Just and the Justifier

A Christian Distinctive

Archive for the category “Purely Theology”

Reformed Theology and Free Will

Packer is too good a biblical scholar to think there ever was such a thing as “free will” taught in the scripture. Thus the whole conversation between him and myself can proceed on the cordial agreement that free will is an unbiblical notion that is not part of the antinomy because it is not part of revelation.1

Standard philosophical understandings of free will includes its ability to choose and do otherwise under similar circumstances. What distinguishes “free will” from “free agency” in moral agents with content in their nature and subjective faculties is that the former deliberates and draws upon that content; while in the latter, the content pushes upon and compels our decision making process and will to the point of determining. In the former, the will ill is the active and determining agent. In the latter, the will becomes a passive.

Free will is an unbiblical notion? Such a notion cannot be found within Scriptures? If Lucifer or Adam and Eve did not have free will, for instance, does John Piper and his ilk have a coherent definition of free will? Like scientism and the objective reality of soul and spirit; free will is precluded from Calvinist systems of rationalist theology. Free will doesn’t exist; neither in God, nor in man.
If Adam and Eve did not have free will to choose and do otherwise, if “man is free [only] to choose and act in accordance with his nature”2 , then by virtue of Adam and Eve’s sin, it must indicate that Adam and Eve were always inherently evil, contrary to pontifications by the Reformed tradition that they were endowed with righteousness (“He created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image” 3), or Biblical judgments of the Creation (“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”) 4.

So which is it? Is “free will” an unbiblical notion? Or, was humanity inherently evil and therefore Creation was not good from the beginning?

 

©Copyright John Hutchinson (From “Monergist, But not Calvinist”)


  1. John Piper, “A Response to J.I. Packer on the So-Called Antinomy Between the Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility”, desiringGod, March 1, 1976, Accessed http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-response-to-ji-packer-on-the-so-called-antinomy-between-the-sovereignty-of-god-and-human-responsibility on March 25, 2014.
  2. Ernest C. Reisinger, God’s Will, Man’s Will and Free Will, 1998, Chapter 3 – “Free Will and Free Agency”
  3. The Westminster Confession, 1647, Chapter 4, Article 2.
  4. Genesis 1:31

Imputed Sin? Really?

Being a perfectionist, a ‘precisionist’, often to pathological levels; I always had an acute sense of a scrupulous, exacting justice. A parent betrayed a confidentiality at ten years old, which in my adult judgment as it would have appeared to that parent, to be minor. But a child has a different estimation of such violations, which parents dismiss at our and their peril. The ‘great betrayal’ happened two years before my conversion. I never trusted either parent with any secrets throughout my teen-age years, to my great detriment. I was a different sort of holy terror, for any parent to put up with.

In my spiritual battles of the mind, it was necessary for me to perceive the justice in the Justification in order to certify to myself the truth of Christianity. This was a critical and pivotal issue. For to borrow from Apostle Paul, if the Justification does not satisfy Justice, “your faith is futile and you are still in your sins”[1].

When I was in primary school, whenever the teacher could not discover the perpetrator of some minor vandalism or other misdemeanor, she (usually) would stay the whole class in detention until the culprit came forward. The latter rarely happened. However, I was fully galled. And my general contempt for public school educators had some roots in that unjust display of collective guilt. The idea of coercively ascribing guilt by association is so contrary to common human notions of natural justice.

And indeed, the God of Scriptures differs not in this regard. “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.”[2]The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”[3] “He will render to each one according to his works.”[4] These are but some of the Scriptural passages that deals with the principles of (judicial) guilt

And yet, the Reformed/Calvinist traditions, in their Calvinolatry and fidelity to creeds found wanting, continue to persist in the Westminster Confession assertion that the guilt of Adam was imputed to all humanity. Read more…

Comments on ‘What Southern Baptists must do to slow their decline’

RE: What Southern Baptists must do to slow their decline | On Faith & Culture.

I have been reading various reports about ‘Hemorrhaging Faith’; here in Canada and in the United States. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada produced a report by that name last year. And the Southern Baptists have engaged in introspective navel gazing in response as statistics of declining membership etc catch up with the reality of their loss of spiritual vitality some time ago. Empirical statistics are always, at best, lagging indicators in a spiritual setting. Sometimes, they could be false indicators; as the leadership hierarchy roll out initiatives, which might inflate the numbers in a brief burst of ersatz spiritual fireworks.

I could give my own deep and comprehensive rendering of the problems. And I would probably be 90-95% correct. But my efforts would be of little use. This would be due partially to the fact that I would be perceived as an outsider in a variety of ways. Rebuke and reproach is only effective, at best, if the person addressed believes that one is, at heart, on their side; that the advice given is from someone who is genuinely interested in their welfare, apart from any personal benefit to the counselor. Loyal criticism from one’s own is always preferred. Outside criticism sends the guard goes up. The wagons are circled.

A particular problem with SBC members is that they demonstrate fierce denominational nationalism and pride; not the type of attitude that is prone to self-doubt and introspection. And I have been acquainted with this proud and unbecoming sectarianism, which is particularly unique to Southern Baptists and puzzling to outsiders; in Israel, America and back here. I see something of the same in Conventional Baptists in Canada. But that is another story.

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Worship

Yet I will show you the most excellent way.1

I heard another sermon message today, with one of its themes referencing worship. And as usual, I find it disappointing, even wrong-headed; although, this particular manner of presentation is common in Evangelical churches.

Worship is not just something that happens automatically. We choose to make it happen. It is a decision we make.

There is an element of truth in the above statement. The first step on the descent towards depravity in Romans 1 involves the failure to honour God or be grateful. However, intimated in the above comment is that worship is some self-propelled act generated ex nihilo. It can be appreciated that one ought to praise and honour, regardless of circumstances. It is less credible to expect genuine praise and honour, regardless of knowledge of God that one is persuaded of.

Read more…

Dilution of the Gospel (Part 1)

I visit the local Tim Horton’s to do a little scribbling, usually on a daily basis. And of course, invariably one will pick up on other people’s conversations. And as a matter of course, the committed Christian, especially pastors, intend that their conversations be overheard as part of their proselytizing efforts. I feel no guilt in eavesdropping on that which is intentioned to be eavesdropped.

The general tenor of the discourse of these two young and still zealous pastors concerned the general state of the Church. And the one line of thought that I picked up essentially went like this. “It is not adultery [or other sins] that is primary problem within the Church; but the passivity and lukewarmness”.

The sentiment derives from the admonition to the Church in Laodicea.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.1

In light of an incident the week before, a sermon on Salvation, it stirred my mind into a fury to remark:

The problem is not that ‘Christians’ nowadays are lukewarm and passive. They are lukewarm and passive because they are not Christians; not converted; not regenerated.

And they are not converted/regenerated because of silly preachers (of which I exclude these serious pastors), who dilute and thereby denigrate the true Gospel, which starts off with a solid understanding of Justification that grips, sears and scars the mind/heart; before moving onto sanctification. Otherwise, those sanctification messages, which seem to constitute 95% or more of sermons, merely become moralist adages to prod the stubborn mule of natural men’s hearts. Justification is the moral/legal license by which God can justly justify and grant His Spirit in the regeneration and repair of souls.

It is a general belief in Evangelical circles, amongst both Calvinist and Arminian circles, that a born-again person can never be lost. I am still at a loss as to how Arminian theology can credibly and coherently reach that conclusion. And even as a Calvinist, I must remember that this verity exists on the existential plane that God perceives these realities, lest one become prone to presumption. As Paul Washer declares in his final remarks in Ten Indictments against the Modern Church:

You see, my dear friend, I have great assurance when I study my own conversion, when I discuss it with other men, when I look over the twenty-five years of my pilgrimage with Christ, I have great assurance of having come to know him.

But even now, if I were to depart from the faith, and walk away, and keep going in that direction, into heresy, into worldliness, it could be the greatest of proofs that I never knew him. That the whole thing was a work of the flesh.

I know what I am saying is outstanding to you. You think, oh my, I have never heard such a thing, this is the old…read Pilgrim’s Progress.2

Thus, according to this justifiable understanding of Perseverance of the Saints, if those at the Church in Laodicea, who were passive and lukewarm, could be spit out of My mouth if they fail to repent of such tepidness, they will either repent or they were never truly converted/regenerated. If the congregation needs to be prodded like mules towards virtue and graciousness, it is good indication of the general unregenerate state of the church. Passivity and tepidness are mere symptoms.


NOTES

1.        Revelation 3:15-17

2.        Paul Washer, “Ten Indictments Against the Modern Church in America”, Revival Conference 2008, Transcript accessed at http://media.sermonaudio.com/mediapdf/102308839520.pdf on April 21, 2013, p 61.

Rob Bell “Love Wins” – Hell or Purgatory – Part 1

I have set you a watchman to the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say to the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die; if you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at your hand. Nevertheless, if you warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. (Ezekiel 33:7-9, 3:17-19)

My heart lacks appetite for publicly critiquing and directly confronting the absurd nonsense that I hear from those who purport to represent Christianity. Really! Truly! I say this, despite the overwhelming evidence that I do unapologetically publicly critique and directly confront the absurd nonsense that I hear from those who purport to represent Christianity.

I cannot do otherwise, even if I must forgo ambitions for public office. I have tasted too much of Hell and some of Heaven; such that I intimately know of these spiritual realities. The Gospel and Full Counsel of God that I observe in Scriptures; when unfiltered by second and third rate theological/philosophical ruminations, disingenuous sophistries, factual and scriptural selectivity and interpretative contortionism; is pristinely rational and grants a wondrous intellectual and moral clarity.

And I will seek to use as incisive a surgical wit, to which I have been endowed, to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (1 Corinthians 10:5). But I retain a terror that in “speaking truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15); I favor or appear to favor too much, the truth side. Inevitably, some people will always declaim; although I have little motive in denigrating another. Or they will accuse without being able to honestly and objectively point out the mean-spirited in that specific comment. (With written, recorded words, one can always return to source.) But there are occasions when after one speaks repeatedly and gently on a matter of great import, a polemic thump is necessary.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity. (The Second Coming – Yeats – 1919)

Read more…

The Coming Persecution in America: Paul Washer

That a great persecution of existing Christians in the West, including the U.S. will occur, I have not doubt. A fabulist, pre-Tribulation Rapture requires fantastic elasticity of Biblical interpretation to mould this fanciful speculation into doctrinal orthodoxy. It coagulates from pockets of Scriptural mist, more vaporous than those justifying the ever-virginal quality of Mary, the mother of Jesus’ brothers and sisters (Matthew 13:55). Even the Mormon doctrine of baptizing for the dead has clearer outlines of justification (1 Corinthians 15:29); even if there exists only one verse, which gives that birth.

It is not an issue of whether there will a resurrection of the dead and rising of those living, when Christ appears. It is a question of chronology and number of Second Comings. It is a question of fidelity to an interpretative key in Scriptures; that a doctrine can be garnered, only through a minimum of two or three clear Scriptural witnesses (2 Corinthians 13:1). I have read too much Christian history. I have observed too much irrationality, too many absurdities, travesties and atrocities, originating from the creative innovations of peasant seers and vainglorious theologians.

The fluff that is proffered to support this doctrinal contention defies integrity and rationality. Serious persecution of Christians is proliferating around the world. Tentative forays are occurring in Europe. Initial probes are occurring in Canada. It is astonishing Exceptionalist vanity that the American Church should avoid that which 95% of the world is experiencing.

Nevertheless, even if one holds the pre-Tribulation Rapture position, it might be prudent not to hold the position too tenaciously. If it comes to pass, well and good. But if it does not come to pass, one might not be prepared for that any “hell that’s going to break loose on us”. If the doctrine has vaporous foundations; the basis for any anathemas against those who doubt it floats in total ether. Requirement of that belief in order to be a Christian and even for church membership, adds “mental works” to faith in Christ.

Where I might detour from Paul Washer’s warning, involves perhaps speculative eschatology and sociological prophecy in the light of political theory, psychology, history and Scriptures. I don’t have, at all, a bad record in this sideline. I would not dare consider myself a prophet of Biblical proportions. But while some Southern Baptist radio station owner is astonished at recent turn of events about same-sex rights, one of my essays in Grade 13 journalism class (1977-8), saw the writing on the wall on the coattails of the Black civil rights movement. This is a good decade before the self-interested Andrew Sullivan was given credit for that prediction. Read more…

Evangelical Support for Immigration Reform is Biblical, Not Political??

RE:  The Credentialed Signatories of American Evangelicalism who intimate a Scriptural and Spiritual Imprimatur for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (see http://evangelicalimmigrationtable.com/)

RE:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/philosophicalfragments/2013/03/13/evangelical-support-immigration-reform-biblical-not-political-soerens/

Weaving through the Web to acquire factual information for many writing projects, I often get sidetracked onto articles and essays which, although worthy of interest, waylay the priorities of my time. This article reflects one of these occasions, to which I will, no doubt, be kicking myself tomorrow.

One comes across an inordinate number of ethical and sociopolitical advocacies by purported Christians, proud of their own voice, while displaying third rate Scriptural interpretation and reason. I often wish that the Internet had not been invented and thereby not give such free agency for such to utter their babblings in the name of Christ.

I am not timid in expressing economic, social and political analysis in this web site. And Scriptures deeply and insidiously influence my thinking. However, the underlying motivations conform to two of the few New Testament adages, which might bear any relationship with sociopolitical issues. One seeks to extend individual liberty of conscience in the social realm to the fullest extent that the virtue of a contemporary populace can bear (Romans 14). The other is a sociopolitical implementation of the frequently enjoined Scriptural admonishment to seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:11). Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy (Hebrews 12:14). If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). If I raise a concern about economic inequalities and their ensuing social, political and legal inequalities or with philosophical sectarianism, it is in the context of their relation with social piece and individual liberty.

So, I do not have problem with people voicing opinions, regardless of competence. The Internet might prove a worthwhile vehicle to induce iron sharpens iron precision and clarity to its participants’ arguments. What I do take umbrage with, is the SPIRITUAL IMPRIMATUR that some Christian adherents arrogate to their views.

I have seen Christ conscripted into the cause of capitalism and socialism; although I find that those advocates seem clueless about the respective economic philosophies, let alone their own theology. There is a distinction between free markets and capitalism. And a voluntary surrender of one’s goods and property with a community of one’s choice (Acts 204) differs from the coercive ideologies of socialism and communism.

One of the earliest uses of Scriptural imprimatur in my life came from adversaries of mixed racial marriages. As is so common from such advocates, the unity of the mind of God is ripped into little selective proof texts. The banner of Be you not unequally yoked together was waved in my face; until it was realized and pointed out that a couple of words were missing from that adage.

Therefore, I cannot help but feel like punching through church walls when I encounter such rubbish as the suggestion of a Biblical sanction for some American Comprehensive Immigration Reform policy or bill. It astonishes that church leaders, denominations and umbrella organizations even have Statements of Principles with its who’s who of signatories from many Evangelical denominations. Or that advocates, more interested in the things of this world than in things of God would dare to embellish their advocacies with Scriptural verses, located by a Google search without a coherent depth of understanding of Scriptures, theology or the complicated trade-offs required in sociopolitical policy.

From this article comes this little gem

I believe that the primary reason that most have spoken out is not, as Mr. Tooley hints, an embrace of sentimental, liberal theology, but rather an orthodox commitment to the authority of Scripture.

To correct this biblical blind spot, the Evangelical Immigration Table has launched the “I Was a Stranger” Challenge, providing a bookmark that lists 40 Scripture passages that relate in one way or another to the topic of immigration, which we are encouraging people to read, one passage per day. 

In this, the author of the article and the umbrella organization, which he cites, tosses tinsels of Scriptural proof texts to embellish their sociopolitical cause and impress the gullible and clueless.

Are these people serious and sane?

I do not desire to perform exegesis on the flak of Scriptures being offered. There are greater principles involved than discoursing on the minutiae of immigration policy.

And the source of my complaint stems not from any given position on the matter. My overall position on the matter, if it mattered, would be probably one of being in favour of a one-time amnesty program, but with grave misgivings. But these arguments are rational and nuanced. It is certainly not a clear-cut moral issue. Indeed, those who oppose naturalization of illegal immigrants have a better hold of justice on their side.

The issue and the only issue of this dissertation is the perverse abuse of Christ and Scriptures to give spiritual imprimatur to a temporal concern. It requires a hermeneutical contortionism, which betrays the competence or integrity of those credentialed signatories who wasted serious time and money on their theological training. It exposes the worldliness of modern Evangelical theologians, who scurry around like Constantinian bishops, self-deluded by the ostentatious flattery of secular authority of the importance of their influence. It helps explain why the person on the Evangelical pew is Biblically, theologically and ethically ignorant, while its leaders expend their time on needle point points of legislative policy. It causes unnecessary alienation from the Gospel of people with different views on this tertiary social matter, when the Magisterium of God is being invoked. It brings considerable and long-term dishonour to the cause of Christ if this scripturally unsupported policy goes south. The corruption of the theological elite is a tell-tale sign that the salt of American Evangelicalism has lost its savour. “It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13)

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Jefferson Bethke, Religion and the Evangelical Inquisitors

A year ago, a young Turk, Spoken Word poet Jefferson Bethke, puts out a winner evangelistic YouTube video, which has garnered in excess of 24 million hits to date. And the response from an outfit called the Gospel Coalition, a self-appointed Evangelical ‘Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’? No less than three of its regular bloggers saw fit to take Bethke to task on points of minutiae. To his credit of his person and profit to his ministry, Bethke responded with humble supplication to assuage the ego of one of these Guardians of the Faith.

The fiery darts that originate from within Christendom were more frequent and with understandably more sting than those from outside. If one is largely naive of the state of Christendom, one is prone not to place another shield against that direction.

About the actual critique though, I’ll be honest, there were times after the poem came out that I just started to crumble. The pain of the critiques was too painful (which I talk about later)… But the tone, words, and down right vitriol from fellow brothers and sisters in the faith have crushed me. I’m a 22 year old dude who has only been out of college 6 months, and who has only been walking with Jesus for a few years. I am beyond thankful to the older godly men who chose to pick up the phone and find ways to contact me privately, before discussing me publicly. I personally had to stop reading and trying to follow the blogs because Jesus showed me pretty quickly it wasn’t healthy for my heart (whether praise or critique). The ones I did come across stung. Some hardly even dealt with my content, but wrote more about my character, my salvation (or lack thereof), my looks, my poetry, etc. Part of me was extremely hurt, while part of me started to really wonder how blog posts fit into the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:36.1

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