Monday, January 21, 2008

This week in living

I didn't get to blog this weekend because I was hectically busy.

In the first place, I quit my new job and got a newER job. I had to for the sake of my studies. So my evenings were a little shot because I got back late, which effected my bible studies.

I was not so happy because I wanted to read quite a lot of the bible and trying to read 50 chapters of the bible in one day is not recommended.

Well, I do have good news. I read 13 chapters from Exodus 20, my church is making me a member and I have to get into a study groove.

In the Exodus, I read about the Holy of Holies and the Ark measurements. All I can say is that God is quite specific. I don't understand how people can use the excuse "but the intention was right." How dare we excuse our sinful behaviour with intention? No, God requires absolute obedience.

And on the topic of absolutes, I learned something awesome from statistics. It's called the Law of large numbers: It basically states that given a set of random inputs, the average mean will approach the expected mean as the set of inputs increased. To give an example, if you flip a coin, what are the odds of it falling on heads? 50/50 right? Try prove that using actual flips! You may get heads 3 times and tails once! That isn't 50/50! But that is only four inputs! The more times you flip, the closer you will approach the expected 50/50!

Knowing that, you can actually talk to a post-modern. People sometimes throw away the thought of God due to the fact that interpretation is limited to the readers perspective. They hate Christianity because there are such diverse interpretations, and those interpretations cause divisions. But just because there are diverse interpretations doesn't mean there isn't an objective truth. The whole point of Christianity is to find out the truth, it's not imputed TRUTH, it's imputed righteousness! God's word itself tells us to study and be diligent. So post-modernism is no excuse.

Also my pastor made an awesome point last night. Some people reject limited atonement. They fail to realise that everyone limits the atonement. Either you limit it's power (I have to add MY faith to be saved) or you limit it's intention (Christ died to save His people Matt 1:21). Now to be honest I'd rather belong to the camnp that exludes unbelievers that tries to limit the power of Christs death, and I certainly refuse universilism.

Every corner I turn, I find no reason to accept Arminian theology. So many times in evangelism, people will ask "What about a guy on an island that has never heard of God? What about him? God is unfair to ask that people believe!" That is actually a very good argument, if you don't trust God to save people. Exposure to the gospel would be a great exuse to God on judgement day: "You never sent anyone to tell me to repent." People would be right if salvation was a work of man and they had less opportunity to repent than others. That is why I can say: "if God purposes to save that man, He will. Let's worry what you are going to do now that you know that you are a sinner in need of a saviour."

We are sinners. We need a saviour. Jesus Christ is the only one who can save. That is the gospel. That's what everyone (including Christians) need to hear. We never outgrow the gospel.

Praise the Lord. Grace and Peace to you!


Mike the Tike said...

My problem with limited atonement:

Some people reject limited atonement. They fail to realise that everyone limits the atonement. Either you limit it's power (I have to add MY faith to be saved) or you limit it's intention (Christ died to save His people Matt 1:21).

Firstly, not everyone limits the atonement. The line "...Either you limit it's power (I have to add MY faith to be saved)..." is one of the many straw men that Calvinists (incorrectly) use to argue their points. You do not have to add your faith to be saved. In Romans 5, Paul describes salvation as "God's free gift"(verse 15) which
1. is free, and 2. "abounds and overflows"(amplified version) to the many.

My question is this: How can any gift that is free require anything more than acceptance from the receiver? If I offer to give you R100, do you need to add R20 to it to receive it? No, you only need to accept the offer and the entirety of it will be yours.

In the same way God offers salvation as a free gift. You can accept it or not accept it. By Paul's definition, faith is being sure of what you hope for. In this case, you are hoping that God exists and is offering you a free gift. Once you have accepted the gift, a lack of faith does not nullify the fact that you have received it.

Coming back to the second point you made: "...or you limit it's intention (Christ died to save His people Matt 1:21)." I can only assume that this is the 'L' in the Calvinist flower, stating that Christ's atonement was limited to those whom God has unconditionally elected to be saved.

I have a couple of questions regarding this limiting of atonement:
1. If one man (Adam) could bring death to all, why can Jesus' salvation only cover those whom God has elected? That is, is Jesus' atonement not as powerful as the transgression of Adam?
Why then does Paul describe God's gift of salvation as overflowing and more abundant than the transgression of Adam in Romans 5? Are the "all men" that Paul speaks of when referring to God's free gift not the same "all men" that he says were condemned by Adam?

2. If the argument for limited atonement is that the overflow of Christ's atonement cannot go to waste and therefore cannot overflow, then what of the animal sacrifices on the Jewish day of atonement (see Levi. 16)?
The atonement provided by the sacrificed goat and the scapegoat was not limited to specific number of people: As the population of Israel grew, there was no need for more goats to be sacrificed to cover the larger number of Israelites. Also, the atonement was not limited to only those who were faithful to God - all the sins of Israel were atoned.

There was an additional command for the Day of Atonement: that you should do no work and that you should be humble (afflicted in some versions). Failure to do so would result in death or being cut off from Israel respectively. This may sound like limited atonement, but consider that all of the sins of Israel were confessed upon the scapegoat and paid for by the sacrificial goat. If it were limited atonement, then only those sins for whom God had (unconditionally, whether they had been humble or not) elected would have been confessed and sacrificed.

Qjay said...

Hey Mike!

Your questions had me up most of last night, but I decided my answer was getting too long. I tried to respond to every point you made, which we can do, if you want. But primarily I think we should consider the ESSENTIALS. I would rather look at our disagreement from a high level BEFORE going into every individual problem. I don't want a debate where I knock holes in your position and then you knock holes in mine. As I have said I have a response in all that you have said, and it is LONG. A long letter doesn't help, as I learned with "What a friend I've found."

Focusing on the essentials (hopefully where we agree): the work of Christ is what saves man. Christ achieved what He set out to do. The gospel, at Calvary, was a success, not a possible success. This would be the same as saying that Salvation comes through Christ and Christ alone. God is not waiting to see who will respond, since that denies His omniscience.

Now I think we divide in our interpretation of the bible. We both have opinions on what the bible communicates and we have a right to have those opinions. There are some critical doctrines that divide 'Christians', but sadly there are non-critical ones that divide us as well. Where I fail is making the non-criticals critical in my fellowship. We should not deny each other as brothers just because we read it different. But in the same breath I will attend church with like minded interpreters.

The MEANS of salvation should not divide us, unless we become man-centered in it. We need to agree (and I'm sure we both will), that ALL people are in NEED of salvation. While (I think) you believe that God does not choose, I believe God does choose but that is the extent to which God reveals His choosing. The outcome is the same world. I think there is a peaceable solution to this.

I don't mind having different beliefs, but I feel like I've made it an unnecessarily contentious issue. We would have the same overall evangelical strategy: praying to God to change hearts and begging men to change. We give God all the glory for our salvation. We must be careful that our doctrine comes from the plainest reading of scripture and treat scripture like it's the very words of a perfect God.

That's my feeling on the issue as a whole. We can argue back and forth, but at the end of the day neither side will benefit if we are not trying to build each other up. That doesn't mean all arguments must be positive and agreeing, but rather loving in nature.

In that I would rather look at your argument piece by piece. With regard to building a straw man: If the atonement is not limited in any sense, that is UNIVERSAL atonement. Is that taught by scripture? Does the bible clearly say that Christs death gives ETERNAL life and SANCTIFICATION to every man of every tribe? What is your view of the atonement?

Mike the Tike said...

Hey Qjay

Thanks for responding. I would really like it if you answered piece for piece.

The straw man is this(from the original post): If you don't believe that Christ's atonement is limited to the elect, then you still believe in a limited atonement of sorts: that Christ's atonement is not powerful enough to save you, but Christ's atonement plus my faith is actually what saves me.

The statement falsely represents what non-Calvinist's believe, hence why I called it a straw man. Shooting it down does not prove limited atonement.

With regards to:
"If the atonement is not limited in any sense, that is UNIVERSAL atonement. ...[meaning that] Christs death gives ETERNAL life and SANCTIFICATION to every man of every tribe..." I assume you mean this in the sense of "Christs death gives ETERNAL life and SANCTIFICATION to every man of every tribe [whether he accepts it or not]".
That would be a whole new straw man - I'm not saying that at all. There would be no Bible if the apostles believed that.
If you mean that Christ's death offers eternal life and sanctification to all men, then yes. That's exactly what the whole first post was about. See the last paragraph for the scripture.

My view of God's atonement is this:

As you have said, salvation comes through Christ and Christ alone. Christ's work causes the salvation. It creates the gift that God freely offers us in Romans 5.
The gift is complete. It is one place in heaven, free of charge, and forgiveness for all sins. It is the same atonement that is given on the Day of Atonement, only permanent. It is not a coupon that can be used in conjunction with one scoop of my faith to receive the above mentioned items.

Finally, the gift can be received or not. If the number of gifts were limited - as limited atonement states - then God would only be offering them to those that He has chosen. It would be terribly embarrassing for God if He offered it to someone and there was no gift. According to the Calvinist doctrine, these chosen would then be compelled by God to accept this free gift.

As far as I can tell, Paul (in Romans 5 at least) doesn't seem to be arguing that.
1. To me there is one gift (Paul often calls it "the gift"), not a limited number.
2. He is offering it to everyone. He says something like (please correct me if I've gotten it wrong, its Romans 5:18, the words in brackets are mine) "As by the offense of one man [Adam] judgement [and hence death] came to all men, so by the righteous act of one man [Jesus] leads to acquittal and right standing with God [the free gift] for all men.

Looking forward to your reply.

Qjay said...

Hey Mike,

I would like to go through my original response again, rather than just plonking it down as it was. I did foresee Romans 5:18 being the crunch verse.

Mike I think we all offer it to all men, but different to God (God knows more than us). You see, I believe God is so complex He has actually managed to give us a will, while not affecting His own.

The problem with solely relying on man's will, it would produce unfairness in the universe. That's how Romans starts, that NO ONE is without excuse as to a knowledge of God. But God maintains sovereignty.

I'm not saying that man does not choose, but that God chose first and it is an effective calling. When you say "According to the Calvinist doctrine, these chosen would then be compelled by God to accept this free gift" that's true! That's irresistible (or effective) grace.

The thing is in Romans and other areas, God is revealing some of His mind, and it's got to be difficult.

With regard to the R100 analogy: If God is just standing there with this gift, and has not told anyone that they NEED this R100, how are we supposed to know to receive it? It would be luck that dictates whether I take it, or if not that, then MY SENSE. What kind of people would be in heaven? The kind of people that had the sense (of themselves) to take the R100. I'm R100 richer because I took it, and my neighbour didn't. That does give man a platform on which to boast.

This paints an incorrect picture of God, are we the ones who seek Him? While the bible does exhort us to seek him, it also tells us that NO ONE actually does. That means that God has to come and bring us in Himself. If God does not seek us out, then no one would get saved. This is the book of Romans. Where Paul deals with the issues of Man's responsibility and God's sovereignty. He puts God on a platform higher than man. When it comes to people, God has the right to choose. He's GOD!

If Christ purchased the gift alone, then He did hoping someone would accept the gift. Instead Christ's death purchased the people for whom He died. Another thing is that WE are the gift. We, the elect are, according to Revelation 5:9, "purchased men for God."

But eternal life is the issue here. If you asked anyone what their greatest fear is, I'm sure it would boil down to the unknown. The unknown includes that which they cannot control. Remember that Satan in Genesis 3 appealed to the woman's will and that is what lead to sin. Our will, like our greatest parents, is bound to sin. We can't (we don't have the ability to) choose anything good.

"...then God would only be offering [the gift] to those that He has chosen" That is true. But I don't claim to know who these people are! That's why I will go to ALL men everywhere. Whoever accepts the good news, great! If not, weep and mourn over them, perhaps they will later.

I will go through point by point your first post maybe tonight. God bless!

Mike the Tike said...

I'm still not convinced. Paul has more than enough time to explain that he doesn't mean that God has offered the gift to (and I use Paul's words here - in all translations) "all men". Yet he doesn't.
If what you're saying is true then God is really not offering the gift to all men - he is only offering it to the elect. What's more, he's not really offering it. Those who are elect are "compelled" to receive it. That is a two step process that really makes no sense.

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but isn't Paul's logic in the chapter: One man dooms all people, one man offers salvation to all people?

The sovereign God argument, while it is true, is not a very good one. You can argue anything with it. Here's a simple example of a false point: God demands that every year we sacrifice our first born. Why does he do this? Because He is sovereign. Case closed.

Lastly, I do not believe that eternal life relies solely on man's will. It's not like God has set this system in motion and we are now pressing the buttons. As any giver does, God still retains the right to not give the gift to someone who has accepted it. Going back to the (now overused) R100 analogue, the receiver cannot boast that he created the R100. No more can a Christian claim that he is responsible for his salvation simply because he accepted it.

Qjay said...

Hi Mike,
Sorry for the delayed response.

I would agree that Paul does have more than enough time to explain his position. He deals with election in Romans 9. In chapter 5 Paul speaks of the differences between the gift and the original trespass. V16 Tells us the gift forgives ALL trespasses, not like the one trespass that damned us all. Verse 17 qualifies those as "all who recieve" this gift and 18 continues that all men have justification and life. The book is not claiming who will be saved but rather is making a reference to those that will be saved (An additional side note, the book is written to people who are called by God, Romans 1:7).

No sane calvinist claims to know who the elect are. We beg men to serve God, we offer the gospel in love to every person we meet. There is NO SIN that can separate men from God in our eyes. Love is the name of the game.

Do all men have eternal justification and eternal life? The bible does not teach that, some will go to hell, that is clear and plain. Therefore all men does refer to every single man, but the bible does not not teach that all will be saved, or that it is our choice for Christ that saves us.

The issue here, I think, is the choice. Do men have choice? There is a fundamental line that I dance on, but in the end it comes down to this: I think I have choice, therefore I choose. I know that in God's sovereignty I will never be able to escape His will. But just as Genesis 1:1 teaches that I thank God for the ground below me, so does Genesis 1:1 teach that I thank Him for the choices in front of me. Did I choose God? Yes! But do I believe I could have done it without Him first doing a work in me? No. Jesus says that we must be born again to be saved (John 3:3), which is the Spirit's work in us and completely up to Him (John 3:8).

The glorious thing is that God is not cold in this. He claims that whoever calls on His name will be saved (Acts 2). Therefore what we are discussing, Mike, is the mind of God. Who are we to understand it all? Both of us are looking at the same thing from different angles. We both go to all men and offer them this free gift. I have assurance that God will call whom He wills to call, and therefore our evangelism is never wasted.

I would correct you on that - Paul is saying that one act gave all people "Justification OF life" (KJV) - which could explain why God doesn't bodily kill us when we sin. He allows us to continue. A promise that goes from Genesis to now.

I would say the Soveriegn God argument is the only argument. If God really demanded the firstborn, He would get it. He tested Abraham like that - did Abraham say recant of faith?. But praise Him He does not say that! That's the best part of the gospel: we know God, He is just, but He is also love!

Are you saying God will not give the gift to someone who requests it (obviously they have to request the right gift - fire insurance is not offered by God)? I have not seen bible that teaches that, that a truly regenerate person can fall out of the love of God. It sounds like you disagree with Perserverence of the saints, we can chat about that as well.

Mike the Tike said...

Hey man

I think you and myself are missing each other's meanings. We should probably complete this conversation in person.