Category: Theology

Total Fulfillment of the Law and Why Monergism Does Not

It is common for modern Christians to think that the laws of the Old Testament do not apply anymore.   They’ll say something about being “under grace” (true and relevant, but misapplied) and ignore, either deliberately or not, the statutes and theological implications of the law.  Wherever these people get this notion, it stands in direct contrast to the words of Jesus (Matthew 5:17-20, KJV):

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

and of the law given by God (2 Kings 17:37, KJV):

37 And the statutes, the ordinances, the law, and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall be careful to observe forever; you shall not fear other gods.

Yes, the law applies every bit as much today as it did when it was given to Moses.  The difference is not in the laws, but in how they are to be carried out.  While the whole of the law can and ever could be summed as it was by Jesus (Matthew 22:37-40),

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

and by the prophet Micah (Micah 6:7-8),

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

this establishes and justifies the ordinances; it does not abolish or trivialize them.

Yet it is right that Christians do not carry out the laws of the Old Testament as they were properly done before Jesus (Galatians 5, Hebrews 9).  Not because those laws are no longer relevant, but because they were fulfilled by Christ.  He is our eternal atonement sacrifice, Passover sacrifice, etc.

If indeed Christ is all of those things, and He is, He must be our eternal free will and thanksgiving offerings as well.  These offerings had specific conditions attached to them, among them that they must be of the person’s free will (Leviticus 1:3, 19:5, 22:19, and 22:29, respectively):

If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord.

And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the Lord, ye shall offer it at your own will.

19 Ye shall offer at your own will a male without blemish, of the beeves, of the sheep, or of the goats

29 And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the Lord, offer it at your own will.

Therefore, if we are to believe that Jesus fulfilled the whole of the law, as He said He would, and not just parts of it, we must reject monergism.  For if the fulfillment of the law through Jesus is monergistic, Jesus would be insufficient to fulfill those portions of the law God commanded be of the free will of the person.

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There Can be no Ethics Without God or Why You Might Already be a Theist

A frequent statement from atheists and secular agnostics is that they don’t need God to be good.  That they can be “good for goodness’ sake.”  I partially agree: you don’t need to believe that there is a God in order to exhibit behavior, even exclusively exhibit behavior, that is consistent with that which is truly good.  You don’t need to believe that God commands such a thing (and/or will reward you for it, and/or will not punish you if you don’t) in order to aid the poor, orphaned, and widowed, or do anything else that is good.   Indeed, I’ve witnessed many atheists do exactly that.  That’s not the point I’m trying to make.

What I will prove, however, is that such actions are not, in and of themselves, reasonable.  Or at the very least, justified.  Indeed, this is the stated position of such atheist philosophers as Nietzsche and Rorty.  I won’t be telling the consistent, well thought out atheist anything they don’t already know.

For the sake of argument, I’ll leave open the academic possibility that something can be good apart from being justified or deemed as good, but if it is, something cannot be good if it is inconsistent with what has been deemed as good.  I won’t assume that there is no “goodness” property apart from being deemed as such, and I won’t assume that all things that are good can be proven as being good.  Rather, just that “goodness” can be a real, logically consistent property of things.  Things cannot be both good AND not good.

1. Definition 1. g: good
2. Definition 2: J: justified or deemed by proper authority as good
3. Definition 3: C: consistent with that which has been justified or deemed by proper authority as good
4. Axiom 1: If something is justified or deemed by proper authority as good, then it is good. J –> g
5. Axiom 2: If something is both good and logically consistent with that which has been justified or deemed by proper authority as good, then it is good: C /\ g –> g
6. MT 4: If something is not good, then it is not justified or deemed by proper authority as good. ~g –> ~J
7. MT 5, DeMorgan’s law: If something is not good, then it is not both good and logically consistent with that which has been justified or deemed by proper authority as good.  ~g –> ~g \/ ~C
8. Conjunction Introduction, 6, 7: If something is not good, then it is both not justified or deemed by proper authority as good AND not good OR not logically consistent with that which has been justified or deemed by proper authority as good. ~g –> ~J /\ (~g \/ ~C)
9. DeMorgan’s law, 8: If something is not good then it is not justified or deemed by proper authority as good OR both good and logically consistent with that which has been justified or deemed by proper authority as good. ~g –> ~[J \/ (g /\ C)]
10. Law of the excluded middle: All things are either justified or deemed by proper authority as good OR  good and consistent with that which has been deemed as good OR not.  [J \/ (C \/ g] \/ ~ [J \/ (c \/ g)]
11.  Material Implication, 8:   Therefore, All things are either good or not justified or deemed by proper authority as good OR both good and logically consistent with that which has been justified or deemed by proper authority as good. ~ [J \/ (g /\ C)] \/ g

12. This, in and of itself, does not completely prove that if something is good, then it is either justified or deemed as good by a proper authority or is good and is consistent with that which is good.  So we’ll prove by showing that the opposite is necessarily not true: if something, anything, is not good AND  justified or deemed as good by a proper authority or both good and consistent with that which is good.  Proposition 1:  ~g /\ [J \/ (g /\ C)] 
13. MP 9,12, reductio ad impossibilem: Something is not good, therefore it is not justified or deemed as good by a proper authority or is both good and consistent with that which is justified or deemed as good.  Something cannot be both [J \/ (g /\ C)] and ~[J \/ (g /\ C)].  Therefore, by 11, all things that are good are justified or deemed as good by a proper authority or both good and consistent with that wich has been deemed as good by a proper authority. g –> J \/ (g /\ C)

You either have to reject the axioms or logic to deny the conclusion. 

The question comes in with what exactly a proper authority is.  If it is a person or persons, be it yourself, someone else, or some construct of humanity (a corporation, a government), where did they get such authority?  It is impossible that everyone or every human construct has this authority, as not everything that one person justifies or deems as good is done so by everyone else, or at a minimum, they are not consistent with one another.  If it is only a particular person, then again, where did they get it?  Why are they different from everyone else?  If it is their access to violence and punishment, that still doesn’t explain (1) why they’re right or (2) why compliance for fear of such a thing is good.  Even if it were, why is your survival desirable?

If one tries to ascribe such an attribute to nature, a dead god, or to the “betterment of mankind” or some other abstraction, the same question arises: why?  Nature and mankind are capable of things that seem terrible.  What makes its / their survival, laws, or best interest desirable, let alone good?  What makes “betterment” “better?”

If one tries to ascribe such an attribute to an imperfect god, we can make no assertion that what it deems good is justifiable as good, or that such a being is correct.  It’s imperfect.

It is only by a living, perfect God with the inherent ability to justify and deem such things that true goodness exists.  If you believe in true goodness, you’re being inconsistent to say you don’t believe in a living, perfect God.

Adam was Physically Immortal? No.

There is an incredibly common belief among Christians (not to mention practitioners of Judaism, Islam, and others who take the Book of Genesis seriously): that Adam was created physically immortal and only ceased being so once he ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden.  It is the belief of Roman Catholics, most Protestants, and others.  This belief is used to justify notions that our birth and human nature are somehow different than it would otherwise be because of Adam’s sin.

As with anything, we should search the Bible concerning the matter:  Adam is mentioned by name 20 times in the NIV and NASB, 29 times in the KJV.  Pronouns happen, as does the difficult distinction between the words for “Adam” and “man / men.” Never, not once, ever does the Bible explicitly or implicitly say Adam’s flesh was created immortal.

Of those, some were ostensibly for genealogy / historical purposes alone, and have no discernible bearing on this doctrine (Jude 1:14, Luke 3:38, 1 Chronicles 1:1, for example) beyond that which is necessarily implied from others: that Adam existed on this plane of existence, and was a singular, literal, person, inasmuch as the text treats Adam the exact same as all other literal, singular people.

God does proclaim that Adam will return to the dust after his sin, but is that a change?

Genesis 3:17-19:

 17And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;  18Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;  19In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Yes, God does proclaim that Adam will die a physical death in this passage, but nowhere is it stated that this is a change from Adam’s previous state.  In fact, God proclaims that Adam shall eat the herb of the field and work the ground, and this was not a change from Adam’s previous state.  God commanded Adam to subdue the garden and have dominion over the animals in Genesis 1:28.  There is no reason, therefore, to assume that a future physical death, in and of itself, is a change from Adam’s previous condition.

What changes is Adam’s state of mind about the conditions in which he is in.  “in sorrow” Adam would eat of it and work it.  He would not eat bread without “the sweat of thy face.”  Though I’d be the first to admit that it’s not explicitly stated, the same can be said of death.  Death would now bring grief and sorrow instead of just being a normal, natural, beautiful part of nature in which a sinless, living soul (1 Corinthians 15:44) passed from this plane of existence to the next.

The Bible says your flesh is like Adam’s flesh

Several come in Genesis chapter 5, which are both genealogical and relevant to this discussion. Genesis 5:1-6:

1This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him;  2Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.  3And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth:  4And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters:  5And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.  6And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos:

So it goes on, and is repeated in 1 Chronicles 1 to a much larger degree.  So we see that Adam is quite clearly treated as a literal, singular person on this plane of existence when he fathered Seth, who fathered Enos.  1 Chronicles 1 goes all the way from Adam to Jacob and Esau, treating them all as is they are real individuals.

Adam begat his sons in his own image, just as Adam was created in God’s image.  Adam was created by God, but not a begotten son.  Jesus is God’s only begotten Son (John 3:16), because Jesus is actually God.  Adam begat sons who were human, who begat sons who were human, just as Adam was human.

1 Corinthians 15:47-48:

 47The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.  48As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.

You have a body that is earthly, as Adam’s.  Verse 48 makes this clear: your body is earthly, just as Adam’s was.  Your flesh is not immortal; neither was Adam’s.

1 Corinthians 15:39

39All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.

There is only one kind of flesh of men.  If we are to believe that Adam was a real man, he had the same kind of flesh you do: a mortal kind.

When did God say Adam would die, and why does that matter?

Genesis 2:16-17:

16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:  17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

So God says Adam would die in the day that he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  As noted above, this was not a physical death, because Adam lived much longer than that.  It is not possible that God meant this in a physical sense unless God changed his mind, because “in that day” is not all that negotiable.

Do other passages about Adam contradict this?

There are 4 passages in the Bible that deal specifically with the typology of Adam.  I quote the KJV from Hosea chapter 6, which does not mention Adam by name, but that’s due to ambiguity in the source texts.  Most translations do say “like Adam” in verse 7.  Hosea 6:5-7, Romans 5:12-18, 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, 1 Corinthians 15:44-45

5Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth.  6For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.  7But they like men [Adam] have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.
——–
12Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:  13(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.  14Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.  15But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.  16And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.  17For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)  18Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
——–
20But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.  21For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  22For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
——–
44It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.  45And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

Not one of those passages say Adam’s flesh was created immortal.  They do say that through Adam, sin entered the world, and spiritual death through sin, because every person has chosen to sin.  If sin exists in creation but was not a part of it, it had to enter the world through a creative source: that source was Adam.  You choose spiritual death by choosing sin, being joined to the way of Adam.  They also, in tandem, say that you can choose resurrection from this death by choosing the way of Jesus.

What does extra-Biblical reality have to say about this?

God created the sun before Adam.  The sun is a star.  All starts eventually go supernova.  When the sun does go through its God-ordained end stages, it will consume the earth.  Therefore, God did not did not create Adam in such a way that his physical body could withstand creation forever.  Therefore, Adam was not created physically immortal.  His physical body was never intended to withstand God’s creation forever.

Some will try to say that sin corrupts DNA, and that’s why Adam died and passed on death, even though he was created immortal, and this is how death passes on throughout the generations.  There is (1) little to no reason to believe this is true, and (2) it completely fails to reconcile Adam’s immortality to the previous paragraph.

If we believe the Bible is true, 100% consistent with itself, and 100% consistent with reality, there is no room for an Adam that was created physically immortal.  An immortal Adam is inconsistent with the Bible and inconsistent with reality.  Adam died, and we will all taste that physical death.  We can also be united with Christ’s death, that we will be raised with Him also.

Why Christians are not Pelagians

There is a word that gets thrown around by Calvinists to describe Christians who do believe as they do: Pelagian.  They use it so loosely and to describe so many different things (Classical Arminianism, Neoarminianism, The Church of Christ / Christian Church, Pentecostals, many Baptists, and several others) that they clearly either have a few distinct (and inconsistent) definitions or believe this one: that the free will of human beings is sufficient to choose faith in Jesus Christ and be saved without external aid (or forcing) by God.  Put another way: that original sin, irrespective of its existence or mechanism, does not make a person so depraved as to be unable to choose saving faith.

Indeed, this is what Pelagius taught and seemingly believed, and he even went further: to believe passages like Ezekiel 18 and deny original sin altogether.  This is also what Clement of Alexandria, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Origen, Irenaeus, and the other pre-Augustine Church leaders believed and taught as well.  Yet Christians aren’t described by any of these names, just the name of Pelagius, who came after all of these people.

And indeed, this is the belief of the Church of Christ / Christian Church and some of the others mentioned above.

The irony is that the truth of what Pelagius taught and believed, while admittedly being quite distant from either, has more in common with Calvinism than Christianity.  Pelagius believed that a person’s free will was sufficient, even though it would never happen, to live a life free of sin and therefore deserve to go to Heaven.  Calvinists believe that if your sins have been atoned for, God is unjust to keep you out of Heaven, and therefore you will go to Heaven.

In this way, both adhere to what I call “clean slate” soteriology: that God is some sort of cosmic accountant who, so long as you have a balance sheet that isn’t in the red, will let you in to Heaven.  You won’t find that notion anywhere in the Bible, and I would argue that 1 Timothy 3:16 proves that notion untrue.  However, it was the belief of Pelagius and is the belief of Calvinists.  In spite of their adherence to clean slate soteriology, we don’t call Calvinists “Pelagians.”

Pelagius also believed that Jesus was an anti-type of Adam.  Indeed, Romans chapter 5 makes this abundantly clear.  The problem is that both Pelagianism and Calvinism don’t seem to understand the type: the contrast between the person by whom sin and the person by whom salvation entered the world.  Calvinism makes the type independent of choices: Adam’s sin actually made you a sinner independent of your choices (always); Jesus’ salvation actually makes you saved independent of your choices (maybe).  Pelagianism makes the type completely dependent upon your choices through “moral example:” choose the way of Adam and get death, choose to be sinless and get eternal life.

Neither is totally right or wrong.  The message of Romans chapter 5 is that through Adam, sin entered the world, and death through sin, because sin became available for all and all sinned by choice.  Through Jesus, salvation entered the world, and eternal life through salvation, because eternal life became available for all, and many chose union with Christ.  Again, even though they take an extreme-yet-anti-Biblical view of Romans 5, we don’t call Calvinists “Pelagians.”

Maybe we should.  Well not really, but it would be more accurate for a Christian to call a Calvinist a Pelagian than vice versa.  Sorta like a libertarian calling a Communist a Nazi; it’s not true, but has far more in common with the truth than the more common opposite.

So why are Christians called this name by Calvinists? Because Pelagius was marginalized as a heretic (correctly, for the reasons noted above and others), and his teachings run contrary to Augustinianism, which, although clearly contrary to Ezekiel 18, became Catholic dogma.  It was a holdover by Martin Luther (who was an Augustinian monk) at the dawn of the Protestant Reformation, and has been clung to as ‘orthodoxy’ ever since.

When they say this, they are calling you a heretic.  Don’t stand for it.  Correct their error in truth and love, and if they don’t accept it, well, just remember that they believe God needs people to go to hell to manifest His glory.  We’re not dealing with the best or brightest.

Ephesians 2 Teaches Class Election and Synergism

There is perhaps no passage more quoted by Calvinists and other monergists in order to persuade Bible believing people to their worldview than Ephesians chapter 2.  The first few times different people tried to do this to me, I was insulted.  “They can’t possibly think I’m stupid enough to believe something so contrary to the text, let alone the context, of the passage, can they?”  After a while, I started to suspect they actually believed it themselves.

I’m not interested in reading other people’s minds and projecting my interpretation of their intentions onto them.  Maybe I’d be right; maybe I’d be wrong, but I don’t see how anything of meaning is accomplished.  So for the sake of argument, I’ll take them at their word and at the word of their various catechisms and confessions of faith, several of which cite Ephesians 2 as “proof” texts of these teachings.

Such people are clearly wrong, and Ephesians 2 in and of itself is sufficient proof.

Why Class Election (a.k.a. Corporate Election) is the only possible interpretation of Ephesians 2

Ephesians 2:5-7

5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)  6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:  7That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

Christians are raised up together (in the past) with Christ and made to sit together in Christ Jesus (in the past) so that He might show the exceeding riches of His grace (in the future).

This is completely inconsistent with the notion of individual predestination, especially since the resurrection and ascension of Christ was 2000 years ago.  No individual can be on earth today if he was, in the past, made to sit together in Heaven (again, in the past).  Heaven and earth are two different places.  If you, as an individual, have already been raised up and made to sit in Heaven in the past, you are not on earth.

The passage only makes sense if the “us” Paul refers to is a classification of people (the classification of people “in Christ”) and individuals are not predestined to that class.  It is in that way and only in that way that Christians are raised up together (as should be obvious, the deaths of Christians have been quite staggered over the last couple millennia) with Christ in order to show them the riches of His grace in the future.

Some monergists will respond, “Sure, class predestination, fine, but individuals can still be predestined to that class!  You haven’t proven that isn’t true!”  Not if you read verse 7.  If individuals were predestined to that class, the riches of His grace would have already been shown.  Since the liberality and abundance of His grace (“riches” is a fine English word to use there, but “liberality and abundance” is a more accurate description of the transliterated Greek “ploutos”) is to be shown in the future to the individuals of the classification, in spite of the fact that Christians are raised up together in the past, individual predestination to salvation is logically impossible in light of this passage.

Why synergism is the only possible interpretation of Ephesians 2

Some monergists will point to verses 8 and 9 and say they teach monergistic faith:

8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  9Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Such people simply do not look at the text.  “That” is not of yourselves.  Interesting thing about the word “that:” it is a singular pronoun.  “That” must either be referring to grace OR faith, but not both. Yet I’ll admit, those verses in and of themselves do not prove that faith isn’t “not of yourself.”

Clearly at least one of either grace or faith must be “not of yourself.”  The monergist and the Bible are in agreement there.  We’re left with three logical possibilities:

(1) Grace AND faith are not of yourself.
(2) Grace is not of yourself, but faith is.
(3) Faith is not of yourself, but grace is.

(3) is so ridiculous as to hardly warrant discussion, but for the sake of academic thoroughness I’ll give it its due.  You are saved by grace (v5) because you are raised with Christ (v6).  You did not resurrect Christ.  Therefore, (3) is wrong.

(1) is the belief of the monergist, and it is logically irreconcilable with Ephesians 2.  There is a sequence to grace and faith, either: (A) faith must come before grace, (B) grace must come before faith, or (C) they must come at the exact same time.

As was demonstrated above, the class of those in Christ was raised with Him (in the past) so that the riches of His grace would come (in the future).  This makes both (A) and (C) irreconcilable with (1).  If neither faith or grace is of yourself, but you, as an individual, are raised with Christ in the past, before you or your grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents were even born, then you have received grace before you had faith.  To say otherwise is to say that you deserved to be raised with Christ at that time, which again, was in the past. If you deserved it, then it would be of yourself.

(B) is impossible in light of verse 8.  By grace you are saved through faith.  Faith is the channel by which grace is received.  Without faith, there is no grace.

Being exhausted of possibilities, (1) is logically irreconcilable.

Therefore, the only logical possibility is that grace is not of yourself, but faith is.  Monergistic faith, a.k.a. irresistible grace, stands in complete opposition to Ephesians 2.  It stands in complete opposition to many other passages in the New Testament, as well as several of the Messianic prophecies.

Christians need not shy away from discussions with Calvinists about Ephesians chapter 2.  It is true, and the truth is on the side of Christ.  It’s also only logically on the side of class election and synergism, even in and of itself.

It Takes More Than a Clean Slate: 1 Timothy 3:16

One of the very common arguments for ‘original sin’ is that without it, it would be possible for men to be blameless in God’s sight without a need to repent or be baptized, and if you’re blameless to God, you’ll go to Heaven. Since the Bible says that those things are necessary, all mankind must somehow be inherently sinful from their creation.

Another silly argument (of which most Calvinist clergy know the problems, but they see no problem trying to trick less knowledgeable people with. Some people would call that ‘lying,’ but I digress) is that if Jesus died for everybody, then everybody must be going to Heaven, otherwise God is unjust: He’d be punishing the same sin twice.

Regardless of whatever other problems (and there are many) exist with such a worldview, a huge one is this: the Bible makes one thing clear in 1 Timothy 3:16 in conjunction with a sinless Christ: it takes more than a clean slate.

16And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

Christ in the flesh was justified by the Holy Spirit. Christ committed no sin in spite of the fact that he was tempted in every way we are (Hebrews 4:15, 1 Peter 2:22). He was blameless by the law. Yet He was justified by the Spirit, not by His lack of sin.

This is of very serious importance. Christ’s lack of sin was His own doing (Hebrews 4:15), yet He was justified by the Holy Spirit. To say that Christ was justified by His lack of sin is to equate Christ’s actions with the Holy Spirit’s, and therefore to tread in Modalist territory.

It takes more than a clean slate to go to Heaven. Thankfully, that’s what being united with Christ, who was justified by the Holy Spirit, provides: a clean slate and more. He’s able to sanctify you wholly and present you to the Father with great joy. The Bible makes clear that’s in addition to being presented blameless in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Jude 24:

23And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
—–
24Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

Original sin is not a logical necessity for all mankind to need Christ, and a clean slate is not enough. You need Christ because blameless, even though you won’t reach it anyway, isn’t enough.

The Time Independence of God

I’m planning a series of posts in which I lay out Christian responses (though I won’t go as far as to say all-sufficient ‘answers,’ for those who reject the Bible, just Biblical ones) to Bertrand Russell’s The Problems of Philosophy.  In rereading Russell’s classic yesterday, I was reminded of one attribute of God: His time independence.

Anyone remotely familiar with Christianity (or Judaism, Islam, and most of the other religions) knows that it is not beyond the God (or god) of those faiths to intervene or dwell in whatever universe in which we dwell.   The universe in which we dwell is one of space-time; a 3-dimensional space that combines with time to make a singular mathematical manifold.  What I want to make clear is that the God of Christianity doesn’t have to: His existence is not dependent upon the existence of time.

Some logic:

1. Time (which, for the sake of this will be the dimension of time in which we exist) exists. (axiomatic)
2. Time is either eternal  or time has origin.
3. God exists. (axiomatic)
4. God is either eternal  or God has origin.
5. If a set of events has a property of time ordered sequence, they must exist within time. (axiomatic)
6. If something exists and has origin, there exists a time-ordered sequence of events, at a minimum: the origin event, the event of its present existence.
7. God either must completely exist within time all the time or not, which is to say that either time’s existence is a necessary precondition for God’s existence or it’s not.
8.  If time’s existence is a necessary precondition for God’s existence, then either time is eternal or God has origin.
9.  If God is eternal, either time is eternal or time need not be a precondition for God’s existence.

Logically, we’re left with very few possibilities.  If God exists, we either have to believe in a created God (by which I mean a God with origin, be it some cosmic incident or actually created by some other ultra-mega god), in eternal time, or in the time independence of God: a God who, while by no means incapable of existing within time, need not necessarily.

Genesis 1:3-5:

 3And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.  4And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.  5And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

By that passage, there is no room to believe that time, again, by which I mean the dimension of time which in tandem with space, forms the space-time in which we exist, is eternal.  There was a first unit of time, meaning time has origin, meaning it is not eternal.

1 Timothy 1:17:

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

By that passage (and many others), there is no room to believe that God has origin.  God is eternal.

Therefore the Christian is left with two necessary logical truths: God is time independent and there is existence outside of our space-time manifold.   Indeed, it is in these things that the Christian hopes: that by grace through faith one has union with God, and in that union one has access to eternal life.

Paving the Way: John the Baptist

A very solid Christian blog I follow, CloudIn, made a post on John the Baptist as Elijah.  I heartily recommend reading it.

I don’t wish to detract from their work, but expand upon one of the prophecies of John the Baptist’s coming (that comes from 2 different places): that John would prepare the way for the Christ.  Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1

 3The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

1Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.

Other prophecies refer to the fact that the messenger would be Elijah, and Jesus himself confirmed that John the Baptist was Elijah in Matthew ch 11:

 10For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

11Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

But how did John prepare the way for Jesus?  John was Jesus’ seemingly crazy cousin.  A guy who wore camel skins, ate locusts and honey, didn’t drink alcohol, and cried out for the people to repent.  So how did this prepare the way for Jesus?

John did have an effective ministry.  John did make it clear by his mannerisms that he was very similar to Elijah, which would make people on the lookout for the coming Christ.  Both are part of the way John paved the way for Jesus, but I don’t think they are the only way.

John the Baptist personally denied being Elijah (John 1:21).  Which was true in a sense.  He wasn’t literally Elijah.  He had earthly parents, and he was conceived by Elizabeth after John’s father Zacharias returned from his duties as the temple priest.  Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind centuries ago.  But he was a type of Elijah.  He came in the spirit and power of Elijah.  This is very important.

Jesus came and established a new covenant by fulfilling the old one.  Many of the Old Testament commandments under the old covenant were to the Israelites and anyone else with them forever.  Forever means forever.  The grain offerings, the wave offerings, the Passover, the atonement sacrifices: they were a commandment forever.  Jesus is all of those things, but he’s not literally wine, water, grain, bulls, goats, or lambs.  He was fully man and fully God, and is fully God.

The fact that John both was and wasn’t Elijah paved the way for Jesus.  He made it clear that although not literally Elijah, he was Elijah in a sense. Just as Jesus is not literally any of those things, He is in a sense.  He is our eternal Passover Lamb, atonement sacrifice, etc.

The things of the old covenant were shadows of the new.  They were types.  God made it clear with John both being in the spirit and power of Elijah and not Elijah in the flesh that he was fulfilling the old covenant just as He had promised, with something new and eternal.  The things of the old covenant were not the physical manifestation of the things of the new.

The manifestation would change.  The spirit and power would not, as even the faithful of the Old Testament are saved by Jesus’ power through their faith.  God made that clear with John, and that paved the way for Jesus.

A Conversation With Myself: Why I Speak Against Monergism

Much of what you’ve written in the theological vein is very anti-Calvinist, or more broadly, anti-monergist.  Why?  Aren’t there other heresies to decry?

Yes, there are many other heresies to decry.  Monergism is a unique one, at least to me.  It’s a belief held by some people that I love and care about.  People who either are close to me or have been.  People who ostensibly truly believe in their hearts and minds that they love, worship, and care about the cause of the One True God.  People who do read the Bible and books about the Bible.  Who go to church.  Who give of themselves.  Who are not ashamed of their faith.  I hate to see such people be so wrong about this critical aspect of Christianity.

Critical?

Critical might be a strong word to use there.  Might.  At a minimum, I’ll say important.  The most fundamental truth of Christianity is,”Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Almost nobody, I suspect nobody, who calls himself or herself a Christian, when confronted with that simple statement, will deny it.  Evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Restorationists, Reformers, Eastern Orthodox, Calvinists, and Arminians do not deny it.  That’s not all though: Arians, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Modalists and other sets of folks that most in the former list would not call “Christians” won’t deny it either.  Perhaps those in the latter list would deny it upon further reflection, and I’ll emphasize perhaps, but if given that statement and asked, “True or false?” the vast majority would instinctively reply “True.”  It’s a very short statement, and almost seems trivial to many Christians.  They confess such a thing, and should, but I don’t know if some folks realize just how many unique statements (and this list is not exhaustive) are extracted from that one:

(1) Jesus (referring to Jesus of Nazareth) is a Christ.
(2) There is only one Christ.
(3) God has one, and only one, Son.
(4) That Son is Jesus.
(5) There is one, and only one, God that has the attribute of “living”.
(6) The God to Whom Jesus is the Son is alive.

These things are a very big deal in Christianity.  Deny any one of them, and you cannot say, “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  That’s why I say many in the second list, upon further reflection, might deny it.

That doesn’t at all explain why a false belief in monergism is critical, or even important.

It does if you understand statements (1) and (2).  What is this “Christ” thing that Jesus is? It’s a six letter word in and of itself, and only a six letter word in English.  What’s important is the meaning of that word.  The set of stuff to which that word refers. You can say, “Jesus is a Christ and there is only one Christ,” but if you believe that “Christ” means an anthropomorphic coffee maker who is an expert in fencing and a sexual deviant, then the statement lacks the meaning it has in Christianity, and you would be very wrong. There are thousands of years of texts written on it, and a man could spend quite literally an entire lifetime reading and pondering them.  There are likely dozens, if not hundreds, of such texts sitting in the Vatican Library that haven’t been touched for centuries.  So even if I could rehash the extent of it, I won’t.

The Christ is the One who was foretold by the prophets: the Messiah.  The Anointed One.  The One who would be born of a virgin.  He’s also the One who would deliver a synergistic, not monergistic, salvation that is all to God’s glory (Isaiah 9:4).  Therefore, to deny that the salvation that came by Jesus is synergistic is very arguably to deny that Jesus is the Christ.

Well I can see why you say “critical,” but I don’t understand why you would consider reducing it to “important.”  Regardless, that seems like a bit of a stretch.  It seems like you’re saying that without a proper Christology or soteriology, a man is not a Christian.  Many good Christians don’t even know what “Christology” or “soteriology” even are, let alone have a complete, accurate, Biblical definition of them.

Let me be clear then.  I’m not saying that.

It sounds like you are.

Well I’m not.  First off, I’m not out to pass judgment on folks, at least not at this time (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).  Second, if someone doesn’t know that salvation is synergistic or understand it, I see no reason to believe that such a person is not a Christian.

Well then why is it so important or critical?

Because there is a huge gulf between simply not knowing or understanding that the salvation Jesus delivered is synergistic and actively denying that it is.  Not knowing or understanding isn’t preferable to knowing and understanding, but there’s a big difference between those and actively denying.  To actively deny that the salvation Jesus delivered is both synergistic and all to God’s glory is to deny that Isaiah 9:4 refers to the One God proclaims shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God. Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), which can only be the Christ.

How could that be anything but critical?

Because it equates being, not necessarily correct, but at least not actively wrong, about one aspect of Jesus with having faith that Jesus is the Christ.  There are many aspects to the Christ.  Can somebody be actively, clearly wrong about one aspect of Jesus and still have saving faith Jesus is the Christ?  If so, how many are they allowed to be actively wrong about?  The truth: I don’t know.  That’s why I say it’s important at a minimum, and might be critical.

Muslims believe in Jesus, and call Him a prophet.  Christians do too.  But Muslims don’t believe that Jesus is the begotten Son of God.  This, too, is one aspect of the Christ.  The heavily monergist Gospel Coalition thinks that’s sufficient to say they don’t believe in the same God.  I’m not saying they’re right or wrong, I’m just saying the logic is much more nuanced than they make it out to be.

So, that’s why

Yeah, that’s why.  In all truth and love, I call upon monergists to repent.  Christians are to be in unity with one another, but in unity with one another in the true, Biblical Christ.  Not a god according to their own understanding.

Why Midian, Isaiah? or Salvation is Synergistic and that Doesn’t Diminish God’s Glory

Isaiah 9:4 makes a direct comparison between the coming Christ’s salvation and the freedom of Israel from Midian:

4For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

Gideon faced an impossible task.  As if there were any doubt, God imposed restrictions on Gideon to ensure that Israel knew the work was God’s. Judges 7:2:

2And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.

Gideon’s force, which already faced an extremely difficult task, was reduced to 300.  Gideon couldn’t possibly reason, outside of God’s word, that this would work. Without God, he would have been at least relentlessly mocked.  Eventually, he would have been slaughtered. Gideon and his 300 people still had to obey God by shouting, blowing horns, marching, and breaking some pottery.

There are those who would say that synergism diminishes God’s glory in the work of salvation.  To which I can only respond, “Does the fact that God required Gideon and his people to do things reduce His glory?” Not even a little.  They couldn’t boast in such a victory: it was God’s. The task was impossible for them to win without God. But God, in order to search the heart of men by their actions (as He does, Jeremiah 17:10, Ezekiel 18:30), and in His true sovereignty and justice, still imposed this rule upon them.  God also provided a means, a means that is all to His glory, for them to do it. That’s the view of synergism.

What if God didn’t require Gideon to do such a thing? Wouldn’t that make God a respecter of persons? He’s not (Romans 2:11).

There are some people who will say that verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9 or Romans 9:16 make it clear that faith is monergistic:

 8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

9Not of works, lest any man should boast.

16So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

Those verses say grace comes from God as a gift that you do not deserve. I concur. Even after faith and repentance, you do not deserve to be forgiven. It is only because God, in His love and sovereignty, proclaims that through faith which produces repentance that you receive grace that you are able to receive it. Just as it was with Midian: victory was God’s gift.  Gideon’s will couldn’t win the battle, only God could.

At this point, some monergists will claim that if faith is our own decision, then it’s a work.  Since we are saved by God’s work and not our own, God must monergistically grant faith.  Where I think there’s a big logical leap (with anti-Biblical logical implications) is the seeming equation of a cognitive decision (as I contend faith is) and works, or rather that cognitive decisions are included in the set of things that are works.

For one, never, not once, ever, is a cognitive decision referred to in the Bible as a “work” in and of itself. That doesn’t make it necessarily untrue, in and of itself. There are lots of things that are true that are not in the Bible, but it is dangerous.  The Bible simply doesn’t say that.

Another is if persons are saved monergistically, we either have to believe in Universalism or in a pathetic god, because the true God desires that all come to repentance and has no pleasure in the death of him who dies (Ezekiel 18:32):

32For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

Therefore, to attribute salvation to grace through monergistic faith means that either everyone is saved, or that God is incapable, either through His desire to save (which would make Him a liar) or power to save (which would make Him weaker), to provide faith to all people. Neither is true. He’s capable, but in His justice and sovereignty requires you to seek the promise by faith (Romans 9:31-33):

31But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

32Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

33As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

Gideon sought God’s promise by faith.  And just like Gideon, He’s provided the means. That’s the Christ’s salvation that Isaiah said was coming.

That’s why Midian matters, and that’s why the Holy Spirit through Isaiah pointed to Midian.  We are saved the way Israel was saved in the days of Gideon, through grace that is both synergistic and doesn’t diminish God’s glory.