Sunday, May 30, 2010

Formal Calvinism vs. Arminianism Debate, Conclusion

This is the first "formal" debate in which I've participated (with rules and such). For readers who are on facebook, they may find both sides of the debate here. If others are interested, they may email me for a word document. The format, set by my opponent, will be as follows:

"Opening Statement period (~1,000 words each)

First Rebuttal period (really depends on the opening statement, and you can provide as much rebuttal as possible)

Second Rebuttal period (really depends on the first rebuttal statements, and you can provide as much rebuttal as possible)

Cross Examination - each side asks 10 questions (there is no limit to the response word count)

Closing Statement period (~2,000 maximum, otherwise below that number is fine)"

Concluding Statement

Since Robert has decided to abandon the debate, this will function more as a commentary on Robert’s logical and exegetical fallacies in his thirty page second rebuttal, most of which I could not have otherwise hoped to address, given its inordinate length and the number of mistakes it contains. A careful reader will observe that many objections Robert makes in his second rebuttal are the same one’s I either refuted or anticipated in my opening statement and two rebuttals:

- Choice isn’t incompatible with Calvinism, contrary to Robert’s opening “joke.” (see: my opening statement).
- Robert’s implicit understanding of Ezekiel 18 would suggest that God works out things which are not according to His good pleasure (see: my first rebuttal and Robert’s evasive answer to my first and seventh cross-examination question).
- One’s will is not forced if one acts according to desires determined by God (see: opening statement). That these desires are determined by God are irrelevant to the point in question, viz. whether or not God actually does determine our desires. Robert assumes the answer is no and uses this to pit man’s will against God’s determinative decree, as though man possesses autonomous desires which God negates. That, obviously, is question-begging.
- Robert’s opinion of the potter-clay motif is utterly without exegetical support (see: my first rebuttal).
- I wrote “God cannot do certain things like rape, murder, lie, deceive, et al.,” and Robert replied that this is contradictory [essentially] because a God who predestines people to Hell cannot love them. Firstly, that a red herring. It has nothing to do with my statement. Secondly, it is unfortunate Robert did not stick around to explain my ninth cross-examination question. That God has a special love for a particular, unconditionally chosen group of people does not imply God is deceitful. Would Robert love another’s child as much as his own?
- Throughout the debate, Robert consistently exhibited no idea what it biblically means to be a respecter of persons (see: my second rebuttal). Furthermore, Robert constantly conflated the distinction between the unconditional nature of decrees like election and reprobation as opposed to conditional decrees like justification and condemnation (see: my second rebuttal).
- Robert could offer no solution to the question of God’s eternal omniscience (see: first rebuttal). In fact, Robert’s analogy of the parent who predicts his child’s behavior works against Robert, because in it he writes that “but the parent’s knowledge of the child does not [cause] or force the child to fulfil the prediction, because the child might do something quite alternative with which the parent does also equally know.” If that’s the case – if God’s knowledge is not a function of His “prediction” – the only remaining conclusion is that, like Arminius, Robert believes God’s knowledge is a function of His foresight of “free will” (as defined in my opening statement) choices. God’s knowledge, if it is contingent on temporal creatures, is necessarily not eternal. Hence, Robert logically must admit God learns. The alternative is that the parent knows the child because he created (caused) the child to be as he is.
- Robert attempts to interact with Romans 8:32 but ignores my rhetorical questions: “Did Paul not write that those for whom Christ died will freely be given all things (Romans 8:32)? Would “all things” not include the desire to come to and remain in Christ? If Christ died for all men, then, would Robert not have to purport the false doctrine of universalism?”
- Robert never seemed to grasp that I believed that Christ’s atonement was sufficient for all but made only for the elect. Despite his illegitimate appeals to passages which say “whoever does believe will be saved” – as though that implies all could be saved if all believed – I wrote in my opening statement “it is counter-factually true that “if the Father desired to save all men without exception, Christ’s sacrifice was such that all men without exception could have been saved.”” Robert’s misunderstanding and refusal to give me the benefit of the doubt until further clarification was, in this case among others, the cause of straw man argumentation.
- John 1:11-13 distinguishes between adoption and regeneration, and Romans 1:16 is a reference to justification, not regeneration. Robert needs to study different soteriological terms. I can’t simplify the arguments I’m making any further than that.
- Robert ignored my exegesis of 1 John 2:2 and 2 Peter 2:1. It is almost as if he didn’t read it at all. My parallel of 1 John 2:2 to John 11:51-52 was seemingly for naught (“What if [I was] one of the scattered children?” is an irrelevant question), and my explanation of the meaning of “agorazo” was likewise ignored.
- Robert ignored my argument from Romans 8:29-30 concerning predication of predestination and the fact unconditional election and reprobation aren’t arbitrary (see: my second rebuttal).

Examining arguments (particularly exegetical) Robert made in his second rebuttal which I had not space to address:

- Robert cites 2 Peter 3:9 and John 3:16 as passages which state God does not wish any should perish. Aside from the tangential biblical problems with this (again, see my first and seventh cross-examination questions), 2 Peter 3:9 is written to the elect and about the elect (to whom has God made promises in verse 9? to whom is God patient in verse 15?) and John 3:16 only states that God loves the world (which has a multiplicity of meanings in Johannine literature; cf. 1:29, 6:33, 17:9, &c.) and that those who do (not “can”) believe will not perish.
- 1 John 2:15-17 is not relevant to Romans 8:7-9. Obedience per the former presupposes regeneration per the latter. And, even when we are commanded to follow a certain precept, it is as Luther observed: “Even grammarians and schoolboys on street corners know that nothing more is signified by verbs in the imperative mood than what ought to be done, and that what is done or can be done should be expressed by words in the indicative. How is it that you theologians are twice as stupid as schoolboys, in that as soon as you get hold of a single imperative verb you infer an indicative meaning, as though the moment a thing is commanded it is done, or can be done?” God commands what we cannot do so that such may be the occasion by which we learn we must absolutely depend upon God.
- Robert cites Genesis 3:9-10 and asks how, if Adam was totally depraved, he could hear God’s voice. Of course, no consistent Calvinist denies men can understand the gospel; we just deny men can believe it. Men are not neutral to the gospel, they are negative, unable to respond positively prior to regeneration. As for why God asked Adam what He was doing (almost as if Robert thinks God didn’t know!), the answer is simple: God often uses questions to prompt a certain line of thought. Example: when God asked Job whether he knew the intricacies of creation, he was indirectly rebuking Job by reminding him of the Creator-creature distinction. Similarly, asking Adam what he did required Adam to address his sin.
- Robert states all men possess “the image of God and his law resides in [all] of mankind’s hearts.” Since mankind’s image is corrupted (hence, we must be conformed to Christ’s image) and only believers with whom God has covenanted have God’s laws written on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 10:16), Robert is simply wrong.
- That Robert says he would defect to Luciferianism or Gnosticism if he believed Scripture affirms what I believe (which he falsely alleged to be HyperCalvinism) is representative of the fallacies Robert must insert into what is supposed a rational discussion to score emotional points with those who agree with him, thus begging the question as to whether or not he realizes that apostates are never truly saved.
- Robert completely misses the point when I asked him to explain how the fact that faith is pleasing is harmonious with that fact that, prior to regeneration, one cannot please God (Romans 8:8-11).
- Proof-texting (e.g. Robert’s use of Matthew 23:37) is not equivalent to exegesis.
- No explanation was provided as to how I took Arminius “out of context.” Arminius clearly taught one only “might” be saved by Christ’s death, clearly showing the uncertain, unintentional nature of the Arminian’s conception of the atonement.
- All men without distinction (1 Timothy 2:4) is not equivalent to all men without exception.
- I am aware Arminians teach prevenient grace. What Robert never established is how such grace can enable us to choose good with an unchanged, unregenerate nature. I wonder, given Roberts allusion to Acts 21:4-14, if Robert is aware “irresistible grace” only pertains to regeneration.
- Robert’s explanation of imputed guilt is convoluted. Romans 5:18 explicitly teaches men (plural) are condemned for one (singular) transgression. How Robert imagines this to mean men’s guilt is erased is not comprehensible. In context, the free gift of grace lies in the fact Christ merits the justification of the believer, not in some idea that all men without exception are cleansed of the guilt of Adam’s sin. That is opposite the point Paul is making.
- Instead of explaining the meanings of the majority of the passages I cite (e.g. Job 23:13-14), Robert relies on an unsubstantiated assumption (Calvinists deny men can choose) to explain what the text can’t mean rather than explain what it does.
- Robert replies to Lamentations 3:37 as though God passively predestines, i.e. allows. But that concept nowhere appears in the text (nor in Psalm 33:9, for that matter). Also, 3:38 does refer to moral evil, per 39. Sins are moral evil, not natural disaster. Isaiah 10:15 (a context Robert references) indicates God is active, and Robert never responded to that fact Isaiah 45:7 says God creates wickedness.
- Robert anachronistically applies his “multiple wills of God” thesis to Ephesians 1 without further ado.
- Obviously, I could not exegete Romans 9 within the short space I am allowed, but I actually agree with most of what Robert says: chapters 9-11 (the whole of Romans, really) serve to vindicate God’s righteousness per 9:6, God is attempting to display His freedom to sovereignly harden and mercy when He exercises His power over Pharaoh, men who question God’s blameworthiness do overstep their bounds as creation, &c. These points Robert makes are points any Calvinist would agree with. However: Paul does not say men are hardened because they are lost, nor that God actually “makes” and “molds” (certainly not “allows” or “permits”) reprobates like Pharaoh to be as they are (Romans 9:19-20); the idea that Paul’s primary concerns is “national election” in light of (9:6, 24-10:21) is absurd; that Paul uses the middle voice in 9:22 (true enough) is irrelevant, since it is God ho is doing the demonstrating, not man, effectively reversing the point Robert is trying to make; it is unfortunate Robert is so flippant in his referencing of which verb is in the passive voice in verse 23. I don’t know what he is referring to, as both verbs are in the active voice.
- That men are able to choose and that God accordingly responds does not imply man’s wills are autonomous of that God did not decree such should be the case from eternity; likewise, responsibility does not presuppose a “free will.”
- Rejecting universalism does not mean that the logical end of Robert’s position does not lead to universalism. He didn’t seem to understand that, especially with regards to John 6 and the fact that if God draws all and gives all to Christ, all will come and be raised the last day.
- Calvinists don’t deny one can know one is elect; if one believes, one knows he is saved and will remain saved. John wrote so that men would know they possess eternal life. But to know that means one knows he will never perish. Robert’s assertion is vacuous.
- Calvinists teach the need of a general call because no man knows who are among the elect. This should be obvious.
- Robert argues Matt 25:41 proves Hell was not made for men. That hell is said to have been prepared for a particular group does not imply it was prepared for them exclusively. Using the same type of argument, I could say John 10 shows Jesus was died for the elect exclusively (cf. Jude 4).

Final observations:

- Regarding the cross-examination, I think it speaks for itself.
- Quoting apocryphal literature, pagan philosophers, Christian opinions, and writing more than the agreed upon restrictions is not a sufficient substitute for actual exegesis and logical argumentation.
- Copying and pasting the Greek text into a debate doesn’t mean you made a good point (speaking of, it is remarkable that Robert questions the canonicity of Proverbs 16:4, but not Mark 16:16?).
- Compare these two statements Robert made in the debate:

“…TULIP is completely non-biblical, despite apparent scriptures to back up the five points, however the five points associated with Arminianism is completely biblical.”

“It is this final point (the P in TULIP, or as Ryan would name it to be “Eternal Security”) with which I must contend that the Calvinist [may] indeed have a point of truth here.”

Is it not unfortunate that Robert left before he could be fully persuaded of the error of Arminianism? But God works out all things in due time according to His pleasure, even this.
- I truly believe this debate has evinced God as sovereign as Reformed theologians have taught and as deserving of glory as He has declared.

(Word count: 2,280)

Formal Calvinism vs. Arminianism Debate, Cross-ex part 4 of 4

This is the first "formal" debate in which I've participated (with rules and such). For readers who are on facebook, they may find both sides of the debate here. If others are interested, they may email me for a word document. The format, set by my opponent, will be as follows:

"Opening Statement period (~1,000 words each)

First Rebuttal period (really depends on the opening statement, and you can provide as much rebuttal as possible)

Second Rebuttal period (really depends on the first rebuttal statements, and you can provide as much rebuttal as possible)

Cross Examination - each side asks 10 questions (there is no limit to the response word count)

Closing Statement period (~2,000 maximum, otherwise below that number is fine)"


Question 7 (me): Reply to the following arguments:

1. Those for whom Christ died are freely given all things (Romans 8:32). Reprobates are not freely given all things (e.g. sufficient desire to believe). Therefore, Christ did not die for reprobates.

2. All who are given to Christ by the Father come to Christ (John 6:37). Not all men without exception come to Christ. Therefore, not all men without exception were given to Christ.

3. God does as He pleases (Psalm 115:3). Not all men without exception are saved. Therefore, God was not pleased to save all men without exception.

(Word count: 100)

Answer 7 (Arminian): Let us take the Calvinist’s lens off our eyes when we read your question. Starting with part 1 of your question you declare, “[Those] for whom Christ died...” are you declaring an elect few preordained afore-time, or those elect few that have [decided] through God’s constant calls to our hearts and in his Word, to come to the knowledge of Christ and Salvation? As how I regard myself coming from an extreme depraved state, and thus thereafter, it was [me] who made the choice of wanting Christ in my heart!

Proverbs 1:23
(23) Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.

This is why I do not understand God suddenly ‘zapping’ me with some form of irresistible grace, to spark a ‘regeneration’ in me, and thus for me to have faith. Quite the opposite and thus I am thankful to Yeshua for being patient with me while I slowly removed the ignorant mindset during my depraved state. Any Christian here, reading this, will agree with me on the same testimonial basis on how awesome it is when they, through research and a will to search for the truth, stumbled across a wonderful truth in the Gospel.

Even Satanists “look for the truth” but they have yet to find it. Why haven’t they found it yet? First of all, what every human being needs to do is to remove his presuppositions and preconceived or indoctrinated ideologies on religion and start afresh. That is what I did, comparing every religion out there. What have I come to understand now? Proverbs 9:10 so dearly is the answer. As far as the Satanists go, because of their ignorant narrow mindedness to cling onto Luciferianic ideologies even if they honestly declare, “we read the bible also”, Paul gives an answer as to what happens if this is the case, 2 Corinthians 4:4
(4) In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

Was I a depraved person during my adventure? Oh yes! Am I as much of a sinner as I was after declaring, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God”? No! Why? Because this is one of the glorious obvious truths to [know] that Yeshua does exist, and he does mean what he promises, that if I have faith and I lovingly come to understand in all awe and reverent fear of who he really is – he gives me life, truth and a passage unto eternal righteousness (regeneration), John 14:6
(6) Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

John 11:25-26
(25) Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
(26) And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

Galatians 6:15
(15) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

Don’t equate this line of thought with synergism either. Didn’t Christ do it all on the cross (τετελεσται)? Therefore, how can you (Ryan) declare that the non-elect in whom make [their] own choice on coming to the saving faith of Christ (according to what the Arminianist would say) have personal equal merit within salvation (hence synergism)?

This is ridiculous because he/she who is receiving this awesome [free] gift – cannot be doing any form of merited work! They are simply [receiving] that which is completely undeserved at all! But because God so loved the world – thus he died for all, in this truth, he cries that all should theoretically be in his eternal glory.

Does it mean that God failed if Anton LaVey is not saved? No! Why? Because how can God be blamed conditionally on the choices that Anton LaVey makes; in regards to whether he makes the choice to adhere to Luciferanistic stupidity or the saving Gospel / relationship with Christ?

“All are not saved by Christ’s death, but all which are saved, are saved by Christ’s death: His death is sufficient to save all, as the sun is sufficient to lighten all; but if any man wink, the sun will not give him light.” – Henry Smith

“That mystical Sun of Righteousness (saith St. Ambrose) is risen to all, come to all, did suffer and rise again for all—but if any one doth not believe in Christ, he defrauds himself of the general benefit. As if one shutting the windows should exclude the beams of the sun, the sun is not therefore not risen to all.” - Isaac Barrow

Therefore, “freely given all things” can be seen in the lens of, Revelation 21:7
(7) He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

I did [make] the choice by the way. Anton LaVey likewise had that choice to repent and be saved, until his death of course.

Oh, and let us define “given all things” – because that does not equate, “sufficient desire to believe”.

Are you declaring that since we are automata (as understood by TULIP), that God gives his special ‘elect’ a peculiar cryptograph in their hearts / mind, to [make] them believe!?

Thus if this was the case, obviously Christ would not die for [other] reprobates – because it all comes to an absolute understanding of a [fixed] predestinational / fatalistic ideology that God has already planned even before creation (when he actually planned the Mashiach sacrifice from Genesis 3:15 onwards), who will be saved and who will be damned.

The ridiculous irony that no Calvinist seems to understand is that Ryan Hedrich is as much of a sinner as Anton LaVey was, so why did God choose to regenerate Ryan (towards saving faith; according to TULIP, regeneration precedes faith) over Anton LaVey?

Yes, Anton LaVey would have been saved and would have inherited the fruits of the Spirit, if he so desired to fully understand, 1 John 4:15
(15) Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

Part 2 of your question, you summarise, “Therefore, not all men without exception were given to Christ”. This then implies limited atonement, correct?

I differ because Christ was the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

By a willingness to reject the Gospel of Christ – the person stays depraved in his/her state. This does not mean God has “given up” on them.

For those that have accepted the Gospel, that is where John 6 comes into mind. Notice, John 6:35-40
(35) And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
(36) But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.
(37) All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
(38) For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
(39) And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
(40) And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

And thus, this is only possible, because Christ died for all – in whom if they make the choice to accept this free gift, they will be indeed raised up on the last day. Hebrews 2:9
(9) But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

1 Timothy 2:6
(6) Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

When we look at part 3 of your question, “God does as He pleases (Psalm 115:3)”

But a sovereign God cannot lie, deceive, murder, rape, et al.? Take note of these passages, Genesis 50:19-20
(19) And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?
(20) But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Deuteronomy 32:4
(4) He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.

Psalms 12:6
(6) The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

Psalms 18:30
(30) As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.

Psalms 119:140
(140) Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.

Proverbs 30:5
(5) Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.

“Not all men without exception are saved.”

Because, 2 Timothy 4:2-4
(2) Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
(3) For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
(4) And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

“Therefore, God was not pleased to save all men without exception.”


Do you love and wished for Anton LaVey to have been saved? In fact, do you [not] have a weeping sorrow that he is indeed awaiting an eternal Hell fire?

1 John 4:8
(8) He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

Mark 9:23-24
(23) Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
(24) And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou MINE UNBELIEF.

Question 7 (Arminian): Michael Heiser, an esteemed biblical scholar specifically in Semitic languages, has released an interesting May 25th 2008 blog entry titled, “The Ends, Not Necessarily the Means (Sovereignty and Free Will Addendum)” in further response to his “Predestination and Free Will: A Summary Position” a few days prior. The reason is because not many people understood his overview that,

* God foreknows ALL events
* God foreknows events that never happen
* Therefore, the fact that God foreknows an event doesn’t require that it will come to pass.
* Therefore, there is no cause and effect relationship between foreknowledge and predestination.

“The short version of all this: All I’m really saying is that God foreknows all events, predestinates certain (but not all) events, and is not responsible for sin and evil.”

Therefore, he further declares, “When I say that I don’t believe God predestines every event, I mean that, but the way I explain it needs some work.

For one, I need to be clear that I don’t think the terms “sovereignty” and “predestination” are synonymous. I have hinted at this in Chapter 4 and some posts, but looking back I don’t think it’s clear. What I really believe is that God predestines the ends to which all things work, but not necessarily the means. He predestinates the end point, but not necessarily the path to the end point (though he can). How things end up can’t be random in that God has to be satisfied with the way it all ends and isn’t surprised or anything like that.

God’s sovereignty is shown in that he has the ability to influence and oversee the paths, paying close attention to what is happening in the course of human history. I reject deism for this reason (among others). God is intimately involved in using human and non-human free agents and his Spirit to move things along as he wishes. He of course can foresee both what humans actually will do and what they could do (Keilah). He knows what choices he’d like to see made and works to influence those choices. Humans sometimes make the desired choices, but when they don’t, God remains at work. This kind of program requires omniscience in my view.

Lastly, God has told us in Scripture that he did predestinate certain events (e.g., election of a remnant; the sacrificial death of the messiah who was incarnate deity). I don’t believe that the paths to these events was necessarily predetermined, though (see my previous reply to Phil’s comment about the crucifixion; all that prophecy required was consistency with the typology of sacrifice and Passover).

I think this position allows genuine freedom, does not impinge on God’s sovereignty (which is not predestination), and allows God to predestinate certain events. It also has God not causing sin or doing evil to accomplish things, even things that are predestinated.”

What is your take on this?

Words: 105 (excluding quotes)

Answer 7 (me): Robert’s seventh cross-ex question is puzzlingly similar to his first. The important points I made which I will not hereafter repeat are as follows:

- “knowledge beforehand” is not the only concept in the semantic domain of “foreknowledge” and “foreknow.”
- contexts determine which concept is implied.
- “proginosko” and “prognosis” are never used as referents of God’s knowledge of counter-factual conditionals.
- God’s knowledge is not predicated on created things like man’s will.
- God’s eternal knowledge is predicated on the fact He has unconditionally determined all things from eternity. That God knows counter-factual conditionals is unsurprising, then, for such suggests God knows what would have occurred had He decreed that events should unfold in a manner different than He actually decreed.

There is really only one other point from the blog entry which bears mentioning:

“All I’m really saying is that God foreknows all events, predestinates certain (but not all) events...”

The idea that God doesn’t predestine all things – or, if He does, He [sometimes] does so conditionally – can be rebutted a number of different ways. The simplest way – the one which I have repeated most often – is that such would mean God cannot be eternally omniscient. Since Robert has cited this “esteemed biblical scholar,” I will assume that his understanding of God’s eternal omniscience – or at least Robert’s inference of his understanding – is not much different from Robert’s own (expressed most explicitly in his answer to my fifth cross-ex question). Given this assumption, which, if false, Robert is free (!) to correct along with providing an explanation as to how the author explains God can be eternally omniscient apart from causing all things, I will examine Robert’s own long-winded beliefs as to how God’s eternal omniscience is compatible with human freedom. His 1,500 word reply can really be condensed to the following:

//…self-determinists respond that God can predetermine in several ways…

1. Contrary to free choice (forcing the person to do what he or she does not choose to do);
2. Based on free choices already made (waiting to see what the person will do);
3. Knowing omnisciently what the person will do.//

Let’s examine these alternatives:

1. If this is supposed to be a caricature of my beliefs, it’s a straw man. I anticipated this argument before Robert ever made it when, in my opening statement, I wrote:

//Calvinists are quick to point out that men are not “forced” to will; that is a contradiction in terms. Rather, insofar as man always chooses in accordance with his most strongest desire, and insofar as God determines our desires (directly or indirectly), our will is determined and yet voluntary.//

2. How does God know these “free choices already made”? Robert’s answer is clear: God “waits to see what the person will do.” But that’s the problem! If God’s knowledge is predicated on the wills of temporal creatures, God’s knowledge by DEFINITION cannot be eternal.

3. What does “omnisciently” mean? This is obviously a not-so-subtle tautology: “God knows because He knows.” This doesn’t answer my question: HOW does He know if not by the fact He caused? A circular argument doesn’t cut it.

Robert’s citation of Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:2 in support of the latter two [bad] explanations of God’s eternal knowledge presupposes he has shown there is only one biblical definition of foreknowledge. As no indication has been given that Robert is even aware I rebutted this presupposition in my first cross-ex answer, however, one really has to wonder if Robert even understands the problem. He should reread my fifth cross-ex question.

(Word count: 600)

[Since my opponent has abandoned the debate following the eigth question, the following questions are provided only to show what I would have asked]

Question 8 (Ryan): I would like for you to respond to two arguments I’ve made:

1. For God to choose to save some men on the basis of their free will (as defined in my opening post) would contradict God’s eternal omniscience. Particularly, I wish you to interact with my remarks in my seventh cross-ex answer.

2. The paragraph in my first rebuttal which begins: “Robert also argues that predestination is not unto faith, but rather subsequent spiritual blessings…” Particularly, I wish you to show that, given my argument in that paragraph, conditioning predestination on faith is not circular.

(Word count: 100)

[No answer]

Question 9 (Ryan): I believe I have sufficiently exposed the fact you have failed to address the mutual exclusivity of eternal omniscience and free will. Let’s suppose, however, that the two doctrines are compatible. You’ve written:

“There is no problem in saying that God created men with free will so that they could return His love, even though He knows that some will not make that decision.”

How is God any more loving by creating men He knows will “freely” choose that which will damn them forever than if He had created reprobates for the sake of the elect?

(Word count: 100)

[No answer]

Question 10 (Ryan): [I would probably have asked a question relating to one of Robert’s replies to questions 8 and 9]

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, Carson

I recently purchased “Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament,” by Beale, Carson, et. al. After reading Carson’s contribution to the “catholic epistles,” I decided to reproduce here one interesting observation from one verse in each chapter. I will probably do something similar for the other authors and chapters, although there is no way I could even begin to include all the information each packs into his notes on one verse, let alone the whole chapter.

James 2:23, NT Context: The Nature of Abraham’s Faith

“…The verb rendered by the NIV as “was made complete” (eteleiothe [from teleioo]) does not mean (despite Calvin’s support) that the actions revealed Abraham’s faith to be perfect (tetioo never has that sense); nor does it mean that works were somehow tacked onto a faith that otherwise would have been incomplete, for James’s point is that such faith does not really count at all, it is simply useless. Rather, to follow James’s argument we must recognize that although the expression teleioo linked with ek (i.e., Abraham’s faith “was made complete… [lit.] out of” works) is found nowhere else in the NT, parallels found elsewhere are illuminating. Philo tells us that Jacob “was made perfect as the result of [ek] discipline” (Agriculture 42); alternatively, he “was made perfect through [ek] practice” (Confusion 181). In other words, he grew in maturity as a result of the stresses laid on him. In Philo, however, the maturation take place in a human being. Jacob; here in James this “maturation” takes place in an inanimate object, faith. This prompts Moo (2000: 137) to suggest that the closest conceptual parallel is 1 John 4:12: “if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete [teteleiomene estin] in us.” Transparently, God’s love is not somehow lacking something, intrinsically deficient, until we love one another; rather, “God’s love comes to expression, reaches its intended goal, when we respond to his grace with love toward others. So also, Abraham’s faith, James suggests, reaches its intended goal when the patriarch did what God was asking him to do” (Moo 2000: 137)…”

1 Peter 2:6, Theological Use

“We too readily overlook how fundamentally divisive Jesus Christ is, even though that point is repeatedly made not only in the NT but also in OT prophecies concerning him. Peter here (in 2:4-12) insists that everyone is affected by the coming of Christ, positively or negatively, depending on whether they too are “living stones” or, alternatively, simply reject him or stumble over him. They will find that he crushes them. That point is not quite made by this quotation from Isa. 28:16, but the links with the other “stone” quotations in the ensuing verses make the conclusion inescapable.
Yet Peter’s first readers might find this peculiarity encouraging. For those who may have suffered major physical dislocation, and who certainly have suffered social rejection, Peter’s quotation, in its context, would reassure them that their painful situation did not reflect the displeasure of God. Far from it: God’s plan includes a division of people around his Son, this cornerstone rejected by so many, and the most important thing, both for this life and for the life to come, is to be living stones along with him in the temple of which he is the cornerstone.
Perhaps it should also be mentioned that Peter leaves no hint that he saw himself as in some way a special or foundational stone in the church, despite the name that Jesus himself had given him (see Matt. 16:17-18).”

2 Peter 2:22, Peter’s Use of the OT in 2:22

“Peter does not have in view people who have been enthusiastic false teachers from the beginning of their professional lives, nor is he thinking of genuine Christians who, sadly, have lipped into some sort of temporary backsliding. The context shows (esp. 2:20-22) that these people once lived sinful and debauched lives but then for a time “escaped the corruptions of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2:20), but now they are again entangled in the world and all its corruptions. This is so serious a retrogression that Peter can declare, “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them” (2:21 TNIV). And so the two proverbs prove true (2:22), which means that the true nature of these people never changed. A dog may leave its vomit for a while but will return to it; a sow might well be spruced up and look clean but will still find a mud pit enticing.”

1 John 2:27, John’s Use of the OT in 2:27

“Assuming (rightly with, e.g., Brown 1982: 341-348) that the “anointing” is “an anointing with the Holy Spirit, the gift from Christ which constituted one a Christian” (Brown 1982: 248), then the fourfold structure that we saw in the Jeremiah oracle (see letter B. above) is nicely paralleled here in 1 John. This anointing, (1) whereby one becomes a Christian, is bound up with the forgiveness of sins (1:8-2:2), such that Christians do come to know the truth (2:20-21), (2) establishing an abiding new-covenant relationship in which we remain in Christ (2:24), (3) and in which all who enjoy this relationship genuinely know God (2:23-3:1) (4) with knowledge independent of what must be passed on by mediating teachers. In other words, for John’s readers to rely on these (false) teachers is to admit that their own knowledge of God is somehow faulty or inadequate, which is to undercut all the power and reality of the new covenant. John is not denying the proper place of teachers; rather, he is denying the place of mediating teachers under some tribal-representative structure of covenant, for under the new covenant, in direct fulfillment of the promise articulated by Jeremiah, the place of mediating teachers is forever passed.”

Jude 8, NT Context: The False Teachers’ Lust for Authority Not Rightly Theirs

“According to Jude 8, not only do these teachers “pollute their on bodies” but also “reject authority” and “slander celestial beings.” There is good reason to think that the “authority” they rejected was that of Christ or of God (see Bauckham 1988: 56-57). But what does it mean to say that they slandered the doxas (NSRV: “glorious ones”)? In the MT the Hebrew equivalent can on occasion refer to famous people (e.g., Ps. 149:8; Isa. 3:5; 23:8; Nah. 3:10; similarly IQM XIV, 11; 4Q169 3-4 II, 9; 3-4 III, 9), but the LXX never uses doxas (“glorious ones”) to refer to famous people. If these “glorious ones” are angels (cf. the usage in Exod 15:11 LXX), they are unlikely to be evil angels (only good angels are in view when the expression crops up in passages such as 1QH XVIII, 8; 11Q5 XXII, 13; 2 En. 22:7, 10). The verb for “slander” (blasphemeo) has to do with dishonoring or shaming someone, speaking insultingly about someone, or the like. Angels sometimes are seen as the guardians of God’s established order and thus his authority, or the ones who have mediated God’s revelation to us (e.g., Acts 7:38, 53; 1 Cor. 11:10; Heb. 2:2). To “slander” them, then, looks like rebellion against God’s authority, which not only admirably fits the context but also is in line with the rebellious tendencies of the false teachers. So Jude goes on in our verse (v. 9) to give an example of a dispute in which even the archangel Michael is careful not to outstrip his authority.”

Monday, May 24, 2010

Guest blog and other updates

Besides finals, a new job as a lifeguard, and summer vacation, part of the reason I haven't posted anything new here these past few weeks is because I've been preparing to do it elsewhere. My guest blog appearance at the above site (visit it!) will anticipate some material I will be incorporating in my essay for this year's TrinityFoundation contest, and maybe Mr. Bryson himself will stop by to provide the occasion for further stimulation... or not. Either way, since I've completed that, since the initial summer break rush is gone, and since I've read some new books, I'm out of excuses not to get back to regular posting.

[In less cheerful news, my opponent in the Calvinist debate is AWOL after my most recent cross-ex question. Bummer. I'll post what cross-ex questions/answers I have left and then will probably do a conclusion post in the spirit of what I thought was a pretty successful first semi-formal debate.]

UPDATE: The above link is dead. To read the review, see here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Fesko's "Last Things First" 10

Just as Christology defines anthropology, eschatology defines protology; due to the Fall, one must know what will be in order to know what ought to have been. God’s covenants with men have repeatedly incorporated the idea of the necessity of the satisfaction of dominion mandate on the condition of perfect obedience, but to what end has not yet been examined in detail. In the last chapter of “Last Things First,” Fesko lengthens excursus on the Sabbath from consideration strictly within the circumstances of the Mosaic covenant to the greater context as bridge between protology and eschatology. Fesko’s thesis in this chapter is that, had Adam completed his probative labors, his reward would have been a permanent Sabbath, a rest which, simply put, would have consisted of eternal fellowship with God. If this “Sabbatical principle” is true, it would mean that eschatology precedes and even in some sense defines soteriology, a concept which would certainly have an impact on perspectives within modern theology.

A bilateral covenant possesses stipulations which have a terminus; a covenant with conditions that cannot be met is nonsensical. When considering whether not Genesis 1-2 contains evidence which could substantiate a claim that the ultimate end of Adam’s covenantal work was the Sabbatical principle, it is important to keep in mind that whatever else the case may be, had Adam completed his tasks, something would have had to happen. Merely from a probabilistic standpoint, then, that Adam’s efforts to subdue the surrounding disorder was analogous to God’s creative activity would at least mean it is reasonable to suppose that, upon the complete subjugation of all things to himself as God’s right hand, Adam would have, like God, rested. Also, if the sacramental function of the tree of life did not represent eternal life, it is difficult to imagine what it could have represented. Eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge cost Adam his life; ostensibly, eating the fruit of the tree of life would have antithetically rewarded Adam with eternal life, life in which Adam would have gloried in God’s presence with His extensive family, ceasing any further duties which could have cost Adam his life.

Because Adam sinned, the means by which the Adamic work must be appropriated to those who themselves do not possess the capacity to satisfy the covenant of works is different. However, God’s plan throughout redemptive history is consistent with His design for the first Adam: He didn’t change the vocation for the second Adam (prophet, priest, and king), He didn’t alter the covenantal work for the second Adam (the dominion mandate), and He didn’t compromise the means by which the second Adam’s work must be accomplished (perfect obedience). In light of the harmony between the two federal heads of the covenant themselves, then, the burden of proof is on one who believes God has purposed the eschatological goal of the second Adam’s work to be different from that which He purposed as the eschatological goal of the first’s work to explain why he believes so. By considering the import of the Sabbath throughout redemptive history, then, one should have a fair understanding of its connection to Genesis 1-2.

As was mentioned in a previous chapter, Fesko points out that, insofar as the Sabbath pertains to soteriology, it is evident in passages like Exodus 31:13 and Hebrews 4 that salvation must be by grace alone through faith alone. The Sabbatical typifies God’s work to save us and our inability to do anything to cooperatively merit it, which, in redemptive history, is the point at which the foreshadowed need for Jesus and salvation “solus Christus” becomes clear. To work on the Sabbath must merit death (Exodus 31:14-15), because such work suggests that the worker believes he can merit his own salvation (Romans 6:23). As the fourth commandment in the 10 commandments and the sign of the covenant itself, the Mosaic covenant was the first instance since the Fall that the concept of the Sabbath enjoyed explicit emphasis. If one can discern the way in which Israel – who was, like Adam, a son of God (Exodus 4:22, cf. Luke 3:38) and priestly kingdom (Exodus 19:6, cf. Genesis 1:28) placed in Paradise (Exodus 33:1-3, cf. Genesis 1-2) – related to the Sabbath – given to each son of God upon completion of the creation of the contextual tabernacles (Exodus 25-31, cf. Genesis 1-2) – the protological relation between Adam and the Sabbath can in turn be better understood.

Of course, that the Sabbath possesses a soteric quality in the Mosaic covenant (e.g. Exodus 31:13) is disanalogous to its function in pre-redemptive history, but the antitypical reality to which each concept points is the same: rest or cessation from work (Exodus 31:15, cf. Genesis 2:2-3). The author of Hebrews, commenting on Numbers 14 in chapters 3-4, sheds more light on Israel’s relation to the Sabbath to stress the necessity of a persevering faith to his readers (Hebrews 4:3); it is noteworthy that he equates true believers with God’s household, which recalls one to Adam’s office as priest within the garden-temple (4:6). The author’s primary point, made in 4:8-11, is that entering the promised land itself was no more what it meant for Israel to enter the Sabbath than it was for Adam to simply dwell in Eden. This presupposes, however, that there is a real Sabbath into which the people of Israel – and his readers – would enter: a true, antitypical Sabbath which can only be attained if one perseveres in faith (4:3). This binds the protological to the eschatological. Each respective paradise was meant to be a type of the heavenly Paradise into which each person would really enter upon completion of the stipulations of the covenant, which reveals more clearly why God regarded the Sabbath as an everlasting sign between God and His people (Exodus 31:17).

Because only Christ could complete the covenant of works subsequent to Adam’s fall, He must and has entered into the Sabbath rest first (Hebrews 10:12-13). An important point that the author makes is that while Christ’s labors have ceased, the outworking of those labors continues. The creation is not “consummated,” but it is ensured. The dominion mandate – specifically, kingship – is mentioned in 10:13, but one could just as easily apply this concept to Christ’s role as intercessor, advocate, multiplier of children in the divine image, &c. His life and death, however, satisfied all the requisite demands of the covenant of works and its curse, so He really did complete all His labors on the sixth day of the week, resting on the Sabbath (John 19:31). Christ was aware His resurrection would begin a new creation from the beginning of His ministry (Luke 4:18-21), and the year of Jubilee to which He referred is, in fact, the Sabbath year (Exodus 23:10-11, Leviticus 25:7-18). This inaugurated new creation begets a new Sabbath day: Sunday, the first of the week on which Christ was raised (John 20:1). The reason is simple: unlike the covenant of works and Mosaic covenant, each of which illustrated the necessity of working for one’s salvation in order to be saved and enter rest by placing the Sabbath on the last day of the week, Christ’s completed work demands a change in perspective as to how one views salvation and God’s covenant with man – i.e. sola gratia – and correlative change in the structure of the week. Because Christ’s work has already guaranteed the covenant of works is fulfilled for believers, rest precedes work in new creation. Having been baptized into the new creation by the washing of regeneration, the believer exists in the “already-not yet” age in which there is work yet to be done (Romans 6:4), although it is work which Christ has already purchased.

Any covenant between God and man has a purpose. Because Adam sinned, it is necessary to examine the last things to know what the first things ought to have yielded. Because the eschatological goal is rest in every covenant in redemptive history – not to mention the scores of other parallels between the covenant of works, its republications, and the new covenant – it is illogical to assume that the Sabbatical principle has no roots in protology and covenant theology. Because the Sabbath is imbued with soteric implications since the Fall, however, the telos of the new creation will be different than the old; the elect will be clothed in Christ’s righteousness (Revelation 7:9-14) rather than stand naked before God. Christ’s work does not merely expiate sin and put mankind back in the prelapsarian state, His righteousness is imputed to believers, who are thereby regarded as having completed the covenant of works. One should consider that whatever occurs is inevitably a means towards this end, which actually promotes eschatology as among the first of doctrines which should be taught and considered in one’s hermeneutic approach to Scripture. In other words: “Last Things First.”

Final observations: This was simply a great book. It’s certainly inspired thoughts that I’ve never considered and allowed me to better understand the interconnectedness of Scripture. Covenant theology and eschatology were subjects which intrigued me but always seemed to be handled with too little care or in too technical a fashion for me to maintain any attention. This, however, was a meaty book put together in an easy-to-read fashion. I knew Fesko was a great lecturer, now I know he was a great writer. I’ll certainly look into his future works (including a forthcoming book on baptism), and I encourage anyone who found this review helpful to grab this and other books by the author. Thanks, Dr. Fesko.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Fesko's "Last Things First" 9

In addition to the regenerative work of the Spirit to which both circumcision and baptism allude, both sacraments also are connected to Christ’s death. The bloody sacrament of circumcision foreshadowed the propitiatory death of the coming Messiah who would fulfill or secure the conditions of salvation for those who will believe, by which one could know whether or not he adhered to the Abrahamic covenant in which God promised Abraham to bless all nations through him. Because Christ lived, died, and was resurrected as the innocent God-man, however, the that to which circumcision actually points has been fulfilled. To continue to require circumcision as a rite of introduction to the covenant community, then, would be another form of law salvation, as it would at least imply circumcision did not receive its teleological end in Christ. Bloodless baptism is the new covenant’s analogous sacrament, but it pictures the way in which an elect individual becomes united to Christ’s resurrection as well as His death; in the same way Christ was buried and resurrected, so too God buries the old man by regenerative work of the Spirit and resurrects His elect – as He did with Christ – as new creations made alive in Christ by faith (Colossians 2:11-13). God’s promise to Abraham is reality in the new covenant, and this reality is depicted by baptism, not circumcision (Galatians 3:27-28).

The goal of the covenant of works, the realization of the dominion mandate, did not change with the coming of the covenant of grace. The means, not the goal itself, have changed, insofar as it is no longer mankind as such who bring to pass the stipulations of the dominion mandate in perfection. Jesus is the second Adam, not the church. Just as the requirements of God’s original covenant with man – unwavering obedience to His law – did not change, so too Christ must, in order to be the successful second Adam, bring about the multiplication of the divine image throughout the whole earth, subdue and exercise dominion over the inhabitants of the earth itself, and do so with a helpmate. By His death and resurrection, not our deeds, Christ indeed continues to do this. Philippians 2:5-11 has already been mentioned as a passage which links Christ’s humble obedience as God-man, His procreation of the divine image by conformity to His image, and the Father’s exaltation of His name such that all will acknowledge Him as King. The second half of Fesko’s fifth chapter draws out more explicitly how the goals are achieved by Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:20-49, like Romans 5:12-19, is pregnant with protological meaning. Just as all men in Adam die, all men in Christ live (15:22). Of course, in order for believers to live, Christ must have been raised first, as it is to His image men are to conform (15:23, cf. Exodus 23:19). It is a certainty that all will live in Christ, however, since He has by His sacrifice accomplished all necessary conditions which need to be met for His people to be saved (Romans 8:32). As this grace which He has procured is more and more applied throughout the world at times of God’s eternal appointment, Christ is accomplishing the command to multiply the earth with men in the [renewed] divine image (Romans 8:29, Philippians 2:20-21). This renewal is regeneration (15:42-45, cf. 1 Peter 1:23-25), and having already shown that the Spirit’s regenerative work as the beginning of the grace by which one is conformed to the heavenly image (15:47-49) is intrinsically annexed to baptism and recreation, it should come as no surprise that both are found in context (15:29-30, 36-41). It seems Genesis 1-2 is implicitly found in every verse. Furthermore, just as Adam was to subdue all things such that he would be the immediate authority under God, Paul writes that Christ is the eschatological fulfillment of Psalm 8:6 (15:27). He will wipe out every power which opposes His Father, including death, and He will have thereby merited the position of King of Kings (15:24-26, cf. Psalm 2, Daniel 7, cf. Revelation 13-14). In fact, He has already defeated these enemies Himself – even death – by His resurrection, a vindication of His righteousness and capacity to be the eschatological Adam.

Of course, for the Christ to be the true second Adam, He must have a true bride with which to generate children in His image, and here Fesko ties in ecclesiology to Christology, protology, and eschatology, for he notes that Paul regards the church as Christ’s antitypical helpmate in Ephesians 5:21-33. It sounds obvious when one thinks about it, yet the implications are profound. It was no more good that Christ should bring about the goals of the dominion mandate – goals which His work alone could effect – than it was for the first Adam to attempt to do so. The church is woman in Genesis 1-2 (Isaiah 54:5-8, John 3:29), yet a woman who will no longer be seduced by Satan’s temptations (Revelation 21:2, cf. Ezekiel 16, Hosea). Paul’s revelation of the relationship between Christ and the church functions as an explanation of the ways in which they interact: Christ as head, church as body; Christ as authoritative, church as submissive. Believers are not to be static after salvation – in fact, it is not a stretch to suppose co-working with Christ is a means of conformity to His image, as such would reflect what would seem to be an appropriate inter-connectedness of biblical theology. Regardless, Jesus made it clear in the Great Commission that the church was to spread His name throughout all nations (cf. Romans 10:14-15), and the reason He did not do this on His own should by now be evident: because the assistance of the church is necessary in the same way woman was necessary for Adam to have protologically fulfilled the dominion mandate (compare Genesis 22:18 to Matthew 28:19). The church is God’s chosen means of effecting His predestined, merited goals. She spreads the gospel which, when the Father sends His Spirit to regenerate an individual unto the image of Christ, adopts the newborn believer into God’s family so that he or she can further propagate God’s word, literally extending the temples of God in which the Holy Spirit dwells and which we are, as a royal priesthood, to treat with care. The primary point is that the dominion mandate is fulfilled spiritually, not physically (John 1:12-13), which is why Paul – who didn’t marry – could call Timothy and his other disciples his own children (1 Corinthians 7:8, Titus 1:4, &c.).

In the final section of this chapter, Fesko considers John’s Revelation, which describes the eschatological completion of Christ’s work, the goal of God’s covenants with men. All prophetic writings point toward a savior who will fulfill the dominion mandate (e.g. Psalm 72:8), not only for Israel, but for all nations (e.g. Isaiah 49:6). Not only does Revelation 5:9-12 confirm this, it is paralleled to 4:11 – each passage entails songs of glory for God’s creation and redemption, synthesizing the two acts of God once again (cf. 7:9-12). Because the temple-paradise will have been typologically extended to all nations in His elect, God will be able to once again dwell among the church, Christ’s bride (21:1-3). Genesis 1-2 is interwoven to every face of the eschatological city: its position on a mountain (21:10), the precious metals which form the city (21:18-20), the flowing rivers (22:1), and the tree of life itself (22:2) around which all fruit-bearing believers reside. Apocalyptic literature, however, foretells that this new, enormous Eden will be even more glorious than the first: it will be lighted by God Himself (21:23, cf. Isaiah 60:19, Ezekiel 43:2-5) and His dwelling among the community of those in the image of the new Adam will be immanent, not mediated (21:22, cf. Ephesians 2:19-22, Hebrews 3:6, 1 Peter 2:5); there will, then, be no night, for He is always with us (21:25, 22:5). Glorified believers will be able to serve Him face-to-face (22:4) uninhibited by the prospect of sin (21:26-27, 22:3), clothed by Christ’s righteousness (19:8) and praising the Triune God (4:8). That is the way things are meant to be.