Human Freedom and God

•February 6, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The discussion of man’s free will and how sovereign God is (or chooses to be) has been a debate that has raged for thousands of years.  It is one that is extremely important, core and foundational to so many other doctrines of the Christian faith that, to misunderstand it significantly enough can lead to heresy and apostasy.  The doctrines of soteriology, eschatology, prophecy are deeply affected by the position held on this important issue.  This argument will propose that these doctrines are most consistently understood in the light of a sovereign God.

 

The Spectrum of Freedom

            There is a range of theological understanding regarding the interaction between God and man in relation to the exercise of man’s will. We will only evaluate theistic approaches in answering the question of whether or not man’s will is free or fettered.  This is to say, we will assume the existence of God. And that He is interested in us.  These range from determinism (God has total control of everything and man is a robot) all the way to process theism where God is completely unable to know the future and is unable to alter its course.  On the human side of things, man has absolutely no free will on one end of the spectrum and total libertarian free will on the other end.  It is a continuum of restriction on either one party or the other.  As man becomes freer, God becomes more restricted and vice versa.   In the middle of the range we find compatibilism, Arminianism, open theism, middle knowledge, etc.  These form a spectrum.  As we move along in our investigation of God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom, we will be focusing on two of the most widely held views, Compatiblistic and Libertarian Free Will.

Specific and General Sovereignty Models

We have touched upon God’s freedom vs. man’s freedom along the continuum and made a connection between the two and demonstrated that they are linked together.  If that is the case, it is appropriate to talk about the sovereignty of God everywhere in relation to man’s freedom.  The freer we make man, the more we limit God’s sovereignty.  There are two basic types of models of God’s sovereignty and they are “General Sovereignty” and “Specific Sovereignty” models.    They each have their strengths and weakness.

 

General Sovereignty Models

The first sovereignty model I shall address is “General Sovereignty.”  This view holds that God has limited Himself in such a way as to give man complete “libertarian” free will.  Libertarianism is the view that man can choose this way or that totally without any external control or influence and that he could always have chosen otherwise.  That is to say that an action is free if there is nothing that decisively inclines the will in one direction or the other.  Man is given the ultimate authority of being able to choose between good and evil and anything less would not be considered “free will.”

Generally, these views of unfettered will are adopted as a response to the problem of evil.  Man does not want to make God the author of sin, so the argument by necessity must include this libertarian free will.  Dave Hunt in the book Debating Calvinism unabashedly puts forth this argument: “By not allowing God to grant mankind the power of choice, the Calvinist limits God and makes him the cause of sin.”1

Other arguments include “we have to have libertarian free will to love and worship God properly and that if we did not have it we would merely be robots.” John M. Frame in his book The Doctrine of God states “Libertarians say ‘we always have the freedom to choose contrary to our character and desires, however strong.’ Libertarians maintain that only if we have this kind of radical freedom can we be held responsible for our actions.”2

There are different flavors of “General Sovereignty Models” and God’s power seems to deteriorate and become eroded in each subsequent step.  Arminianism, which tends to be the most popular flavor contends that God knows everything that is going to happen with His free creatures and He knows how they will choose and His entire plan is built around that.  Arminians do believe that God is sovereign to a degree, but not when it comes to salvation, in particular.  In this case man has the ultimate authority in his own destiny.  Open Theism is a belief that, because man’s will is completely libertarian, God cannot possibly know the future.  He has a general plan and  God has to occasionally sovereignly intervene directly and overide man’s will to set things straight.  Process theism is even further deteriorated from that.  God waits to see what will happen and then, if He wants to change anything at all, he has to “woo” creation into doing it.  It seems as we progress down this slope, the theology appears to become more and more man-centered.  God has less and less power and man has more and more.

 

Specific Sovereignty Models

Another group of views of God’s sovereignty are” Specific Sovereignty Models.”  These models incorporate free will as well, but it is called “compatibilism” or “concurrence.” These models purport that God has a will and a plan and He will accomplish that plan and no one can thwart that plan.  These positions seem to me to be the most consistent with biblical data and biblically sound.  Compatibilistic freedom is called that because it is compatible with determinism, or the belief that things are predetermined to occur.  Compatibilistic freedom states that there are reasons outside of us that determine an action, but as long as those reasons do not coerce the agent, the agent is free.   It puts forth the idea that we always act in accordance with our nature, desires or will.  God sovereignly plans our free actions as a means to an end.  We choose as God wishes, in accordance with our nature, to accomplish His purposes.  The most general school of thought that embraces this type of thought is called Calvinism.  Some pseudonyms for these theological positions are reformed theology or thought and the “Doctrines of Grace.”  John Frame states “For the most
part, the Bible sets forth God’s involvement in everything and affirms the responsibility of all moral agents, without suggesting that there is any conflict between these two teachings.”3  I find this to be true as I search the Scriptures myself. 

Compatibilism is a fairly popular approach to looking at human freedom, especially in the reformed tradition of theology.  When examining all the biblical data faithfully, I believe it is hard to come up with another position.  The reality of the situation is that the bible teaches both man’s choice and God’s sovereignty.  Wayne Grudem in his systematic theology  believes “the doctrine of concurrence affirms that God directs and works through, the distinctive properties of each created thing, so that these things themselves bring about the results that we see.  In this way it is possible to affirm that in one sense events are fully (100 percent) caused by God and fully (100 percent) caused by the creature as well.”4  Somehow the involvement of both parties must be true.  The Scriptures are replete with the urging and pleading of God to repent and to believe and to follow the law, yet it says man is dead in trespasses and sin and that he can not come unless the Father draws him.  Grudem goes on to state  "Exactly how God combines his providential control with our willing and significant choices, Scripture does
not explain to us.  But rather than deny one aspect or the other (simply because we cannot explain how both can be true), we should accept both in an attempt to be faithful to the teaching of all of Scripture."5  This is wise advice.  We must always turn to Scripture as our final authority and be careful never to ignore what Scripture says even though it does not agree with our theology.  Scripture should dictate our theology and we must not become blind to Scriptures we don’t like.

 

Problems With Libertarian Free Will

There are a number of problems with libertarian free will.  Though it does tend to get God off the hook with respect to the problem of evil, it comes at a very high price.  First of all it poses some serious threats to the sovereignty of God.  It can lead to, at minimum, serious questions as to whether or not God will accomplish all that He wants to accomplish.  How is it that God will be able to accomplish his will if all of His creation is always completely free to choose otherwise?  

If one holds to libertarian free will, how do we deal with the word in the bible “predestinated” or explain prophecy?  How then could Christ have died “at the right time” as it states in Romans 5:6?  Before the Last Supper, how in Matthew could Jesus have said “a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house that he enters.”  If this man had decided he was too tired to carry the pitcher would the entire plan have been delayed until God found someone else willing to carry the pitcher?  For that matter, how can any prophecy occur?  In his book The Mystery of Providence Puritan John Flavel refers to prophecy and states, "If these things (prophetic events) are merely accidental how is it that they square and agree so exactly with the Scripture in all particulars?"6  Martin Luther in The Bondage of The Will boldly asserts “…if you doubt or disdain to know that God foreknows and wills all things, not contingently, but necessarily and immutably, how can you believe confidently, trust and depend upon, His promises?"7

Additionally, libertarian free will is a serious problem when discussing the doctrine of election that most compatibilists and determinists hold.  The bible has clear teaching that God has a chosen people, an elect, and God will give those elect to Christ and they will be saved.  Ephesians 1:3-12 and Romans 8:28-30 are just two examples of God’s election and predestination to salvation.  Their explanation of the word “foreknew” is that He looked down the corridors of time and saw how people would choose and then elected them to salvation.  That is not a very satisfactory answer for a number of reasons.

If God just merely knows how we will choose in the future, how does that really solve any problems?  The future is already determined.  God knows what we are going to be doing ten years from today so, in essence, I can not avoid this future fate, can I?  If God actually knows what will (not just might) occur in the future, the future must be set.  It is true in this scenario that God’s knowledge is not the cause of the future, but it still guarantees that what God knows must occur, regardless of how it is brought about.  If we truly had libertarian free will in a way that I could always choose differently, how could God have divine foreknowledge? 

If men were totally free, how can the bible be the inerrant Word of God?  This is something that in my opinion is a huge point of contention.  If we support libertarian free will then we run into the problem of defending the bible from the deconstructionists and moral relativists out there that want to ascribe cultural ignorance or personal bias on the part of the biblical authors when writing critical moral expectations in the bible.  We are now greatly compromised and the bible is much weaker from attacks on its authority as the Word of God.  Once we lose the authority of the Bible, we are in deep trouble.

Yet another disturbing argument is brought up when we begin looking at what truly defines a “free choice.”  If having freedom must include the ability to in an unfettered way either choose good or evil, then we have a problem explaining our state of existence when we reach glorification in heaven.  The bible tells us we will be unable to sin, that there will be no evil.  Will we then not be free?  Wayne Grudem takes the argument one step further by proposing that, “If real choices have to allow for the possibility of choosing evil, then (1) God’s choices are not real, since he cannot choose evil, or (2) God’s choices are real, and there is the genuine possibility that God might someday choose to do evil– perhaps a little, and perhaps a great deal.  If we ponder the second implication it becomes terrifying.”8  I agree with him wholeheartedly.

So, we see that there are still stumbling blocks and libertarian free will is not as clean of a solution as it seems to appear on the surface.  Good academic practice should responsibly lead us to ask more questions and delve deeper. 

 

Compatibilism and Divine Tension

Divine tension is at the heart of nearly every major biblical teaching.  Realistically if we are honest, we will see it everywhere.  Consider some of the questions:  Was the author of the bible God or man?  Was Jesus Christ a man or was He God?  Was Jesus Christ both?  Who lives our Christian life for us?  Is it us or the Holy Spirit living in us?  Is God three persons yet one single God?  If one is honest they will concede the Bible is full of teaching like this, not to mention questions like should we judge or not judge others?  Just look at Phillipians 2:12-13 and John 1:12-13 where they state we do something, but yet it is God that does it. 

Biblical doctrines are full of divine tension.  There is something about the divine tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s “free will” that gets people so angry and threatened.  My personal feeling is that the tendency to cling to a notion of libertarian free will is somehow tied to the sin of pride.  Man wants to believe that he has at least enough good in him to be able to make at least one good choice and that is to follow God.  A necessary evil with this position is that it makes God into a robot and man’s debtor. This view tends to push God closer and closer to becoming a salvation-dispensing machine.  Man provides all the right inputs and God has to save us because of the promises He has made in the bible.  But consider the words of Jesus: “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Scripture is where we have to go to find the truth, even if we don’t understand it all.  We have to come up with answers that are faithful to biblical data.  Dave Hunt states “If God… foreordained every thought, word, and deed of mankind, He is the instigator and perpetrator of evil, His commands and judgment are merely a pretense, and man is blameless.  If God causes all, how can He be righteous and a man guilty of the wickedness God causes him to do?”9  This sure sounds really familiar to me.  Perhaps that is because it is exactly like the strawman argument Paul defends against in Romans 9:19-20 “You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it?”  Paul dealt with this two thousand years ago in Romans 9.  The biblical data is overwhelming and according to Grudem "the number of passages that affirm this providential control of God is so considerable, and the difficulties involved in giving them some other interpretation are so formidable, that it does not seem to me that this can be the right approach to them."10

The bible is clear that in our unregenerate state we are slaves to sin.  Compatibilistic free will maintains that we are free to do what it is we are inclined to do.  That is to say we are free to do that which our corrupt nature wants to do.   Jonathan Edwards in Freedom of the Will believed that a “man never, in any instance, wills anything contrary to his desires or desires anything contrary to his will.”11  God forces us to do nothing.  We do what we most want to do, and therefore we are indeed free and not coerced.  A.W. Pink put it well; “The sinner is free, but free in one direction only free to fall, free to sin.  As the Word expresses it "for when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness (Rom 6:20) … but his pleasure is to sin.”12  A dog faced with a choice between a bowl of meat or a bowl of brussel sprouts will “freely” choose the meat every time.  The dog’s will is bound by his nature and that is the extent of his freedom.

It is an Arminian (and therefore humanistic) idea that we cannot be held responsible if we are unable to respond.  Libertarian thinkers maintain that if God holds man responsible, he must be free to choose the good as well as the bad, otherwise it “wouldn’t be fair.”  The bible in Romans 9 and many other great theologians disagree with this logic.  In his systematic theology, Charles Hodge explains:

“The Bible especially declares that the free acts of men are decreed beforehand… The Scriptures teach that sinful acts, as well as such as are holy, are foreordained… The whole course of history is represented as the development of the plan and purposes of God; and yet human history is little else than the history of sin.”13

 

The key concept here is “fairness.”  Our definition of fair is based on what we know from our own humanity.  I do not believe that man is the measure of all things.  I believe God is the measure of all things and He knows more than we do.  If He says that man is unable to respond properly without His help, but if he do not respond he is held responsible for turning his back on Him then that is the way that it is.  God is not on trial, man is. 

Some are even bolder than others.  Martin Luther was not unclear where he stood on the matter when he said, “ ‘Free Will’ is a downright lie; and that, like the woman in the gospel, the more it is taken in hand by physicians the worse it is made.”14  Furthermore, Luther states:

"This, therefore, is also essentially necessary and wholesome for Christians to know; that God foreknows nothing by contingency, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His immutable, eternal, and infallible will.  By this thunderbolt, "Free Will" is thrown prostrate and utterly dashed to pieces."15

 

There is no question where Martin Luther stands. On the issue and he certainly is not the only one.  J. I. Packer echoes this sentiment when he said, “…though God uses men as means for achieving His purposes, in the last analysis nothing depends on man; everything depends,  rather on the God who raises men up to do His will.”16  There is no doubt, though, that this leave us with the question of God’s relationship to evil.  Louis Berkhof is succinct in his observation that “…the problem of God’s relation to sin remains a mystery.”17

 

What About the Cross?

What does the crucifixion of Christ tell us about the tension between “free will” and divine providence?  Well, first off, the striking detailed accounts of Christ’s crucifixion laid out in Isaiah 53  and Psalm 22:14-18 and their subsequent fulfillment in the New Testament are more than enough to convince this writer that somehow God has normal complete control over all things, including our free choices.  Second, there is another mystery that is laid out:

Acts 2:22-23 “ “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know–  this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”

 

Does this passage clearly infer man’s “free will” when it states that Christ was crucified “by the hands of godless men?”  Does it not also clearly state God was in complete control of the show?  Was not God the author of the passion play?  What about Christ?  Did not the Messiah go to His crucifixion willingly?  Do we not see this in His prayer in the garden at Gethsemane “…not as I will, but as You will?”   Yes, He did go willingly and yet Scripture is clear; God foreordained it.  It did not make His action any less free.  We should ponder this well and never assume that because God brings about something to pass that it necessary violates our will.  My God is big enough to be able to do both, perfectly, sovereignly and in perfect wisdom.

 

 

 

ENDNOTES

1Dave Hunt, James White. Debating Calvinism (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2004), 113-14.

2John M. Frame The Doctrine of God: A Theology of Lordship (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2002), 138

3Ibid., 121 

4Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Great Britain and Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press and Zondervan, 1994), 319.

5Ibid., 321-22

6John Flavel. The Mystery of Providence (Edinburgh and Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2006), 38. 

7Martin Luther. The Bondage of The Will (Greenville and Belfast: Ambassador International, 2007), 44.

8Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, 349.

9Hunt, Debating Calvinism, 49-50.

10Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, 321. 

11Jonathan Edwards. Freedom of the Will (New York: Cosimo Classics, 2007), 4. 

12A.W. Pink. The Sovereignty of God. (Edinburgh and Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2004), 101. 

13Charles Hodge. Systematic Theology. Vol. II. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1940) [on-line]; Available from http://www.ccel.org; Internet, 543-44 

14Luther. The Bondage of The Will, 17. 

15Ibid., 38.

16J. I. Packer. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1991), 31. 

17Louis Berkhof. Systematic Theology (Edinburgh and Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005), 175.

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Books

 

Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Edinburgh and Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005

Edwards, Jonathan. Freedom of the Will. New York: Cosimo Classics, 2007

Flavel, John. The Mystery of Providence. Edinburgh and Carlisle: The Banner of Truth        Trust, 2006

Frame, John M. The Doctrine of God: A Theology of Lordship. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2002

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Great Britain and Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press and Zondervan, 1994Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology. Vol. II. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1940. [on-line]; Accessed 19 November 2008; Available from http://www.ccel.org; Internet

Hunt, Dave, James White. Debating Calvinism. Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2004

Luther, Martin. The Bondage of The Will. Greenville and Belfast: Ambassador International, 2007

Pink, A.W. The Sovereignty of God. Edinburgh and Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2004

Packer, J.I. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1991

 

 

God’s Providence

•January 6, 2009 • 11 Comments

Well, I wanted to finally sit and write a post since it has been so long since doing so.  The last six months have been extremely busy and this blog was one of the things that suffered. 

In the last few months, I attended my first semester of seminary and also found a new home in a new church.  Busy, busy, busy… and at times, stressful.  God is completely wise and in control, and as always works things for good to those that love God.  I wanted to offer encouragement to those that have had similar problems… if you have to stand up for truth, God will see you through it.

Because of our convictions, I tried to open eyes about easy decisionism and pragmatic church evangelism that turned the church into a circus. I tried to put a motion through encouraging our church to follow Resolution no. 6 at last years SBC convention actually advocating church discipline on wayward membership and it was shot down… and instead they disciplined me.  They suggested that if I wasn’t happy that perhaps I should just move on.

Well… praise God, because now I am at a truly biblically based church that does believe in correct discipline and loving restoration. God is sovereign and He is good. The Holy Spirit wasn’t moving at that last church and it wasn’t where I needed to be anyway.  If a church is led by unregenerate goats, they have to get rid of the sheep… the darkness hates the light and will do everything they can to get rid of it so they can stay in the dark and in their sin. That’s just the way it is. TRUE CHRISTIANS WILL ALWAYS BE PERSECUTED WHETHER THEY ARE IN THE CHURCH OR NOT. If the church does not love the truth, they will hate the regenerate. Haven’t folks been reading the words of Jesus?  I mean… he told us it would be this way.  Count it all as joy friends.

My advice is find a church that preaches and caters to the sheep and not the goats. Find a church that is led by regenerate men (not women) and that follows the bible in all their affairs. Remember… not all christians are Christians. You have to use discernment. You will know a tree by its fruit.  In six short months, we are more loved, more embraced and more challenged than two years in a pragmatic church.  There is no comparison… it’s like night and day.  They have embraced my seminary education, I ma beginning to teach and preach and am being asked to participate in church leadership.  The difference is that we are in the midst of the true body of Christ… not some man-made religious idol that is more about humanism than the almighty God.

Don’t be afraid to do the right thing… don’t please men (including yourself)… please God.

Examine yourself…

•August 14, 2008 • 15 Comments

2 Corinthians 13:5
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?

Paul Washer is one of the most annointed preacers of our age. He was the first sovereign grace preacher that I think I ever heard… he rocked my world. He set me on fire when I heard him preaching on our anemic cultural Christianity… and I have never been the same since.

He is the most downloaded preacher on www.sermonaudio.com

Below is a powerful sermon jam that floors me to this day. May it bless you as it blessed me.

An Amazing Quote

•August 13, 2008 • 14 Comments

"This grace which God freely gives to the vessels of mercy, begins with illuminating the heart. It does not find man’s will good, but makes it so. It chooses first, in order that it may be chosen; nor is it received unless it first work in the heart of man. Therefore, both the reception of grace and the desire for it are the work of grace itself." —Fulgentius (468-533)
 

————————————————————————————————————-

It is a curious thing indeed when one tries to “reconcile” man’s “free will” with God’s soveriegnty. Spurgeon staunchly refused to do it saying they did not need to be reconciled as they are not enemies (see “My Favorite Quotes” page). I understand it this way.

As I go though life I make choices (that God foreordained) so that I might make mistakes (that God foreordained) and successes (that God foreordained) in order that I might learn (what God foreordained) so that I might make better choices in the future (that God has foreordained) ultimately that I would become conformed to the image of Christ (how God foreordained) in a very special and detailed unique way (that God foreordained).

Simple.

I have to live my life in such a manner as if I have “free” choice… that I am responsible for my behaviors and actions. If I do not, then I will deteriorate into “antinomianism” and “fatalism.” On the other hand, however, it is this underatanding that God has a plan that has worked out every detail is what helps me to sleep at night. When I mess up, I understand that it was part of God’s plan that I mess up and I don’t beat myself to a living pulp.

So… live your life like every choice is important and go easy on yourself when you make a “bad one”… Relax… God IS still on the throne!

clay

Pragmatism

•July 28, 2008 • 3 Comments

prag·ma·tism – [prag-muh-tiz-uh m] – adj – 

  1) character or conduct that emphasizes practicality.
  2) a philosophical movement or system having various forms, but generally stressing practical consequences as constituting the essential criterion in determining meaning, truth, or value.

prac·ti·cal – [prak-ti-kuh l] – adj – adapted or designed for actual use; useful

Ok… so when I started this post, I was going to simply write a few comments. Wanting to be thorough, I decided to look up some definitions on a word I have been tossing around for quite some time now. Sometimes it astounds me when I think I know something and really only have a very weak concept of what it is I am talking about. I really didn’t intend to break open the surface of what could be thesis material (and may be considering I am entering seminary!)

Well… I typed in pragmatism into the http://www.dictionary.com and wound up the definitions above and also followed the word “practical” as if an adjective is described by another adjective, I wanted to be sure I knew what it said. I wasn’t satisfied so I wound up up on Wikepedia.  
Wow… pragamatism is a whole philosophical system of thought and is very frightening. I started reading and, quite literally, it made my head hurt. It is connected to Darwinism and secular humanism. It is relavistic and has no mooring at all in any authoritative source outside of itself. Pretty much whatever man can devise in his own mind that seem good and useful must be true.

From Wikepedia: “Going back to [William] James, pragmatists have often spoken of how truth is not ready-made, but that jointly we and reality “make” truth. This idea has two senses, one which is often attributed to William James and F.C.S. Schiller, and another that is more widely accepted by pragmatists: (1) that truth is mutable, and (2) truth is relative to a conceptual scheme.”

YIKES!!!

So… why is this so terrifying? Well, if one is a a “Christian” then there is no room for what you think is right or wrong and good or bad. There is a criterion that we must live our lives by and that is the bible… God’s laws and instruction divinely (breathed by God) written by men. There is an absolute authority for us… there is no deciding on whether something is right for us because of whether or not it “works” for us. We are supposed to do what we are instructed by God (Christ) despite the worldly results. The world is not supposed to love us as it’s own folks. John 15:19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.

We are called to OBEDIENCE… not to seek out and find what works for us. 2 Corinthians 2:9 For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. Jesus was, in His earthly ministry, the perfect model of obedience, and since the last time I checked God’s plan is to make us more and more like Christ.  
Philippians 2:8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. So the way I see it, our lives should be marked with a burning hunger to properly mine the truth out of scripture (the only authority on God’s will and truth) and then to become obedient to it to the point of death. Unfortunately, most of us (including me) fall woefully short of this goal, but some don’t even know what the goal is.

So what does any of this have to do with the price of bread in China? Well… I have been laying a groundwork here to show that a) pragmatism is wrong, dangerous and totally incompatible with true Christianity and b) to show that Arminian evangelism, because it relies on man’s “free will”, will logically always end up in pragmatism. Beyond that… you can make the next logical leap as to what I believe about Arminianism.

Arminianism is a position that God gave man a free will… and then provided a provision for salvation in Christ Jesus and that’s all God’s going to do… the rest is up to man making “choice / decision / commitment for Jesus” at which time God automatically dispenses Jesus’ atoning blood and the sinner is forgiven. If this is the way one thinks, then really evangelism (and salvation) is all about the POWER OF PERSUASION and lies firmly in man’s hands… in the sinner’s hands as he has to power to accept or reject and in the evangelist’s hands as it is his job to make the sinner want to choose God. The Lord just sort of sits in the wings hoping that everyone does a good job and makes good choices.

The “free willer” will tell you that’s an exageration and not really how they believe, but, at the core of it, this is exactly what they preach or say they believe in otherwise they would have to admit that God must do something in the heart first. If they do, they use the term “preveniant grace.” I don’t care whether you call it “prevenieant grace” or whatever… bottom line… God has to do something first. [By the way, I reserve the right to care later!] Even the most hard core Armenian will generally concede to at least this when pressed.

Now I am not saying that anyone can ever get to the place where all biblical mystery and divine tension are resolved… that’s not possible. I certainly am not even close to understanding the doctrine of election. I do, however, believe that people give up way too early and file things into the “I have that figured out well enough” folder in their mind. I believe the truly regenerate will not rest until they get “it” figured out… and that their life is characterized by a hunger to obtain that which it can not grasp until the day they die.

Jesus preaches a sermon in the book of John. At this point there were throngs of people following him as he was healing and performing many miracles… he had just fed 5,000 men (plus their women and children). He was, by worldly standards, a “very popular guy.” Then he
started to get into some hard teaching and the following verses disclose the outcome:

John 6 53Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. 60On hearing it, many of his disciples said,
This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 61Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them,
Does this offend you? 62What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63The Spirit gives life;
the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, “This is why I told you that
no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” 66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” 69We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

These texts simply blow so much right out of the water if we really read it in truth. There are just some passages that contain SO MUCH TRUTH. This is one of those passages that would make my short list if I had to keep only certain parts of the bible. It clearly outlines the Father’s role in salvation and states man’s INABILITY to come unless “enabled.” It clearly shows that Jesus teaching is hard… many will reject it… a few will follow because they realize who Jesus is what the consequences are of not following Him.

So… what does it say about our theology when we invite into our churches muscle men, ventriloquists, sports figures and TV stars or hold carnivals, sportsman hunting dinners and all sorts of DISHONEST METHODS to draw people in only to spring the gospel on them in surprise (making people mad and giving them a bad impression about sneaky “Christians”) and then presenting them a twisted view of a weak Jesus that is gently (pathetically) knocking (very lightly) at the door of your heart and is begging that you let Him in and make Him lord of your life?? Personally, I think it says we really don’t have that much faith in the power of God to draw His sheep. I think it says that we feel we have to whip up emotionalism and help God out because He just doesn’t move like He used to.

HEAR THIS. Jesus Christ IS Lord of all (including your life) and whether you acknowledge that or not doesn’t change His status. 

You will bow your knee before Jesus either in submission and worship in this life or at your judgement when you leave this earth…. either way, every knee will bow.

We are commanded to Repent and to Believe. We need to preach it that way. Let me assure you, if people don’t like that message then changing it and getting them to “buy in” won’t make them anymore saved… it will just make them sleep better on the road to HELL.

God Bless You.

Timothy (the clay)

Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats
(C.H. Spurgeon)

You Tube Pulpit

•July 25, 2008 • 2 Comments

I have recently taken my wife’s advice (yes… it is getting to be a habit) and started posting (preaching) on You Tube. I have to admit… I was a bit hesitant, but once I got started I really found it is an incredible tool and medium that God certainly can use to His glory. I don’t really think the Reformed theological movement would have as much traction as it does without the internet blogs and videos. It really has fed me in my spiritual growth over the past two years. Where else would I have been blessed to have MacArthur, Piper, Mahaney, Mohler… not to mention commentaries and sermons of our forefathers? Now, God has asked me to step out in faith and preach.

It really is cool because I am a preacher without a pulpit. I have been given the gift of teaching and preaching but at the moment, the Internet is my pulpit. I do get to teach a class at church… the new semester is coming up and I’m not sure the my preacher is going to let me teach again, now that it is clear he does not agree with my theology. It is really beginning to amaze me how emotionally charged this situation can be and at times there is some pretty thick hostility. The Arminian seems to become highly offended that someone would propose anything that would injure the free will of man and the Sovereign Grace man gets really bristled that God’s glory is stolen from Him and that man thinks so highly of himself that he can make a good choice for God.

I get kind of worried lately… get concerned that I am becoming more and more set in my beliefs and there is a fear that I my drift into the extreme of hyper Calvinism. Now HC’s don’t evangelize nor do they believe in holy living… and both of these I believe in steadfastly. What worries me is I am beginning to wonder if someone can misunderstand this core issue and really still be saved… regenerate. Now I know I am not in a position to judge… but I wonder. I mean… we are talking about who God really is and how he saves. This is at the heart whole matter. It is about God’s character. We are to have no idols before God. Who God is… this is a vital issue.

Look… there are “spine issues” and “rib issues.” I know that whether music is ok in worship or not is a rib issue… head coverings for women… rib issue… rapture… a rib issue. The person and work of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, is not… I think that is an issue at the core of the Gospel. When we are unregenerate (lost) the bible says we are “spiritually discerned” or “appraised.” The truth is hidden and scriptures are foolishness to us… we will be ever hearing but never perceiving. When we are saved the lights some on… we understand certain things that we did not before.

Let me give you an example. I was watching and Ergun Caner video the other day. Dr. Caner is the president of Liberty University, a major theological seminary. He was bashing on Calvinism pretty hard (hyper Calvinism actually) but her was dealing with Romans 9 as it is a popular proof text for the Reformed thinker. He said in a very defiant tone:

“… now did God really hate Esau because of who he was, or did God hate Esau because of what Esau did?!”  

I couldn’t believe it… I nearly fell over when I heard this. How else can such blindness to a clear and obvious text printed in plane black and white be explained by anything less than a spiritual blindness. I mean it’s one thing to explain it away… but to simply not be able to acknowledge what is printed… wow. I can only conclude he simply does not see it. The only other option is intentional deception and I cannot believe this of people. I believe they are held captive and deceived.

So that’s what I am burdened with lately. My church feels less like a place that I go to worship and more like a mission field. I keep praying and I keep reading scripture and I keep listening to men I admire. I am afraid to even put my thoughts out here because I fear persecution… but I fear God more. My God is a powerful God that can save… and He does save when it pleases Him. That’s why I keep evangelizing… even inside my church… because I know God will do the impossible when He wishes… and their will be fruit.

Below you will find one of my “breakout” videos entitled “Why Arminians Pray Like Calvinists.” Enjoy.

God bless you all.

Timothy (the clay)

WHY ARMINIANS PRAY LIKE CALVINISTS

Spiritual Autobiography

•July 14, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Hello again. Well… it’s been too long since I have posted. Since we are in agriculture, work consumes enormous amounts of our time (”our” being my wife [oneflesh] and my time). I finally had enough time to do my application for Southern Theological Seminary for my M. Div. that God appears to be calling me to. I just got it in tin the nick of time… a LOT of spiritual warfare going on there seeming to mount up against me in the application process. Not to mention sin rearing it’s ugly head in my life and that whispering voice saying “God coudn’t possibly want a wretch like you.” I have to just agree with it and say “Yes… I am a wretch… but it ain’t my performance that counts… it’s Christ’s and Christ’s alone.” 

Anyway… I just wrote my spiritual autobiography and thought I wanted to share it with you. God bless.

Timothy (the clay)

———————————————————-

I spent the first half of my life wandering through this world trying to figure “it” out. I never really knew what “it” was but I looked. I looked high and low. I was raised Catholic. If you asked me, I’d say I was a “Christian.” I saw “happy people” but I never really understood how they got that way. Sometimes they looked happy, but behind the scenes they were angry, bitter, sad, lonely and lost. Truly happy people and were way too “goody-goody” for me… I wanted to have some fun in my life. I had my morals… values my parents taught me, but one by one they fell by the wayside as I pursued the way of pleasure… of getting what I wanted. I thought pleasure would make me “happy.” I became a thief, drug addict, alcoholic, a liar and a cheat and a depraved pervert. God had no place in my life… not really.

1 Tim 1:15 (NASB) It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.

I got sober at nineteen years old and stayed sober in AA for 17 years. I came to know a “God as I understand Him” in AA. I worked all the steps, had a decent amount of “happiness” and success in sobriety. The problem was I did not know God as he SHOULD be understood. I had a God (an Idol) that was on my terms. Eventually my marriage deteriorated, ended in divorce and I returned to drinking for another couple of years. During that time I met my current wife.

As I “enjoyed” freedom from the “old ball and chain” and pursued “happiness,” I looked in dark corners… I looked in filthy places with filthy people. I spent my life doing what felt good and I denied myself nothing. If I wanted it I took it. If it felt good, I did it. I used material things to be happy. 

Romans 1:28 (NASB) And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper. 

Ecc 2:10 (NASB) All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. 

I continued to work hard, very successful in my scientific field, holding down a good job and presenting a good front to the outside world. I convinced myself I was “basically a good person” and hoped that God would forgive me in the end. All the while, on the inside, I became more and more empty. Eventually worldly things failed to fill me… I couldn’t really make the screaming inside stop for long enough by getting high or drinking into oblivion. The times I felt “ok” were shorter and fewer far between. I was utterly and hopelessly lost.

One day I had nothing to make me feel better… and I came to the end of self. I sat there on a rainy day looking outside… I was done… my soul was bankrupt and I wept. 

Ecc 2:11 (NASB) Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.

I looked across the room at the Bible my wife bought for me a year before. For the first time in my life, I put my pride aside. I wanted to know what was in that book for myself. Not what church folk told me, or what TV preachers told me was in there. I wanted to know the Truth; God was drawing me.

John 6:44(NASB) “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…”

So I said a prayer to God… I said “God… if I am supposed to get something out of this, please show me… please remove any barriers that prevent me from hearing your word.” So I read… and I read… and I read. I read for the first time from the perspective of wanting to believe it. When I got to places I could not understand, I “put them on a shelf”… soon I was pulling them back down off the shelf. I got to the book of Mark and I read that Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.” I kept reading. I read in Romans “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” I read John “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

I was watching a one-man presentation of the Gospel of John… word-for-word the man acted out the book. Then it happened… it was no longer and actor standing there but our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Psalm 34:18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. 

Isaiah 6:5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips 

I began weeping and wept for hours on end. I understood that I was a sinner… I was born that way… hopelessly selfish. I had offended God and that if I was to die that day I would suffer His wrath because I broke His laws. I understood that Jesus was the Son of God… that he was crucified and suffered the full wrath of God for me… to pay MY debt. The “freight train” of the Holy Spirit ran through my soul. I wept for hours in gratitude that because of Jesus’ precious blood, I knew that God was mine… all His love, because my debt was paid and I was clean. 

Today, I am in love with Christ. I understand Grace… that God saved me because He loves me, through no effort or work of my own but because of His merciful goodness, to bring Glory to His name. Through Christ’s victory on Calvary I have the power to overcome my sin. I am no longer a slave to sin… it no longer rules me. I am a slave to righteousness.

Gal 2:19-20 (NASB) For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 

Life long obsessions are lifted from me. I serve Him and obey His law not because I have to… but because I want to. My heart of stone has been removed and I have been given a heart of flesh. God made me a new creation and my life has never been the same since. I am set free. I am forever changed.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV) Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

The Lord has burdened me with the lost within the church. I believe in the Doctrines of Grace and believe that Armenianism is, at the very least, a flawed theological position and has filled our churches with unregenerate masses that show no signs of biblical conversion. I believe that we need to get back to our historical Baptist roots that believed in a sovereign God. I am offended at pragmatism, “easy-believism” and the circuses that our churches have become with doing anything to appeal to man’s flesh in the interest of getting “decisions for Christ.” I think it makes a mockery of Christ. I believe that if you remove the offense from the Gospel, it is no longer the Gospel. We must preach on the Law and Sin and the holiness of God because if we don’t then people don’t really need a Savior, do they?

I am called to do this. God has become my great and sweet obsession. Many nights I lay awake preaching in my head to anyone that will listen. I have preached in my home church about true regeneration. I teach a class on the book of 1 John and the tests of true conversion. PLEASE… accept me… teach me… equip me to carry the Gospel to lost people. God has given me the burden, the charge and the unction… now I just need the education, discipline and perseverance.

A partial list of Authors/Teachers/Preachers I study and am influenced by: C.H. Spurgeon, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, John Wesley, Martin Luther, D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Ernest Reisinger, Charles Leiter, Leonard Ravenhill, Horatius Bonar, John Piper, John MacArthur, Paul Washer, Jeff Noblit, James White, C.J Mahaney, Mark Dever, Al Mohler

 
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