of “divine exasperation” exist more to help us understand where we stand than where God stands. I rather doubt that God gets all worked up that his plan isn’t working out the way he intended it to work out, that would strip God of his sovereignty.

    • Susanne

      I think the Calvinist point of view often makes God/Jesus out to be bipolar. He is longing to gather these people to Himself or stretching out His hand for them to repent. He tells Israel they will have blessings IF ONLY THEY didn’t stray and worshiped Him…yet Calvinists will say GOD damned people to hell. Or, rather, He just let them go their own damnable way. Makes God out to be silly and weird. He longs for them to be saved and worship Him, yet He didn’t have the kindness to give them the ability to do so! How cruel is that? You want blind people to follow you, yet you don’t speak so they can hear Your voice. You don’t open their eyes. Strange stuff.

    • Michael

      We should be careful in our exegesis of these passages. Your Matt. 23:37 for example, leaves out an important point. There are 3 persons in this passage. Jerusalem (the leaders), “your [Jerusalem’s] children” (the people), and Jesus. 99% of pastors I’ve heard preach on this actually quote this verse and leave out the word “children”.

      “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”

    • Bible STudy

      This verse as well as many others makes it appear to many that God wants to do something he can’t, or at least how it was quoted above, I need to look again at the KJV and see what it says. It is easy to get confused when we stray from the bible.

    • cherylu

      Paul,

      I have always understood those verses as you have. I don’t know how they can be read otherwise either without twisting them to mean something other then what seems to be very obvious.

    • Paul Copan

      I think you’re right, Cheryl and “Bible Study.”

      Michael, I think that you are overemphasizing the “you” and “your children” distinction in Matt. 23. The point is the “you [Jerusalem]” is the same “you” that is “not willing” to turn to Christ.

      As for the “anthropathism” issue you raise, Michael, I would latch on to your main point: these are “very real expressions of divine desire.” Indeed! But why then differentiate “desire” from “divine decree”? God does what he pleases or desires. My fear is that “compatibilistic Calvinism” actually seem to be saying the *opposite* of the plain reading of the text in many places. For example, it would appear that, according to this view, God IS willing that MANY should perish and NOT come to repentance. If God truly desires that Israel not die but turn from its wicked ways and live, then who is at fault that they do not turn? The obvious answer (in this view) would be: “God.” But this is the thrust of my blog post—that “real…divine desire” IS being resisted and that repentance is possible (but not guaranteed) because God’s initiating grace has been at work in advance. Surely, Stephen’s charge in Acts 7:51 that “you are always resisting the Holy Spirit” surely doesn’t imply that they are resisting God’s *hardening* influence!

      If the compatibilist Calvinist view is correct, then it seems that God does equally desire the salvation of the elect and the damnation of the non-elect. Put another way: If, as John Piper writes, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him, does this mean that God can’t be as glorified by those who don’t find their satisfaction in God? Or is he equally glorified and pleased in the condemnation of some as he is in the salvation of others? These are the kinds of concerns that I have….

      Rev. 3:16: Sorry, I couldn’t quite grasp your point; feel free to clarify.

    • wm tanksley

      The best response I’ve seen from Calvinists to this type of verse listing was to repeat each point, and then say “We agree with this.”

      Yes, we agree that God did an AMAZING amount of things for all humans, and that humans are therefore without excuse. The righteous response from God is indeed “exasperation”.

      That’s fine as far as it goes. But the Bible goes MUCH deeper. If it stopped there, Romans would be missing chapters 2-10. The Bible also says that people WILL persistently refuse. Jesus explains to some of his own followers that they don’t believe him because they are the children of Satan — and some of those unbelieving followers left Him because He said that (John 6). Jesus didn’t promise that those people could come to Him if only they would listen and believe; He said instead that they couldn’t hear and believe because of who they were and were not, and because of what the Father had not done for them. And those people LEFT because He said that! Do you think John was disappointed in Jesus for having done that to potential converts? Is that why he included that speech in his Gospel? I think he included it because Jesus was preaching something vital to the Christian faith.

      And there is so much more like this in the Bible. It’s not JUST that God is righteous in His indignation, and both longsuffering and compassionate toward us. There’s more in the Bible.

      And all too often, what’s missing is in the very passage that’s being quoted. Michael pointed out that Matt. 23:37 was being edited to obscure WHO was doing the resisting (it’s not the children who were resisting, but rather the leaders). But this happens commonly. Deut 30 is quoted to show that Israel could have chosen life or death — but Deut 30 starts with a prophecy that Israel WILL choose the curses, and God will pull them back to life.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Paul:

      I think that you are overemphasizing the “you” and “your children” distinction in Matt. 23. The point is the “you [Jerusalem]” is the same “you” that is “not willing” to turn to Christ.

      That’s true, but the “children I longed to gather” is not the same as the “you” that Jesus is cursing in the passage (read the whole chapter at least — it’s a curse, not a declaration of mercy). And the thing that “you” are not willing isn’t “to turn to Jesus”, but rather to allow Christ to gather the children under His wing.

      And Christ doesn’t say that He failed to gather the children of Jerusalem; instead, He simply curses the leaders for not being willing. (Now, God did not get to give the blessings to those children of Jerusalem, due to the disobedience of the leaders; but God always kept a remnant for Himself.)

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      I’m not sure that “children of Israel” here should be interpreted as referring literally to Israeli children. The notes in the NET seem to indicate that this refers to Israel in general and is a figure of speech.

      “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,46 you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you!47 How often I have longed48 to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but49 you would have none of it!50

      46sn The double use of the city’s name betrays intense emotion.

      47tn Although the opening address (“Jerusalem, Jerusalem”) is direct (second person), the remainder of this sentence in the Greek text is third person (“who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her”). The following sentences then revert to second person (“your… you”), so to keep all this consistent in English, the third person pronouns in the present verse were translated as second person (“you who kill… sent to you”).

      48sn How often I have longed to gather your children. Jesus, like a lamenting prophet, speaks for God here, who longed to care tenderly for Israel and protect her.

      49tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to indicate the contrast present in this context.

      50tn Grk “you were not willing.”

    • wm tanksley

      I’m not sure that “children of Israel” here should be interpreted as referring literally to Israeli children.

      Where and how did you get the idea that anyone was talking about literal children? Absurd.

      Read what I wrote. Or better yet don’t waste your time with my writing (grin); read the entire chapter in the Bible, and you’ll see that Christ is CURSING the so-called-spiritual leaders of Jerusalem. He’s not making loving promises; His eyes aren’t welling with regretful tears. His words are WOE, WOE! He’s prophesying judgement.

      And as I said, Christ also isn’t saying that the people who killed the prophets prevented God from gathering His people to himself; God has always preserved for Himself a remnant. God did establish covenant curses that the leaders brought down upon the people (including the righteous remnant, as Jeremiah explained), and that same disobedience forbade the covenant blessings God had also promised (but then God knew that would happen, and gave Jesus to bring those blessings not only to Jerusalem, but to all nations).

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      If the compatibilist Calvinist view is correct, then it seems that God does equally desire the salvation of the elect and the damnation of the non-elect.

      Could you clarify why you believe that we believe God desires both equally? I don’t see that. I know there are some who say that He decreed both (sometimes called double predestination), but I don’t know any who actually say he WANTED both with the same want.

      -Wm

    • Paul Copan

      Let’s not get off track on one verse here! RT France observes that Jesus is here broadening out from the religious leaders to the entire Jewish nation. After all, keep in mind the context. Judgment is about to fall on Jerusalem and the entire Israelite nation in AD 70–what the first half of Matthew 24 is all about. This is God’s judgment on the entire nation, indicating that ethnic Israel is finished as the people of God, and that a new community (that would show forth the fruits of repentance—namely, the interethnic church) would fulfill this role, as the OT scriptures indicate.

      William, I think the assessment of John could be looked at from another angle—and one that is consistent with divine exasperation. In John 3, 6 or 8, people don’t stop following Christ (or turn away from Christ) because they hadn’t been elected. Rather, they are too entrenched in their self-chosen path that they refuse to come to the light. Consider the parallel of Cain in 1 John 3:11-12 “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.” But if we look at Genesis 4:7, we know that God *expected* Cain to do what was right: “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

      I still don’t think the core of my divine exasperation question is being addressed. Can God legitimately *command* repentance if he doesn’t give persons grace to do so? Shouldn’t God be just as delighted with one sinner that repents as he is with one sinner that is damned? Is God willing that MANY perish and NOT come to repentance/the knowledge of the truth—that opposite of what appears to be the plain meaning of 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Timothy 2:4?

    • Rick

      Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (Matthew 11:21)

      This passage puzzles me. For one, it seems to say that the sight of mighty works can bring a heart to God, if this heart is more… willing? open? soft?

      On the other hand, It seems to imply that God could have saved those cities by just showing them a mighty sign, but He, sovereign as He is, didn’t.

      There, one verse, two seemingly conflicting concepts.

    • Paul Copan

      Yes, this is an example of hyperbole–with an emphasis on greater accountability for those witnessing Jesus’ ministry. After all, Jesus in his parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16) said that even if a person doesn’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, they won’t believe even if someone comes back from the dead. Indeed, the Israelites in the OT had signs and wonders in abundance in Egypt and their wilderness wanderings (even with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night to constantly remind them of his presence), but most died in unbelief in the wilderness…..

    • wm tanksley

      Let’s not get off track on one verse here!

      That’s an odd thing to say — I grant that if we’re off track we should be brought back on, but we should deal with each verse individually. If I can’t examine each verse, why should we cite any?

      RT France observes that Jesus is here broadening out from the religious leaders to the entire Jewish nation.

      Even supposing that’s the case, it doesn’t support your claim of mixed divine love and exasperation against a single group. Textually, this verse has two groups: “Jerusalem who kills My prophets”, and “your children who I longed to gather”. You would have to show that the two groups were not distinct, but conceptually, the groups “you” and “your children” are by default distinct, and when the context is talking to religious leaders, it seems clear that “your children” are the people placed under authority.

      Historically, God always had His remenant, but they often fell under the covenental judgement that befell the rest of the people who followed evil leaders (or who “did what was right in their own eyes”). This is part of the reason for the cursing that Christ just finished giving, and in the very next passage He gives concrete form to the curse, as the total destruction of the Temple.

      After all, keep in mind the context. Judgment is about to fall on Jerusalem and the entire Israelite nation in AD 70–what the first half of Matthew 24 is all about.

      I agree; and Matt 23 is about WHY that judgement is falling.

      The rest of your message is very good, and I need to reply to it separately.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      William, I think the assessment of John could be looked at from another angle—and one that is consistent with divine exasperation. In John 3, 6 or 8, people don’t stop following Christ (or turn away from Christ) because they hadn’t been elected. Rather, they are too entrenched in their self-chosen path that they refuse to come to the light.

      John 6 in particular specifies that the ones who do not come to Christ do so because they are NOT ALLOWED to come (John 6:65). This completely rules out your explanation, which is nowhere in the text. Christ repeats this several different ways in that chapter. Now, Christ doesn’t use the word election, but neither did I; I’m not talking about the question of election from eternity, but rather your question of whether people’s stubborness precede God’s giving them up. Clearly, in John 6, God gives people up and THEN they stubbornly refuse to come to Christ; furthermore, everyone whom God draws does come to Christ, and none of those ones perish. Nobody comes without being allowed, everyone who is drawn comes, all of those are raised up on the last day.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      I still don’t think the core of my divine exasperation question is being addressed. Can God legitimately *command* repentance if he doesn’t give persons grace to do so?

      But God MUST command all persons everywhere to repent, because repentance from sin is the right thing to do. Are you implying that God MUST give grace to repent to everyone? If so, what does the word “grace” mean? The Roman Catholics use the word to denote the power of God to save; but the actual Biblical meaning of the word is “a freely given favor”. This is why Paul says in Rom 11:6 “if by works, then not of grace; otherwise grace is no longer grace,” and also says in Rom 4:4 “…not of grace but due to obligation.” If one is obligated to give, then the thing one gives cannot be called grace (it could perhaps be justice, or perhaps wages).

      Thus, I conclude that God must indeed be able to command without giving grace.

      Shouldn’t God be just as delighted with one sinner that repents as he is with one sinner that is damned?

      More delighted! But don’t forget, God does damn sinners.

      Is God willing that MANY perish and NOT come to repentance/the knowledge of the truth

      If He were not willing, would it happen? Is there anyone who can thwart God’s will or plans?

      that opposite of what appears to be the plain meaning of 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Timothy 2:4?

      2 Pet 3:9 is fairly clear: the entire context is talking about “us”, so that God does not want any (of us) to perish, and so He delays until we are all gathered in.

      1 Tim 2:4 is (I admit) harder; but the usual response to your challenge is that it’s talking about all classes of men, both the oppressed and the rulers (who are currently oppressing the Christians). This isn’t clear from the text itself, but it’s clearly possible, since otherwise Paul’s exhortation to pray for kings and authorities (specifically) seems…

    • Michael

      There is a clear difference between “you” and “your children.” He could have easily said “How often I wanted to gather you together”, but he didn’t. Instead He used “your children”, and for good reason. Nolland (NIGTC) says

      “How comprehensively are we meant to take this assertion of Jerusalem’s refusal of the divine initiative in the person of Jesus, and in what context are we to set it? Clearly, as generally with its OT counterparts, the prophetic accusation and threat of judgment here operate at the collective level and are consistent with the existence of dissenting voices. But at this stage of Matthew’s story we hardly have a Jerusalem standing solidly against Jesus. The material from Mt. 21:12–22:46 has portrayed a Jerusalem leadership solidly united against Jesus, but not at all a people united against him. The picture is of people very impressed by Jesus and drawn to him. We have to reach further on in the story to find that ultimately the people will follow their leaders and turn against Jesus (27:20–25). 23:37–38 seem to anticipate this final state of affairs rather than to relate to the immediate Matthean setting (in line with this, ἀπʼ ἄρτι [‘from now on’] in v. 39 takes us, in anticipation, to the very end of Jesus’ life).”

      Nolland, J. (2005). The Gospel of Matthew : A commentary on the Greek text (951). Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.

    • wm tanksley

      …seems unsupported by the surrounding text. (Ouch, SO close.)

      -Wm

    • Michael

      “…seems unsupported by the surrounding text. (Ouch, SO close.)”

      This is in response to who?

    • wm tanksley

      Michael, my post #22 got truncated right near the end, so I pasted the very end in and hit “post”. The result posted in #24.

      Sorry for the confusion, and for the slightly too long post. I’m getting better — I used to post three and four-part replies.

      -Wm

    • Hodge

      Can God legitimately *command* repentance if he doesn’t give persons grace to do so?

      Of course He can. A person’s lack of repentance is due to their lack of love for God. God is not obligated to free a person from their slavery to self in order to legitimately command them to stop loving themselves. Why would you suppose that He is? A person has the capacity to love God instead of self. He or she does not have the ability to throw off the love of self that has been both chosen by the individual and Adam. There is a vast distinction there. In the first, the question answers what a human has the ability to do in a possible situation. The second answers what a person is able to do given their sinful situation. God commands based on the first for the purpose of desiring good instead of evil to be performed in the world, and on the second, for the purpose of their damnation.

      Shouldn’t God be just as delighted with one sinner that repents as he is with one sinner that is damned?

      Why? We might say that God is delighted in the overcoming of chaotic agents, but still saddened by their destruction, since they potentially could have been something else. We might then say that His delight in their damnation is to a lesser degree in terms of their fate, but to a greater degree in terms of overcoming chaos and using them as vehicles to save His people via their knowing Him through the damnation of those persons.

      Is God willing that MANY perish and NOT come to repentance/the knowledge of the truth—that opposite of what appears to be the plain meaning of 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Timothy 2:4?

      If God was willing the MANY come to repentance instead of being damned, would you not expect Him to do more, like show Himself through many miracles to all generations? Show himself to the masses like Christ did to Paul and Thomas? Why play this faith game when faith obviously isn’t believing without persuasion through sight? Paul had true faith, did he not?

    • Hodge

      Why doesn’t Christ just come down and do everything He can to convince the masses? Why does God not put people in Christian families and countries? Why leave some in places where they will never hear?

      Do these verses “plainly” say this, or do they say this if you drive quickly by without stopping to take a look closely at the context? The supposed “plain” meaning is usually the one that gives little to no reflection of what is being said in context. It may say one thing or the other, but I would not make the “plain meaning” argument, as it is simply an assertion that your interpretation is true and the other plainly false. What in these texts indicates that the all in 1 Peter is not talking about the group he is addressing, and the all in 1 Timothy is not talking about all classes of people?

      Finally, Paul, I really would like your honest take on the “plain reading” John 12:39-40. I seem to never get a response on this passage from those who see God as trying to do everything He can to save people. If that’s so, why harden them even after they have hardened themselves? Why not do everything He can to save them? Perhaps, they’ll use their free will and believe in Him if He would only give them more grace and more time and less opposition to their believing by hardening them?

    • Hodge

      BTW, I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this, but we ought to also discuss why Arminian and RC theology makes grace into a substance that gives power to a person, rather than a positional gift given by God that results in salvation and therefore gives power from that relationship with God to serve Him.

    • Paul Copan

      PART I:

      Thanks to you all for your engagement. I’m glad you more rigorously engaged—and you all did so ever so graciously!

      As for Mt. 23, there are plenty of other commentators besides France who make this point. For instance, Craig Blomberg states that Jesus “wishes he could gather all the recalcitrant ‘children’ of Israel”; while Jesus “wanted” repentance, “unbelieving Israel” chose its own fate: “you did not want” (Matthew NAC [1992], 350). D.A. Carson (a Calvinistic compatibilist himself) says that “Jerusalem” is a “metonymy including all Jews” (“Matthew” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary [ 1984], 487). This is just a sampling of the many commentators who take this view.

      Ironically, this view of Carson, Blomberg, France and others certainly supports the very point that compatibilist Calvinists make about Romans 9-11—namely, that most ethnic Jews are hardened by God and thereby prevented from repentance. (Of course, I would disagree with this read on Romans 9-11; instead, we see the theme of divine exasperation toward human hard-heartedness (stage one) that that gives way to divine hardening (stage two). For example, see Romans 10:21: “But about Israel he says, ‘All day long I held out my hands to this disobedient and stubborn people!’”

    • Paul Copan

      PART II:

      As for John 12, Hodge, I think the context (which you rightly argue is very important) is very telling. Just prior to the quotation from Isaiah 6, Jesus said, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” The text indicates that Jesus’ hearers are not condemned to walk in darkness but that all without exception can come into the light. Jesus has just admonished them to head toward the light rather than remain in blindness. That is, the very persons God hardens are those Christ tells them to believe while they have the Light “so that you may become children of Light.”

      The text goes on to add that Jesus’ signs were being ignored and suppressed. Yet Christ earlier declared to the Jewish leaders that they should believe based on these signs he was performing: “but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father” (John 10:38). Humans harden themselves and resist God’s gracious Spirit (Acts 7:51 [no irresistible grace there!]), and then God may harden them further (if he sovereignly chooses) by letting people have their own way and further removing the possibility of repentance. But the process begins with self-initiated hardening.

    • Paul Copan

      PART III:

      This is the same theme Mark 3 and 4 underscores. In Mark 3:5, Jesus looks around at the religious leaders with anger, “grieved at their hardness of heart.” This is human self-hardening—Part one of the process. (We could ask: why grieve if God the Father has made repentance impossible anyway?) In chapter 4:10-11 (quoting Isaiah 6), we see Part Two of the hardening process—God’s adding his own hardening to already hardened hearts.

      As for the question, “Why doesn’t God/Christ do everything to convince the masses?” Well, as I mentioned earlier in the post, people can see lots of signs and wonders and still refuse to believe—like Israel in Egypt and the wilderness or like the religious leaders in John 11 who see a raised Lazarus and want to kill him along with Jesus! Note Jesus’ words in Luke 16:31: “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” Again, we get back to divine exasperation—like Isaiah 5: What more is God to do than he has already done to foster conditions for repentance and moral and spiritual fruitfulness?

    • Paul Copan

      PART IV:

      Why can’t 1 Tim. 2:4 be talking about all without distinction (e.g., classes of people) rather than all without exception? Well, 1 Timothy 4:10 (harking back to God’s desire for all to be saved in 2:4) indicates that Christ is the Savior all people, especially of believers. (It’s like John 3:16, which is comprehensive and not restricted to “all kinds of human classes in the world.” “World” in John’s Gospel tells against such an artificially imposed reading [cp. the “whole world” in 1 John 2:2 with 1 John 5:9].)

      As with 1 Tim. 2:4, restricting 2 Peter 3:9 to believers is likewise overturned by 2 Peter 2:1, where false teachers deny “the Master who bought them.” 1 Peter 3:20 talks about God’s longsuffering attitude toward those who would die in the flood—that repentance was held out to them as well. It seems theologically strained to say “any” in 2 Peter 3:9 is restricted to (future) saints. As in 1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Peter implies that salvation (and thus repentance) is made available to all without exception.

    • Paul Copan

      PART V:

      Is God obligated to give grace to people he commands to repent because repentance is the right thing to do? We all acknowledge God is obligated to save no one. It’s not that he “must” make repentance available to all by opening people’s eyes and convicting them. We are all unworthy of salvation. But that’s not truly germane to the discussion at hand. Rather, the very command *assumes* God that graciously provides opportunity; that’s why he can rightly expect to judge people for refusing to repent—because they *could have* repented. Note the passage of Jezebel in Revelation 2: Christ gives her the opportunity to repent, but she refuses. Even in Genesis 4, God reminds Cain grace is available to resist sin and not be mastered by it. No Calvinistic compatibilism here, it appears. A relational God repeatedly provides gracious opportunities for human persons to repent (this hardly turns grace into a substance!); God expects them to show the fruits of repentance: But when [John] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance…’” (Matthew 3:7-8).

      As for God’s delight over a sinner’s condemnation, I find it strange that God should even be “saddened” (Hodge). God has deliberately created them without any legitimate basis to warrant repentance. Why the sadness? As I quoted Ezekiel above, God doesn’t desire the death of the wicked *but rather* that the wicked turn from his ways and live. God asks: “Why will you die?” Surely the compatibilistic Calvinistic answer (of God saying “because I’m not allowing you to repent”) goes utterly contrary to the text.

      I’ll need to devote the next week and a half to meeting writing deadlines and teaching intensively. I’ll get back to your comments as I am able.

    • wm tanksley

      D.A. Carson (a Calvinistic compatibilist himself) says that “Jerusalem” is a “metonymy including all Jews”

      The only reference I can find in Google Books for that phrase applies that metonymy to those whom Jesus longed to gather, not those to whom Jesus was speaking.

      Christ is reasonably clear about whom he’s speaking. One group He’s cursing for not being willing; He identifies them as those who killed the prophets. The other group He’s indicating a desire to gather together and protect. The second group did not want God’s action to gather the first group.

      Looking more closely at this passage, the terms Christ uses seem to be more related to the Mosaic covenant (social salvation) than to the Abrahamic covenant promise (personal salvation). Look at Deuteronomy 30, in which the promises involve scattering and gathering. Look at the sayings of the prophets (the ones Jerusalem killed), which primarily called the nation to obedience to the Mosaic covenant.

      It seems to me that by the terms of the Mosaic Covenant, God promised to gather and/or scatter the Jews based on their communal observation of the terms of the covenant. The problem here isn’t that none of the Jews wanted God to gather them; the problem is that some of the Jews did NOT obey the covenant, and killed the messengers God sent, thus invoking the curse of the Mosaic covenant, which meant scattering among the nations rather than gathering into the Land.

      And what happened in 70AD, in addition to destroying the Temple and the last opportunity to practice the Mosaic covenant, was the scattering of Israel.

      So by a covenantal reading (which is Calvinistic), this isn’t about whether or not God desires to save all or some; it’s about why God was about to scatter the nation of Israel.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      (Ha, I was referring to the author of Romans as “Paul”, when I noticed the first name of the person to whom I’m responding. I changed that to “St. Paul” to hopefully reduce confusion — not implying at all that our own Paul is no saint!!!)

      instead, we see the theme of divine exasperation toward human hard-heartedness (stage one) that that gives way to divine hardening (stage two).

      We don’t see that in Romans 9 at all (if you do, I challenge you to reveal it). Rather, we see it contradicted, for example by Esau, with whom God was “exasperated” (not God’s word, but yours) before he’d done anything right or wrong.

      Now, Esau WAS hard-hearted, and disdained his birthright; but St. Paul says God rejected him prior to this or any other evil act.

      For example, see Romans 10:21: “But about Israel he says, ‘All day long I held out my hands to this disobedient and stubborn people!’”

      This passage in Romans is a reiteration of the very beginning in Romans 1. St. Paul is actually saying that people know about their creator, and that they should trust in Him. Rom 10:21 narrows that down to the Jews, who were supposed to be a light to the Gentiles, and who directly received the Law and Light God gave. St. Paul’s point isn’t that God got exasperated; rather, Paul is quoting that to show that God indeed gave the Word to all people, Jews and Gentiles.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Regarding John 12:

      The text indicates that Jesus’ hearers are not condemned to walk in darkness but that all without exception can come into the light.

      This is eisegesis: the text omits mentioning anything about what you’re saying. Christ doesn’t say “all without exception” or “all”. What He does is urge His hearers to walk in the light as it’s with them. One might think that He was talking about His own earthly ministry — except that His next action was to “hide from them.” The people he’s talking to are Greeks; Jesus’ ministry was always first to the Jews. He promised — with a major sign, a voice from heaven — that His death would herald a major change, the drawing of all men unto Him (which I think means, all men rather than just the Jews). Either way, the whole passage can’t mean that light is offered to all: first because He gave promises that were clearly for after His death; and second because He hid from them.

      By the way, I see a translational and textual difference in different versions. In the Greek for “while you have the light”, the Greek word we see as “while” is usually translated “as”. (The KJV lists a completely different Greek word meaning “while” that isn’t listed as a variant anywhere I can find.) There’s a difference: “while” implies that the people have light now and might lose it; “as” implies that the people may or may not be given light.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Humans harden themselves and resist God’s gracious Spirit (Acts 7:51 [no irresistible grace there!]), […] But the process begins with self-initiated hardening.

      First, not everything the Spirit does is saving grace, which is what Calvinists claim is irresistible. God also sends rain to water the crops, and that’s resistible by means of asphalt :-).

      Second, how does a verse that says “you always resist the Holy Spirit” prove that the hardening was self-initiated? It doesn’t say anything about the initiation of the resistance; it merely says that they always resist.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      This is the same theme Mark 3 and 4 underscores. In Mark 3:5, Jesus looks around at the religious leaders with anger, “grieved at their hardness of heart.” This is human self-hardening—Part one of the process.

      This passage doesn’t say that! There’s no hint that it’s human self-hardening or divine action or anything else.

      (We could ask: why grieve if God the Father has made repentance impossible anyway?)

      God hasn’t made repentance impossible — He’s commanded it, and provided the means. Yet we refuse to repent. Why? Because we hardened ourself? Then why did we do that? The final answer is because our hearts are evil; we are slaves to sin.

      And why grieve? How can one not grieve?

      In chapter 4:10-11 (quoting Isaiah 6), we see Part Two of the hardening process—God’s adding his own hardening to already hardened hearts.

      But here we see not God adding hardening, but rather God explicitly refusing to give information to people even when He was talking directly to them, in order that they not “hear and be saved”. This is a microscopic example of the broad problem of the uninformed pagan: why doesn’t God give the gospel in detail to everyone? Jesus is doing on a small scale what God does throughout history.

      Your arguments against Calvinism seem to argue MORE against Christ’s own words there; His words on whom He’s willing to save are MUCH stronger there than Calvin’s words on the nature of man’s will.

      Christ stands there, sees the people, says, “if I spoke clearly these people would hear and be saved,” and then He speaks unclearly.

      -Wm

    • Hodge

      Paul,

      Thanks for your engagement of the passage I offered up. I appreciate your willingness to address it. Most Arminians I speak with don’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole, so I’m glad you took it on.

      You said: “The text indicates that Jesus’ hearers are not condemned to walk in darkness but that all without exception can come into the light. Jesus has just admonished them to head toward the light rather than remain in blindness. That is, the very persons God hardens are those Christ tells them to believe while they have the Light “so that you may become children of Light.”

      I think its the inference that you make from most of what you’ve cited, both here and in other texts, that because a command is given, and God desires His commands to be obeyed, that it must presuppose man’s free will to obey them. Am I right in making that observation?
      I think, however, that most Arminians will agree with Calvinists that God must have two wills, one that wills nothing but good to be performed in His universe and one that wills His plan be worked out through the choices of the humans He creates, including their sinful choices. If this is the case, we cannot assume that any command that God really desires to be obeyed based on His moral will implies that humans are freed from their slavery of sin to make a choice for good or evil.
      If humans have the ability to do good or evil given a certain situation, then His commands are directed toward that, whether to save or condemn the individual for that choice. However, it is clear that humans are bound by the situation they are in, i.e., love of self/ the sin nature. As such, His commands harden instead of save those who could be saved given the situation of effectual grace (the point of our disagreement).
      So back to the text:

    • Hodge

      What we really need to decide is whether your interpretation or mine is more probable linguistically, grammatically, etc. I think in determining context by using the previous statements you did, we need to remember that those statements also have a context provided by our current passage. In other words, our passage itself is a part of their context. We cannot interpret them apart from it, and then attempt to re-interpret our passage based on taking those other “contexts” out of context. I hope that makes sense.
      So what does this passage actually say? Does it actually show that you have interpreted Jesus’ previous commands correctly in assuming that they show God looking to save all without exception?

      Here is my question, which wasn’t really addressed in your comments, since I agree that man first hardens himself in his sin. Why does God not just leave him alone, or try to save him anymore if He really wants him saved?
      Better yet, let’s listen to the passage. According to the text, why do they not believe? Because they choice to not believe? Because they loved darkness rather than light? We all agree that these are true and can be found elsewhere in John. The point, however, is regarding John’s/Jesus’ reasoning as to why they do not believe, why they do not love the light more than the darkness? The answer is clear in the text: They could not believe. Why could they not believe? Because God had hardened them so that they would not. Notice, this seems to imply that if God had not hardened them, but had gone the other way in trying to save them, they would repent and believe and God would deliver them. So it is God who has kept them from believing. They do not believe because God blinded them and made them deaf to His truth. Is that not what it says? In context, then, the previous (and subsequent) commands do not imply that humans are able to obey in the situation they are in (i.e., fallen and in a slobbering love affair with the rule of themselves).

    • Hodge

      Part IV

      Again, context is important for 1 Tim and 1 Pet. In 1 Tim, Paul just gets done commanding the churches to pray for men in all stations of life, not just lowly and powerless, who many might think were the only ones saved. Paul’s point is that all classes of men are desired by God to be saved, not just some classes. That seems to have greater explanatory power in the context.
      Again, in 1 Pet, God is patient toward whom? The world? All people? The text says that God is patient toward “you.” Who is the “you” in the context? Maybe the diaspora Christians directly, all Christians generally; but it would seems a bit of a stretch to suggest that the “you” is the entire world. So He is patient toward the Church, wishing none of it to perish, but all of it to come to repentance (by “Church,” of course, I refer to the individuals who make it up).
      I appreciate the use of Scripture interpreting Scripture by using 2 Pet, but the truth is, Paul, that many people do this in a way that rips individual verses out of context when they don’t like the context they’re given. 2 Pet is simply a different context and does not provide us with one for 1 Pet. We can discuss that verse, as I do not believe in limited atonement, but the context here is referring to the believers he is addressing.

      ““Why doesn’t God/Christ do everything to convince the masses?” Well, as I mentioned earlier in the post, people can see lots of signs and wonders and still refuse to believe—like Israel in Egypt and the wilderness or like the religious leaders in John 11 ”

      Well, yes, some may not; but in an Arminian framework, would you not suppose that some might if He did more? Are we really going to say that Paul would have believed anyway had Christ not appeared to him so dramatically? Why not give Christopher Hitchens that opportunity?

      BTW: The Luke 16 passage is talking about believing the Scriptures so as to do good works and take care of the poor, not believing the…

    • Hodge

      “As for God’s delight over a sinner’s condemnation, I find it strange that God should even be “saddened” (Hodge). God has deliberately created them without any legitimate basis to warrant repentance. Why the sadness?”

      I think if you grasp my distinction between what a human has the ability to do given the right situation and what a human can do in a fallen state, then you can see why God is saddened by the choosing of chaos and evil over order and good and the potential that person could have been if not in love with the self. He has not created them that way. That’s a misunderstanding of what we are saying. They have created themselves that way. God has created them upright. They chose what they did. God now chooses to direct it toward His purposes and leave them in their corruption and unbelief. That’s a big difference.

    • Hodge

      LOL. I just realized my head isn’t screwed on straight today. We are talking about 2 Pet not 1 Pet. I apologize for that unwarranted rebuke, Paul. I do think that we shouldn’t import one section of a book to another as its immediate context, but do apologize for suggesting you were not in the right book when in fact that was me. 🙂 Maybe I should actually pay attention to what I’m doing? 🙂 Sorry about that.

    • Michael T.

      WM and Hodge,

      If God commanded that in order to be avoid eternal damnation one must throw themselves off the Sear’s Tower and survive would this be just?? I do not see how God can command something with his desirative will and then determine that it be impossible for humans to actually do what he has commanded with his determinitive will. You’ve created a God who is at best schizophrenic. He desires that we all repent but then works both passively and actively to ensure that this will not happen. This is absurd.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      The NET Bible would seem to agree and disagree with you on 2 Peter 3:9.

      “This verse has been a battleground between Arminians and Calvinists. The former argue that God wants all people to be saved, but either through inability or restriction of his own sovereignty does not interfere with peoples’ wills. Some of the latter argue that the “any” here means “any of you” and that all the elect will repent before the return of Christ, because this is God’s will. Both of these positions have problems. The “any” in this context means “any of you.” (This can be seen by the dependent participle which gives the reason why the Lord is patient “toward you.”) There are hints throughout this letter that the readership may be mixed, including both true believers and others who are “sitting on the fence” as it were. But to make the equation of this readership with the elect is unlikely. This would seem to require, in its historical context, that all of these readers would be saved…….When an apostle or pastor addresses a group as “Christian” he does not necessarily think that every individual in the congregation is truly a Christian. Thus, the literary context seems to be against the Arminian view, while the historical context seems to be against (one representation of) the Calvinist view.”

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      I just don’t find your interpretation of 1 Timothy 2 here at all plausible. Paul tells them to pray for “all people”. He then goes on to list some people that believers might (given the circumstances) be tempted to leave out before saying repeating his earlier exhortation and giving as the reason that God wants “all people” to be saved.

      Now clearly the first time he uses “all people” in vs.1 it means “all people” not merely all types of people. It is not telling me to make sure I pray for the governor of my State (because I like him) and not pray for the President of the U.S. (because I don’t like him), rather it is saying to pray for all people period. I see no logical reason to see why we should read the second use of “all people” (same Greek word) any different. The part about Kings and those who are in authority in vs.2 is simply a warning to believers to not leave out of their prayers those who they might given the circumstances be tempted to leave out. In vs.3 Paul then refers back to the “all people” in vs.1 stating “such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior”. He then goes on to state the reason for this, “since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”.

      Your interpretation here seems to have Paul using the same word to mean two completely different things in the same passage and even more or less in the same sentence, “prayer for all….since he wants all people”. It seems ridiculous to think that Paul in the same sentences means all by the first use of “all” when referring back to verse 1 and “all types of people” by the second use.

      Now maybe the English here is just messed up, but reading the NET translation of this verse and reading the notes I can’t see how anyone could come the the conclusion that “all people” in verse 4 means “all types of people”.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      “He desires that we all repent but then works both passively and actively to ensure that this will not happen. This is absurd.”

      So you don’t believe this? Here’s why your system is no different.

      Calvinist:

      1. God desires nothing but good to be done and for all to repent (moral will).
      2. God desires that the world be filled with evil in order to accomplish His purposes.
      Therefore, God has two wills.

      Arminian:

      1. God desires nothing but good to be done and for all to repent (moral will).
      2. God desires that humans have free will to choose, and therefore, chooses to have a world filled with evil for that purpose
      Therefore, God has two wills.

      The only difference is found within the reason why God chooses to have the universe the way that He does. I probably could add to each a premise that states that God is all powerful and can make everyone do good. Hence, He desires that nothing but good be done, is all powerful to make His will come about, but does not make nothing but good come about. How is your system different?

    • Hodge

      I think it’s a given that when the apostles address the churches to which they are writing they are speaking to the elect, not those they see as false brethren. However, they do not know who these are, so they speak to the church as a pastor would, assuming that their audience makes up the elect (hence, Paul says to the Ephesians that they were elect; he is not saying the unbelievers there area also elect; same with Peter, etc.).

      “I just don’t find your interpretation of 1 Timothy 2 here at all plausible. Paul tells them to pray for “all people”. He then goes on to list some people that believers might (given the circumstances) be tempted to leave out before saying repeating his earlier exhortation and giving as the reason that God wants “all people” to be saved.”

      Well, sure, if you beg the question and assume that “all means all and that’s all that it means.” The problem is that pas doesn’t just mean all in the collective sense that we often use our English word. Most ancient languages don’t use their words for “all” this way. Take kol in Hebrew for example. God sends one plague and wipes out “all” of the livestock. Then He sends another after that that affects all of the livestock. How is it that they were all killled, but now suffer from a new plague? Greek is the same. The word has a variety of nuances. It can mean, “all,” “all sorts of,” “all classes or kinds of,” “all of you,” “any,” “any of you,” “a representative majority of a group,” etc. It depends upon the context. That’s why when people groups are mentioned, “all” should more often be understood as “all classes of,” or “all sorts of people,” not all people without exception. You also create a conflict between Paul and John, since John tells the people that they are not to pray for the salvation of all people (specifically, the person who is guilty of an unforgivable sin).

    • Hodge

      If you look at what I said, I already addressed the use of all in the first verse and in the fourth. They both should be translated “all classes/kinds of people.” That’s the context. That’s also why we understand that pas “all” in 1 Tim 4:10 is not a support of universalism, since it says that Christ is actually the Savior of “all kinds of men, specifically (malista) speaking of believers.” Immediately afterward, Paul tells Timothy, therefore, to not allow anyone to look down on his youthful state (i.e., a different class of people in distinction to others).

      Something I’ve never understood about the Arminian interpretation of 2 Pet though. Are you saying that the text is indicating that time is the factor in the repentance of unbelievers? In other words, Peter’s argument is that Christ has not yet come back because God is being patient toward you, desiring that none should perish, but all come to repentance. So if it is a matter of time that could bring all to repentance, and that is why Christ is waiting, then why not give them more time, since He desires all to be saved, and time itself somehow will allow more of them to be saved? What an odd interpretation that flips the text on its head. By that logic, Peter should tell us that Christ really loves the world and will never come back, since, perhaps, more will come to him if given more time. He ought to also extend their lifespans, and not allow any children or young unbelieving men or women to die at a young age. Did God not care if they perished? I think this is an awful interpretation of something that is very clearly talking about believers, and very clearly can only make sense in a Calvinistic system, since God, not time, will be the One who decides when they will be born and when they will repent, and therefore, has no need to send Christ back immediately until His plan of their lives and salvation is fulfilled.

    • Hodge

      I did forget to address Paul’s comment about the word “world.” This comment that views John’s use of world as all encompassing is rejected by every NT scholar I know. The reason why is that kosmos has multiple referents, not simply one. That’s why we don’t argue this way. It creates absurdities. For instance, if world has the same referent in John 3:16 as it does in 1 John 2:15, then we must say that God loves the world and all who love the world do not have the Father in them; therefore, God does not have the Father in Him. Obviously, kosmos has two different referents even in the same book, since Jesus dies for the world, but not the world as the enemy of God that is filled with the lust of the flesh (i.e., not as a spirit or pattern of evil thinking and practice), but for people. John’s use in 3:16 tells us in that very verse that Christ is talking about believers made up from both Jews and the Nations (i.e., the world). Hence, he states that “the believing ones” will not perish but have everlasting life. This is consistent with 1:10-13, where the world does not know Him, but whoever is not born of flesh and blood, or by the will of man, but by the will of God, believe.

    • Hodge

      “It is not telling me to make sure I pray for the governor of my State (because I like him) and not pray for the President of the U.S. (because I don’t like him), rather it is saying to pray for all people period.”

      I think it is saying to pray for all classes of men, kings and those in authority, precisely because the early Christians would have seen these men as rejected by God, and not a part of the elect. Hence, he refutes this by stating that Christians are to pray for all kinds of men, not just ones in the lower strati.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      1. There are not two wills in Arminianism because the desires are consistent with each other. I can desire that my kids use their free will to love me, and not (assuming we are 1000 years in the future here) altering their brain to force them to love me is consistent with this desire. There is no competing desires here. In the same way God desires that we use our free will to repent and do good. Notice that there is only one statement. In Calvinism on the other hand the two wills are diametrically opposed to one another. On one hand God desires all to repent and do good and on the other hand He is both actively and passively ensuring that this doesn’t happen.

      2. “I think it’s a given that when the apostles address the churches to which they are writing they are speaking to the elect, not those they see as false brethren. ”

      It would appear that the NET disagrees with you and it doesn’t seem at all evident to me.

      3. “I think it is saying to pray for all classes of men, kings and those in authority, precisely because the early Christians would have seen these men as rejected by God, and not a part of the elect. Hence, he refutes this by stating that Christians are to pray for all kinds of men, not just ones in the lower strati.”

      This is ultimately not responsive to my argument. Are you saying that we aren’t supposed to pray for “all people”, but rather simply ensure we pray for some people of every class (as in my example where I pray for one government official, but not another). I don’t think this passage make sense if that is the meeting. People would simply do what their instincts tell them – pray for those I like, and leave out those I don’t like – if a government official happens to be someone I like so be it.

      4. As to your questions regarding 2 Peter 3 there are so many assumptions about what God does and does not directly control that I don’t know where to start.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      Let me say this more clearly:

      God desires that only good exist in the universe (will call this desire Y).
      God is all powerful and can prevent evil from existing.
      God allows evil to exist because He desires X that is in conflict with desire Y.
      I’m sorry, but you don’t escape it by simply saying that God desires us to have free will and love Him. God desires that no evil exist. Yet, He allows evil to exist in the Arminian system. They are in conflict. I’d take back the schizo comment, since it’s a slander to all deities involved.

      “It would appear that the NET disagrees with you and it doesn’t seem at all evident to me.”

      I think Strong’s may disagree with me too. And now so do you. Maybe also the ladies Bible club down the street. Maybe you can address why Peter and Paul say to their audiences that they are the elect of God if in fact they are not talking to the elect of God. This is getting pretty absurd, Michael.

      “This is ultimately not responsive to my argument. Are you saying that we aren’t supposed to pray for “all people”, but rather simply ensure we pray for some people of every class (as in my example where I pray for one government official, but not another).”

      No, I’m saying that this passage isn’t teaching that. It’s teaching that people need to pray for government officials (those who are viewed as in power and either in no need of prayer or the oppressors of the saved), not just the poor and powerless, as many of the early Christians may have assumed given their dispositions in Roman society in the 50s and 60s. You seem to be thinking that this is saying something about praying for one government leader versus another. It’s one social group versus another. Paul is saying not to discriminate based on social status, but to pray for all types of people.
      But I do say that you have Paul contradict John if you make it without exception.

    • Hodge

      “As to your questions regarding 2 Peter 3 there are so many assumptions about what God does and does not directly control that I don’t know where to start.”

      Let me suggest that you start by answering my question: “Does your interpretation make time a determining factor in someone repenting?” In other words, if someone is given more time, is it more likely that they will repent, and if so, why does God, who desires every single person to be saved, not give them more time, either in lengthening their lifespans or by not coming back indefinitely? And yes, I do assume that God has control over life and death. I believe I read that some where. 😉

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      Your insistence that John 3:16 only refers to the elect, the believers, certainly is not obvious in that verse as you seem to think it is.

      For the bazillions of Christians like me that learned that verse when we were just small children and were told that it meant God loves everyone in the world, that has been the obvious meaning all of our lives. And obviously it was the obvious meaning to all of those that had gone on before us. None of them took the verse to mean, John’s use in 3:16 tells us in that very verse that Christ is talking about believers made up from both Jews and the Nations (i.e., the world), as you have stated.

      It seems to me that an a priori belief in Calvinism is the only reason one would have to assume that verse to mean what you say that it does.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      It also seems to me that something is being overlooked here in the I Timothy 2 discussion. The specific reason we are told to pray for kings and all in authority is so, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

      It doesn’t seem to me that Paul is saying to pray for all people groups to be saved. It is only after he says to pray for all in authority so that we can live quietly, peacably and in all godliness and honesty that he goes on to say that he wants all men to be saved.

      I think equating all people groups including those in authority to the all men he wants to be saved here may be a rather forced and arbitrary reading. After all, there is a very specific reason he listed the people group of those in authority specifially here. It doesn’t seem to me that it follows that the all men referred to elsewhere in this section means all people groups.

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      Actually, it’s knowing Greek and understanding the context to which I alluded before that causes me to say this. Originally, the Geneva Bible (a Calvinist Bible btw) translated this way as an understanding of the context. What has been lost is the context, so we replace it with our a priori Arminian assumptions instead (btw, I concluded this about the passage before I became a Calvinist). This is not even to mention that if you take John 3:16 the way that you learned it as a VBS student, you end up having Christ contradict Himself, since here you say He indicates that everyone can come to Him without exception, and in John 6, He explicitly states that not everyone can come to Him.

      v. 3 in 1 Tim 2, connects the two. The “this” is good and acceptable to God. To what does the “this” refer? It refers back to the entire command. This is supported by the neuter. So what he says is connected to God desiring all sorts of men to be saved, not just certain types (i.e., those who are oppressed or in low positions in society).

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      I am curious about something. From your last statement I gather that you didn’t grow up as a Calvinist but became one later after being an Arminian. Is that correct?

      If so, how did you deal with your whole understanding of God’s character and your concept of Him being turned upside down and in some ways being practically 180 degrees different then what you had understood Him to be like in the past?

      Frankly, God as understood by Calvinism is vastly different then God as understood by Arminianism. Frighteningly different even.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      1. I think the question is does God really desire that no evil exist given the cost of ensuring this? Let me give an example. Right now I would love to buy a Lamborghini. However, the debt I would be in for the rest of my life and the other things I wouldn’t be able to buy if I did this prevent me from buying the Lamborghini. Now do I have two wills?? Or do I simply have desires that conflict and one is stronger then the other. My simple point with this is that in Arminianism God does not have two wills. He has two desires one of which is greater then the other. He desires that there be no evil, but has a greater desire that humans choose to follow Him with their own free will. In Calvinism on the other hand he desires all to repent on one hand and then works actively to ensure that doesn’t happen. Now I can think of ways to harmonize these, but none that don’t make God a monster (and therefore not God). Ultimately Calvinism has to posit some hidden will (or desires) of God which overrides His will revealed in Scripture.

      2. Hodge my simply point with pointing out the NET here is that you come on to these forums with a air of superiority because you know this or that. In this case it would appear that world class scholars, not some grandmas tea party down the street, disagree with you on your interpretation (and the NET is no Arminian translation btw). They seem to think when Paul uses “elect” here is is making a generic greeting in the same way a pastor might use “brothers and sisters” in a sermon. Of course I will just bow to the mighty intellect of Hodge which knows more then all the worlds Bible scholars combined.

      3. What verse in John are you saying this contradicts?

    • Michael T.

      4. The question isn’t whether or not God sets the begginnings or endings of life, but rather, assuming the existence of LFW, does he give any deference to the wills of men in doing so. So if someone and their wife using LFW decide to have sex tonight at the right moment to ensure pregnancy will God in his foreknowledge give any deference to this decision in determining when life begins. Conversely if someone uses their LFW to go jump off a bridge tonight will God use his foreknowledge of that decision in setting the end point of that persons life.

      As to your direct question I think time is a determining factor to an extant. One could certainly make this case if one is a premillenial dispensationalist and believes the world is headed to hell in a handbasket. God could be as far as we know intentionally delaying the second coming until the moment past which He knows no more people could have possibly come to Christ then already have. However this need not be neccessary, maybe he’s instead waiting for the time of maximal ratio – where the percentage of all humanity that will be saved will be the highest. Or possibly God recognizes that people as they grow older often become set in their ways and that no amount of signs or time would change them. I think if Jesus Christ appeared to Richard Dawkins right now Dawkins would either explain it as a hallucination or a really powerful space alien. Nothing could change his mind.

      On the other hand I’m not sure how Calvinists avoid time being a factor either. God knows those who will repent and is waiting to come until everyone he knows will repent has repented. This isn’t that different from some of the options above.

    • Michael T.

      5. Hodge, I’m sorry on the 1 Tim. 2 I can’t find anything to indicate that this should be thought of as meaning anything other than “all people” in the first use and I can furthermore find no reason that it should be thought of any differently in the second use. Paul is telling us to pray for all people inclusive of the leaders (who as you rightly point out the people might be tempted to leave out). Even the title of the passage in most Bibles is “prayer for all people”. If your interpretation was better all these translations could have put “prayer for all people groups” and avoided the misunderstanding, but I can’t find even a note supporting this understanding. To even try to get your perspective on this I went and read James White’s exegesis on this passage here http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=3018. It was filled with more non-sequitar’s then I could count. It is quite apparent that the only compelling reason to accept “all people groups” as the interpretation is that one already accepts Calvinism.

      6. On John 6 Arminians have no problem understanding these verses in light of prevenient grace. We all agree that without God drawing us we would be unable to find Him of our own accord.

    • Paul Copan

      ‘Just a quick comment to insert into the conversation (which is about all I have time for!): Wm. and Hodge, thanks for your thoughtful comments and engagement point for point! Michael T., wow, you’re doing all the heavy lifting for me! I appreciate it. As I wrote, I’m working on various pressing matters such as meeting writing deadlines and preparing for my upcoming week of intensive teaching on biblical ethics out in California.

      I’ll try to catch up after 1 November—just as I begin preparations in earnest for four presentations at meetings in Atlanta mid-month!

      Blessings to you all!

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      Did you not state sometime back that you believe in double predestination? Please correct me if I am remembering wrong. It makes a difference in the point I am trying to make here.

      If you believe in double predestination and the fact that most people are not going to be in heaven (as understood from such contexts as Jesus discussion on the narrow way that leads to life and the broad way that leads to destruction and the fact that few find the narrow way), you have a scenario something like this. God speaking: “I am going to create George, Jim, Barb, and Carol and they are going to go to hell. I am going to create Joe and he is going to go to heaven. I am going to create Joe, Jack, Marie and Marilyn and they are going to hell. I am going to create Barabara and she is going to heaven.”

      Now in all of my growing up years which had a lot of missionary emphasis in them, I was always told that the pagan “gods” that people worshipped, the gods of their idols were capricious and fearful “deities” that people lived their lives in fear of. Fear of what they would do and were always trying to appease those gods.

      On the other hand, we were taught, the God of the Bible was nothing like that. He was a God that truly loved all of those He had created and had their best interests at heart. In fact He loved them so much that He sent Jesus to die so all of them could have eternal life if they would just come to Him.

      I’m sorry, but to me God as Calvinists understand Him appears to have a lot in common with those fearful deities of the pagans as far as the largest majoritiy of people in His creation goes. (Except that people don’t even have the option of appeasing Him.)

      Is it any wonder why we have a hard time wrapping our minds and hearts around the Calvinistic understanding of things?? To say nothing of the fact that we just don’t see the same things in much of Scripture that you do.

    • wm tanksley

      Why can’t 1 Tim. 2:4 be talking about all without distinction (e.g., classes of people) rather than all without exception?

      That was my question, but going to verses outside of the context doesn’t answer it. Now, I concede that the verse can be taken your way, since the contextual argument I gave isn’t a strong one; but (since you don’t argue against it) it can be taken my way as well.

      Well, 1 Timothy 4:10 (harking back to God’s desire for all to be saved in 2:4) indicates that Christ is the Savior all people, especially of believers.

      In order to read the text this way you introduce universal salvation rather than universal atonement. The problem is that when Paul says “God, Who is the Savior of all people, especially of believers” he’s referring to the savior, not an owner, creator, or even a redeemer. In order for this NOT to imply universal salvation we have to have a lesser salvation for unbelievers than believers, and I believe that’s implied by the surrounding text.

      Looking at the surrounding text, we see that:

      1) The false teachers despise the physical parts of God’s creation (1 Tim 4:1-3).
      2) Paul says that all parts of creation are sanctified by “God’s word and prayer” (1 Tim 4:5).
      3) Paul recites a creed that affirms the usefulness of physical exercise (1 Tim 4:8).
      4) Paul echos that creed to say that “we work and struggle” (1 Tim 4:10).
      5) Finally, Paul says that the “Living God” is the Savior of all people (1 Tim 4:10).

      I think, in context, that Paul is saying that God saves all people by sanctifying them by “His word and prayer”, and by actively making His creation available to be received “with thanksgiving”. The former benefit is available to all humans (since the Church performs that), but the latter benefit is NOT available to unbelievers (who “did not glorify him as God or give him thanks”).

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      I Timothy 3:3-5 men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

      What is being sanctified here by the word of God and prayer?? What is to be received with gratitude? The foods that God has created, it seems to me.

      I don’t think this section has anything at all to do with God being the Savior of all men in the way you spoke of above. I think that is taking this verse way out of context and doing some fancy eisegesis here.

      I think speaking of Him as the Savior of all men means just that, that the atonement He accomplished on the cross has the power to save all men. But it is especially so for those that believe as that salvation has been appropriated to them.

    • wm tanksley

      If so, how did you deal with your whole understanding of God’s character and your concept of Him being turned upside down and in some ways being practically 180 degrees different then what you had understood Him to be like in the past?

      Cheryl, the difference between the informed Arminian and the informed Calvinist views of God are almost nil; we’re derived from the same traditional roots in the Reformation. For this reason, I think you’d be perfectly comfortable with my view of God’s character if you could bring yourself to examine it without prejudging it. But both sides, unless VERY well studied indeed, commonly mistake the views of the other side to be much worse than they actually are.

      I’ve very often (and relatively recently) been corrected by informed Arminians about misconceptions I’d adopted regarding their views. In almost every case, I wound up realizing “these people aren’t that bad after all.” Then I hear some informed Calvinist speak about something else Arminians believe, and there I go, needing to be corrected yet again.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Your insistence that John 3:16 only refers to the elect, the believers, certainly is not obvious in that verse as you seem to think it is.

      He’s saying that the salvation promised by it only applies to the believers, which is what it explicitly says: “whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life.”

      For the bazillions of Christians like me that learned that verse when we were just small children and were told that it meant God loves everyone in the world, that has been the obvious meaning all of our lives.

      And yet that’s not what the verse says.

      Think about what it COULD have said: “This is the way God loved the world: he gave everlasting life to the whole thing.” OR… “This is the way God loved the world: He granted potential salvation to everyone. All they have to do is believe and it’s theirs!” OR… “God loved everyone in the world so much, He gave His Son so that each of them would have a chance to believe on Him.”

      Instead, John said “This is the way God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes on Him will not perish, but have eternal life.”

      John didn’t describe God loving the world an amazing amount; He described God loving the world in a specific, concrete way. That way was to give His unique Son.

      John then goes on to narrow things down. The ones who don’t accept Christ are condemned already; not because they didn’t accept Christ, but because they “loved darkness” even before they saw Christ.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      At this point in time I don’t know if I am following either you or Hodge here!

      I have never argued regarding John 3:16 that the second part of the verse didn’t refer exclusively to believers. That would be ridiculous, as it is very obvious that it does.

      The difference in opinion between Hodge and I, (if I even understood what he was saying correctly–this conversation gets so odd at times that I start to wonder if “your” side is understanding “our” side at all or vice versa!) is what is meant by the word “world” here. He seems to be saying that the verse means “God loves the beliver’s/elect so much that He gave His Son.” Instead of the way we understand it that God loves–as I believe you put it above–everyone in it so much that He gave His Son.

      Now obviously you don’t see how we can think that is what it means. But very frankly, I don’t know why anyone that doesn’t already have a Calvinist understanding would think that “world” here meant only the believing part of the world.

      I know Hodge said he came to that conclusion before he became a Calvinist because of the Greek. Why I don’t know. It seems that the Greek kosmos can mean either one.

      And by the way, I don’t think the context of John 3:16–19 where “world” is used 5 times in all, bears out the interpretation that the word world here means just the believers either.

    • cherylu

      I don’t remember if this has been mentioned in this discussion or not. I know I saw it referred to in a similar discussion somewhere recently.

      I find it interesting that in John 3:14–15 right before the famous verse we have been discussing, this statement is made: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

      Was it not the case that the serpent that is spoken of here and used as a comparison of Jesus being lifted up was indeed lifted up for the whole congregation of Israel? There were no “elect” ones only in that group that would be healed by looking at the serpent. Every last one of them were included in that promise and that provision.

    • wm tanksley

      What is being sanctified here by the word of God and prayer?? What is to be received with gratitude? The foods that God has created, it seems to me.

      This verse says that EVERYTHING that God has created is sanctified by the Word and prayer, and NOTHING is to be rejected if received with thanksgiving. He applies this against the teachings involving marriage and food, but he doesn’t specify them here (some translations do, for some reason, but it’s not in the Greek). The teaching against foods could in theory be Galatianism, but because of the association with marriage this must actually be a protognostic belief; and the root of this teaching is that God is too holy to bother with the world, and any god who DOES interact with the world is at least partly evil.

      I don’t think this section has anything at all to do with God being the Savior of all men in the way you spoke of above. I think that is taking this verse way out of context and doing some fancy eisegesis here.

      I explained in detail from the text. Your accusations need to be justified, not simply made.

      I think speaking of Him as the Savior of all men means just that, that the atonement He accomplished on the cross has the power to save all men.

      But you’re not saying “just that”. If you were, you’d be a universalist. You’re adding something to avoid that, and unlike myself you’re not explaining from context why the author said what he did without meaning to be universalist.

      I don’t believe Christ’s power is limited. But I believe that His death was intended to save definite individuals whom the Father calls; and everyone the Father calls comes to the Son, to be sanctified by the Spirit into the image of the Son. There are also definite individuals whom Jesus looked at while speaking the words of John 6-7 and explained that those people were not called and therefore could not come.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Was it not the case that the serpent that is spoken of here and used as a comparison of Jesus being lifted up was indeed lifted up for the whole congregation of Israel?

      No. Only the ones who looked at it lived. Many died before it was lifted up.

      There were no “elect” ones only in that group that would be healed by looking at the serpent. Every last one of them were included in that promise and that provision.

      A correct analogy, but your conclusion is unsupported by any text I was able to find.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Instead of the way we understand it that God loves–as I believe you put it above–everyone in it so much that He gave His Son.

      There’s one definite error in your reading: the phrase “so much”. John isn’t saying that God is demonstrating the amount of His love, but rather is showing His love in a way of acting. God’s way of loving is to send His unique Son. The thing towards which He’s enacting love is the world. Does that mean each individual in the world? Maybe, but John goes on to say that only some individuals are actually saved; the rest are not helped by this love (although they are not hurt).

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      It says “foods which God has created.” I don’t see that statement as including marraige.

      But if you insist on this interpretation, which I just simply do not see as fitting the context at all–thus my statements about it being out of context and eisegesis which I thought I explained above–how in the world do you see everything and every person in creation as being sanctified or “made holy” as the ESV says, by the word of God and prayer?

      The rapist, the serial killer, the abortionist, the wife beater, etc, etc, etc. are made holy because someone prays for them? That beggars belief with me. That will take some expaining for me to even begin to see how that works! 🙂

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      Regarding John 3:16 again. Scratch the words, “so much,” from what I said. That doesn’t change any of the rest of what I said or what I understand the verse to mean when it speaks of the “world”.

      And about the analogy of the serpent and Jesus both being lifted up. I didn’t make myself completely clear there I guess. Obviously many died before the serpent was “lifted up.” But my point was that any and all that looked at the serpent were healed. There was no special class of Israelites that could look and be healed and another class that could not look and were not healed. Now is that a part of the analogy carried through to Jesus and what John is saying about Him in these verses? I don’t know that there is any way to prove it. However, it certainly seems possible. It is just another little tidbit that I think might add even more more reason to believe that “world” in these verses actually means everyone in the world.

    • wm tanksley

      It says “foods which God has created.” I don’t see that statement as including marraige.

      Seriously, read the sentence — it’s right before that phrase. And the rest of the paragraph strengthens the point by talking about God creating everything, and about how we should reject nothing.

      thus my statements about it being out of context and eisegesis which I thought I explained above

      You didn’t explain; you merely said “I don’t think that’s in the text.” Well, that’s good, but what do you mean? I posted a detailed look at the text, and all you have to say is that you don’t think so.

      how in the world do you see everything and every person in creation as being sanctified or “made holy” as the ESV says, by the word of God and prayer?

      Because that’s what the verse says.

      The rapist, the serial killer, the abortionist, the wife beater, etc, etc, etc. are made holy because someone prays for them? That beggars belief with me. That will take some expaining for me to even begin to see how that works!

      Two answers.

      For the Christian experiencing those, the Bible has an amazing amount on the topic of suffering. The only thing I can assure you is that God will bring good from it, and you will rejoice. Your experience will become holy, if you receive it with thanksgiving.

      For the person guilty of that: such sin cannot enter the Kingdom of God. And such were you; but “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

      For the person not guilty of that: read the Sermon on the Mount. You ARE guilty of those things. Repent and accept the free gift of forgiveness.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      For what it is worth, I read three different commentaries last night on that text. Every one of them agree with me that what is being sanctified in that verse is the foods spoken of, not the marriage spoken of previously. Marriage was mentioned as being good here and to be received, but it was the foods–the creatures God gives–specifically that were spoken of as being sanctified by the word and prayer.

      And not a single one of them took your stance that it is all people here that are being sanctified or made holy by our prayers. I still think that it is understanding the text in a completely incorrect way.

      All three of them also agreed, with some variations, to my understanding of what the “Savior of all men, but specifically of those that believe,” means. One or two of them also included some type of temporal saving—provision, protection or such— for all men but very specifically said that it included the potential or some other word for final salvation for all although all would not receive it.

      And one of these is even the old Puritan, quite Calvinist, Matthew Henry! here is his commentary.

    • cherylu

      I didn’t give the links to the other two commentaries. The first is David Guzik’s and it is found here.

      The second one is the old Jamieson, Fausset & Brown and is found here.

    • cherylu

      William,

      Just one more quick comment here! I found this very interesting this a.m. Look at what the Net Bible translators did with those first few verses of I Timothy 4:

      4:1 Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times some will desert the faith and occupy themselves 1 with deceiving spirits and demonic teachings, 2 4:2 influenced by the hypocrisy of liars 3 whose consciences are seared. 4 4:3 They will prohibit marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4:4 For every creation of God is good and no food 5 is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving. 4:5 For it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer.

      http://net.bible.org/bible.php?book=1Ti&chapter=4#n8

      “no food is to be rejected if is is received with thanksgiving for it is sanctified by Gods’ word and by prayer.”

      You may still think my understanding of this is incorrect, but at least it seems that I have a lot of support!

      And I keep thinking about your charge of universalism. It is not universalism if you believe Jesus indeed died for all so that He is “the Savior of all men.” (Doctrine of unlimited atonement). It only becomes universalism if you believe that because of that everyone will be automatically saved. Because He died for all and in that sense is the Savior of all, does not mean that all will receive that salvation and hence be eternally saved.

    • Hodge

      I got busy and lost track of some of the questions toward me, but wanted to address these two things:

      1. Cheryl, yes, I was not only an Arminian, but I was an apologist and an Arminian. In other words, I not only knew what Arminianism was, I defended it all the time. What shook me loose from it was learning linguistics in regard to how I did my lexicography and the appropriate application of context. I slowly realized that I could no longer explain away what was clear from the logic of the text.

      2. “Savior of all men” is likely a polemic against Caesar, who was called this. However, it seems clear that Paul turns it to mean “Savior of all sorts of men.” Otherwise, you do get universalism, since it does not say, “the potential Savior of all men,” but “the Savior of all men,” meaning that He actually saves them. It cannot mean “potential Savior anyway, since it says that this is what He is for believers. He is not the potential Savior for believers, but the actual Savior. Furthermore, malista does not mean “especially,” as many scholars have assumed, but is a type of specification that further clarifies the preceding group. It is like me saying, “The government is taxing me, malista the IRS. By that, I mean to say that the government, specifically the IRS, not all of the government, is taxing me. If this is true, then the “all men” is only believers, and therefore, must be seen not as all men in the world, but all sorts of men out of the world that make up the elect.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      The NIV, ESV, the NASB, the Net Bible, and an online interlinear I use all translate that word “especially”. Are you tellling me that every single one of them have it wrong? Even the quite new and highly acclaimed ESV and the Net Bible? (Maybe you had better take that up with Dan Wallace.)

      Besides that, people have referred to Him as “the Savior of all men” throughout all of my life knowing full well that doesn’t mean everyone will actually be saved in the end. They would be absolutely horrified to have you refer to them as a universalist because of that fact. Obviously, such folks as even old Matthew Henry who in many ways was a Calvinist agreed with those folks. That argument is not going to sway me all of that easily.

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      The only way that tradition gets away with that is to ignore the language used. Even if we take malista in the traditional English misunderstanding of it as some sort of superlative specification, the text would basically say that Christ was only the potential Savior of believers. Notice, the text does not say potential Savior. You, and your tradition, may put the spin on it, but the text does not allow you to do that. That’s sort of like reading a stop sign to mean “slow down.” Most people may take it that way, but that’s not what it means.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      What about all of those translations that don’t agree with what you said above?

      And if it is only “tradition” that has caused that verse to be understood that way, it is certainly a very long standing tradition! At least a tradition that is hundreds of years old. Even Matthew Henry, a Calvinst no less, of the 17th and 18th centuries, believed that tradition.

      And I have to wonder, do you read every other verse in the Bible with such an absolute literalism as you are insisting this verse be read? And if not, why do you insist that this one be read in the most literal sense possible?

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      I read every other Bible verse with an insistence that I interpret it according to the words used and the referents to which they point. Person X is the Savior of Person Y is not saying that Person X potentially could save Person Y. It means that Person X did save Person Y. Or, the phrase, “you’re my savior,” is the same as saying “you’ve saved me,” not “you provided salvation for me in a theoretical and potential sense, but not actually.”

      For malista, you can see T. C. Skeat, “Especially the Parchments: A Note on 2 Timothy IV.13,” Journal of Theological Studies NS, Vol. 30 (1979): 173-177

      I. Howard Marshall also takes this view in his ICC commentary on the Pastorals.

      I came to this determination separately. It seems clear from the NT uses of the term.

    • cherylu

      I came to this determination separately. It seems clear from the NT uses of the term

      Well, obviously it wasn’t clear to the translators of all of those Bible translations that I listed. So I can’t say that I am convinced.

      And neither am I convinced that you are l00% right when you make your assertions about what “the Savior of all men” means. You might be right, on the other hand, there have been a large number of folks that have gone before you and that are still living today who understand it to mean something totally different then what you do. And I don’t think they necessarily understand the meaning of the English language or the way language is used in a way that is inferior to you! 🙂 You are insisting that this phrase has to be understood very literally. Those of us that think differently believe it is being used more figuratively. I’m not sure that is the exact word I am looking for here, but I hope it gets my point across.

      By the way, William your fellow Calvinist in this discussion, believes this verse means something totally different then what you believe here.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      As I’m sure you are aware the standard Arminian belief is that Christ died for all people and is in fact the Savior of all people. This is the meaning of universal atonement. However, Arminianism holds that those do not accept Christ’s offer of salvation and instead choose to reject it are cut off from the atonement being effectual. Thus while Christ died for all he does not irresistibly force people to accept his offer of grace as he does in the Calvinist system. This is different then saying that Christ is only a potential savior of all. He is the Savior of all but his salvation is only effectual for those accept it.

    • cherylu

      Michael T,

      Thank you. What you just said is exactly what I have been trying to say for a long time now. Maybe using the word “potential” confused the issue, I don’t know. I was hoping it would clarify things, but obviously it did not.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      Thanks. I’m aware of the Arminian position, but it is in fact a potential salvation, not an actual one. Christ provides what could save an individual. He does not actual save them until they believe. Hence, they are not saved by Him if they do not believe. Hence, He is not their Savior until they believe. I understand that the traditional Arminian interpretation of this verse is to pretend that it says that “Christ was the propitiation for all men,” or “Christ died for all men,” but that’s not what it says. It says that Christ was the Savior (i.e., actually, not potentially, saved) group X.

      Cheryl,

      I say we throw out language altogether and just say that it means Christ was a nice guy to all men. I can then go on to re-interpret every other passage that doesn’t fit my tradition. To me, the compatiblist understanding makes sense of all texts and lets them speak for themselves; but the Arminian understanding has to simply believe that certain texts that seem rather explicit in their grammar and logic MUST mean something else, even though we don’t have a consistent exegesis in determining what that other interpretation might be. “Savior” here must mean something else (i.e., that Christ merely provided the means to be saved, but didn’t actually save anyone until they believe). For me, I can just take it to mean that He saved these people, and as such, rightly is called Savior in contrast to Caesar who didn’t.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      To me all of the verses that say things like “He died for all, He is the Savior of the world, He loved the world”, etc become very strained if you have to read into them that it reallly means he died for some, he loved some, He is the Savior of some, etc. And there are a lot of those verses out there.

      That is particulary true in the context of John 3:16 where “world” would have to be interpreted several different ways in the context of just a few verses for the Calvinist understanding to hold up.

      For me, having to reinterpret a whole bunch of different verses in this manner is way too strained to be comfortable with at all.

      “For God so loved the elect, He sent His son into the elect/all classes of people, not to condemn the elect/some of all classes of people, but that the elect/some of all classes of people might be saved, and light (which is Jesus according to chapter one) came into the whole world but men hated that light.” And how do you know for sure after all of those mental gymnastics that you have John’s true meaning down here? Sure it fits Calvinisms beliefs, as I understand them anyway, but beyond that, how do you know that is correct? It seems to me you have to utterly comlicate Scripture in order for it to work in the Calvinist understanding.

      I’m sorry, but that is awkward beyond belief– to have to do all of that interpreting/reinterpreting of a passage to have a clue as to what the author meant. Seems to me that if John really meant all of that, he surely could of found an easier and plainer way to say it!! This kind of interpretation requires mental gymnastics way beyond anything you claim the Arminians are guilty of.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      I am wondering what you do with this verse: and He Himself is the *propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. I John 2:2

      This time the word world isn’t used alone, but John makes sure we know He is the propiation for the sins of the whole world.

      If you don’t already assume a Calvinist belief system, there is no reason at all to think that this verse means anything other then literally the whole world. You certainly can not accuse us of reading something into the verse that is not there! So why do you think we are totally wrong to believe in the other Scripture that all men means all literally all men?

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl,

      I am wondering what you do with this verse: and He Himself is the *propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. I John 2:2

      This verse is intended to reassure the believers to whom John is speaking that in spite of the awfulness of our sins, Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient to complete His task of advocacy for us. (Do you agree?)

      The primary topic of the passage is our purification from sins through walking in the light (as believers); secondary is the reality of our sin; next is avoiding sin; next is Christ’s advocacy; next is Christ’s atonement in support of His advocacy; and last, is the idea that His atonement is for not only us but the whole world (I’m almost quoting, since I don’t want to risk interpreting the phrase until I establish the context). Agreed so far?

      So whatever this concept means (and I’ll look at that) it’s a supporting concept, not a primary doctrine. When a primary doctrine is taught, it’s repeated many times and explored in many inversions (as Jesus did in John 7); a supporting concept may be glossed over, because a misunderstanding won’t undercut the main doctrine being taught. This means that we may not know with certainty what John meant here; but we know that whatever he meant, it supports the points he was trying to make.

      (Argh, out of room!)

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Good grief William, that is the “bestest” cop-out I have heard in a long time. So go right ahead and gloss over it and say we can’t know with certainty what he meant there. 🙂

      He made a strong point of saying that He is the propitiation of “the whole world”, (not just theirs), so it doesn’t sound to me like it is something he meant for us to just “gloss over”!

      Seriously now, I’ll be waiting to hear what you think the concept means.

    • wm tanksley

      …and that point is about the sins of believers who are walking in the light. It can’t even be taken to mean that believers who aren’t walking in the light are covered by Christ’s sacrifice (although they are, of course, if they’re actually believers; we know that from other passages), much less can it be taken to mean that unbelievers are covered by Christ’s sacrifice. It may likely mean that Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient for the world. If it does actually mean that Jesus’ sacrifice does actually purify/avert wrath against the sins of the whole world, we can’t build a doctrine on conclusions from that, as one would have to do if one were to say “because everyone’s sins are propitiated, therefore all of them are morally able to please God by their own good works.” (Hypothetically.)

      As one more example of the dangers of making conclusions based on secondary points, consider that John didn’t say “the sins of the whole world”; he actually said “the whole world”. It’s not a stretch to imagine that he meant us to read “the sins” into that, since the passage is about sins; but neither is it a certainty. But neither one is certain. If we read in “the sins”, John is letting us know that the scope of Christ’s sacrifice is huge, including the most horrible sins; if we don’t, we know that the power of Christ’s sacrifice is huge.

      So COULD it mean that Christ died for all people in the world? It could. Does it? No, because John doesn’t contradict himself in his Scriptural writings. In John 17:9 he distinguishes between those who are Christ’s and the world as a whole — so Christ does not intercede for those who are not given to Him. In John 10 Christ explains that He dies for His sheep, and His sheep hear His voice, while the ones who are not His sheep do not hear His voice.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Does this mean that God doesn’t love the world? Well, John 3:16 said He DOES. But John doesn’t say He loves every person in the world, but rather the world (the whole thing). And the way He loves it is to save SOME of the people in it, not all of them. The following verses distinguish between the ones He saves and the ones He doesn’t save.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      He made a strong point of saying that He is the propitiation of “the whole world”, (not just theirs), so it doesn’t sound to me like it is something he meant for us to just “gloss over”!

      Cheryl, I need to be clear on this. I’m not happy with your attitude here. I put a lot of effort into my replies, and you falsely accuse me of “glossing over” things. Glossing over is when you fail to put effort into things. I may be in error, but I’m not being carelessly negligent.

      If you disagree with me, good. Tell me where you disagree, don’t just ignore my entire message and merely contradict my conclusions. We already know we disagree on the conclusions.

      And your claim that John “made a strong point of saying” is demonstrably false (and I’ve already demonstrated it). John said it once, and far from being a “strong point”, it’s a subsidiary point in support of a subsidiary point. Compare this to John’s communication of Jesus’ clarity in John 6 verses 37, 44, 45, and 65 — he quoted Jesus speaking in multiple different ways on the same topic.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Here is I John 2:2 again, He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. ESV

      You say that it doesn’t say He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, only that it says the whole world. But look again, William. He is the propiation for our sins, and not only ours but…

      The second word sins may not be in the manuscript before translation, but it is certainly in the verse: for our sins and not only ours, but..

      And I don’t think that it proves that Jesus never prays for people in the world just because He isn’t in that particular passage. That may be the case. But I think to assume so is just that–assumption. These were very specific prayers He was praying for His followers right before His death–that they would be one and would be protected, etc. And remember too, He did pray for those that would believe because of the witness of those that knew Him at that time. Does the fact that He was praying for specific things for His followers here mean that He didn’t die for the rest of the world too and was willing for them to come to Him? I don’t see how that conclusion could be drawn at all.

      And of course He lays down His life for the sheep as it says in John 10. We all know that and no one will argue the point. But does that mean that He didn’t lay it down for the rest of the world too like I John 2:2 seems to be saying? And I don’t think that verse in any way implies universalism. His being the sacrifice for all men does not mean that all men will receive that sacrifice. That isn’t the case in my theology. That only happens in the world of limited atonement and irresistable grace! 🙂

    • cherylu

      William,

      To clarify the things you brought up in your last comment: The only thing I said you were glossing over was what you yourself talked about glossing over in that verse. And I did say it with a :), remember? You have put a lot of time into your replies in general. But you were the one that that said this was a point that could be glossed over without being sure about what it said. If I was offensive, I apologize. But it did seem like you may have been trying to get out of really answering the question. You did say you would look at what it meant and that is why I said I was waiting for your answer.

      And when I said John made a stong point, I was referring specifically to that verse and no others. (Although I could argue that the same point is made in other places in the Bible in different ways.) And I did think and still do, that it was a strong point in that verse.

    • wm tanksley

      Are you saying that we aren’t supposed to pray for “all people”, but rather simply ensure we pray for some people of every class (as in my example where I pray for one government official, but not another).

      That’s not Hodge’s argument, nor implied by it. Having us select individuals to pray for would be like having us select which individuals we wanted God to save. That’s not what’s being said here. Hodge’s argument is that God chooses individuals, not that we should choose them.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      For what it is worth, I read three different commentaries last night on that text. Every one of them agree with me that what is being sanctified in that verse is the foods spoken of, not the marriage spoken of previously.

      That’s not true — none of them say that marriage is NOT the topic; and one of them, A.R. Fausset, uses the phrase food or “the creature”, thus making it clear that he’s not forgotten what Paul is writing about.

      Marriage was mentioned as being good here and to be received, but it was the foods–the creatures God gives–specifically that were spoken of as being sanctified by the word and prayer.

      No, marriage is not explicitly mentioned as being good; marriage is explicitly mentioned as being prohibited by the doctrines of the evil men. Neither food nor marriage is explicitly covered as being good; instead, “every creation of God” is covered as being good. That includes marriage and food.

      I have to put the three commentaries in the next message.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      All three of them also agreed, with some variations, to my understanding of what the “Savior of all men, but specifically of those that believe,” means. One or two of them also included some type of temporal saving—provision, protection or such— for all men but very specifically said that it included the potential or some other word for final salvation for all although all would not receive it.

      Your understanding is that God is the savior of all men because he makes all men equally savable. (I contend that this doesn’t fit with the context, and of course you know I also think the
      Bible directly contradicts it, although not in this verse.)

      Guzik says it means that there’s not some other Savior for some other men. (This doesn’t mean Christ is a potential savior; it means there’s no other actual or potential savior.) This contradicts your understanding.

      Fausset says the same thing, but he alone adds that Christ is the savior potentially (as your argument does). But unlike your argument, by this he means that Christ could save them because they’re sinners (according to the verse he cites), not that Christ could save them if they took some action (as your argument claims).

      Henry doesn’t even do any of that; He merely assigns God a general concern for man’s salvation (which is NOT an adequate treatment of the verse; a general concern is neither salvation nor potential salvation).

      So none of them agree with your position; while two of them, by talking about temporal salvation, are at least talking about the same general thing that I am, although I admit that they’re not reading the text in the same way.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Just one more quick comment here! I found this very interesting this a.m. Look at what the Net Bible translators did with those first few verses of I Timothy 4:

      I did find that interesting. I don’t know why they chose to correct Paul’s Greek; it’s a very simple and clear passage. They mention the correct translation in the footnote.

      And I keep thinking about your charge of universalism. It is not universalism if you believe Jesus indeed died for all so that He is “the Savior of all men.” (Doctrine of unlimited atonement).

      I never charged you with universalism — I’m pretty sure I said you’re NOT universalist. The problem is that if you read the passage that way you have to become universalist.

      It only becomes universalism if you believe that because of that everyone will be automatically saved.

      But that’s what a Saviour does — saves people. You’re simply restricting the type of salvation, exactly as I am. Your type of salvation is simply a mysterious invisible one: not evident in anyone’s behavior and not affecting eternal destiny. I don’t see it anywhere in the Bible at all (your type of salvation).

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      By the way, William your fellow Calvinist in this discussion, believes this verse means something totally different then what you believe here.

      I don’t know how different we are, but I do disagree with him on the meaning of ‘malista’. It’s a plausible story, but try looking through the New Testament for the Greek word; I can’t find any uses that make strong sense under that theory. I don’t know if it perhaps works in some cases, but I don’t see an argument within the usage of the rest of the Bible.

      http://net.bible.org/search.php?search=greek_strict_index:3122

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl, I don’t get your claims that Calvinism has to strain to interpret John 3:16, in particular the meaning of the word “world”. The problem with your claim here is that these verses aren’t a strain at all. And that can be read in the obvious way (God loves the whole thing as a unit), or in a subtler way (God loves every person in the world); but the next part of the same verse clarifies that whatever “the world” may be, He acted only to save the ones who believe. Then the next verse claims that Jesus came into the world to save it — but then it talks about individuals who are condemned versus not condemned, and if “the world” meant all individuals, then why would it talk about condemning some individuals for the same reason after Christ as before Christ?

      It’s nonsense (as you point out) to say that “the world” means “the elect”, but no Calvinists here have claimed that. I do claim that “whoever would believe” is the same as “the elect”, though. Of course, John 3:16 doesn’t say that; but many other segments of John do say it.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      Re comment # 99:

      All of those commentaries specifically said it was food that was being spoken of that was sanctified by the word and prayer. True, none of them denied it was marriage–they mostly just ignored that issue and talked about the food–the creature. They didn’t at all say that all creatures included men that were sanctified by the word and by prayer. They spoke solely of the creatures God created for food being sanctified by the the word and prayer. That was the point I was trying to make. They seemed to connect the phrase, “sancitifed by the word and prayer,” totally with the issue of food just as I believed was correct. Not also with the issue of marriage. I haven’t heard or read any one else at all that has your take on this issue that God is the Savior of all men because they are sanctified or made holy by the word and prayer. (By the way, that is what I was mostly referring to when I mentioned to Hodge that you have totally different interpretations of this verse.)

      This quote of mine: Marriage was mentioned as being good here and to be received, but it was the foods–the creatures God gives–specifically that were spoken of as being sanctified by the word and prayer.— was speaking about what the commentaries emphasized.

    • cherylu

      I still think the John 3 thing becomes very strained.

      And unless I am not remembering correctly at all, Hodge said that John 3:16 means, “God so loved the believers”. You said whoever would believe is the same as the elect. It seems that the term “believers” and “elect” have been used rather interchangeably here at times. And I am quite sure I have read somewhere else in these discussions on this site that it is the elect that are referred to as the ones God loves here. Which is why I worded things the way I did.

      (If my memory is failing me completely here, I apologize. These have all been loooong discussions with many points made. I have also been in similar discussions in the past on another blog. So it is possible some of what has been said there is being confused in my memory with what folks here have said.)

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      Ironically, I believe in a form of unlimited atonement, so I have no dog in the fight over this passage, except my desire that it not be warped in the service of an idea.

      Re: malista

      Knight agrees with Skeat, stating that he gives persuasive arguments from the papyri (203-4).
      Marshall agrees with Skeat (“Universal Grace and Atonement in the Pastoral Epistles.” In the Grace of God and the Will of Man 55; see also now his ICC commentary). Mounce gives Skeat’s suggestion as a viable option, and adopts a mythopoeic interpretation of the text (256-57). It is not clear whether he accepts all of the four points he mentions or not (since they are not necessarily contradictory).
      Vincent in his early ICC commentary on Philippians could not understand why “malista” was being used in Phil 4:22 (154). Thinking the word only meant what the accepted definition gave to it, he didn’t think it made sense to him here, but he had no other option, so he seemed to think it was just an oddity that could not be explained.

      Look at another parallel in 1 Tim 5:8: “his own” with “his household.” Now who else are “his own” that he is obligated to take care of? Do you mean to say that you interpret this verse to mean that he has to take care of a larger group that belongs to him that is not a part of his family or he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever? Who is this larger group to which he is financially obligated and are called his own? I’m sure we could make something up, but it would be simpler to take malista as it should be: “his own” are “his household.”

      I would actually contend that half the verses in which it is used make no sense as it is traditionally taken; and it makes perfect sense in the other half, where it could go either way. The only thing in the way is the wall of tradition that predisposes us toward a particular interpretation (there’s that VBS messing us up again). 😉

    • wm tanksley

      But you were the one that that said this was a point that could be glossed over without being sure about what it said.

      I see why you said that; that would seem offensive and annoying if I thought someone else had said that to me. I didn’t mean anything that way. Rather, what I meant is that because John said only that one phrase in passing while talking about something completely unconnected, that phrase is unlikely to be able to clarify a complex issue that’s disconnected from John’s original purpose — and, in fact, if we approach it as though it were intended to clarify our argument we’ll just be confused by it.

      John wasn’t dealing here with people who were claiming that God didn’t want to save some people. He was dealing with people who thought they could avoid sinning, and people who didn’t want to confess that they sinned, and people who might worry that confessing their sin wasn’t enough.

      And when I said John made a stong point, I was referring specifically to that verse and no others.

      But John only mentioned the point in a brief phrase that was apparently (by your interpretation) disconnected from the rest of his argument. To me, a “strong point” means either that he was nearly shouting (which we can’t tell here, although Paul once used obscenity to make a strong point) or that he spent a lot of text making the point (which definitely isn’t here).

      How is that a strong point?

      -Wm

    • Hodge

      “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not only ours but…”

      There are a variety of options here. “World,” again, can refer to more than just the group to which John’s is speaking. It can also refer to other people of the world who would believe beside the apostles. The second person thus far in Chapter 1 and 2 has referred to the apostles and perhaps the believers with whom he is speaking.

      Hence, the others in the whole world are speaking about other out of the whole world, not the whole world as each and every individual in the world.

      However, I tend to go the unlimited atonement direction with this as well (even though there are good arguments for limited atonement).

    • Hodge

      BTW, I’m pretty sure Marshall is an Arminian, so the fact that he agrees with Skeat on the meaning of malista is no small point.

    • cherylu

      William,

      From # 200:

      Guzik says it means that there’s not some other Savior for some other men. (This doesn’t mean Christ is a potential savior; it means there’s no other actual or potential savior.) This contradicts your understanding.

      I think you missed something here. That is what the first paragraph of his discussion says. The next two paragraphs say this, (which is precisely what I have been arguing):

      i. But notice Paul’s point: especially of those who believe. Jesus’ work is adequate to save all, but only effective in saving those who come to Him by faith.

      ii. “What God intends for all, he actually gives to them that believe in Christ, who died for the sins of the world, and tasted death for every man. As all have been purchased by his blood so all may believe; and consequently all may be saved. Those that perish, perish through their own fault.” (Clarke)

      As far as Faucett goes, he makes this statement: If God is in a sense “Saviour” of unbelievers ( 1Ti 2:4 , that is, is willing to be so everlastingly, and is temporally here their Preserver and Benefactor), much more of believers. He is the Saviour of all men potentially ( 1Ti 1:15 ); of believers alone effectually. Savior of all potentially is what I have been saying all along, and willing to be so everlastingly. I thought the main point we were discussing here was if he was the Savior of all men, was it not? Faucett affirms this as his belief. I don’t see why he is disqualified in your mind because he doesn’t state it is because they need to take some action. We weren’t discussing the specfiics of how they can come to him–only the fact that ALL men are included in this verse as ones He is the Savior of.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      Re I Timothy 5:8 ” But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

      I have always taken that verse to mean that he is to provide for his relatives in general (meaning relatives that don’t live with you) and especially those that are in his household (those that live under the same roof with you.) I see the Jameison, Faucett and Brown commentary takes it that way.

      I see it is translated in different ways as relatives and immediate family, or relatives and those living in the same household. Most translations I checked said it more like the ESV quoted above.

      I can’t keep up with all the comments here. I think I need to be several of me to even try!

    • wm tanksley

      All of those commentaries specifically said it was food that was being spoken of that was sanctified by the word and prayer.

      The commentaries take second place to the text, and there’s no doubt whatsoever that the text starts by putting forbidding marriage and forbidding food on equal footing as a doctrine of demons. The next point the text makes is that all of God’s creation is good, and NOTHING is to be rejected if received with thanksgiving.

      The commentaries seem to treat Paul’s invective against forbidding marriage as though it were simply anti-Roman Catholic; but it wasn’t (that religion was entirely unheard-of at the time). To the gnostics, forbidding marriage and forbidding food was connected; and Paul knew that.

      True, none of them denied it was marriage–they mostly just ignored that issue and talked about the food–the creature.

      This makes them poor commentaries, honestly; they simply ignore a part of the text completely without excuse. The extensive use of the concept of creationin the text is further proof that this is anti-gnostic, by the way.

      They didn’t at all say that all creatures included men that were sanctified by the word and by prayer.

      I meant that to be a minor point, but I just rewound and found my original post; it looks like I actually claimed that was the only way unbelievers can benefit. Whoops. Wow, that’s bad.

      No, all of God’s creation is good, and He made it to be received with thanksgiving. This making to receive is the major blessing for all men; being able to receive with thanksgiving is the salvation specific for believers. I do believe that the prayer for all men commended to the Church sanctifies all men, and that this is why Paul mentions that we have a living God (a deist could claim that God created for our use, after all); but I don’t think that’s as important to Paul as the goodness of God’s creation.

      -Wm

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      That translation of “relatives” is made to makes sense of what they perceive malista to be saying, so it’s a bit circular. The word itself just means “his own,” and is in regard to what he possesses (i.e., his household). It can refer to all of his possessions, but Paul then makes what is general more specific (i.e., members of the household). Hence, malista makes much more sense as specifying a general reference to a more limited one.

      Take Phil 4:22. Who are “all the saints” that send greetings to the Philippians? Every single believer in the entire world? Or is Paul saying that the believers with him, first his missionary helpers in 4:21, and the church at Rome in v. 22 greets them? I think the latter makes much more sense; and thus, malista specifies that by “all the saints” send their greetings Paul specifically is referring to the saints in Rome. I’m not sure how someone “especially” sends their greetings anyway. I guess you could take it to mean that the Romans were more enthusiastic to greet them, but again, Paul has access to the Roman Christians at this time, not all Christians without exception around the world. It just makes more sense to understand the correct use of the word malista.

    • cherylu

      William,

      The question seems to be if the second part of the verse, “that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth,” refers to only food or to food and marraige both. I tend to read it to be referring only to the food. And the way those commentaries speak on the subject, I believe that is the way they take it too. Also the way some translators have phrased it, it is obvious that is the way they understand it too.

      But going beyond that, I just don’t see how your original assertion that this section tells us that God is the Savior of all men because they are sanctified by the word of God and prayer fits in here at all. It says all of God’s creation is good and is not to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. This statement doesn’t seem to me to necessarily apply to other men–that would seem to be a quite awkward reading to me. But it certainly can apply to creatures that are given to be eaten. (And to marraige for that matter if it is indeed included in these instructions.)

    • cherylu

      William,

      I should have reread your last comment again before posting my last one.

      You said, I meant that to be a minor point, but I just rewound and found my original post; it looks like I actually claimed that was the only way unbelievers can benefit.

      I did think that you meant that the way unbeliever’s were “saved” and were the benificiaries of Him being “the savior of all men” was primarily through the prayers of Christians and the word of God. Now I realize you are saying that was a minor point. Correct?

      To be certain I am understanding you now, is it correct that you think that besides that, His salvation to all men is the provision of His creation that He has made for them to receive?

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl, yes; I misspoke originally. The living God saves all men by creating and sustaining, and by making all things acceptable and to be received with thanksgiving. I was incorrect to write as though the unsaved could only be Saved by the living God specifically by being prayed for. That’s a vague and formless “salvation” that doesn’t save one from anything :-/.

      Actually, another reading suddenly sprang to my mind. The living God saves not only each man in that way; He also saves all of mankind in that way. This is a more complete salvation, because although individuals often DO fail to give thanks and are thus not able to accept the creation with sanctity, mankind as a whole does accept it because of the specific thanksgiving of God’s called-out ones.

      Oh, Hodge — thank you for explaining your caveats on ‘malista’. My Greek isn’t strong enough to harbor useful opinions (I’ve only taken a couple years of classes); the people you cite actually studied contemporary usage in papyri, and that’s very very appropriate.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      [John 3:16] And I am quite sure I have read somewhere else in these discussions on this site that it is the elect that are referred to as the ones God loves here. Which is why I worded things the way I did.

      I’m pretty sure I said that the believers are clearly the recipients of God’s active love here. But that doesn’t mean God doesn’t love the world.

      The question is, how is that love directed towards the WHOLE world, and how is it directed towards the individuals in that whole world? God actively loved the whole world, but did He love each of the individuals in it the same? If you assume “love” is a feeling, it may be possible; but if you believe that love informs action, it’s not possible. Let me explain.

      How God acted towards the whole world: He gave His Son to save the world.
      How God acted towards some individuals: He allowed them to remain in their sins, “condemned already” from before Jesus came.
      How God acted towards other individuals: He raised them from their sins, CHANGED by Jesus’ coming.

      From this we can see that “the world” is not the same thing as “every human”, because God saved the world and did not save every human. On the contrary, He left some condemned as they had been before. How did He change those people from condemned to not condemned? John 3:20 doesn’t say; it tells you how to judge, and Jesus didn’t come to judge. The nearest answer is in John 3:5-8; we were born of the Spirit at the choosing of the Spirit.

      So the loving actions of God are directed at the whole world in general; then He directs those loving actions further, at SOME of the individuals. Others He does not direct loving actions at, and they remain just as they were. For the ones towards whom He directs loving actions, He first causes them to be born again of the Spirit, which changes them from hating the light to loving it; which in turn frees them from just condemnation.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      Would you clarify something for me please? Do you believe in limited atonement–that Jesus died for only the sins of the elect?

      I am not sure if I know what you believe about that. I don’t remember you actually saying. It might help me to understand other things you say better if I was sure on this point.

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl, yes; I do believe in limited atonement, although I also believe “limited atonement” is a poor phrasing that lends itself to misunderstanding. I prefer the terms “definite atonement” or “particular redemption”, both of which mean that Christ’s death was applied to a definite, specific group of individuals, not an indefinite, unknown one.

      The three are usually used to refer to the same doctrine.

      Because of this problem, some people are attempting to replace the term TULIP with GOSPEL:

      Grace
      Obligatory grace
      Sovereign grace
      Provision-making grace
      Effectual grace
      Lasting grace

      All of those acrostics are useful, all are flawed in one way or another. There’s one, ROSES, which is used by all three sides (Calvinists, Molinists, and Arminians).

      By the way, you believe in Limited Atonement in a different sense: you believe the atonement is Limited in power because it cannot save anyone without some other action (but not limited in scope, because it is intended to be applied to anyone). You reject Definite Atonement, because you believe the atonement was made for an indefinite group.

      -Wm

    • Phil McCheddar

      Do Calvinists ever weep about the destiny of those who reject Christ (like Christ wept over Jerusalem) or do they just accept it unemotionally because they figure that God has decreed it and so it must be alright?

    • Hodge

      Yeah Phil,

      They’re heartless. Way to introduce an ad hominem. You might as well ask if Christians ever weep over people from other religions not being accepted into heaven. If God has decreed that they won’t in the Bible, then I guess everyone who believes in Christ’s exclusivity must unemotionally accept it and so it must be alright.

    • Phil McCheddar

      @ Paul Copan

      I’m a Calvinist and I’ve never literally wept over the miserable future of those who are perishing. I had assumed that somehow God was comfortable with the idea that certain people would suffer eternally because He had ordained it. I never quite thought of it conscously in those terms, otherwise I would have been ashamed of myself. It was just an undeliberate attitude resulting from my theological position. But your opening post in this thread made me realise that God is in earnest about grieving over the lost and yearning for their repentance.

      I cannot reconcile God’s genuine exasperation about unrepentant sinners with the truth that “it does not depend on human will or exertion” (Romans 9:16). The bible seems to teach both sides of this contradiction. Although I can rationally see the truth of both sides, I am ashamed to admit my emotions have become unbalanced and I have not felt God’s grief for the lost.

    • wm tanksley

      Michael said in post #12: On John 6 Arminians have no problem understanding these verses in light of prevenient grace. We all agree that without God drawing us we would be unable to find Him of our own accord.

      That account absolutely cannot refer to prevenient grace, since that doctrine refers to grace that is given to all, not only to some; and Christ’s teaching in John 6 (and 7) is given expressly to explain why some people did NOT believe. I’m not saying this to disprove prevenient grace, but the concept simply can’t be found in John 6-7. The strongest argument against reading this as prevenient grace appears in John 6:45, but the grammar in other verses appears to describe the drawing of the Father is inevitably resulting in raising up on the last day.

      How specifically can you find prevenient grace in this chapter?

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      I’m working through some messages I’d marked as important…

      In message #10, Michael said: 1. I think the question is does God really desire that no evil exist given the cost of ensuring this? […] Now do I have two wills?? Or do I simply have desires that conflict and one is stronger then the other. My simple point with this is that in Arminianism God does not have two wills. He has two desires one of which is greater then the other. […] Ultimately Calvinism has to posit some hidden will (or desires) of God which overrides His will revealed in Scripture.

      You’re trying to draw a dichotomy that doesn’t exist. Both theologies believe in two wills (or two desires) of God. The difference is what the contents of the greater desire are. To Arminianism the greater good God desires is the free will of man, while to Calvinism the greater good is the revealing of God’s glorious attributes. All three of those goods are (contrary to your claim) revealed in Scripture, so you can’t claim that God kept them utterly secret.

      What Calvinists claim is hidden is God’s specific plans. He didn’t share that with us, and it’s not ours to inquire after. This also means that it’s not ours to inquire which people are elect and which aren’t; we are to preach to and pray for all men. Christ, on the other hand, knew from the beginning which men were not believers, and preached directly against them in passages such as John 6. None of the apostles imitated Him in that, not because He was wrong to do that, but because they humbly admitted that He had knowledge that they didn’t.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl, I just wanted to give a positive comment on your post #6 above. I disagree with your conclusion, but you’re giving a constructive exegesis, and I very much appreciate it.

      The specific point you make is that The specific reason we are told to pray for kings and all in authority is so, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

      Your point here is completely true, but it isn’t sufficient to reach your conclusion.

      It doesn’t seem to me that Paul is saying to pray for all people groups to be saved.

      Again, I agree. But Paul cannot be saying that we should pray for each and every man individually, in some kind of ritual vigil with raised hands (like the Mormons, who research genealogies in order to pray for remote ancestors in order to sanctify them). Rather, we are to not limit our prayers, praying even for people who we would have guessed couldn’t be saved.

      After all, there is a very specific reason he listed the people group of those in authority specifically here.

      That’s a fair claim, but there’s too little evidence for it; the obvious reading is that we’re praying for all people in order to live a peaceable life, rather than that we’re praying for kings in order to live a peaceable life (and praying for everyone else for some other reason). In fact, your reading would hint that God didn’t want to save kings; rather, we’re only praying for them because we want the government to leave us alone.

      It doesn’t seem to me that it follows that the all men referred to elsewhere in this section means all people groups.

      The arguments made in verses 5-7 seem to indicate that “all people groups” is a plausible reading, though. Why else would “one God and one intermediator” be significant to Paul’s argument? He’s not trying to establish the doctrine of God’s oneness; rather, he’s proving that humanity is essentially one before God rather than being broken up into groups that…

    • Paul Copan

      PART I:

      Hello all. I’m just catching up after being away from the routine for over a week, and I’m now getting around to all of your responses. I’ll try to hit the key points as I see them and then get back to “divine exasperation” and “divine disbelief.” Be prepared. This will be a lengthier post!

      Phil, I appreciate your honesty regarding (lack of) concern for the everlastingly-lost. Indeed, as we read the Scriptures, distress and dismay at the lostness of unbelievers is theologically (not just personally) warranted, though I don’t really see how that could be so if Calvinism is true. Yet Jesus himself was distressed and downcast at the shepherdless multitudes. Paul was in anguish that many of his Jewish brothers and sisters were resistant to Christ, and he wishes he could be cut off for them (Rom. 9:1-3; 10:1). I get the impression when I read a lot of Calvinists that Paul shouldn’t be so distressed since God decreed their hard-heartedness and condemnation. To the non-Calvinistic outsider, Paul appears to be more concerned about their final separation than God does. Hmmm….

    • Paul Copan

      PART II:

      William, as for John 3:16, your discussion regarding the feeling-vs.-action distinction actually goes against what we see in Matthew 5; at chapter’s end we see God’s perfect love directed toward friend and enemy alike and demonstrated in sunshine and rain provided for the just and the unjust (action). And surely this extends to the genuine offer of salvation, not merely being limited to common grace. After all, earlier in the chapter, Christ calls on his disciples show enemy-love without distinction or selectivity, just as God does. What’s more, Jesus himself does this from the cross (“Father, forgive them”) when he prays for those hostile religious leaders who have sought to crucify him—even if they do not in the end repent. (Yes, Jesus prays for his own in John 17, but he prays for his enemies on the cross! So does Stephen when he is being stoned as well as Paul regarding his hard-hearted Jewish kin in Romans 9-10.) Matthew 5 earlier speaks of those who are peacemakers and reconcilers, resembling their heavenly Father the peacemaker and a reconciler; surely this includes the opportunity for reconciliation with a view to salvation (just as God offers reconciliation to his enemies, according to Romans 5).

      As for John 6:44-45 and the act of “drawing” (prevenient grace), Jesus *earlier* in this text says that a response is required (receiving, believing) if one is to be raised up on the last day: “everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (v. 40). (See Ben Witherington’s comments on this passage in John’s Wisdom.) So the text itself assumes a response to God’s invitation/influence.

    • Paul Copan

      PART III:

      As for 1 Timothy 2, I. Howard Marshall (Pastoral Epistles, 425-7) states that there, first, is no justification for minimizing or weakening God’s “willing” to being a mere desire which conceals God’s real purpose to save a limited group of the elect, and there is equally no guarantee that this purpose will necessarily be realized. Second, limiting “all” to “all kinds of people” goes against the very elitist salvation Paul is opposing—that salvation is only reserved for some. In some ways, Calvinism is akin to the proto-Gnosticism that Paul was battling—that salvation is only for an “elite few.” That flies in the face of the spirit of the New Testament’s teaching against this incipient Gnosticism—that salvation in Christ is truly available to all, not just sufficient to cover their sins [“definite atonement”].

      Hodge, on 1 Jn. 2:2, where Jesus is said to be the atoning sacrifice for the “whole world,” note that this phrase is found only one other time in 1 John: “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” It seems quite clear that the world for whom Christ died is the *same* world—namely, all individuals without exception who are in bondage to Satan—not merely “all kinds of people in the world.” Again, John (like Paul above) is opposing a proto-Gnosticism here, which opposes an elitist salvation for a (s)elect few (“not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world”).

    • Paul Copan

      PART IV:

      Hodge, you say, “To me, the compatiblist understanding makes sense of all texts and lets them speak for themselves; but the Arminian understanding has to simply believe that certain texts that seem rather explicit in their grammar and logic MUST mean something else, even though we don’t have a consistent exegesis in determining what that other interpretation might be.” To the contrary, as I keep reading the Scriptures, I am struck by how a compatibilist understanding of the text foists an unwieldy grid upon the Scriptures that must simply dismiss (“reinterpret”) many Old Testament texts (which, it should be noted, inform the New Testament texts on hardening, blindness, not hearing, etc.); I find the spirit of those texts is so utterly incompatibilist! When God tells of all he did for Israel and that it did not even enter his mind that they would act in certain ways, that he expected fruit, that he hoped for repentance and obedience, doesn’t this suggest that God’s initiating grace for salvation (not just common grace) is freely being resisted rather than “rigged” by God? When I let the “texts speak for themselves,” I find that the spirit of these vast tracts of Old Testament texts (and the basis for discussion in the New) does not strike me as “Calvinistic.” After all, genuine repentance is legitimately expected and provided for. The far fewer favored “Calvinistic” texts are the tail that wags the broader biblical corpus. When text after text is continually reinterpreted as being “that’s not what it really means,” I think, “System overload.”

    • Paul Copan

      PART V:

      Again, consider the following passages with me. Do you not feel the weight of their plain meaning? These texts are far from “compatibilistic.”

      • Genesis 4:6-7: “Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching in the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Should God rightly expect Cain to do the right thing?)
      • Deuteronomy 10:16: “So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.” (Does God rightly expect Israel to repent and not be stiff-necked?)
      • Isaiah 5:1-7: “Let me sing now for my well-beloved a song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it and also hewed out a wine vat in it; then He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard. What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. I will lay it waste; it will not be pruned or hoed, but briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel and the men of Judah His delightful plant. Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.” (WHO is to blame for Israel’s fruitlessness? Despite the plain language of such texts, the Calvinist answer must be “God.”)

    • Paul Copan

      PART VI:
      • Isaiah 63:8-10: “For He said, ‘Surely, they are My people, Sons who will not deal falsely.’ So He became their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them.” (Notice the sense of expectation: God expects sons who will not deal falsely—and this is how the book of Isaiah begins.)
      • Isaiah 66:4: So I will choose their punishments and will bring on them what they dread. Because I called, but no one answered; I spoke, but they did not listen. And they did evil in My sight and chose that in which I did not delight.” (Is God really expecting an answer if he hardened them so that they couldn’t?)
      • Jeremiah 5:3: “O LORD, do not Your eyes look for truth? You have smitten them, but they did not weaken; you have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent.” (Should God expect truth? Yes. In fact, he’s smiting them so that they will, but they refused to repent. They are first self-hardened, and God’s attempts can’t break through. God can further harden them if he chooses—that is, turn them over to the desires of their heart and withdrawing gracious influences.)

    • Paul Copan

      PART VII:

      • Jeremiah 8:4-7: “You [Jeremiah] shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Do men fall and not get up again? Does one turn away and not repent? Why then has this people, Jerusalem, turned away in continual apostasy? They hold fast to deceit, They refuse to return. I have listened and heard, they have spoken what is not right; No man repented of his wickedness, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turned to his course, like a horse charging into the battle. Even the stork in the sky knows her seasons; and the turtledove and the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration; but My people do not know The ordinance of the LORD.”’” (Again, like the texts from Isaiah 63—cp. ch. 1 as well—Israel should know better [like storks and other birds] indicate that repentance is rightly expected, but it doesn’t come. Not God’s fault!)
      • Ezekiel 18:23-32: “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked? Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies…. Therefore, repent and live.” (It surely looks like God longs for Israel’s repentance, but it is up to Israel to respond to God’s grace; God has done all that he can.)
      • Revelation 2:21-22: “I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.” (Who is responsible for not repenting? Apparently all provisions are there; Jezebel does not WANT to. Those who consort with her will be judged UNLESS they repent. It’s up to HUMANS to respond to God’s initiating grace for salvation, which we see is routinely resisted.)

    • Paul Copan

      PART VIII:

      As to the matter of a two-tier hardening (first human, then divine), this is a common feature simply assumed by Scripture, and our reading of the New Testament should take the Old Testament’s understanding into account. God makes repentance genuinely available; people resist; God judges (often in the form of hardening hearts by withdrawing his influence/grace). I’ll give four key texts to ponder:
      • Psalm 81:10-16 (notice the grace given to Israel with the genuine opportunity to repent/obey, Israel’s refusal, and God’s hardening of Israel [“I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart”]): “‘Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you; O Israel, if you would listen to Me! Let there be no strange god among you; nor shall you worship any foreign god. I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide and I will fill it.’ But My people did not listen to My voice, And Israel did not obey Me. So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, to walk in their own devices. Oh that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! I would quickly subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their adversaries. Those who hate the LORD would pretend obedience to Him, and their time of punishment would be forever. But I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

    • Paul Copan

      PART IX:

      • Jeremiah 5:21-25 (notice the blindness/deafness—not of God’s doing, since God legitimately expects obedience): “‘Now hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see; who have ears but do not hear. Do you not fear Me?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do you not tremble in My presence? For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, an eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it. Though the waves toss, yet they cannot prevail; though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it. But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and departed. They do not say in their heart, “Let us now fear the LORD our God, who gives rain in its season, both the autumn rain and the spring rain, who keeps for us the appointed weeks of the harvest.” Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have withheld good from you.’” (Isn’t this the point of Isaiah 59:1-2 as well? “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” It’s not God’s power, but the iniquity of the people that prevents them from being forgiven/saved/heard. God has furnished all the resources to rightly expect his people to obey, but they refuse; so God must judge or turn them over to their stubborn hearts [divine hardening].)

    • Paul Copan

      PART X:

      • Deuteronomy 32:6-21: “Do you thus repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you. Remember the days of old, consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you. When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. For the LORD’S portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions. The LORD alone guided him, and there was no foreign god with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, and he ate the produce of the field; and He made him suck honey from the rock, And oil from the flinty rock, Curds of cows, and milk of the flock, with fat of lambs, and rams, the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the finest of the wheat—and of the blood of grapes you drank wine. But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked—you are grown fat, thick, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him, and scorned the Rock of his salvation. They made Him jealous with strange gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread. “You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who gave you birth. The LORD saw this, and spurned them because of the provocation of His sons and daughters. Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; for they are a perverse generation, sons in whom is no faithfulness. They have made Me jealous with what is not God;…

    • Paul Copan

      PART XI:

      …they have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. (Why the divine jealousy about idolatry if Israel can’t turn away from it anyway? It strikes me as divine play-acting.)
      • Jeremiah 17:21-25, 27: “’Thus says the LORD, ‘Take heed for yourselves, and do not carry any load on the sabbath day or bring anything in through the gates of Jerusalem. You shall not bring a load out of your houses on the sabbath day nor do any work, but keep the sabbath day holy, as I commanded your forefathers. Yet they did not listen or incline their ears, but stiffened their necks in order not to listen or take correction. But it will come about, if you listen attentively to Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘to bring no load in through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but to keep the sabbath day holy by doing no work on it, then there will come in through the gates of this city kings and princes sitting on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their princes, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and this city will be inhabited forever….But if you do not listen to Me to keep the sabbath day holy by not carrying a load and coming in through the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates and it will devour the palaces of Jerusalem and not be quenched.’” (The problem is not that God stiffened the Israelites’ necks; they stiffened their own and refused correction intended for their well-being.)

    • Paul Copan

      PART XII:

      • Jeremiah 18:6-11: “‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the LORD. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it. So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am fashioning calamity against you and devising a plan against you. Oh turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds.’”’” (Notice in the famous “potter passage” in Jeremiah 18, cherished but seemingly misapplied by Calvinists in the setting of Romans 9-11—a positively ignores the context of Jeremiah 18: God declares that he has the prerogative to relent from divinely-promised calamity [as he did with Nineveh in Jonah] if people genuinely repent—OR to judge when people turn away from God. )

      Those are a few comments on the recent interactions we’ve had. I’ll be out of commission for another couple of weeks as the EPS annual meeting, the EPS apologetics conference, and SBL are coming up. (I am presenting at all three and am president of EPS. So this is my busiest time of year!)

    • wm tanksley

      Paul, God bless your ministry! Thank you for taking the time to respond. I’m also glad you posted an interpretation with each of the prooftexts you gave; I often mess up by not providing exegesis, merely the prooftext. Needless to say, the exegesis is where things turn.

      I expect to respond to those exegeses in the near future.

      -Wm

    • Paul Copan

      Thanks very much, William. I appreciate your encouragement–and the opportunity to interact with you and other gracious-spirited Calvinistic brothers and sisters at this blogsite.

      Grace and peace to you.

      Paul

    • wm tanksley

      First, in John 3:16 I wasn’t intending to allege a feeling-versus-action; rather, I was attempting to point out to you that the action the verse ACTUALLY pointed to wasn’t a claim of universal salvation, but rather was a claim of limited salvation (only the ones who believe). The verse doesn’t specify whether God predestined salvation, of course, I’m not claiming that; but neither is it appropriate to say that the verse is about God extending His salvation to everyone in the world. The next verses make it clear that some people (in the world) are excluded from the salvation.

      I hope you’ll fully deal with this before jumping to Matthew 5, which is thoroughly out of context, since Mat 5 is about the perfect fulfillment of the Law, not about being saved from the Law. When you do jump, please ground your objection in more than speculation (that “surely this extends to the genuine offer of salvation”).

      Just about every claim you make about Jesus’ request for his enemies’ forgiveness from the cross is wrong (the target was the soldiers who were mentioned before and after, not the religious leaders); but whether wrong or right, Jesus’ request for forgiveness didn’t save any of them.

      (Yes, Jesus prays for his own in John 17, but he prays for his enemies on the cross! So does Stephen when he is being stoned as well as Paul regarding his hard-hearted Jewish kin in Romans 9-10.)

      As Jesus says, we are to pray for and bless those who persecute us. The especial goal of our prayer should be their salvation. But Jesus didn’t pray with that goal, and sometimes even spoke to people in a way that indicated that He didn’t expect them to be saved. He commanded us not to do that, but He Himself did.

      You then claim that Joh 6:44-45 teaches prevenient grace; but it can’t, because John 6:45 says that everyone who hears and learns from God comes to Christ, which makes it irresistible. (It’s also arguably true that v44 intends to say that everyone…

    • wm tanksley

      (Maybe I should edit my replies in a separate editor, so I can do a character-count. Anyhow, I was saying:)

      You then claim that Joh 6:44-45 teaches prevenient grace; but it can’t, because John 6:45 says that everyone who hears and learns from God comes to Christ, which makes it irresistible. (It’s also arguably true that v44 intends to say that everyone drawn by God will be raised up on the last day by Christ, which would make it saving rather than prevenient grace; but I admit it’s possible that the pronoun is unclear.)

      You also point out that a response is required in John 6; but you can’t be so ignorant about Calvinistic teaching as to think that they teach that no response is required. Rather, they teach that the response starts with God’s action in drawing, teaching, calling, and giving us to Christ. Once God does those things, we always respond and will certainly be raised on the last day; until He does them, we cannot.

      And don’t forget that John says that Christ said these things because He knew specifically which people would never believe.

      -Wm

    • Rich

      Hi All!
      It really amazes me that Arminian’s just haven’t read the other side. I think Paul Copan and Lane Craig are great thinkers, but fail when it comes to foreknowledge and Salvation.
      1. Middle knowledge does not work, its a guessing game of what could happen.
      2. Scripture is clear, man has freewill because he is a created creature, the Potter shapes the clay (Rom 9).

      Therefore God sovereignly establishes our nature and will act freely out of it. You cant have independent natures, totally free.

      If one wants to read good interpretations of 2 Peter 3;9, 1 Tim 2;4 and John 3;16 they should read,

      (a) The Potter Freedom; by Jame R white
      (b) The Foundations of Grace; by Steven Lawson
      (c) A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith; by Robert Reymond.

      As for John 3;16
      “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3; 14-17)

      As we saw, Moses only saved the Chosen people of God, Israel when he lifted up his pole. The people God so loved, the world, are his chosen people through out the world.

      This can be proved from John 6;33 “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

      Then four verse latter John 6;37 says Speaking of those chosen from eternity,
      “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and the ones who come to me I will by no means cast out.” The Fathers will for the Son coming down was do lose none that the Father had given him from eternity. (John 6;39).

      Never has atonement been for every person who has ever lived, and nor did Jesus at the cross die for all in John 3;16.

      As I’ve shown else where, there is no word in the…

    • Rich

      But here we will just use bullet points!
      1.In the beginning there was God from all eternity alone but complete in the Trinity.
      2. God had an eternal purpose in himself, which was influence by no other object.

      3. God decided to create a world and individuals according to his blueprint and eternal purposes.In God’s mind, only as a concept and idea, God decided the identity, structure and nature of every individual. He designed and fashioned every detail about us (Rom 9;21). You are a creation of God.

      4. For God does all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph 1;11) and has this “Righteous” right to do this (Rom 9;14).

      5. God fashions in his mind from the same lump of material, vessels for honor and vessels for dishonor. Does not the Potter have the power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor (Rom 9;21-22 & Prov 16;4 “The Lord has made all for himself, Yes even the wicked for the day of doom”. The meaning of “the same lump” means that it has no identity or structure, form, or destiny until God fashions it. “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet formed. And in your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me.” (Psalm 139;16)

      6. God does not look into another world to see what independent creatures will do, for there is no world. No one has lived or acted, we act according to how we have been created. God knows because he decrees his blueprint of reality (Rom 9;11). Foreknowledge does not mean to foresee, but to foreknow.

      7. From eternity God chose a group of people to be in Christ (Eph 1), that is the complete Bride of Christ, and predestined them to come to faith in him.Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus according to the good please of his will. (Eph 1;4). For Whom He Foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son,…

    • Rich

      To many of us when we read the Old Testament we see a God who did not mess about with peoples sins. At times he got very angry and poured out his wrath on people. Many Christians today believe that God is some how different today, he is just love, and loves every one. This understanding gives the interpretation that we have two different God’s or one God who has changed his character. Both off these views are wrong .God does not change in character or forget about justice.

      What do we mean when we hear the word “Wrath of God”? The Wrath of God is a disposition in God that is against sin. It is a Holy anger that will not tolerate injustice and sin. God’s anger is not driven by wild irrational emotions, but by his perfect nature of Holiness. Does the Bible teach that, once Jesus went to the cross, God’s wrath was appeased for every person on the planet? That now all that remains is a God who blazes love on the earth? Many would say “Yes” but this is not true, God’s wrath is still alive in the New Testament Scriptures.

      1.Yes, it is true God has a general Love for his creation, and looks after his creation with many blessings.
      2. But it is also true that he has a Salvation Love, distinct for those who believe in his name, and are called according to his purposes (Rom 8;30).
      3. And it is also true that God’s wrath remains on much of the earth/people.

      Some Theologians, namely “Wesleyans” have taught a concept called “Prevenient Grace”, meaning that at the cross a Grace came that appeased God’s wrath for all people and weakened the power of sin, (that keeps us a slave to coming to Christ), so that all humanity can now freely just accept Christ. The problem with this teaching is, it’s not in the Bible. Unbelievers are still locked in their sin nature unable to come to Christ, unless he draws them and gives birth to them from above (John 3;8).

      As scripture says,
      “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor…

    • Rich

      Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to me unless it has been granted by My Father.” (John 6;65)

      We can clearly see that this idea of Prevenient Grace does not exist in scripture.

      If it did, then what sense would John 3;36 mean,
      “He who believes in the Son has ever lasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

      1.Did the Cross-appease all of God’s wrath? No, but he did die for the world!
      2. Did the Cross give us a kind of Grace that weakens the enmity against God, that makes us resists him, from our sin natures to be free to just accept him? No
      3.Does there just exist now a God of love who is not angry with anyone? No

      Every one quotes John 3;16 “For God so Loved the World”, but how does this relate to John 3;36?
      Clearly,
      1.Those that Believe, have God’s salvation Love on them.
      2. And those who don’t his wrath still remain’s on them.

      We will now look at a few more passages that talk about God’s wrath and then go back to the subject of Prevenient Grace. We see God’s wrath in two main ways, one in divine punishment, and another in letting people undo themselves to their own destruction. In their suffering and immorality, they show the wrath of God. In the Old Testament God showed his wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah, and with the flood, wiping out wickedness by divine justice.

      We also see God’s wrath in the New Testament, Romans 1;18-28,
      “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. Even through they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and…

    • Rich

      Pretty hard to answer; when the word count is so small, cant paste my answer in. Sorry, it looks a mess.

    • […] Paul Copan, “Divine Exasperation”, surveys biblical passages that express God’s exasperation with sinful, human resistance to God’s grace, revealing “God’s legitimate expectation of spiritual fruitfulness, repentance, or obedience. That is, what hinders their repentance is not God’s withholding grace so that they cannot repent. Indeed, abundant grace has been given that justifies the expectation of repentance—even if God in his foreknowledge knows it is not forthcoming. Despite God’s initiating grace, humans continue to “resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51)—to grieve him (Ephesians 4:30) and quench him (1 Thessalonians 5:19). God commands all people without exception to repent (Acts 17:30); so presumably God’s initiating grace is available for all to do so.” This entry was posted in Determinism, Free Will, General, Grace, Monergism & Synergism, Providence, Reprobation, Sovereignty of God. Bookmark the permalink. ← Gordon C. I. Wong, “Make Their Ears Dull: Irony in Isaiah 6:9-10″ […]

    • wm tanksley

      Looks like I clean forgot to respond. Well, Paul has a long turnaround time too, so I’m only being fair to him! 🙂 Seriously, though, I apologise and hope I haven’t missed my opportunity to interact.

      Again, consider the following passages with me. Do you not feel the weight of their plain meaning? These texts are far from “compatibilistic.”

      Almost none of those passages address compatibilism or incompatibilism in any way. Think about it… If compatibilism is true, it’s perfectly fine to say that humans are responsible for their responses to God, because human responsibility is COMPATIBLE with divine determination. So you finding pages and pages of verses stressing human responsibility doesn’t combat compatibilism in any way.

      Honestly, it’s hard for me to understand why incompatibilists find this so hard to accept.

      A text which is “far from compatibilistic” would either deny human responsibility, or deny divine sovereignty, or specify some area in which they’re not active together. Fortunately, some of your passages can reasonably be taken this way, so you certainly haven’t wasted your time. But this means that I’ll be passing some of the passages by. So let me know if I missed your point with any passage.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      First, Genesis 4:6-7 and Deuteronomy 10:16, the texts simply show that humans are responsible. That’s perfectly compatible with compatibilism.

      Isaiah 5:1-7 is, I think, a more worthy choice for you. First, though, your objection is completely without weight:

      (WHO is to blame for Israel’s fruitlessness? Despite the plain language of such texts, the Calvinist answer must be “God.”)

      Compatibilism’s answer is “man is to blame for man’s actions taken according to man’s desires.” You can argue with that if you want, and particularly you can try to show that it leads to contradiction — but you can’t simply contradict a Calvinist about his own beliefs and expect to be believed.

      And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard. What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed…

      This verse is a challenge to compatibilism because it specifically claims that God expected the vinyard to produce good grapes, which given the metaphor one would expect to mean that God expected Israel to meet the requirements of the covenant of the Land. The major problem with reading is that God told all Israel, at the end of Deuteronomy, that they would fail to meet the covenant, and would have to be scattered. So God couldn’t have “expected” in the sense of “not foreknowing failure”; and there’s no other sense that’s obviously visible in this passage. I think that it’s sufficient to interpret this passage as appealing to fair judgement: God presents what He’s actually done for Israel, and Israel responds by admitting that this SHOULD have been sufficient but they still disobeyed. God’s case here is stronger than the metaphor pretends, and Christ presents a more…

    • wm tanksley

      (I knew it: I went over length. Here’s the rest, and then I’ll discuss in another post.)

      …God’s case here is stronger than the metaphor pretends, and Christ presents a more complete case when He expands it to include the priests as tenders of the vinyard who execute the messengers (prophets) the owner (God) sends.

      I’m made a strong claim, though. I said there’s no other sense in which “expected” could be taken. Let me try to post this, and then I’ll try to interact with that claim fairly to your point of view.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      So, in Isaiah 5, God asks the hearer to judge and declare God righteous for doing everything He could be expected to do. He says that He “expected” it to produce good grapes, and it produced sour ones.

      I think the best point you’ve got in this passage would be to imply that the argument being presented here was complete in the sense of meaning that God had done NOTHING that would in any way hurt Israel’s chances of responding to Him. For example, if the owner had failed to mention that the vinyard was sown with salt, that would be a crucially unfair omission from that case being presented. I think you’d like to argue that sowing total depravity in men’s hearts would be like sowing the vinyard with salt, and that any fair judgement would find against the owner and for the vinyard.

      Am I right in this? I’ll let you speak for yourself, because I know classical Arminianism wouldn’t make this argument — and in fact, I think it’s a thoroughly Pelagian argument, so I don’t want to argue against it until I know whether you accept it (and I want to give you a fair chance to nuance your argument so it doesn’t fall into any traps).

      Just to be clear, I’m not saying you’re Pelagian or semi-Pelagian, nor am I accusing you of presenting Pelagian arguments. But the only way I can see to read this passage in an incompatibilist manner is Pelagian. Let me know what I’m missing.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      I’m not replying to Part VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI because the verses in it don’t refer at all to compatibilism or incompatibilism; they merely show that man does bad things and is to blame for them. Again, the claim compatibilism makes is that man can justly be blamed. Your showing that it’s just to blame man doesn’t disprove compatibilism.

      I’ll briefly mention that the end of part X (actually in part XI) makes the point that “Why the divine jealousy about idolatry if Israel can’t turn away from it anyway? It strikes me as divine play-acting.” This is a superficially fine argument, but a total non-sequitur from the passage itself (Deut 32). It’s a little bit against the context, since there God proclaims His power to achieve His ends.

      The argument presented in part VIII stands alone, but I don’t respond simply because it’s so profoundly eisegetical: your claim that the Old Testament “assumes” your view would be the ultimate level of question-begging, if you didn’t top it by saying that the New Testament has to be read according to emanations of this penumbra. You’re making a claim (assumption) that requires proof, not simply assertion.

      But part XII brings up what I think is one of the best passages to bring against Calvinism.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Okay, I’m finally back.

      It’s interesting that you associate Jeremiah 18 with Romans 9. Jeremiah isn’t using the metaphor of clay talking back to the potter, but rather the metaphor of clay turning wrong and having to be thrown down into a different pot. Before I look more closely at Jeremiah, let me point out the passages that do use Paul’s metaphor: Isaiah 29:16 and Isa 45:9. The common element between the two passages is that they both regard as perverse and gravely dangerous to argue with your maker about what He’s making you into. The different elements are in the context; Isa 29 is about God’s promise to restore, while Isa 45 is about God’s authority to bring disaster and benefit according to His plan and desire. I think it’s reasonable to say that Paul was referring to both, since his quote isn’t exactly parallel to either; but I’m open to correction (perhaps the LXX used that, for example).

      I think you’d have to agree that Isaiah isn’t being misused by Calvinists in looking at Paul’s quote. I’d like to hear from you a defense of how Paul was attempting to use Jeremiah, because I simply don’t see any trace of common meaning or wording between the two passages.

      Don’t want to run over the limit… I’ll post this.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Now, let’s look at the passage in Jeremiah. The context is, I think, that some people believe that God’s threat of destruction followed their breaking of the covenant, and that therefore there was no way to be restored to the covenant, nor any obligation to keep the covenant. In this passage, God tells the people that if they repent, God will remove the curses of the covenant; and He also reminds them that His covenant blessings are also conditional.

      The two major Reformed churches both hold that God’s Law has three purposes. The Lutherans hold that its purposes are to curb social evil, to mirror depravity, and to rule sanctification. Calvin held that the three purposes are to mirror God’s goodness and man’s depravity, to restrain social evil, and to reveal what is pleasing to God.

      In a similar way, I can easily see at least two purposes in this passage, and I’m going to suggest a third purpose for this passage, since a sermon with only two points is like a man with only two legs (that metaphor may have gotten away from me).

      First, this promise talks to those who think they’re the People of God and reminds them that being the People of God means that God is working through you, and if your work isn’t being pleasing to God, God is about to change the way He works through you — if you’re enjoying where you are right now, this is a THREAT.

      Second, this promise speaks to those who think they’re cast away by God, and reminds them that if they follow the Law of God, God will work through them — and if you fear the threat of the withdrawal of God’s good works, this is a PROMISE.

      Third, this promise hints that there’s a way to please God even when we’ve willfully sinned, a way not given by the Law at all (because the Law only offers sacrifices for accidental sins): God accepts repentance! God covers our past guilt with the righteousness of His Son, and our present inabilities with the working of His Holy Spirit, and our future perfection with…

    • wm tanksley

      (Oops, truncated again. I wonder if my browser can do a word count to help keep my writing short enough. It’s a pity that the site’s word count has never worked for me.)

      … God covers our past guilt with the righteousness of His Son, and our present inabilities with the working of His Holy Spirit, and our future perfection with the Father’s predestination to be conformed to the image of His Son. This offer was available to all of the Old Testament saints through faith in God’s promises, a faith which must have seemed improbable to them but which is now completely revealed to us. This third point is, as I’ve said, not explicit in this text; but it’s implicit because in order for God to accept and bless a change in behavior He must somehow satisfy the demands of His own perfect justice for the old bad behavior.

      This is a consistently Calvinistic interpretation of this passage. Next I’ll write a comment in which I attempt to explain that nothing in this passage undermines either the persistence of the saints, or total depravity.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Okay, so does Jeremiah say here that when God curses the formerly blessed people, is God taking away salvation from saved people? The problem with reading this is that there’s no mention here of salvation, only an implication of blessings from following the Law. We know now that following the Law doesn’t give salvation, so this passage is also not talking about removing salvation.

      But I do believe this passage applies to a person in the Church who is failing to follow God’s law. That person should be warned that although he now has the blessings of Christ, God is not obligated to keep the blessings of Christ applied to him; on the contrary, the cursings of the New Covenant will apply to those who break it. Calvin would have said that such a person was not truly saved, because the Holy Spirit would not have failed to seal a saved person to Himself, and the Son would never let go of a person the Father had given to Him.

      Next, does Jeremiah here say that an unsaved person can, by his own effort, fulfill the law to merit salvation? As I showed with my third point, this passage doesn’t mention God’s gracious acceptance of repentance, so all this passage explicitly says is that a person can regain the present blessings of the covenant, but it doesn’t explain how their past sins can be forgiven, nor how their future sanctification can be gained.

      -Wm

    • Paul Copan

      Hello, folks.
      I’m catching up after Atlanta, but let me jump right in.

      William, on John 3:16, does God love the entire world without exception or simply individuals within the world (all without distinction)? If the latter, this would go against the very (negative) general use of “world” throughout John’s Gospel. (Isn’t this the same “world” that Jesus doesn’t pray for in John 17?!) This point is reinforced by 1 Jn. 2:2—Christ didn’t die for an elect few but for the whole world; note that this phrase is used only one other time in 1 Jn (5:19)—where the “whole world” lies in the hands of the evil one.

      As for Matthew 5, the “perfect fulfillment of the Law” is beside the point. Also, on the general misreading of the Sermon on the Mount, see Glen Stassen/David Gushee’s Kingdom Ethics (IVP) and their discussion of the transforming initiatives (a triadic rather than the traditional dyadic structuring), which makes much better sense of the text than traditional interpretations do. At any rate, the context of peacemaking and reconciliation reflects God’s character—being called “children/sons of God” and reconciling with our enemies, mentioned earlier in Matthew 5—nicely informs this passage at the end of Matthew 5 regarding God’s love for his enemies. God seeks reconciliation with his enemies and he loves them—and so should we. Jesus exemplifies this love for the world (or worldy-minded)—namely, the rich young man in Mark 10:21: “Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him.” He felt compassion for the multitudes (presumably all without exception!) who were like sheep without a shepherd (Mt. 9:36). God makes provision for his enemies, even using language like “purification from his former sins” and “bought” to characterize false teachers who have turned away from the truth [2 Pet. 1:9; 2:1]).

    • Paul Copan

      PART II:

      Sure, Jesus speaks to people who he foreknows will not be saved, but that’s a moot point. He desires and fully provides for their salvation nevertheless, doing all that he can for their repentance. What prevents their repentance is not God, but human resistance to God’s grace. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Paul desires the salvation of his hard-hearted kin in Rom. 9-10. Does Paul have more compassion and concern for their salvation than God does? May it never be! And Stephen himself says that his hearers are resisting the Spirit (Acts 7:51). My question is this: Isn’t the Spirit attempting to convict hard-hearted humans? If not, why the “resistance” language? If the Spirit has hardened their hearts anyway and prevented their repentance, then “resistance” language is totally unnecessary and even contradictory. (Hebrews 3:15: “If you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts….”)

      On John 6:44-45, of course God must initiate the process. I don’t think that what you said undermines the points I made earlier.

      Rich, I think you miss the point of claims regarding middle knowledge. Counterfactual knowledge of what humans would freely do is exemplified by the account of David at Kielah (1 Sam. 23:11-12)—hardly guesswork. You didn’t really interact with Molinism; so I won’t comment further.

    • Paul Copan

      PART III:

      On the potter and the clay, take a look at the context of Jeremiah 18 (which Paul is citing in Rom. 9). The original passage actually reveals significantly free human action. God the potter is free to relent from threatened calamity IF a nation freely turns from its evil. And who said anything about “totally free”? That’s a misrepresentation of my position. All I am saying is that humans have freedom to resist God’s gracious initiative. Totally free we are not. After all there are plenty of influences and limitations all about us: our place in history, our geography, our education, our mental abilities, etc. My point is that the buck stops with the agent; while desires and even character states can influence, they don’t determine. Of course, those who insist that my position is false are presumably arguing because of their own strongest desires! If so, then their conclusion is not a rational one and thus cannot be called knowledge since their view is only accidentally true. (See Kenneth Keathley’s discussion in *Salvation and Sovereignty* on this.)

      Rich, as for your discussion of John 3:16, see the above comments and the use of the phrase “whole world” in 1 Jn. 2:2 and 5:19 (cp. 2 Pet. 2:1: “denying the Master who bought them”). As for Jn. 3:36, yes, the wrath of God remains on people unless they repent. After all, we were too by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Eph. 2:1-3).

      As for your comment about the need for regeneration to believe, it seems that this goes beyond what Scripture states. The problem with the common Calvinistic dictum “regeneration precedes faith” is that it isn’t found in the Bible! Repentance/faith (through God’s gracious initiative, which can be resisted) precedes salvation/rebirth:

    • Paul Copan

      PART IV:

      • “But as many as received Him, even to those who believe in His name, to them He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13).
      • “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).
      • “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
      • “Repent and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
      • “This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:2)
      • “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13).

      We even see in Hebrews 6:4-5 that people can be enlightened, taste the heavenly gift, be made partakers of the Holy Spirit, taste the good word of God and the power of the age to come and not in the end be saved. This sounds like the working of a kind of prevenient grace to me! I can’t go into a lot of detail, but I don’t find the passages you gave all that difficult to answer.

      The discussion is getting long. I guess I’d better get to William’s stuff.

    • Paul Copan

      PART V:

      Isaiah 5: I’m glad you think this powerful passage is a “more worthy choice”; the point here is that not only is man to blame for fruitlessness, God has provided for Israel’s repentance and rightly calls for them to do so, having done all he can for them. God’s desire/will for them is being obstructed in its fulfillment. I don’t think we need to keep appealing to Dt. 30 to resolve the Isaiah issue since even within Dt. 30 itself God tells the people to choose life over death; God has made this provision for them to choose life. Yes, God foreknows what Israel will freely do, but he has done all he can to enable them to choose life over death then and there in the wilderness—to circumcise their hearts and not stiffen their necks any longer (10:16). Israel is responsible for its own hard-heartedness; God will eventually give them over to their hard-heartedness—i.e., hardening their hearts (stage two in the hardening process).

      You say about Isaiah 5 that “God presents what He’s actually done for Israel, and Israel responds by admitting that this SHOULD have been sufficient but they still disobeyed.” Not at all. Israel isn’t admitting anything! God is saying he has done all that he can to create conditions for spiritual and moral fruitfulness for Israel, yet Israel refused despite God’s strongest efforts. The “sowing with salt” analogy misses the point that Isa. 5 is making. This isn’t merely a matter of God’s not hurting their chances. Rather, “totally depraved” Israel has been given sufficient and necessary grace by which they truly can respond to God and produce moral/spiritual fruit, and God makes full provision for their doing so and desires it. God does all he can, and yet this isn’t enough because Israel refuses his initiating grace (i.e., this is a far cry from Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism!).

      I think your other interactions with the passages I’ve listed miss the point you make about each one supporting compatibilism. Rather,…

    • Paul Copan

      PARTS IV FF AGAIN!

      Sorry, I messed up on my posting. I was cut short and couldn’t patch things up. So I’ll begin my RE-POSTING and then continue. Pardon any confusion!

      William, you claim that in my citing Old Testament passages (primarily), I am simply restating/assuming the tenets of compatibilism: humans are responsible for their responses to God and this is compatible with divine determination. No, these texts illustrate something more—namely, God fully provides for repentance, having done all he can to encourage this, but humans act contrariwise and stubbornly refuse. That is not compatibilism at all but rather incompatibilism. Should Cain have acted differently than he did (Gen. 4)? The biblical text assumes that God has done all he can to provide for repentance and obedience; all that prevents Cain’s obedience is Cain! When God tells his people to choose life over death (in Deut. 30, of all places!), this assumes he has given them opportunity to do so; God has opened the way for them to do so, doing all he can for them, but they refuse. This is not compatiblism.

    • Paul Copan

      PART V (CORRECT VERSION):

      Isaiah 5: William, I’m glad you think this powerful passage is a “more worthy choice”; the point here is that not only is man to blame for fruitlessness, God has provided for Israel’s repentance and rightly calls for them to do so, having done all he can for them. God’s desire/will for them is being obstructed in its fulfillment. I don’t think we need to keep appealing to Dt. 30 to resolve the Isaiah issue since even within Dt. 30 itself God tells the people to choose life over death; God has made this provision for them to choose life. Yes, God foreknows what Israel will freely do, but he has done all he can to enable them to choose life over death then and there in the wilderness—to circumcise their hearts and not stiffen their necks any longer (10:16). Israel is responsible for its own hard-heartedness; God will eventually give them over to their hard-heartedness—i.e., hardening their hearts (stage two in the hardening process).

      You say about Isaiah 5 that “God presents what He’s actually done for Israel, and Israel responds by admitting that this SHOULD have been sufficient but they still disobeyed.” Not at all. Israel isn’t admitting anything! God is saying he has done all that he can to create conditions for spiritual and moral fruitfulness for Israel, yet Israel refused despite God’s strongest efforts. The “sowing with salt” analogy misses the point that Isa. 5 is making. This isn’t merely a matter of God’s not hurting their chances. Rather, “totally depraved” Israel has been given sufficient and necessary grace by which they truly can respond to God and produce moral/spiritual fruit, and God makes full provision for their doing so and desires it. God does all he can, and yet this isn’t enough because Israel refuses his initiating grace (i.e., this is a far cry from Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism!).

    • Paul Copan

      PART VI:

      I think your other interactions with the passages I’ve listed miss the point you make about each one supporting compatibilism. Rather, in passage after passage, the point is that God makes full provision for repentance, having done all that he can, but Israel freely resists God’s grace. Don’t you see in these passages that God has done all that he can to facilitate repentance? It’s like Revelation 2:21: “I gave her time to repent…but she refused to repent of her immoralities.” It is a reasonable point to say a compatibilist interpretation makes such passages look like divine play-acting. (I should add that I’m hardly question-begging if I note that passages like the potter and the clay mentioned in the NT are rooted in a broader OT context. This is the complaint NT Wright correctly raises in his book Justification.

      You ask about whether Jeremiah or Isaiah is behind the potter-clay theme in Romans 9. The potter-clay issue AND not complaining against one’s Maker pervade both Jeremiah and Isaiah. (In his NICNT Romans commentary, Douglas Moo notes that this general Old Testament theme is in Paul’s mind; so one doesn’t need to choose between Isaiah and Jeremiah.) God asks in Jeremiah 18:6: “’Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.’” Indeed, this Jeremiah passage along with the Isaiah passages is commonly noted by New Testament commentators.

    • Paul Copan

      PART VII:

      I don’t think I need to comment too much on your perspectives on the Jeremiah passage. I appreciate the exposition from a Reformed viewpoint. You ask: “Okay, so does Jeremiah say here that when God curses the formerly blessed people, is God taking away salvation from saved people?” That’s not the issue. My point is that God makes provision for the repentance of his people so that they might find salvation/forgiveness and avert judgment. Most of God’s chosen people died in the wilderness because of their unbelief (Heb. 3:14-19; note that here too humans should not harden their hearts if they hear God’s voice; the implication, once again, is that God has done all he can to make repentance possible and that it is up to humans to respond to that initiating grace).

      This is much like Ezekiel 18:23 (“Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?”) and Ezekiel 18:31-32 (“Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live”). This is very incompatibilistic! God has done all that he can, and now it is left up to humans to respond to that initiating grace. (Again, the issue of divine foreknowledge—God’s knowing how humans will freely respond—is beside the point here.)

      You say, “Next, does Jeremiah here say that an unsaved person can, by his own effort, fulfill the law to merit salvation?” No, that issue was put to rest well before the Law came—in Genesis 15:6! The point I’ve been making over and over is that God does all he can for the salvation/repentance of ethnic Israel, but most of them refuse God’s gracious initiative and freely resist his grace.

    • Paul Copan

      PART VIII:

      I suppose I should say something about “vessels of wrath” in Romans 9:22. Paul is specifically referring to his Jewish brothers (“my kinsmen according to the flesh” [v. 3)]). But Paul also says that “they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants” (9:6-7). So long as ethnic Jews cling to their privileged status of peoplehood and refuse to trust in the Messiah, they remain vessels of wrath. We know that through Messiah, the seed of Abraham (9:5-7) is now a global family. The image of the potter in Jeremiah 18 shouldn’t be ignored (indeed, God in that same passage says that Israel is like a lump of clay to him). There God says that the destruction or preservation of the vessel was conditioned upon the repentance of the people: “if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent [repent of] concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.”

      The language in Rom. 9 is not that the potter deliberately makes some vessels to destroy—potters do not do that! Rather, God makes vessels to be used, whether for benevolent purposes or for menial use (see 2 Tim. 2:19-21). All vessels are used to accomplish God’s purposes–even the dishonorable vessels who resist him (like Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Caiaphas, Pilate, Judas Iscariot, etc.). These vessels can thus honor God by displaying his wrath; God will use them to further his ends so that in this sense, no one can resist his will. However, it can be done in other ways, as in Luke 7:30: “But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves….”

    • Paul Copan

      PART IX:

      In this context, the menial “vessels of wrath” are unbelieving Jews, and the “vessels of mercy” are believing Jews and Gentiles, but nothing in the text says that a vessel of wrath could not become a vessel of mercy. As I’ve noted, all Christians were “by nature children of wrath” before conversion (Eph. 2:3). So Paul prayed for unbelieving Jews that they would no longer be “vessels of wrath” through whom God provoked the Gentiles to salvation, but he desired their salvation (10:1).

      In fact, while Romans 9 mentions “honorable” and “dishonorable vessels,” this state isn’t fixed and determined by God, but is conditioned upon the human response to God’s grace. As 2 Timothy 2:20-1 reminds us, although there are vessels of “honor” and “dishonor” in a household, “if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel of honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” That is, as long as people rebel and disobey God, they are appointed to doom and can be used as dishonorable vessels (1 Pet. 2:8). But if they respond to God’s grace by turning to him, then they become part of God’s elect people.

      That’s about all I can do for now. Feel free to post comments. I don’t guarantee how quickly I’ll get back to your comments as I’ll need to post a new piece soon and will be interacting with comments there. I’ll do what I can.

    • Michael T.

      Paul,

      A curiousity question. Do you consider yourself a Molinist or a traditional Arminian? If the former you might be interested in another discussion that’s been going on for awhile now on this blog on what exactly Molinism posits and whether or not this is logically possible. Reading just the last 5-10 posts would probably suffice to get a picture of the disagreement.

      http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/10/why-i-reject-the-arminian-doctrine-of-prevenient-grace-2/

    • Paul Copan

      Michael,

      Yes, I am a Molinist. I looked at the blog on prevenient grace, and I’m tempted to jump right in and comment on middle knowledge, free will, and prevenient grace. Maybe I’ll just make a couple of brief comments here.

      1) I do note above that “regeneration precedes faith” appears to have even less exegetical warrant than you claim about prevenient grace! That’s why some Calvinists (like Millard Erickson) must resort to an “effectual calling” (which isn’t exactly the most exegetically-stable doctrine). Effectual calling strikes me as ad hoc and must be added into the ordo salutis mix. Michael, just curious: what do you think about my reference above to Hebrews 6 (being enlightened, tasting the heavenly gift, being made partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasting the good word of God and the power of the age to come) as being one example of prevenient grace? What about Jesus giving Jezebel time to repent in Rev. 2:21? These and the many OT passages I’ve mentioned could be considered examples of prevenient grace, where God has done all he can to create the conditions for repentance.

      2) I think that Roger Olson’s puzzlement about choices apparently not having a cause incorrectly assumes *efficient* causality is the only game in town (the kind of causality emphasized by Calvinists, who assume pre-existing conditons that cause or direct the will to move in one direction rather than another); however, he overlooks the explanation of *final* causality–namely, that choices are directed toward some end rather than being caused by pre-existing influences.

      I think this is about all I have time for.

    • Michael T.

      Paul,
      I think you misunderstand me. I am a Arminian who is intrigued by Molinism. I’m just not sure that it answers all my objections to Calvinism. For instance I’m not convinced that Molinism isn’t ultimately deterministic despite claims by the likes of WLC that it isn’t. This is ultimately what the debate between me and William on the other blog post is about. William (being a Calvinist) argues that Molinism is ultimately just as deterministic if not more deterministic then Calvinism. I’m not so sure so I’m ultimately trying to learn what I can about Molinism from the debate. You being a Molinist I thought would be a good person to perhaps correct any misunderstandings by William or myself.

    • Paul Copan

      Michael T,

      My apologies. I didn’t note the initial for your last name, and so my mind was thinking only of (Calvinist) Michael P., who wrote on (against!) prevenient grace elsewhere on this blogsite!

      As for Molinism, it’s important to remember what is *logically prior* in the range of actualizable worlds–namely, what humans *would* freely do when placed in this or that world/circumstance. *That* is logically (not chronologically) prior to what God foreknows, which is logically prior to the world that God actualizes/decrees. So to say that “Molinism looks just as deterministic as Calvinism (or even more than Calvinism)” is metaphysically confused. That is, God’s knows what humans would genuinely freely do in this or that world; his foreknowledge is logically posterior to what humans would freely do if placed in this or that possible world. God, in the next logical moment, selects the actual world. God’s doing so does not violate human freedom (which is logically prior to his foreknowledge and selection) but yet accomplishes God’s purposes. Molinism nicely brings together divine providence and libertarian freedom.

      If you miss the logical priority (which William appears to do), then you’ll draw a mistaken conclusion about how “deterministic” Molinism appears to be.

      ‘Hope that helps!

    • wm tanksley

      1) I do note above that “regeneration precedes faith” appears to have even less exegetical warrant than you claim about prevenient grace!

      I’m speculating that when you say “exegetical warrant” you mean explicit textual support (a comparison would be that there’s only a little explicit textual support for the Trinity, but it’s exegetically required). But even you agree that something happens to man before faith is possible — you and Augustine both call it “prevenient grace”, although you have completely different definitions. Calvinists call “regeneration” the operation of that which Augustine called “prevenient grace”.

      what do you think about my reference above to Hebrews 6 (being enlightened, […]) as being one example of prevenient grace?

      How does one “fall away” from prevenient grace? I thought it was always present for everyone.

      It doesn’t fit what I thought was prevenient grace, but perhaps my understanding of that doctrine is wrong. If this IS prevenient grace, it seems to place a lot of clarity on how prevenient grace works, a LOT differently than I’ve seen any teacher give. I suspect that given this passage and the assumption that it’s talking about prevenient grace, I could find contradictions.

      What about Jesus giving Jezebel time to repent in Rev. 2:21? These and the many OT passages I’ve mentioned could be considered examples of prevenient grace, where God has done all he can to create the conditions for repentance.

      I’ll get to the OT ones eventually. But this one is easy — if “giving her time” is sufficient to show prevenient grace, and prevenient grace is defined as help sufficient to enable one to overcome one’s inability to accept God, then the only conclusion is that time is sufficient to overcome one’s inability to accept God. This seems like full-blown Pelagianism.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      …where God has done all he can to create the conditions for repentance.

      It’s no good praying to God for people’s salvation, then — He’s already done all He can do. Better to pray to the people.

      This “God has done all He can” seems empty. The intent is to defend the goodness of God, which is right and laudable, but the defense still leaves God involved in exactly the same evils every other theology does; and worse, God can’t improve things; God can’t protect you, and God can’t save any more than He planned to.

      It reminds me of the joke: “The optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist fears that this IS the best of all possible worlds.”

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      This is a low blow but,

      “It’s no good praying to God for people’s salvation, then — He’s already done all He can do. Better to pray to the people.”

      In Calvinism why pray at all?? God has already decided.

    • wm tanksley

      Michael said “In Calvinism why pray at all?? God has already decided.”

      This isn’t a problem with Calvinism — it’s a problem with anything except Open Theism, since of course God has already decided based on His omniscience. One version of Calvinism (the one with a “meticulous decree”) adds the element that God decreed even the contents of our prayers, but this doesn’t affect our decision of whether to pray (just because God says that you WILL doesn’t mean you SHOULDN’T).

      In general, we can agree that God uses BOTH the things that He has decreed AND the things that He has not decreed in order to accomplish His good purposes. Even an open theist can agree with that, so long as I allow them to say that God has decreed nothing.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      William, on John 3:16, does God love the entire world without exception or simply individuals within the world (all without distinction)?

      The phrase “the entire world without exception” is ungrammatical, because “the entire world” is a single object. How can you make an exception to a single object? You’re assuming that John is actually using “world” to refer to a group of individuals, but there’s no reason in the verse itself to make that conclusion.

      John 3:16 it doesn’t say anything about individuals until it starts talking about “whoever believes” (which isn’t “the world”). John 3:17 doesn’t change that to individuals, either. John 3:18 is talking about individuals, and now we see how Jesus didn’t condemn the world but rather saved it: He didn’t change individuals from “not condemned” to “condemned”, but rather the other way around. And who did He change from “condemned” to “not condemned”? Only those who believed on Him. God loved the world such that He saved some individuals.

      Of course, you and I disagree on how God selects those individuals. But that’s not what this verse is about.

      If the latter, this would go against the very (negative) general use of “world” throughout John’s Gospel. (Isn’t this the same “world” that Jesus doesn’t pray for in John 17?!)

      I don’t think it’s useful to appeal to a general use in this manner. This is the world that God loves; it’s not the same concept as the world we’re told to “love not”. This is the world that Jesus came into (John 1), not the world that He doesn’t pray on behalf of (John 17).

      This point is reinforced by 1 Jn. 2:2—Christ didn’t die for an elect few but for the whole world; note that this phrase is used only one other time in 1 Jn (5:19)—where the “whole world” lies in the hands of the evil one.

      Quotations from Patristics: http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=3326

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      As for Matthew 5, the “perfect fulfillment of the Law” is beside the point.

      I don’t understand. (Ditto for your book recommendation.)

      At any rate, the context of peacemaking and reconciliation reflects God’s character—being called “children/sons of God” and reconciling with our enemies, mentioned earlier in Matthew 5—nicely informs this passage at the end of Matthew 5 regarding God’s love for his enemies. God seeks reconciliation with his enemies and he loves them—and so should we.

      Yes; that’s why it’s in the Law — the Law is a mirror of God’s own righteousness.

      You do seem to be overlooking that the result of God’s loving His enemies is to turn them into friends; and that God also has enemies that He doesn’t turn into friends, ones that He does nothing more than send rain to feed (“on the just and the unjust”); and then God has enemies onto whom He sends WAY TOO MUCH RAIN (“And the rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.”). God doesn’t treat everyone the same.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Sure, Jesus speaks to people who he foreknows will not be saved, but that’s a moot point.

      That doesn’t seem to be a generous way to respond to my argument. You’ve done nothing to show that my argument is moot.

      He desires and fully provides for their salvation nevertheless, doing all that he can for their repentance. What prevents their repentance is not God, but human resistance to God’s grace.

      I already knew you believe that, and you already know I disagree entirely. Why would you repeat it, considering it’s nowhere present in the verses we’re talking about? In fact, as my argument said, Christ in John 6 says things that drive people away, and John says that He said those things BECAUSE He knew that they did not believe. This contradicts your claim that Christ is “doing all He can for their repentance.” Far from it — he’s driving them away.

      Does Paul have more compassion and concern for their [his Jewish bretheren’s] salvation than God does?

      As Paul said at the end of that very chapter: “Though the number of the children of Israel are as the sand of the sea, only the remnant will be saved, for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth completely and quickly.”

      But there’s a difference. Paul weeps, but can do nothing. God judges — but He also saves.

      You deplore that people are eternally lost, and claim it’s not compassionate to leave anyone as lost; but God is the one who actually reaches down into the lives of some who are His enemies and saves them.

      It’s not unrighteous for God to allow some of His enemies to perish. Nor is it unrighteous for God to save some of them.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      And Stephen himself says that his hearers are resisting the Spirit (Acts 7:51).

      I don’t think this verse belongs in this discussion — the actions of the Holy Spirit that Stephen is talking about is His sending of prophets (Acts 7:52), not His attempting to save, justify, and sanctify.

      My question is this: Isn’t the Spirit attempting to convict hard-hearted humans? If not, why the “resistance” language? If the Spirit has hardened their hearts anyway and prevented their repentance, then “resistance” language is totally unnecessary and even contradictory. (Hebrews 3:15: “If you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts….”)

      This is a good verse for you to quote. But I never said the Spirit hardened their heart; I said that humanity’s heart is hard (Jeremiah compares it to a stone). That’s not the fault of the Spirit; it’s the fault of humanity. And the right thing to do is to listen to God’s voice, just as the right thing to do is to fulfill the Law perfectly. The fact that humans can’t do that is why we need a savior.

      Even when we do have a Savior we still will slip into resistance — this is why Jesus serves not only as the satisfaction, but also as the High Priest (Heb 4-5), so that God’s justice will be satisfied, and we will be able to repent and receive forgiveness for our sins. Over and over.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      On John 6:44-45, of course God must initiate the process. I don’t think that what you said undermines the points I made earlier.

      I claimed that the verse you were citing contradicted your point. That, by definition, is an undermining of what you were saying.

      You claimed that John 6:44 was talking about prevenient grace. I pointed out that first, it was likely saving grace; and second, that it was clearly irresistible.

      Please respond to my claims; don’t blow them off.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Rich, I think you miss the point of claims regarding middle knowledge. Counterfactual knowledge of what humans would freely do is exemplified by the account of David at Kielah (1 Sam. 23:11-12)—hardly guesswork.

      This is the best passage I’ve seen cited by Molinists. The problem is that there are other explanations for it that make much more sense, so unless you have a prior commitment to middle knowledge there’s no reason to suppose this verse is using it. The most obvious explanation is that God is using His knowledge of people’s character to judge what those people would do.

      Even hard LFW concedes that people have character and habits that make their actions predictable, so there’s no philosophy that opposes this interpretation of this verse.

      If you do insist on citing middle knowledge for this verse, the natural problem is that this doesn’t answer the question of why God knows that — middle knowledge is a puzzle, not an answer.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      On the potter and the clay, take a look at the context of Jeremiah 18 (which Paul is citing in Rom. 9).

      I carefully researched my claim that this isn’t true. I’d like you to read my responses, please. Paul is citing Isaiah 29:16 and Isa 45:9, not Jer 18. This isn’t a special Calvinistic thing; it’s in the words Paul uses.

      The original passage actually reveals significantly free human action.

      No, it reveals that God is free, not that humans are free. It reveals that humans are responsible, and you (being a moral incompatibilist) believe that this means that human will operates in a libertarian manner; but this is not present in the passage at all.

      Again, a fair reading of this passage says that:

      1. Humans are always responsible to obey God, even when God has promised them blessings or cursings.
      2. God is always free to remove blessings or cursings.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Of course, those who insist that my position is false are presumably arguing because of their own strongest desires! If so, then their conclusion is not a rational one and thus cannot be called knowledge since their view is only accidentally true. (See Kenneth Keathley’s discussion in *Salvation and Sovereignty* on this.)

      The simple fact that I want to argue does not mean that I want to argue falsely — and in fact even if you proved that I wanted to argue falsely, you’d still be responsible to show that my argument was false before dismissing it as you’ve done here.

      On the contrary, the mind is not a logical automaton. It takes positive actions of will to perform logical reasoning. This means that one cannot simply make free choices in reasoning; one must make choices that follow logic, consistently. If one makes a free choice that doesn’t follow logic, their conclusion will be completely undermined. Correct reasoning depends not on free will, but rather on consistent and unvarying character that places a respect for logic above any other desire that might interfere with the process of reasoning.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      I have a quick question. I don’t see why “middle knowledge” is such a puzzle as it is used in the I Sam verses above, if indeed that is what it is. From the time I was a little girl I have understood that omniscience–the state of knowing all things or infinite knowledge–included knowing what any and all people would do in the future. And that was without believing in any form of detailed determinism. It was just a given. I guess it would be called one of the things a human mind just can’t fully grasp about God. I can’t grasp how He can be omnipresent or eternal–with no beginning or end–either. But they are things that I, (and I assume you too), believe about God. Why does it have to fit into some philosophically/mentally understandable category to be believed and accepted? Am I missing something here?

    • wm tanksley

      You attempted to cite verses to show that “repentance/faith (through God’s gracious initiative, which can be resisted) precedes salvation/rebirth.”

      • “But as many as received Him, even to those who believe in His name, to them He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13).

      The sequence here isn’t perfectly clear, but “who were born” isn’t obviously after faith; but the real problem is that having the faith couldn’t possibly be “of the will of man”. Thus, either being born of God enables having faith, OR faith is given by the will of God rather than of man. This verse alone demolishes your argument.

      (Snipped a collection of verses which have nothing to do with the topic — yes, we have to believe; but the argument is about whether belief follows regeneration/new birth, NOT whether or not we have to believe.)

      • “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13).

      As you see, this is another verse that simply mentions the vital role of belief in salvation, without mentioning whether or not something else precedes faith. Eph 2’s precise meaning may be debatable, but it does mention something that precedes salvation: Eph 2:4 says that God, “even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you are saved!” Does this making alive occur as a precondition to faith? I admit that it’s not clear from the verse; but the obvious reading is that it’s describing salvation as a two-step process, one step by grace alone that brings us alive, and one step by grace through faith that enables us to do the good works prepared for us in Christ.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      I have a quick question. I don’t see why “middle knowledge” is such a puzzle as it is used in the I Sam verses above, if indeed that is what it is.

      Well, that’s exactly what I said — it’s probably not middle knowledge. If you claim it is, you bring in a whole host of philosophical puzzles.

      From the time I was a little girl I have understood that omniscience–the state of knowing all things or infinite knowledge–included knowing what any and all people would do in the future. And that was without believing in any form of detailed determinism. It was just a given.

      You believe entirely correctly. Of course, the I Sam example isn’t about God knowing the future; it’s about God knowing something that never happened. So it’s a little more complicated. We ask “how did God know that”, and the answer is either “because He knew the men’s character, which told him what they’d do”, or “because He possesses a mysterious type of knowledge that can’t be explained.” I prefer the answer that actually explains; but if you believe that human free will is completely independent of culture and character, then God couldn’t have predicted the outcome of an action that never happened.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      I said “If you claim it is, you bring in a whole host of philosophical puzzles.”

      I didn’t mean to imply that “you” were saying that, Cheryl. I should have said “If ONE claims it is…”

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      William, you claim that in my citing Old Testament passages (primarily), I am simply restating/assuming the tenets of compatibilism: humans are responsible for their responses to God and this is compatible with divine determination.

      Um… No. I claimed the OPPOSITE of that. You are assuming INcompatibilism. Search for that word, you’ll find my post (unfortunately the post numbers seem to change from time to time, so I can’t point to it). You’re assuming it into even your own examples, as follows:

      No, these texts illustrate something more—namely, God fully provides for repentance, having done all he can to encourage this, but humans act contrariwise and stubbornly refuse. That is not compatibilism at all but rather incompatibilism.

      That is neither compatibilism nor incompatibilism. It’s a true statement about God’s actions and man’s actions. Compatibilism and incompatibilism (in this context) are positions about moral judgement in the presence of determinism, not about actions.

      Suppose I added the phrase to your example, “therefore God would be justified in sending them all to hell.” This makes example compatibilist — because even though all humans refuse (thereby proving that they refuse by nature) they can still be judged guilty for rejecting it. (I’m interpreting “humans” as meaning “all humans” rather than “some humans”, for the sake of this example.)

      But suppose I added the phrase: “therefore in order to judge them, God had to first free them to repent. After that, He was able to send any who still refused to repent to Hell.” This is profoundly incompatibilist.

      I hope I’ve managed to make my point clear this time. Until we reach a common vocabulary, it’s going to be very hard to discuss this. It’s frustrating to have so many verses quoted without context or interpretation when none of them seem to have any connection to the topic, and only now do I begin to understand the…

    • Rich

      Hi Paul

      Wayne Grudem has a good exegesis of Hebrews 6 in the book Still Sovereign. I dont see prevenient Grace in the passage. I see two types of people in scripture, in the church community. Those who profess Christ and those who posses Christ (are born again).

      1. The soils show this,
      2. Wells without water.
      3. Clouds without rain.
      4. Dogs go back to vomit, one returns to what they really are, there un-converted nature.
      5. Pigs return to the mud…

      I see in Hebrews 6, people in the community, who profess Christ, sample him, but fall away.

      even Matt 7;15 we are warned of false prophets. Is a false prophet a Christian? Some one who comes to you in Sheep’s clothing, but inwardly is a wolf. The clear answer is NO!

      1. They are not true Christians, only professes, not possesses of Christ.
      2. Yes they prophesize in Christ’s name, but this is just lip service.
      3. 1 Corr 11;13 says there are false apostles transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.
      4.1 Corr 1;15 speaking of Satan, says, his ministers transform themselves into minister of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
      5. What is the end of the works? The answer is bad fruit.
      6. Jesus speaks of bad fruit as non-believers, the Pharisees (Matt 12;33)

      Again we see there are people who are false, not genuine believers. Wearing sheep’s clothing, but being a wolf, is not a true sheep.A good fruit is one that is born again, and stands in Christ righteousness and manifests the fruits of the spirit from the out-flowing of the work of the Holy Spirit.

      Those who fall away in Hebrews 6, cant be brought back to repentance because Christ and his work was good enough for them the first time, they have resisted the holy Spirit, almost Blasphemed.

      How does the arminian interpreted that? You get saved, but if you fall away you cant be brought back to repentance, so your now damed with no hope.

    • Rich

      Hi Paul,
      A few more thoughts I have on Matt 7,
      Why is it that when we get to these verses, preachers return to saying that it refers to true believers, trying to show that one can lose their salvation. The whole context so far as shown has been that there are two types of people. Oh but the charge is given, but non Christians cant do the above things!

      1. But non-Christians can be false prophets.
      2. Non-Christians can prophesize in Jesus name, but be liars in what they say.
      3. Non-Christians can profess Christ, but not posses him.
      4. You are not a true Christian, just because you use “Jesus’” name.
      5. Non-Christians can cast out demons, because Jesus honors his name.
      6. The Pharisees were doing it and charging Jesus by what power he could cast out demons. Jesus said to them “And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? (Matt 12;27). Obviously the Pharisees were not true born again Christians.
      7. Even false apostles can cast out demons and do signs and wonders (1 Corr 11; 13)
      8. “For false Christ’s and False prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” (Matt 24;24)

      I use the term Non-Christian, to mean not genuine or truly born again.

      Even Judas who was not saved was one of the twelve that went out casting out demons.
      “Then he appointed twelve, that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal and cast out demons (and lists the names of them and Judas is there) (Mark 3;14-15)

      Scripture gives us clear signs that Judas was not a true believer,
      1. He never address Jesus as Lord or Master, only as teacher.
      2. His name was the son of perdition, the only other person given that name is the “Antichrist.
      3. ”John 6;68-71 says “Did I not chose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil (Judas).
      4. Judas was called for a service, not for salvation.
      5. Yes Judas repented in the end, but this was worldly sorrow, not…

    • Rich

      not godly repentance. If it was godly he would not have gone off and committed suicide straight after.

      Some may be quick to say, Oh but Luke 10;20 say of those casting out demons that there names are written in the book of life, so this must include Judas. But if one reads the context, these are two different accounts. Mark 3;14-15 speaks of the twelve, while Luke 10;20 speaks of a different group of 70 people.

      “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on a rock.” (Matt 7;24)

      As Christ is the rock the foundation of his Church, the one who will build his church. This verse is saying that those who hear his words and enter into the kingdom, that is believe and become born gain, will have safety in the foundation of Christ through faith.

      “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves with be thrust out!” (Matt 8;12)

      So who are those who have been thrown out, they are Jews who think thy are in because they have a divine right to it. But this is not the case! You must be born again.

      Verse 28 parallels Matt 21;43.
      “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Matt 21;43)

      This is talking about taking the kingdom from the Jews who think its theirs because of their birth right, without faith in Christ, and giving it to the gentile nations to come into faith. Again the image is of those who don’t have a genuine faith. They have not entered into the Kingdom of heaven.

      As scripture teachers in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, there are professors and Possessors,
      1. As in the OT, Rom 9;6 “ Not all Israel are Israel, it is not for the children of the flesh, but of the promise who are saved.
      2. So is it in the NT, “Not all Church members are born again Christians”. Many might say Lord, Lord,…

    • Rich

      Hi Paul

      Im trying to understand Molinism!

      You say; That is, God’s knows what humans would genuinely freely do in this or that world;

      But how does he know? if he does not do what Calvinist say, shape and fashion them by his decree. I know some people who just say, God knows, because he has all knowledge, but that is not an answer really. Calvinist say his knowledge of all finite things is due to his decree.

      How does God know what independent creature will do, who dont yet exist or have done anything from a monolism view?

      To know what some one would do in any world surely must involve knowing how these people are fashioned, there make up, but how can God have this knowledge when they dont exist in a monolism view.

      Im trying hard to understand this view as it the one question I dont get.

    • wm tanksley

      Some thoughts on some comments I haven’t replied to yet…

      Isaiah 5: […] the point here is that not only is man to blame for fruitlessness, God has provided for Israel’s repentance and rightly calls for them to do so, having done all he can for them.

      Yes, the text says that. Now, if one reads this to mean that God can do nothing more for anyone, one wonders why St. Paul ever got saved — it would seem that SOMEONE did something more for Paul’s conversion than God did for Isaiah’s contemporaries. In fact, it seems rather strange to say that God’s capabilities are limited; the record of Scripture shows that God actually intervenes in the world in ways not limited to natural causes (as with St. Paul’s conversion, or Jesus’ conception).

      I claim that in fact God could have done something more, miraculously, and it would seem odd to claim that such action literally wouldn’t save anyone. My conclusion is that this passage is not actually making a claim about God’s incapability to do more to influence the number of saved people; rather, He’s pointing out to His nation Who owns them, Who provided for them, Who gave them what they needed to live — and how ungrateful they are to Him. This is a passage setting moral blame, not a passage intended to set a limit on God’s power. The actions God performed SHOULD (in a moral sense) have been met with profound and permanent gratitude; for the Israelites to ask for more is greed, not justice.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Rich, you said: “How does God know what independent creature will do, who dont yet exist or have done anything from a monolism view?”

      Your question, when elaborated a good deal, becomes known as the “Grounding Objection”. The answer Molinists have is to assert that it might be possible for God to have that kind of knowledge as part of omniscience — a knowledge not actually grounded in (nor corresponding to) anything, simply THERE and inexplicable.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      You say about Isaiah 5 that “God presents what He’s actually done for Israel, and Israel responds by admitting that this SHOULD have been sufficient but they still disobeyed.” Not at all. Israel isn’t admitting anything!

      Whoops, you’re right. I meant to say that Isaiah structured the argument such that Israel would have to admit that. Of course, they actually didn’t; they simply rebelled.

      God is saying he has done all that he can to create conditions for spiritual and moral fruitfulness for Israel, yet Israel refused despite God’s strongest efforts.

      As I’ve pointed out before, God is hardly at the end of His rope. God’s strongest efforts are … strong. The story as recounted here is very clearly a parallel: look at the elements. God provided a hedge (protection), removed stones (I suspect the religious distractions of the former Canaanites), planted a vine (this could be the faithful remnant, considering Christ’s use of this same metaphor), built a tower (leaders / kings), constructed a winepress (temple??).

      I think the point isn’t that God couldn’t possibly save more people: that’s not present in the text. I think the point is that this is exactly what any nation should need in order to prosper, and thereafter to worship the God who gifted them all that. Yes, I do insist that God could have saved for Himself a ever-larger remnant — but although that would be good for the individuals saved, it wouldn’t change the fate of the nation as a whole.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      As for Deut 30… Foreknowledge would be the lesson here if God had said, “you’re free, and I know what you’ll do.” No, He didn’t say that; He said “choose life or death; you’ll choose death, and I’m going to bring you back from it.” That is NOT the same thing as foreknowledge, since foreknowledge is as free as the creature it foreknows, while this is prophecy– it’s bound by the words on the page. Israel’s freedom to choose, Israel’s moral obligation to choose life, and Moses’ prophecy of their choice of death must all be compatible. This is only possible if moral freedom is compatible with divine determination.

      Or, of course, you could argue that Moses never said that, and those words were added by a later redactor.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      You ask about whether Jeremiah or Isaiah is behind the potter-clay theme in Romans 9.

      I’m not asking. The Isaiah passages directly pertain to Paul’s quotes (they both make roughly the same objection); the Jeremiah passage only pertains indirectly (you have to back WAY out to see the shared context of someone protesting because they expected locked-in covenant blessings even though they’re earned cursings, and protests because someone who HAD earned cursings repented). But either way, the theme in Jeremiah is that the Lord is not bound by conditional promises when the conditions are violated. The theme in Jeremiah is NOT human freedom; it’s divine freedom, argued against someone who imagines that a single promise of blessings binds God forever (hello, hypercalvinists!!!).

      Now, I do believe that human freedom is essential (although not in the way you believe it to be); but I don’t think it’s central to Romans 9, and thus it’s not central to the passages Paul cites in support of his argument. If it were, Paul would not have said that “it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.”

      -Wm

    • Nelson Banuchi

      Not debating but just respectfully expressing my first thoughts on Patton’s comments from post #1:

      Patton: “…I know that these can be very confusing.”

      What I Thought: Double-think/double-speak usually is “very confusing”.

      Patton: “They are to me.”

      What I Thought: Sounds like an admission that Patton either does not exactly know what the Bible really means (considering how he interprets it) or he doesn’t know exactly what to make of what he believes and expounds.

    • wm tanksley

      Nelson,

      The Trinity is also confusing. Quantum mechanics is confusing. Even Newtonian mechanics is confusing! The fact is that reality is confusing; this may be why double-speak is often deceptive, because people can’t tell at first thought whether something’s confusing because it’s inconsistent (doublespeak) or confusing because it’s complex (reality).

      So no disrespect for your first thoughts; skepticism is a good idea “at first thought”. I’m glad you admitted they were only first thoughts, and I hope you’ll give the matter deeper thought.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Nelson, it also occurs to me to state the Biblical data that form the problem we’re looking at here. Remember the classical formula for the Trinity, from the Athanasian Creed?

      Paraphrased: “There is only one God. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God. The Father is not the Son; the Son is not the Spirit; the Spirit is not the Father.”

      All of those statements are directly supportable from the Bible in multiple places, and the doctrine of the Trinity is a solution to the apparent problem that those statements create, a way to accept all of them as being completely true without contradiction.

      Next post: I’ll make a similar statement of the Biblical data on the problem we’re discussing. I’m not going to go on to explain how the compatibilism, five points of Calvinism, the Remonstrants, or the Open Theists attempt to reconcile the data, but I’ll let you think about it. My point is only that the problem is complex, so the solutions will be complex as well.

      -Wm

    • Nelson Banuchi

      tanksley, if Patton’s views are Calvinistic, then it’s confusing, not because it is complex, but because it’s double-speak.

      Example: To say, as the WCF asserts, that God predetermined all things and events yet not in such a way as to include sin is double-speak.

      Calvinism makes the message of God’s salvation complex because it interprets Biblical revelation in double-speak.

      In any case, Patton still seems to have admitted he does not know or understand what he’s talking about.

      P.S. The trinity is pretty simple for me to understand. Now quantum machanics…forget about it!

    • wm tanksley

      OK, now for a statement of the problem of human freedom and God’s sovereignty. I claim (as I did for the trinitarian statements) that all of these are supported in the Bible, but I provide no texts here; I welcome questions or challenges.

      1. God is righteous and kind, and does not do evil.
      2. God is holy and just, and judges evil by means of His wrath.
      3. God is powerful and wise, and does not fail or falter.
      4. Rebelling against God’s commands is evil for humans.
      5. God commanded that humanity hear God, assent to God’s existence and nature, love Him, and desire His will to be fulfilled.
      5. Humans constantly rebel against even God’s existence and express will.
      6. God judges humans for every action, inaction, and thought.
      7. Humans act according to their plans and desires.
      8. Every outcome of human action is according to God’s plan.
      9. God does not always immediately show His wrath towards evil.
      10. God does not ever hide His displeasure with evil.

      …I think this is enough for now. By the way, #10 is supported by all the verses on “divine exasperation” that the original post is talking about. God does not always strike down the wicked, but He is also never passive-aggressive about that.

      What do you think?

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Please consider postponing doing a lot of work on my last post; I think your recent post offers a more interesting way to approach the topic. I may not be able to post on it for a couple of hours, though.

      I’m not retracting that post, so if you enjoy replying, I’ll enjoy interacting with your reply. I’m just saying that if you don’t enjoy that post, I may have a more interesting one for you, since it’s more in line with your own point.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      What happened? The post I was referring to just vanished. If you’d like to discuss the WCF instead of my post, please let me know — and please confirm that you were citing WCF III.I (you didn’t make an exact quote). See http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/ for details.

      In case you meant to retract your post (which I didn’t find offensive BTW), I won’t mention it again.

      -Wm

    • Paul Copan

      These posts are something of a blast from the past. I won’t get into this as much as I got bogged down last time and didn’t complete the responses I began. I simply had to move on. I do agree with the seeming double-speak of evil not originating in God yet the divine will as being the operative principle in Calvinism, which affirms that “God’s will is said to be the cause of all things” (Institutes 1.18.2).

      One difficulty with Calvinism is the very emergence of sin in a good world (or in heaven, if we want to talk about Satan’s fall)–which runs counter to James 1 (which distances God from sin); the emergence of evil taints the character of a good God (see my post from a couple of years ago on R.C. Sproul Jr and the origin of sin). Indeed, judgment for human sin or jealousy at human idolatry seems problematic since humans could do nothing about it; they could only act by their strongest motive/desire, which is ultimately rooted in God’s predetermination.

      The fact is: for Calvin, God doesn’t ultimatey condemn/reprobate anyone for sin. God from eternity has reprobated the non-elect independent of their doing anything wrong. Following Romans 9 (before Jacob and Esau could do anything right or wrong), Calvin says this: “If we cannot assign any reason for his bestowing mercy on his people, but just that it so pleases him, neither can we have any reason for his reprobating others but his will. When God is said to visit in mercy or harden whom he will, men are reminded that they are not to seek for any cause beyond his will” (Institutes 3.22.11). Human sin against a holy God is not the ultimate basis of reprobation; it is the divine will prior to human action. Human sin is a mere sidelight. I find this to be morally problematic.

      For a good read on this, see Baggett and Walls, *Good God* (Oxford) in their chapter on Reformed theology as it relates to the moral argument. Okay, over and out.

    • Nelson Banuchi

      Capon, your input is much appreciated especially the Calvin quote and book you suggested (already put it on my Amazon cart!).

      As far as you Calvin quote, “…neither can we have any reason for his reprobating others but his will”, without knowing Calvin said that, it was an argument I used many times and on the same basis of Rom 9 re: Jacob and Esau. I have looked to see if Calvin had ever affirmed this damnation by decree but never found it. Thanks!

      Many times this damnation by decree was denied by the Calvinist I discussed it with stating that God damns the non-elect because of their sins. This of course is clearly double-speak (or, double-think) as God cannot choose decree damnation to particular persons as Calvinism affirms and simultaneously damn them for their sins as those who deserve it. Essentially, whether one deserves heaven or hell is totally removed from the soteriological equation.

      Two arguments in particular are expressed by Calvinists: (a) that everyone deserves damnation and God is under no obligation to save anybody, an (b) God’s decree to damnation and man’s deserving it are mysteries, which the Bible affirms on both sides.

      As I stated above, objection (a) is irrelavent, and (b) to hold both notions is not only illogical but flies in the face of common sense. Furthermore, re: objection (b), if the Calvinist can legitimately fall on the argument of mystery, then anyone can respecting their theological beliefs.

      In any case, I really appreciate your citation of Calvin; it is very helpful for me.

    • Nelson Banuchi

      tanksley, not sure I know which post you mean but none of my posts were deleted. Maybe it is the comment posted on pg.4, #48, that you are looking for or on this page 50, #1.

      I really won’t be able to respond…holidays and all…but feel free; maybe I’ll read it after Jan 1…can’t promise…life gets to busy to spend on forums. I just wanted to give my 2 cents without necessarily debating it.

      P.S. I read all your comments and I’m still firmly convinced Patton is using double-think; and, if he’s not sure of what he is talking about, I’m not going to be convinced of his position…who would be?

    • Phil McCheddar

      It is the physical property of a puddle of water on the ground to harden into ice when the sun’s warming influence is withdrawn. Similarly it is the natural propensity of the human heart to commit the vilest of sins if God withdraws his restraining influence. In some instances God chooses of his own accord to suspend his restraint considerably, and so far as he does, human nature quickly appears in its true colours. Without God’s restraint, a man commits sin out of his own evil heart, not because God forced him to do so. If God freely chooses to preserve another man’s evil heart from expressing itself outwardly in sinful behaviour as it is inclined to do, then that man is no more worthy than the first man and owes thanks to God for showing him favour. Thus God is no more the author of sin than the sun is the cause of ice.

    • Nelson Banuchi

      Re: post#8 (p.5), McChedder says, “…a man commits sin out of his own evil heart, not because God forced him to do so.”

      We can agree that God does not use force, nevertheless, your proposition is erred by the fact that Calvinism teaches God created some men for eternal damnation and secured it as certain by moving their hearts acccording to how He predetermined they should act, either righteous or sinful. So men are sinners, not because they are forced to commit sin, but because God predetermined their hearts to be sinful and what actions would follow therefrom.

      It it not a matter of God restraining or withdrawing but of God acting upon men – those whom he had chosen for eternal damnation – be and do what is sinful.

      As such, man’s desert has nothing to do at all with his salvation or damnation since before we were all born, God has chosen our final destiny (see Capon’s comment #5 and mine, #6, pg.5).

      Of course all analogies are imperfect but I just want to point out that (a) water turning to ice and back has no moral value; (b) it is God who predetermined the properties of water.

      The analogy proposed does better explain God’s activity upon men, according to Calvinism, when (b) is considered. In such a case, only then is point (a) relevant. Like water, man – whether righteous or sinful – is merely performing divinely predetermined actions according to his divinely predetermined nature (Calvin asserts all men were created for a preordained destiny, one particular person for damnation and another particular person for salvation) and, therefore, to speak of desert,. whether it is in terms of reward or punishment, is entirely irrelevant.

      Calvinism removes all of man’s moral responsibility rendering him with properties that are no more or no less akin to the nature and actions of water, which must and does act, not in itself, but only as acted upon.

    • wm tanksley

      “I do agree with the seeming double-speak of evil not originating in God…”

      That would be double-speak if we said it. It would also contradict the Bible, which is a bad thing.

      “for Calvin, God doesn’t ultimately condemn/reprobate anyone for sin.”

      That’s, again, not something Calvin said. It’s your attempt to draw his beliefs out into an ultimate sense. The problem with this, aside from the sheer risk of extrapolating from an admittedly unsympathetic point of view, is that no human is ultimate; so no ultimate conclusions can be drawn about humans. Every ultimate conclusion is about God. This doesn’t mean that humans don’t matter.

      “I find this to be morally problematic.”

      Yes, you do. But you do NOT, contrary to your earlier statement, find it to be inconsistent or double-speak.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      “Many times this damnation by decree was denied by the Calvinist I discussed it with stating that God damns the non-elect because of their sins. This of course is clearly double-speak (or, double-think)”

      If you can’t actually show that it’s contradictory it’s not “clearly” double-speak. Calling it so does not make it so.

      The split here is not between two contradictory propositions, but between two different ways of attributing causation: primary causation and secondary causation. These ways of looking at causation are not new to Calvinism (and thus they are not obviously special pleading in a manner that requires no argument from the accuser); they appear much further back; I would suggest that attributing the creation of all things to Christ as Paul does, or crediting God with willing the fall of a sparrow, is crediting God with primary causation even for things which have a clear secondary cause.

      “Essentially, whether one deserves heaven or hell is totally removed from the soteriological equation.”

      Unless you wish to embrace full Pelagianism, you yourself affirm this.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      Hi again!

      It will never make sense to me to say that God is not the cause of the sinners damnation when He is the primary cause and is so sovereign and powerful that none can withstand Him and He decrees and predestines that damnation from eternity past. The sinner has no say in that matter, so his sin and refusal of Christ is a foregone matter, is it not?

      To me, this whole issue seems to be nothing more then double speak.

      But I know very well from past experience that we will never agree on much of anything about any of this, and to say anything is much like bumping my head against a brick wall! 🙂 Sorry, but I couldn’t resist any way!

    • wm tanksley

      “As such, man’s desert has nothing to do at all with his salvation or damnation since before we were all born, God has chosen our final destiny (see Capon’s comment #5 and mine, #6, pg.5).”

      BTW, it’s “Copan”, not “Capon”. 🙂

      Rather than Copan and your comments, see Eph 1:5 (and context, of course). We are in Christ because God chose us before the foundations of the world by means of predestining us to adoption through Christ. Our names are in the Lamb’s Book of Life written before the foundation of the world. God chose us while we were at enmity with Him; we are in unity with Christ because of God’s choice, which truly contradicts it being the other way around.

      So the Bible proclaims that God _has_ chosen our final destiny, and has planned and acted to rescue some of us to a different destiny, also of His choice.

      “Calvinism removes all of man’s moral responsibility rendering him with properties that are no more or no less akin to the nature and actions of water, which must and does act, not in itself, but only as acted upon.”

      I like how you’re using this metaphor to bring out your point, and I think it’s the right point. May we set aside the charges of double-talk or dishonesty — for which you’ve provided not a shred of evidence — and discuss this issue instead?

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      I am not implying any dishonesty in my comment above. I do not mean to be making character aspersions at all. I am sorry if it might have come across that way to you. It just seems to me that what is claimed by Calvinism is double speak because there is no logical way in my mind that both claims can be true–they contradict each other.

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl, it’s good to hear from you again.

      “It will never make sense to me to say that God is not the cause of the sinners damnation when He is the primary cause”

      God is the cause, agent, and effector of the sinner’s damnation. No sinner would cast himself into the lake of fire; God will do that. The sinner does not damn himself; God does. The sinner’s acts witness to the corruption of the sinner’s heart; but the sinner did not create his own heart.

      “and is so sovereign and powerful that none can withstand Him and He decrees and predestines that damnation from eternity past. The sinner has no say in that matter, so his sin and refusal of Christ is a foregone matter, is it not?”

      The sinner has every say in the matter; our condemnation is just because of our actions, willingly undertaken.

      But… Also… When I read the above objection I am again reminded of the objection in Romans 9, “so why does He find fault? For who can resist His will?”. It’s interesting that the objectors to Calvinism so often use such a similar tone to the tone Paul adopts for his hypothetical objection. The answer includes a reiteration: that some vessels are prepared beforehand for glory, and some are prepared for wrath. Paul doesn’t seem interested in rebutting the objector’s understanding of the power God wields; he accepts it and asks “so what?”

      Look, we would be doomed if not for God’s promise of salvation. Do you believe the promise? If you do, you are saved. If you don’t believe the promise of salvation by Christ’s merits, then why would you believe the promise of condemnation by your own demerits?

      “But I know very well from past experience that we will never agree on much of anything about any of this, and to say anything is much like bumping my head against a brick wall! 🙂 Sorry, but I couldn’t resist any way!”

      I know exactly what you mean :-)! As long as one bumps one’s head gently, it’s actually mildly pleasant! OK, more aptly, I think it’s a good thing to be interested in what the Bible says, and to be concerned for God’s good name and revealed glory.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      “tanksley, if Patton’s views are Calvinistic, then it’s confusing, not because it is complex, but because it’s double-speak.”

      Evidence?

      “Example: To say, as the WCF asserts, that God predetermined all things and events yet not in such a way as to include sin is double-speak.”

      First, Patton isn’t the WCF. Second, you’re not quoting from the WCF; you’re misparaphrasing it. Look it up and quote from it if you want to discuss it — although I will concede that you’ll have to apply an archaic meaning of the word “author” to understand how God isn’t the author of sin. The old meaning of “author” gave rise to our modern word “to authorize”, not our modern words “to author”.

      Calvinism makes the message of God’s salvation complex because it interprets Biblical revelation in double-speak.

      “In any case, Patton still seems to have admitted he does not know or understand what he’s talking about.”

      Well, that’s not what he said. He said he finds it “confusing.” How many times in this one email have you read meanings into your own misquotation of people?

      Look, I can tutor quantum mechanics. But it’s confusing, and I find it very confusing. I may well find it more confusing than you do. My students will find it confusing as well. Dr. Feynman found it confusing. There are only two ways to not find it confusing: to understand it better than Feynman, and not to understand it at all.

      As a tutor, I can either act smarter than Feynman and tell my students I’m not confused, or I can empathize with my students and exclaim, truly, how confusing QM is. In neither case need I lack knowledge and understanding; on the contrary, I truly know more than my students and am suited to teach them.

      Patton has chosen the path of empathy.

      -Wm

    • Nelson Banuchi

      tanksley: “As a tutor, I can either act smarter than Feynman and tell my students I’m not confused, or I can empathize with my students and exclaim, truly, how confusing QM is. In neither case need I lack knowledge and understanding; on the contrary, I truly know more than my students and am suited to teach them.”

      1. I did admit that Quantum machanics is confusing for me.

      2. There are those subjects one is able to understand and other subjects where one can be confused about. Quantum mechanics confuses me…don’t even know the first thing about it. The Bible doesn’t confuse me (how others interpret it does confuse me). That doesn’t mean I understand everything perfectly; it does mean I’m not confused about what I understand and what I don’t understand causes no confusion about what I do uunderstand. It seems you are implying arrogance on my part. Nothing I can do about your impression of my personal character but, from my perspective, my character or yours is irrelevant to the discussion.

      3. Being smart does not necessarily mean one has come to the correct conclusions about a particular subject.

      P.S. If my paraphrase of the WCF is misleading, just advise how (and, if you’d like, you can also add how the word “author” ought to be defined. Otherwise, I’ll stand by my paraphrase).

      I’ll answer some of your more relevant objections later…

    • cherylu

      William,

      I don’t think I have the energy to carry on this head banging for very long, no matter how mild or even pleasant it may be!

      I guess I just want to say once more that when Jesus tells us He didn’t come into the world to condemn it but rather to save it, tells us that He loves the world, says He takes no pleasure in the death of the unrighteous and wants everyone to come to repentance and life, and pretty much tells people to do whatever is necessary to avoid hell and eternal damnation…..

      Then in the next breath He says that He has prepared beforehand however many people–millions or billions or whatever– just for that purpose and that He is deliberately withholding the only hope of salvation that there is from those same people so that they will be damned, (and according to some, didn’t even die for those folks)….

      I find that all hopelessly contradictory and as a matter of fact downright horrifying. That is why I just can’t wrap my mind or heart around Calvinist theology and think there must be something missing in the equation there.

    • wm tanksley

      I did admit that Quantum mechanics is confusing for me.

      Of course; that’s why I’m using it as an example of something that’s confusing but true, in order to set up a clearly agreed situation where a teacher could say the same words Patton said in the first comment.

      Do you agree that a QM teacher could say what Patton said without proving himself ineligible to teach QM?

      There are those subjects one is able to understand and other subjects where one can be confused about. Quantum mechanics confuses me…don’t even know the first thing about it. The Bible doesn’t confuse me (how others interpret it does confuse me). That doesn’t mean I understand everything perfectly; it does mean I’m not confused about what I understand and what I don’t understand causes no confusion about what I do understand.

      What am I supposed to take home from this? What does it prove to me? It might mean that you’re very smart, or it might mean you never think about anything that might confuse you. It doesn’t prove what you seem to think it does, that theology is one of those subjects where “one is able to understand” as opposed to a subject where “one can be confused about.”

      In particular, if you want to apply this test, I’ll challenge you on whether you’ve applied it fairly to your own doctrines — the idea of libertarian free will is philosophically VERY complex.

      I’ll answer some of your more relevant objections later

      Cool, thanks.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      It seems you are implying arrogance on my part. Nothing I can do about your impression of my personal character but, from my perspective, my character or yours is irrelevant to the discussion.

      I didn’t intend to write anything about you, and still don’t. We agree that would be unreasonable of me if I did; I don’t know you at all.

      I did say some things about the arguments you were using. To be more formal, you’re setting up strawmen by misquoting people in such a way that it causes an immediate fallacy; and you’re doing that repeatedly.

      P.S. If my paraphrase of the WCF is misleading, just advise how (and, if you’d like, you can also add how the word “author” ought to be defined. Otherwise, I’ll stand by my paraphrase).

      First, your use of a “paraphrase” is misleading in that you brought it out in order to support your claim that Patton was using doublespeak. Quoting the WCF cannot prove that Patton is using doublespeak unless Patton is using the WCF himself.

      Second, you paraphrased without indicating that it was a paraphrase, and without citation so that the reader could check.

      Third, your paraphrase inserted a blatant fallacy, that God “predetermined all things and events” and did not “include sin”. Since “sin” is a “thing or event”, this is a fallacy of special pleading.

      Fourth, the above fallacy was the purpose of your posting the paraphrase, since you gave no argument about the quotation; you simply presented it as though it spoke for itself to prove double-speak, and the fallacy of special pleading is one of the doublespeak fallacies.

      Thus, your quotation of the WCF is “misleading” in that it doesn’t prove what you claim, doesn’t cite sources, presents the source in a bad light, and uses that bad light materially to your argument.

      I shouldn’t have to present this argument; when YOU accuse Patton of doublespeak, YOU are responsible to prove your claim. I should not be required to DISPROVE it. Similarly, once it’s pointed out that your quotation of the WCF does not match the actual text, YOU are responsible to explain why it accurately represents the text even though it doesn’t match it.

      -Wm

    • Nelson Banuchi

      Tanksley,

      1. Although you didn’t intend to write anything about me, nevertheless, the implications were there…but, we’ll forget about it for now.

      2. My paraphrase is a paraphrase. I believe the essential thought is shown. Please show me how it is not.

      You’re correct that quoting the WCF does not prove Patton talks double-speak. My intention was to suggest that the Calvinist system as a whole is double-speak (without the meaning of dishonesty attached to it) when it comes to the “doctrines of grace”.

      I’m confused when you say, “Third, your paraphrase inserted a blatant fallacy, that God ‘predetermined all things and events” and did not “include sin’. Since sin’ is a ‘thing or event’, this is a fallacy of special pleading.”

      My paraphrase follows the WCF 3:1 where it says, “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin…”

      So it must be that the WCF is “special pleading”. Please explain.

      The double-speak is when it says God did “ordain whatsoever comes to pass” but is not the “author of sin”. On the one hand, the assertion is made that every event is ordained by God and, on the other hand, sin is not that shich is ordained by God. Either sin is ordained and God ordained all events or sin is not ordained and God did not ordain all events.

      This is not the Bible double-speak. The Calvinistic interpretations of the Bible are.

      I must apologize for such a brief response but I am unable to continue the conversation further. You may respond for the benefit of the readers of this thread but I must attend to other personal matters, which prevent me from continuing. In any case, my intention was really not to debate but just to offer my observation.

      I apologize for needing to bow out. Thanks…

    • wm tanksley

      I guess I just want to say once more that when Jesus tells us He didn’t come into the world to condemn it but rather to save it, tells us that He loves the world, says He takes no pleasure in the death of the unrighteous and wants everyone to come to repentance and life,

      Calvinists and Arminians agree.

      and pretty much tells people to do whatever is necessary to avoid hell and eternal damnation…

      Neither Calvinists nor Arminians believe that there’s anything you can do to avoid hell. Chopping your hand off our putting your eye out won’t get you into heaven. Thus, this statement has to be taken as a statement of God’s unyielding law, not as part of a presentation of God’s Gospel kindness.

      Then in the next breath He says that He has prepared beforehand however many people–millions or billions or whatever– just for that purpose

      That seems to be what Paul says, yes; minus the word “beforehand” and the numbers. Yet you cast it as something you disagree with. Do you?

      and that He is deliberately withholding the only hope of salvation that there is from those same people so that they will be damned,

      Where do you find that Calvinists believe this? This is such a complex statement I don’t know how to start.

      There IS no hope of salvation apart from belief in God’s promise to achieve salvation entirely on our behalf apart from our work. That statement doesn’t “withhold hope”, it merely accurately states reality. And God didn’t do this “so that [people] would be damned”; on the contrary, God does not desire the damnation of people, which (since we know that God does in fact damn people) means that God has a greater purpose.

      And belief is not something that people can achieve through effort. Christ says that those the Father draws will hear His voice and follow him, and be raised on the last day; those the Father does not draw will not hear His voice.

      (and according to some, didn’t even die for those folks)…

      True, according to Calvinists; at least, His death did not bring them salvation. Nor does He ever intercede for them, nor does He work all things together for good for them. Why are the latter two claims less controversial than the first one?

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      My paraphrase follows the WCF 3:1 where it says, “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin…”

      The double-speak is when it says God did “ordain whatsoever comes to pass” but is not the “author of sin”. On the one hand, the assertion is made that every event is ordained by God and, on the other hand, sin is not that which is ordained by God. Either sin is ordained and God ordained all events or sin is not ordained and God did not ordain all events.

      Excellent; now you’ve posted the actual words, and any reader can look up and see that they do not use the word “ordain” to describe how sin is being singled out. So it’s not as simple as you’re wanting it to be; in order to derive a contradiction you’re actually going to have to explain how “God did ordain sin” and “God is not the author of sin” are actual contradictions. It’s not enough to point, unless the words are perfectly clear (as they were in your “paraphrase”, although not representing the writer’s actual meaning).

      More in a few hours; the problem of sin in complex, simply by the Biblical data.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      I truly don’t have time or energy for a long drawn out conversation here again. So I will only be speaking quickly here in answer to your last comment.

      The cutting off of hands, etc. statement by Jesus shows in my mind how terrible hell is and that we must be willing to turn from our sin if we wish to avoid going there. Of course, repentance by itself saves no one. Only Jesus does that.

      But my point in using it is to show how God views hell and people going to hell. To tell us that and then to turn around and say that He prepares people specifically to go there, makes no sense and is indeed an extreme contradiction.

      Now of course we are not God. But would we treat any child of ours this way? Tell them that there is a horrible, horrible punishment awaiting those that misbehave us and that it should be avoided at all costs, but then turn right around and say that we have conceived them for the purpose of enduring that punishment and that there is nothing they can do to avoid it??

    • wm tanksley

      “Although you didn’t intend to write anything about me, nevertheless, the implications were there…but, we’ll forget about it for now.”

      I’d appreciate it more if you’d either withdraw the charges or tell me where I went wrong; you have no right to declare my intentions pure while declaring my actions evil. You can’t possibly see my intentions to declare them pure, and you claim to see my actions (although you haven’t explained what action I’ve done).

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      One more thought.

      The second greatest commandment is that we should love our neighbors as ourselves.

      Now loving ourselves certainly means that we will not want ourselves going to hell!

      How then do we truly love our neighbors as ourselves knowing that a great many of those neighbors have been predestined by God to go to that horrible place? What a horrific thought that is! Or if you don’t believe in double predestination, believing at least that God is actively refusing to grant them salvation while He is choosing to give it to others?

      Loving them, as far as I can tell and going by any type of normal definition of love, has to be horrified at such scenarios. Love wants the very best for people after all.

    • wm tanksley

      Now of course we are not God. But would we treat any child of ours this way? Tell them that there is a horrible, horrible punishment awaiting those that misbehave us and that it should be avoided at all costs, but then turn right around and say that we have conceived them for the purpose of enduring that punishment and that there is nothing they can do to avoid it??

      What you’re complaining about is not Calvinism; it’s either hypercalvinism or plain old Augustinian orthodoxy. There are two ways to read what you just wrote. One is to agree that there’s nothing they can DO, but to point out that your hypothetical speaker should have added that God has done something that applies to them if only they believe God when He tells them this.

      The second way to read what you wrote is to see it as a hypercalvinist speaking to someone because they falsely believe they can peer into the secret counsel of God to see who is elect and who isn’t. For example, see the Phelps “church”, with all the “godhatesfags” signs. It’s a lie when they say it, and it’s not accurate testimony to attribute their lie to Calvinists. (Note that I don’t blame you for that testimony; you’re just the messenger.)

      Again: Calvinists do not tell anyone that God intended them for destruction. God says that those whom God destroys in His wrath were designed and created for wrath — but that doesn’t give us license to assume that any specific person or group of people is one of those; on the contrary, Paul says that in a passage where he systematically eliminates ways for humans to place each other into saveable and unsaveable groups. We can’t do that. We can’t say that because you’re female you’re unsaveable, or because I’m white I’m saveable, or because I’m saved my hypothetical twin must be saveable as well.

      All we can do is declare the message — here’s how, historically, God saved the world; if you believe God’s announcement, then you are saved by God. If you do not believe, then you stand condemned just as you were (whether you believe that or not).

      Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Edwards line up in agreement on this point. Only Pelagius and the lesser known monk Semipelagius disagree.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      You are misunderstanding me a great deal here.

      I said nothing about telling any particular person that they were created and designed for wrath and I would certainly never do so.

      What I did say is that the Calvinist understanding that God directly designs and creates some people for wrath is something that I find horrific and completely contrary to a very large part of the rest of God’s revelation of Himself and His dealings with mankind. That is why I continue to believe that Calvinists must be understanding something incorrectly here.

      And that is what I find just doesn’t fit with telling us we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Love them as ourselves–we would never want to go to hell but if the Calvinist understanding is true, we know that God has designed and created (to use your own words) some of those that we are told to love as ourselves for wrath. How do we bear knowing that anyway about people we love? Do you truly think all of your neighbors are among the elect?

      Maybe it doesn’t bother you to know that God designed and created a whole bunch of people–people that will be conscious for the rest of eternity–for the purpose of pouring out wrath upon them. But it bothers me greatly. And it bothers a whole lot of other non Calvinist folks greatly too. And you can throw out your pelagian or semi pelagian implications all you like there, it will not change that fact.

      It is great to be a human being in the Calvinist understanding of things if you happen to be one of the elect. But woe, woe, woe, a thousand times woe to you if you happen to be one of the folks that that have been designed and created for wrath–everlasting conscious torment.

    • wm tanksley

      How then do we truly love our neighbors as ourselves knowing that a great many of those neighbors have been predestined by God to go to that horrible place?

      First, we don’t know that. We DO know that if they don’t hear the gospel they will go to hell; but we don’t know anything about how many of our neighbors are predestined to anything. That’s God’s business, not ours.

      Second, the question of whether they’re predestined to anything is a question of objective FACT. I can love my neighbor even believing that my neighbor is dying of inoperable cancer. My love isn’t impacted by my belief about the pain, horror, and deadliness of cancer.

      And like cancer, unbelief kills — unbelief is a violation of the first commandment. But seeing that my neighbor harbors unbelief doesn’t tell me that my neighbor is predestined to anything; it merely tells me that my neighbor needs the gospel.

      Loving them, as far as I can tell and going by any type of normal definition of love, has to be horrified at such scenarios. Love wants the very best for people after all.

      Wanting the best does not mean denying God’s word. Taken to extremes, your definition of love simply refutes hell. Can you imagine a pastor preaching at the funeral of a proud unbeliever without either lying about God or slandering the stated beliefs of the proud unbeliever? (I believe that Rob Bell’s comments about Gandhi amounts to a profound disrespect of Gandhi’s frequently and strongly expressed beliefs, pretending that all of Gandhi’s good deeds sprang from a love of the God Gandhi actually fervently denied. We should not pretend that only saved people can do good, or that salvation ends sin.)

      Now, let me add that such a funeral sermon should NOT be hellfire and brimstone; but I am saying that it should comfort the family with honesty about the person, not dishonesty, and as a pastor has the obligation to preach the gospel, he must preach it at this funeral as at all others.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      “And you can throw out your pelagian or semi pelagian implications all you like there, it will not change that fact.”

      Whoops, that’s a fair complaint on your part. I wasn’t phrasing that as carefully as I should have, which was my fault entirely. I appreciate you pointing my error out with such honesty and kindness.

      To be clearer, I know you do NOT believe either heresy, which is why I’m trying to exhort you to stop using arguments against me that only work on people who are pelagian or semi-pelagian.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      “Taken to extremes, your definition of love simply refutes hell.”

      Well, let’s not take it to extemes here shall we?? That is not my intention!

      There is a vast difference between God truly desiring all sinners to be saved and providing the way for that to happen through Jesus, rejected as that offer may be by people, and God actually designing and creating some people for the purpose of suffering His wrath.

      And as to your cancer patient analogy, of course we still love the person. And we love all people according to God’s command. But to love them knowing that surely some of them that we love are created and designed for His wrath is indeed an agonizing thought. As I said earlier, a thousand times woe to the one that God has created for such a horrendous purpose.

      If a man created something for the purpose of pouring out torment and wrath on it, that man would be considered by all to be an absolute monster. But Calvinists don’t seem to have any trouble accepting an interpretation of the Bible that has God doing just that with His creation.

    • wm tanksley

      I said nothing about telling any particular person that they were created and designed for wrath and I would certainly never do so.

      You did — you asked whether I would treat my child that way. That’s a particular person. Over and over you’ve asked how Calvinists could say that about “our neighbors”, how we could count people and admit that any fraction of them might be hopeless. All of those are questions about particular people.

      What I did say is that the Calvinist understanding that God directly designs and creates some people for wrath is something that I find horrific and completely contrary to a very large part of the rest of God’s revelation of Himself and His dealings with mankind. That is why I continue to believe that Calvinists must be understanding something incorrectly here.

      I understand your feelings, but doesn’t Paul actually _say_ this in Romans 9? It’s hard to weigh a general feeling against an explicit passage.

      How do we bear knowing that anyway about people we love? Do you truly think all of your neighbors are among the elect?

      Let’s put it this way: when I preach the gospel, I pray constantly and have little concern for being “attractional” or “seeker-centered”. God has the authority over who is saved, not men; and God has NOT exhausted His capabilities — contrary to some, who claim that God loves the world so much he’s already done all He can, and now He’s waiting and hoping that we make a decision to follow Him.

      God is not helpless; God is waiting in patience and longsuffering all of us to come to repentance, but He is the cause of the repentance just as He is the cause of our existence.

      Maybe it doesn’t bother you to know that God designed and created a whole bunch of people–people that will be conscious for the rest of eternity–for the purpose of pouring out wrath upon them.

      Doesn’t it bother you that He WILL, whether they were created for that or not? Does that bother cause you to deny the clear teaching of scripture about eternal conscious torment, as you see it? Then please don’t ask me to deny the clear teaching of scripture because I’m “bothered”.

      But woe, woe, woe, a thousand times woe to you if you happen to be one of the folks that that have been designed and created for wrath–everlasting conscious torment.

      You sound like one of God’s angels in the book of Revelation. Think about it… They were speaking the truth.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      As I said at the start of this conversation, it is an exercise in head bumping and I just don’t have it in me to take it any further.

      The Calvinist understanding and evidently your understanding too, of what God is like and how He deals with His creation is so totally different then the non Calvinist understanding that I sometimes think we are not even from the same planet!

      One or the other group has been sold a bill of goods, comparable to some ocean front property in Arizona, that is for sure.

    • cherylu

      Just one final thought William.

      I can’t help but wonder how you would or will feel if you should some day find out that what you have believed to be saving faith in yourself was not true faith–what if you don’t persevere?

      What if it is YOU in the end that has been designed and created by God for His wrath? If it was to get that personal, what would you think about such a scenario? What if you discover it is you that He made you for the purpose of everlasting, conscious, absolutely horrific torment?? And of course there is nothing that you can do about it? What do you do with that? Can you still go on your way thinking that all is great?

    • wm tanksley

      What if it is YOU in the end that has been designed and created by God for His wrath?

      Wow, that’s a stunning question. Well phrased, too. I don’t know. I suspect, though, that I’d feel burning shame and guilt. Because, let’s face it, the RESULT of being judged by God is an accurate and apt punishment, and there’ll be nothing I can say against the weight of the evidence against me. I just don’t see how anyone will be able to finish a sentence containing the thought “this isn’t fair.”

      Can you still go on your way thinking that all is great?

      NO. It won’t be, for me.

      But, Cheryl, let’s be frank… We both know that at the Judgement Day there WILL be people in the exact position you described for me. You act like you’re describing a hypothetical situation that could only happen if my opinion of reality were true, but it’ll really happen if mere orthodox Christianity is true.

      Some like myself will say, “Lord, Lord, did we not argue for the doctrine of your sovereignty on bulletin boards?” Others more like yourself will say “And did we not argue in favor of your all-encompassing love?” And He will answer both, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.”

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      OK, now let’s look at how the WCF speaks about God, creation, and sin. Let’s keep in mind that when a document appears at first glance to contain a contradiction, the correct response is not to set up a wall, but to ask “could the writer have meant something else?” The first place to look for the writer’s meaning is within the same document (context, context, context). In this case, the direct silliness of your interpretation makes it certain that something else is meant.

      In paragraph 5:4 WCF goes into detail on this topic, with the additional clarity that it’s talking not about God’s decree, but about God’s providence. The doctrine of meticulous providence, UNLIKE the doctrine of the meticulous eternal decree, is well and clearly stated in the Bible rather than being a mere philosophical conclusion (yes, my fellow Calvinists, I said that, although also note that I do not claim that the Bible contradicts your conclusion). At the same time, it has the exact same impact on the “free will” debate as the teaching of the meticulous decree.

      So, what does WCF 5:4 say? “THE almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men,(14) and that not by a bare permission,(15) but such as has joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding,(16) and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends;(17) yet so as the sinfulness thereof proceeds only from the creature, and not from God; who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.(1 8)”

      So, this claims that God refrains from stopping the sinful action (that’s what “bare permission” means), but that he does not MERELY do this; that furthermore God bounds the sinful actions, restraining man from the extremes he would otherwise go to; and that furthermore God both “orders and governs” the sinful actions so that “his holy ends” are achieved. Here’s the crucial point of their discussion, because when God orders and governs sinful actions for His own purposes, in what way does that tie Him to the sins themselves?

      The writers of the WCF then deny that this makes Him “author or approver” of sin, but they expect that He approves of “his own holy ends” to which those sins are the allegedly ordained means (note that I smuggled in the word “ordain” from WCF 3, and claimed that the manner in which the sins are ordained is as means to a good end, not as ends in themselves).

      Now, look at this. As a Christian you believe in God’s providence; therefore you must affirm these things. I think you’re free to deny parts of section III, but not because it contains a contradiction (if it did, so would this, and so ultimately would the Bible); but rather because it’s a mere philosophical conclusion rather than a direct Biblical teaching. On the other hand, you cannot teach that God’s decree prior to creation encompasses anything less than the salvation of all who will be saved; that much is directly taught in the Bible.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      The Calvinist understanding and evidently your understanding too, of what God is like and how He deals with His creation is so totally different then the non Calvinist understanding that I sometimes think we are not even from the same planet!

      Frankly, it’s simply not. Although our confessions aren’t identical, they’re incredibly close. Our churches diverged over minor points in theology, and serious theologians agree that if either group has the gospel, both do. Admittedly there are different dangers in the two theologies; I admit that the danger you sketch above is a real one, but you overstep to claim that the danger is actually a necessary consequence.

      From experience, I have to say that the CURRENT danger I see in Calvinism is inherent in the spirit of the age, and your churches are just as exposed as mine. The real danger these days isn’t forgetting about the love of God, but rather is in mysticism: the fiction that God is accessible to man apart from the ways God has proclaimed that He makes Himself available. And that’s a whole different argument.

      (And if I wanted, I could talk about the serious dangers inherent to your theology — but I don’t think it’s particularly relevant, since they’re dangers, not necessary consequences.)

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      The real danger these days……… but rather is in mysticism: the fiction that God is accessible to man apart from the ways God has proclaimed that He makes Himself available.

      Amen brother! I agree that mysticism is a huge problem in the church these days. (Isn’t it nice to not be arguing about something for once?)

    • Phil McCheddar

      William,

      Thanks for posting your views in such detail. I am reading and re-reading what everyone is saying in this discussion and I am feeling increasingly confused because both sides’ arguments seem cogent!

      Anyway, in post #179, you said (in reference to Acts 7:51):
      I never said the Spirit hardened their heart; I said that humanity’s heart is hard (Jeremiah compares it to a stone). That’s not the fault of the Spirit; it’s the fault of humanity.

      But doesn’t that contradict Romans 9:18?
      He shows mercy to those He wants to, and He hardens those He wants to harden.

    • Paul Copan

      Just a quick comment on the last postings….

      Of course, hardening is a two-stage process: God’s hardening—as in the case of Pharaoh–comes after human hard-heartedness and resistance to divine grace. God can harden whom he will for his purposes—he can use the already hardened and “give them over” to that which they have chosen in the first place. In Romans 9-11, we see an exasperated God who holds out his hands all day to stubborn ethnic Israelites (Rom. 10:21) who continue to clutch at their covenant privileges rather than being a light to the Gentiles. As long as they do this, they remain vessels for destruction–and God uses this stubbornness to bring the Gentiles in. As Paul says in 2 Tim. 2, those who are vessels for dishonorable use can become vessels for honorable use (2 Tim. 2:21). This is much like what Jesus said to his brothers who didn’t believe in him (Jn. 7:7: “the world cannot hate you”) although later after the resurrection his brothers became believers. Though they were part of “the world,” they were not locked in to this condition. At any rate, N.T. Wright cautions us not to read Romans 9-11 in isolation from the entirety of Romans, and he gives a nice overview of the flow of argumentation here: http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Romans_Theology_Paul.pdf. Once a Calvinist himself, Wright summarizes his pilgrimage, telling how began to rethink Romans 9-11 as a result of re-reading the biblical text: http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_My_Pilgrimage.htm

      To my thinking, it’s hard to see why God should be angry at/jealous because of idolatry when humans have no grace to do anything else and God has ordained/is the cause of this state in the first place. Satan’s (or Adam’s) fall could not have been because “it was the fault of [Satan or] humanity.” They were created good….

    • Nelson Banuchi

      Mr. Copan, thanks for the NT Wright articles…much appreciated also, sorry I spelt your name wrong on my comments…fingers get mixed up).

    • wm tanksley

      Mr. Copan, on what grounds do you claim NT Wright as a backer for your position? As you’re well aware, many Calvinists claim him as well. I’m far from an expert on Wright, I should add, but I can see a controversy a long ways off.

      Not only is Rom 9 not the only Biblical support for Calvinism’s 5 points, so that Calvinism would stand nearly as well with it taken away; but also, claiming that Rom 9 serves a larger purpose does not serve to dismiss Calvinist claims about the argumentation used in Romans 9.

      I love what Wright is saying; I plan to read much more from all those resources he’s put online.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Phil, thank you; these discussions are both fun and usually educational. Mr. Copan in particular always challenges with something serious to read.

      Unfortunately, I’m not sure what post of mine you’re referring to; as you may notice, the post numbers change every time you turn a page. Thus, I’m not sure what I was protesting against in context. I do agree with you that God definitely hardens; but I would suggest that this is done to someone who already has determined evil in their heart. It’s not parallel, I think, to the heart of stone/heart of flesh metaphor, so we can’t say from those passages that God uses hardening to actively make us have hearts of stone when we once had hearts of flesh.

      -Wm

    • Phil McCheddar

      Do you think the references in the bible to God being exasperated by man’s disobedience are designed not to teach us the facts about God’s/man’s initiative in repenting, but rather to stimulate us emotionally to choose to repent? Perhaps the bible describes God in this way not to teach us systematic theology for us to philosophize over but to appeal to man’s emotions and provoke him to make a responsible, willing decision.

      When a non-Christian repents and believes in Jesus, he has been moved and enabled by God to do so. But God has not acted on that person like a puppeteer pulling strings on a puppet to make it move. Rather, God has effected that person’s repentance & faith by means of appealing to that person’s understanding and emotions, and so using that person’s willing decision as a link in the chain of events. If that person has a notion that his conversion is pre-ordained and inevitable, he would no longer feel morally responsible for making a decision to repent and believe. But God wants us to make an executive decision to repent and believe in Jesus, to act with true motives and deliberate intent and urgent desire, and therefore some parts of the bible picture God as “holding out his hands all day long to a stubborn and obstinate people” in order to shame man into having a contrite spirit and to exert himself to choose to repent & believe.

      If this makes God seem sly, is there not a parallel between this and Jesus’ behaviour in Luke 24:28 where Jesus deliberately gave the impression he was going to continue on his journey, in order to give Clopas and his companion the opportunity to choose to invite him to sup with them (rather than for Jesus to impose himself on them)? Also, Jesus’ unnecessary question to blind Bartimaeus ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ in Mark 10:51 was to encourage Bartimaeus for a specific request (his intelligent cooperation) instead of a vague “Bless me”. Also, God coming down to investigate whether Sodom was as evil as He had heard rumoured, as though He didn’t already know, in order to give Abraham the opportunity to intercede for mercy. (See also Mark 6:48 and John 6:5-6.)

    • Phil McCheddar

      William,
      Sorry for my misleading reference. The post I was referring to was #29 on the 4th page of comments.
      I note you suggest that God hardens someone after that person has already determined to do evil. But what about God hardening someone in impenitency, ie. hardening a non-Christian who “loves darkness rather than the Light because his deeds are evil, and avoids the Light so that his deeds may not be exposed” (John 3:19-20)? If that non-Christian persists in recoiling from Jesus (like ants living under a stone that scurry away to hide in the ground when you pick the stone up and turn it over), might God eventually harden him in his unbelief? If you would say Yes, aren’t you then acknowledging that his damnation was not pre-ordained by God but stems from his own obstinacy in not coming to the Light? And therefore, logically, wouldn’t you be forced to admit that someone who does convert to Jesus can pat himself on the back for not being so obstinate?
      I’m not trying to put words in your mouth – I am just trying to extrapolate what you said to its logical conclusion. Thanks.

    • Paul Copan

      Some good questions here, William and Phil. I appreciate the graciousness with which you ask and ply.

      William, Wright rejects the traditional Calvinistic reading of Romans 9-11 (so, not necessarily decisive on the question but still quite significant. In his *Justification* (IVP) he offers a broad defense of the Reformed solas with which Protestants like me are also in agreement. Wright insists on Scripture alone (here he challenges folks like Piper to go back to the Scriptures, not to the sixteenth century!), by Christ alone, by faith alone, by grace alone, etc. (He rejects the doctrine of imputation, however, and I think he’s right in his analysis, but that’s another matter I won’t get into.) Respected Calvinists have noted that he has a distinctively synergistic tone in his writings (e.g., see Michael Horton on this: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/justification-and-ecumenism/). Others have gotten this impression too. I myself chatted over lunch with theologian Scott Hafemann back in Jan. 2004; he told me that Wright “used to be a Calvinist” and that his writings were a departure from historic Calvinism. I could go on….

      On to the hardening!

      Did God harden Adam and Eve or Satan before they fell? *How* did they come to fall apart from God’s bringing them out of a good state to a sinful one?

      In terms of God’s stimulating us (well, some of us!) to repent by using “exasperation” language, this doesn’t seem quite right. We can make factual claims on the basis of such texts: that God had utilized all resources possible to bring about repentance but Old Testament Israel repeatedly refused (e.g., the song of the vineyard in Isaiah 5; God’s repeatedly sending the prophets to Israel till there was no remedy). I just see so many such references in Scripture that a theological point seems quite clear. But we will probably have to agree to disagree.

      On Bartimaeus, Kenneth Bailey comments that the answer to Jesus’ question was far from a slam-dunk in favor of seeing, as this would mean a complete lifestyle change. I know of dear persons who don’t want to hear because this would radically alter their social equilibrium. On Jesus’ pretending he would go further (Lk. 24), we can see this as an expression of politeness rather than imposition. Jesus is being quite the “gentleman” in Rev. 3:20: He stands and knocks, and if anyone opens the door, he will come in and dine with that person.

      In Hebrews 6, God enlightens persons and lets them taste/experience the heavenly gift. Here God opens their eyes and lets them see, but they ultimately refuse God’s gracious initiative.

      In terms of those who love the darkness rather than the light (Jn. 3), the only way they can come to the light is if they respond in repentance to the promptings of God’s Spirit in his Word or in creation and conscience and expressions of God’s goodness (e.g., Acts 14 and 17)–something God commands all people to do (Ac. 17:31—which presupposes God’s grace to do so). God may. if he wills, harden people as a last resort, but he gives genuine opportunity for all to repent. It’s only when those opportunities continue to be refused or resisted (e.g., Acts 7:51) that God may harden whom he hardens (like Pharaoh).

      It seems to me, on your thinking (Phil and William), that as we look back on any of our actions (even as believers), we could not have done other than what we did because of all the prior influences allowed/produced by God. But this would run contrary to, say, 1 Cor. 10:13—God always makes a way of escape in any of our temptations that we can endure it.

      A person who comes to the light comes because of God’s gracious initiative–though it is resistible. It seems silly to congratulate oneself for receiving a Christmas present rather than refusing it.

      I hope that helps clarify.

    • wm tanksley

      Paul, after some more digging, I confirmed my impression that Wright considers himself a Calvinist, even though he disagrees with the classical use of Romans 9-11. The “More Reformed Than Thou” people disagree, but Wright calls himself “a good Calvinist” in http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_New_Perspectives.htm, and I don’t think he means “a scholar of Calvin”. Many of his followers consider themselves not only good Calvinists, but even good Presbyterians who simply have a different reading. (The Presbyterian churches largely seem to disagree with the latter, although this strictness is controversial even there. The Reformed Baptists and the “CREC” churches are more common locations for Wright “followers”.)

      Of course, his reading is most quickly identified by his rejection of the idea that Paul is talking about imputation of righteousness; that is, as you state, a direct and central hit to most Calvinists (and Lutherans, for that matter). The thing I believe you’re missing is that although he rejects that, he does not reject imputation. On the contrary, his entire thesis of Romans makes imputation the central concept. The point (according to Wright) of the Law being given to the Jews is to pile up sin on the heads of God’s chosen people, so that the sin piled on God’s people can then be “piled up” on the head of His Son, imputed to Him although not committed by Him. Now, I don’t see here a doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, so it’s possible he rejects this Lutheran and Calvinist cornerstone. But imputation is still a live concept here — and in fact it goes much deeper in Wright than the traditional readings, since it runs throughout the entire plan of salvation, including the entire purpose of the Law and the Covenant.

      Holy mackerel, this guy’s brilliant.

      Please read http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Justification_Biblical_Basis.pdf, and search for ‘imputing’. Read the entire paragraph. Wright affirms the ENTIRE concept of justification as taught by Luther and Calvin, rejecting the word imputation because of the room for a false interpretation as meaning a pure legal fiction. I do admit that Wright and Luther are incompatible in imputation, since it looks to me like Wright expects us to stand on the Last Day clothed in our own righteousness (and stripped of our own sins), while Luther would have us stand clothed in Christ’s righteousness; but as you said, that becomes another argument.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      OK, my point was that Wright is not on your side of this discussion. If you choose to accept his arguments, you accept almost all of mine as well.

      Next, when you accept Romans 9 as fitting into a larger argument that does NOT pertain to individualized predestination to wrath (in spite of appearances), you still have to deal with the fact that the smaller arguments are pertinent to predestination, and they follow a passage (the “golden chain”) that clearly describes an individual predestination to glorification. So you might wind up like me, believing in predestination but suspicious of the arguments for hard-core double predestination.

      But finally, Romans 9 is not a solitary prooftext for anything in Calvinism (even the superlapsarian/sublapsarian controversy), so even if you choose to reject my reading of it without completely accepting Wright’s, you’ve still got all of the other passages Calvinists bring up.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Anyway, in [post #29 on comment page 4], you said (in reference to Acts 7:51):
      I never said the Spirit hardened their heart; I said that humanity’s heart is hard (Jeremiah compares it to a stone). That’s not the fault of the Spirit; it’s the fault of humanity.

      I did say that, but not in reference to Acts 7; I said that Acts 7:51 wasn’t germane to the discussion.

      But doesn’t that contradict Romans 9:18?
      He shows mercy to those He wants to, and He hardens those He wants to harden.

      Do you believe the hardening is what causes people to be condemned? I don’t.

      But what about God hardening someone in impenitency, ie. hardening a non-Christian who “loves darkness rather than the Light because his deeds are evil, and avoids the Light so that his deeds may not be exposed” (John 3:19-20)?

      But these verses say the OPPOSITE of what you’re saying — they don’t say that the God condemns (by hardening) people, but rather they say that the Son does NOT condemn anyone. Do you think God works in opposition to the Son in this respect?

      might God eventually harden him in his unbelief?

      On what grounds do you say that person is NOT already hardened in his unbelief? As you may know, Calvinism, Arminianism, and Lutheranism hold to the doctrine of Total Depravity, which is precisely this claim. The split between the three is in the question of when God’s softening occurs, not when God hardens in unbelief — all agree that God does not do that.

      This is where your extrapolation breaks down — I don’t think God has to harden us in order for us to resist Him.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      “Did God harden Adam and Eve or Satan before they fell? *How* did they come to fall apart from God’s bringing them out of a good state to a sinful one?”

      Part of my understanding of hardening is that it’s not about God adding a new evil decision; rather, it’s a fixing of the decision someone’s already made. I know you agree with me thus far, and I’m OK with that. In other words, if God had hardened Adam and Eve, they would have been hardened in _innocence_, not changed into sinful creatures. The silliness of this idea will explain, I hope, why I don’t think it’s reasonable to speak this way. God’s hardening is NOT how God damns people; rather, it’s how He governs the behavior of sinners, limiting and directing their sins so that they further His plans. Sometimes the sin people are hardened into is better than what they would have done otherwise; other times (as with Pharaoh) we do know that God hardened his heart so that he would not let God’s people go,which thereby prevented him from doing a relatively good act (but we should not read this as meaning that Pharaoh would have been saved if not for the hardening; simply that his sin would take some other form).

      I don’t think this reading should be objectionable to any of us, right?

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      In terms of God’s stimulating us (well, some of us!) to repent by using “exasperation” language, this doesn’t seem quite right. We can make factual claims on the basis of such texts: that God had utilized all resources possible to bring about repentance but Old Testament Israel repeatedly refused

      That is not a factual statement; it is an exposure of your assumptions. Contrary to your assumption, God did not say He had no more resources, and the story of Paul is a clear example in which God used resources He didn’t use on others (but He could have!). For that matter, what of the people who met Jesus? If your “full resources” theory were correct, God would have used full resources on everyone.

      Those passages were not about God using “full resources”, but rather were about God using more than adequate resources.

      Jesus is being quite the “gentleman” in Rev. 3:20: He stands and knocks, and if anyone opens the door, he will come in and dine with that person.

      This isn’t what Revelation teaches. Read the context. Even if you think that this is not part of the letter to the Laodiceans (and thus part of the rebuke and promise to that church), you have to see that Jesus is NOT being “quite the gentleman” anywhere else in the book. (And don’t you remember who Jesus says “hears my voice”?)

      In Hebrews 6, God enlightens persons and lets them taste/experience the heavenly gift. Here God opens their eyes and lets them see, but they ultimately refuse God’s gracious initiative.

      This is a POWERFUL passage, and I do understand why you read it this way. But it doesn’t work; Hebrews 6 says “it is impossible”. This is not an experiential passage with a proverbial or subjective result; it’s a logical passage with a universal conclusion. (And no, it can’t be talking about “ultimate” results like you’re saying, because that makes the argument regarding renewing to repentance simply awkward, as though there were a chance after ultimacy.)

      It seems to me to mean that once one admits that the Father, Spirit, and Son were behind the Temple sacrifices all along, turning back to those shadows of sacrifices implies that the REAL sacrifice must have been worthless — and that therefore the shadows are more so, and nothing remains. The author sees that the people he’s appealing to already know this by experience, so he’s confident that they realize how foolish they’d have to be to pretend shadows are real and reality (which they KNOW is real) is a shadow. See also Heb 10:26, which takes the same argument even further — not only is renewed repentance logically impossible, but such behavior is logically incompatible with ANY sacrifice being available.

      I agree with your paragraph about John, except for the part about God hardening people in order to keep them from being saved; I don’t think God does that.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      It seems to me, on your thinking (Phil and William), that as we look back on any of our actions (even as believers), we could not have done other than what we did because of all the prior influences allowed/produced by God. But this would run contrary to, say, 1 Cor. 10:13—God always makes a way of escape in any of our temptations that we can endure it.

      I admit I used to be a hard determinist, preaching the straight Jonathan Edwards party line. Now I’m not so sure. It’s not because I found any verses that contradict it (that one you cited certainly doesn’t); rather, it’s because there are no verses that SUPPORT it. It’s a fine philosophical conclusion, but I’m an engineer, not a philosopher, so I’d rather remain agnostic.

      Why do I say that verse doesn’t contradict determinism? Well, because it doesn’t mention the topic. Compare verses like James 1:14, where we see that the sources of temptation and sin are our desires. Does that contradict free will? Not really, it doesn’t mention it. (Of course, I REALLY don’t believe in libertarian free will when it comes to salvation; it seem pretty much ruled out by Paul’s discussions of slavery to sin versus slavery to righteousness. But who knows what happens in other parts of our lives.)

      A person who comes to the light comes because of God’s gracious initiative–though it is resistible.

      Right — “no one can come to me unless the Father [calls] him, and I will raise him up on the last day.” … “All that the Father has given me will come to me.” … “I will lose nothing of all He has given me, but will raise them up on the last day.” … “Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from Him comes to Me.”

      It seems silly to congratulate oneself for receiving a Christmas present rather than refusing it.

      There’s a difference. You can try to receive a present because you want to, but fail for physical reasons, and then TRY HARDER to succeed (and surely you will). But God doesn’t command us to receive a present. Instead, He commands us to believe. Can you TRY to believe? Can you DECIDE to believe?

      At the same time, the command to believe is part of the Law, and those who do not believe are condemned.

      -Wm (really enjoying finally reading NT Wright; he’s answering some questions I’d wondered about. Thank you, Mr. Copan!)

    • Paul Copan

      Wow, thanks for the array of follow-up comments. I’ll try to get back to things when I can. William, glad you’ve enjoyed getting into Wright. You’ll also find that he writes quite approvingly of Lewis’s *The Great Divorce* in his *Surprised by Hope*—excellent stuff!

    • wm tanksley

      Grin… Sorry for the array, but hope they make sense anyhow.

      I enjoyed “The Great Divorce”, and I’m curious to see how Wright might quote it… As fun as Lewis was, he’s neither theologian nor exegete, while Wright is both. Have you read Lewis’ personal favorite, “Till We Have Faces”? Maybe I’m biased by my own education (Latin minor, Greek language focus), but that was my favorite of his books. (His previous favorite was Perlandra, which was my least favorite of that series.)

      Off topic, but fun.

      -Wm

    • Phil McCheddar

      Thank you Paul and William for this continuing discussion.

      Paul wrote:
      In terms of God’s stimulating us (well, some of us!) to repent by using “exasperation” language, this doesn’t seem quite right. We can make factual claims on the basis of such texts: that God had utilized all resources possible to bring about repentance but Old Testament Israel repeatedly refused,

      But I still don’t see why God’s tone of exasperation isn’t merely a rhetorical device to highlight the perversity of man’s persistent obstinacy, and I don’t see that it necessarily implies that man might have repented sooner without further divine enabling. How would you explain that the Lord Jesus chided his apostles for being slow to understand his teaching, while at the same time we are told: “they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it” (Luke 9:45)?

      In Isaiah 54:14-15 God says to His people “You will be far from terror, it will certainly not come near you. If anyone attacks you, it is not from me.” Does this imply that God’s people could be attacked by a hostile nation without God predetermining it? … that God isn’t behind the demise of each sparrow after all?

      Commenting about the destruction of Jerusalem in the 6th century, God says in Zechariah 1:15 “I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster.” Does that mean Nebuchadnezzar went further than God intended? … that things didn’t work out quite as God had planned? … that in this life we are vulnerable to the caprices of evil forces outside God’s control?

      In Jeremiah 32:35 God says “They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination.” Does this mean God didn’t know in advance that they would burn their children? … that some events take even God by surprise?

      Therefore I am cautious about making factual claims based on texts about God’s exasperation.

    • wm tanksley

      Phil, you make some very good points; but I don’t quite agree. I think that God is not merely exasperated but wrathful against sin, and only His longsuffering and patience holds Him back: longsuffering towards those who will not repent, and patience towards those whom He is bringing to repentance.

      I really like the verse you bring up regarding Nebuchadnezzar. God also spoke against the Assyrians, at the same time as He claimed to have called them up as a tool in His hands He promised to punish them severely for their high-handed crimes against His people. Isa 10, especially Isa 10:12, explains this quite clearly. This is CERTAINLY an example of God’s exasperation — but it’s exasperation before God’s started using them to punish His people, exasperation about a course of action that had not even started.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      I think I may have failed to explain WHY I “don’t really agree”.

      I simply don’t think there’s anything rhetorical about the passages Copan identifies as “exasperation”, largely because I think there’s much more than exasperation going on there (as opposed to there being much less going on).

      -Wm

    • Phil McCheddar

      William, I agree that God is wrathful against sin. What I meant was that whereas Paul Copan interprets God’s tone of exasperation as an indication that man might have repented previously, I conjecture that God may be affecting an exasperated tone in order to effect that repentance now. If I think my repentance is pre-ordained and inevitable, I would not feel morally responsible to repent and so wouldn’t bother exerting myself. But if God makes me feel that my repentance depends on my own initiative, that will spur me into urgent and earnest exertion.

      BTW, can you remind me please how to use italics, bold, and blockquote in this editor? Thanks.

    • wm tanksley

      I see, Phil. Yes, I essentially agree; my only point is that I don’t think there’s any need for “affectation”. God really means that He’s irritated. I don’t know why Copan chooses to mean that God must be irritated in one particular way.

      I also believe that our repentance DOES depend on our own “initiative”, so long as we don’t define that in any ultimate way. When God ordains our salvation, He also ordains the means by which we will be saved — whether those means are a blinding light on the road to Damascus, or whether they’re a specific Christian reading the Word to you. The means will always include the Word, and will often include informing you of God’s wrath towards sin.

      To get fancy formatting you have to write HTML. Is the following sufficient: “”italic””? Bold is “b”, Blockquote is “blockquote”.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Sorry, the blog stripped the attempt to show formatting codes. Explaining them in English will take a while. Is it enough to say “it’s HTML”? If not, I’ll explain.

    • Phil McCheddar

      Thanks William. I can’t remember which type of brackets to enclose the word “italic” in, nor which way the slash should slant to turn the formatting off.

    • wm tanksley

      Angle brackets — less than and greater than. The slash has to be forward, on my keyboard it’s on the same key as the question mark.

    • Phil McCheddar

      Thanks, William!

      I think our honourable brother Paul Copan‘s thesis is that God’s apparent exasperation is a sign that man’s non-repentance isn’t due to any lack of enabling grace from God. But I don’t think he means that exasperation is God’s principal attitude towards man’s sin as you seem to understand him. We all agree God is angry and grieved by man’s sin, and he clearly expresses his wrath against sin throughout the bible. I am cautious about interpreting God’s apparent exasperation the way Paul does because I think the bible functions not only as a textbook to inform us of the truth and fill our heads with knowledge but also as a pair of potter’s hands to mould our minds to see things the way God wants us to, and to spur us to make an appropriate response. Studying the bible is not just a case of cramming information into our heads and formulating systematic theology but also of interfacing with God personally so that the experience purifies our character and reforms our outlook.

      Might the following two parts of the bible be examples of rhetorical devices designed to elicit a certain response from mankind?

      The warnings against falling away in the book of Hebrews seem to imply that it is possible for a true believer to lose his inheritance and be rejected on the Day of Judgment. But Thomas R. Schreiner and Ardel B. Caneday argue in their book The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance (Downers Grove, Illinios: IVP, 2001) that these passages are simply the means by which God preserves his saints so that none of them will actually be lost. In other words, God does not preserve his saints by dragging them to heaven with/without their cooperation but by alarming them into apprehending a real (not hypothetical) danger and exerting themselves to avoid it happening.

      The OT law said: Do this and you will live! This principle is summarised by Paul in Gal.3:12: “The law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them’” But since we know that no-one can be justified by means of obeying the law perfectly, was this merely God’s way of leading the Israelites circuitously to discover for themselves that they were incapable of obeying the law and needed to cry out to him for his grace? Surely we would not infer from the OT law that perfect obedience is practically possible and not just hypothetical.

    • wm tanksley

      Phil, the problem I have with that reading is that it has God molding us by means of something that does not correspond with reality. I’m uncomfortable with that, for a smaller version of the same reason I reject Molinism.

      Now, when you look back into the Law, you’ll see it presented in several lights, but notice how, in the great final presentation of Choice that so many Arminians like to indicate, God clearly proclaims that His people WILL reject the Law, and WILL be taken captive in punishment, and God WILL forgive them and rescue them. On a societal level, then, the people must trust in God alone, not in their own ability to keep the law. On a personal level the same is not indicated by that passage; but when you examine the Law closely you’ll find that there is no sacrifice for the covering of intentional sin — all of the coverings are limited to only accidental sin. This means that as important as the Law is for the national people of Israel, the personal individuals still have to look in faith to the covenant of the God of Abraham and Adam.

      I’ll try to post what I think a more likely reading Hebrews is, and why the traditional Arminian reading doesn’t work (without cheating by bringing in the other passages that such a reading directly contradicts).

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      The two passages Hebrews 6 and 10 show two circumstances, which have to be considered in detail; but my primary conclusion is similar for the two. My primary conclusion is that both passages center around an exclusive and total logical statement. “It is impossible” and “there remains no more sacrifice” both are incredibly strong statements; anyone interpreting them must pause to notice that. Although both passages sound experiential (“tasted the good word of God” or “we sin willfully”), our experience contains nothing that could possibly back the power and certainty of those conclusions. And the latter one contains a denial of objective fact — because Christ’s sacrifice did actually happen, was actually accepted, and is totally sufficient for any sin. Whether we knowingly sin or not, Christ’s sacrifice isn’t changed. Frankly, if that’s supposed to be a warning, it’s not a very plausible one.

      I conclude, therefore, that at least for the latter passage, there can be no purpose to the passage if read as a warning. The “consequence” can never happen; therefore the intent is logical (and therefore doctrinal) rather than admonitory. I propose that Hebrews 10 teaches not that we should fear losing our salvation because of one too many deliberate sins; but rather that we should see “a sinning Christian” as a preposterous and untenable contradiction in terms. This makes Hebrews 10 teach the same doctrine as Romans 6, rather than trying to make it teach a doctrine nowhere else shown in the Bible (and none too clearly shown here!).

      I’m going to take a break here… This is taking too long. I’ll make another posting about Hebrews 6, since in spite of some commonalities it’s a different passage.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      I apologize for the delay in posting my interpretation of Hebrews 6. This is due both to the complexity of the passage, and to the fact that I’m swamped at work and home.

      I do have an unfinished post, but it’s taking a lot of careful work, and I haven’t touched it in a week.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Hebrews 6 is different from Hebrews 10, clearly, since the consequence is conceivable, if perhaps we read it as a warning of hardening given to those who, like the false teachers in the epistles of John, fall away after being part of the Church. The trouble is that when read that way the consequence doesn’t seem, by experience and cross-reference, to be true. Doesn’t Paul say that those who are sinning should be approached in hopes of restoration, in humility lest we ourselves fall likewise? Granted that false teachers should be rebuked “harshly”, but considering that this is the job of teachers, it would seem the harshness would be tempered by a double measure of humility and fear. Surely this teacher isn’t therefore contradicting Paul by proclaiming that anything that can be described as “falling away” destroys all hope of repentance. Indeed, when the Church faced the Donatists and Novatians, they quickly judged that this interpretation of Hebrews 6 was false (although the final judgement waited until the Muslim conquest wiped out the tiny “pure” church that was all that was left of the Donatists).

      Yet Hebrews 6, if it’s talking about a consequence of apostasy, eliminates entirely the possibility of repenting. And like Hebrews 10, the wording is not a simple threat of punishment; it’s a statement that eliminates alternatives utterly. Here it’s IMPOSSIBLE to repent; there NO sacrifice remained. And this impossibility continues to increase in the following text, to the point that even someone approaching with tears and petitions cannot be granted repentance. My resolution here takes the same form as my previous resolution for chapter 10: that the author of Hebrews is teaching doctrine by means of a logical argument, not urging an ambiguous obedience by means of hyperbolic threats.

      But what might be the doctrine? Since the preceding text is a transition, we must look to the following text for our explanation. And there we find not a continuation of the threat, but rather a discussion of the contrast between land that bears fruit and land that bears thorns. This text calls to mind Christ’s parable of the sower, where we see that the land bearing thorns did indeed receive the seed that represents the Word of the Kingdom, which we see elsewhere is brought by the Holy Spirit; so the two texts tie very closely together. Next we see that God’s promise and character are firm and unchangeable and given in Christ. I read the rest of the text of Hebrews through chapter 10 as explaining in detail the hope of the promise and character of God through Christ, and its superiority to the promises made through the temple (because, of course, that was the challenge being faced by the church the author was preaching to). And then we reach the passage we were discussing before.

      Here, then, is how I think this all fits together. The seed of the Sower falls on all the soils, and the outcome of the sowing is the germination of the seed; but only some of the soil has been prepared for the seed. The outcome of the seed is fruit; but some soils bear no fruit, but show only the thorns that choke out the growth of the seed in the first place. The soil that always had thorns was never ready for the Word of God; that soil, and the people it represents, never had the hope that the good soil (and people) had; rather, God’s purpose (telos, 6:8), for them was “to be burned”. This is not a warning of danger; rather, it’s an explanation that the hope we hold is steady and certain, and that those who leave it did NOT hold this hope.

      And the author is certain that this comment he just made does NOT apply to his target audience; and the grounds he gives for this certainty is that they’ve already displayed the fruit. If he had been warning, wouldn’t he have expressed uncertainty instead of certainty? After all, a warning that’s followed by a disclaimer for THIS audience isn’t much of a warning!

      Furthermore, having developed this idea, I then read straight through Hebrews keeping it in mind. I found that the space between Hebrews 6 and 10 really does seem to discuss only a single topic, and it seems to me therefore that Hebrews 10 picks up where Hebrews 6 left off, and the text in between is a detailed explanation of why our hope is so solid, and why the temple is so vastly inferior, and why we must believe and confess that Christ fulfilled the temple’s former role.

      OK, I’ve said enough. Did I make any sense?

      -Wm

    • Phil McCheddar

      Thanks for that explanation, William. But if your interpretation is correct, I can’t understand the author’s motive in writing these passages to Christians who were wobbling in their faith. Why would the author risk increasing their complacency in their eternal security rather than spurring them on to more strenuous effort?
      Phil

    • wm tanksley

      Threatening isn’t the only way to motivate people. God does use threats as means to change people, as Jonah’s threats to Ninevah and Jeremiah’s parable of the potter make clear; but they aren’t the only thing He uses. In this case I claim that the author of Hebrews isn’t making a threat; he’s teaching the Hebrews true doctrine, as it applies to their actual circumstances. And note that what he preaches isn’t THEIR eternal security — rather, it’s the other way around; he preached the intractability of the ones who quit. If you’re the type of person who looks to yourself for security (like the hypercalvinist who looks inside for mystical signs that he’s one of the elect), there’s neither comfort nor assurance in what he says; if you’re looking to Christ, he’s about to preach the sufficiency of Christ’s work, so you’re about to be assured.

      Many of these faithful Christians had been faithful second-temple Jews. They REMEMBERED personally having made sacrifices in the temple with saving faith that God would someday provide a sacrifice that actually could atone for all their sins. They were the true believers in YHWH, believers before Jesus called them — and of course when Jesus called them (whether in His own voice or by the Holy Spirit speaking through the apostles) they recognized the voice of the same YHWH they’d believed.

      When they used to perform those sacrifices, they may have thought that the sacrifices were saving them, and God in His mercy credited their naive faith in His promises for righteousness just as much as He credited the faith of Abraham for righteousness. But now they know; now the Spirit has spoken through the words of the God-breathed preached Gospel; and there is no way to have a naive faith in God’s promises while rejecting the means by which God declared that His promises were fulfilled. The same Gospel that saves when taken with faith, highlights damnation when heard with unbelief (although it does not itself condemn).

      “It is impossible to renew to repentance” — because they heard the voice of the Chief Shepherd and didn’t stay with Him, thus showing they were never repentant, but were like the thorny ground (a citation of the parable of the Sower) condemned for burning (a citation of the parable of the enemy’s tares). “There remains no sacrifice” — because all along they were desiring NOT to bring the commanded sacrifices to the God of Promise, but rather to do good works on their own apart from their Creator. They are left with nothing but their own willful sins masquerading as good works — and their continuing and unrepentant evil deeds that prove they have no part in Christ.

      The author never speaks TO those people, only ABOUT them. But some of them are surely still among the author’s readers and listeners — they haven’t all left, and won’t until the Last Day. To the unbeliever, the doctrinal statements sound unbelievable. But to all of the faithful, the doctrinal statements bring to memory the facts that they believed, but have perhaps faded in their memory. To some of the people this letter was read to, these statements surely reminded them of their naive faith when it was expressed inside the Temple, and how their more mature and formed faith felt when they realized that Christ is the Temple, and how it was the same faith and being used by God for the same purpose.

      This is Law. This is meant to break the hearts of those who hear it with faith. The Gospel follows, as the author preaches Christ’s work as our full salvation. This is the faith that we live by, not something we had to believe once, but something we lean on every day.

      -Wm

    • […] Paul Copan, “Divine Exasperation”, surveys biblical passages that express God’s exasperation with sinful, human resistance to his grace, revealing “God’s legitimate expectation of spiritual fruitfulness, repentance, or obedience. That is, what hinders their repentance is not God’s withholding grace so that they cannot repent. Indeed, abundant grace has been given that justifies the expectation of repentance—even if God in his foreknowledge knows it is not forthcoming. Despite God’s initiating grace, humans continue to “resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51)—to grieve him (Ephesians 4:30) and quench him (1 Thessalonians 5:19). God commands all people without exception to repent (Acts 17:30); so presumably God’s initiating grace is available for all to do so.” […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.