Sweet Relief

There was a time when Calvinists were sticklers for logic and believed emphatically in the inherent harmony of God’s Word. This belief is central to biblical Christianity (as if there were any other kind) and is the principle upon which every other Christian doctrine rests.   For example, concerning the method of interpretation the Westminster Confession of Faith 1.9 states: “when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture, (which is not manifold, but one,) it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” If the Scriptures consisted of a collection of conflicting and contradictory doctrines this principle of biblical interpretation would be impossible. Concerning the sufficiency of Scripture WCF 1.6 states; “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture….”   Even the belief in the truthfulness of Scripture itself  (WCF 1.5) rests, in part, on “the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole, (which is to give all glory to God)….”

Beyond Westminster and concerning the five points of Calvinism (TULIP) hammered out at the Synod  of Dort (1618-1619) and in response to the corrupting novelties of the Arminians, B. B. Warfield wrote: “They are, each and every one of them, essential elements in the Calvinistic system, the denial of which in any of their essential details is logically the rejection of the entirety of Calvinism; and in their sum they provide what is far from being a bad epitome of the Calvinistic system.”  Even the  “prince of theologians,” John Calvin, has been view by many throughout history as being “too logical,” as if such a thing were possible. One commentator I stumbled on recently characterized Calvin’s masterwork, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, as “the most severe, logical, and terrifying book of all Protestantism.”  Sadly, I don’t think those words could be used to describe the work of most modern day followers of Calvin or the system of doctrine he inspired.

Today most of those calling themselves “Calvinists” are what I would call pious misologists.  Wikipedia defines misology as “the fear or distrust of reason or logic.”  I recently came across an example of  “pious misology” very close to home.  While searching the website of a local PCA church I stumbled on a short piece by pastor William Harrell entitled, “Tensions in Scripture.”  In many ways the piece is the typical Van Til inspired attack on the sufficiency of Scripture.  However, for my purposes here I just want to focus on Harrell’s opening statement where he writes:

There are great tensions in Scripture.  For example, there are such teachings as divine sovereignty and human responsibility, as well as the clear teaching on the necessity of faith and good works being joined together in the believer’s life.  The supreme tension is found in the person and work of Jesus, who was and now is and shall forever be fully God and truly man, and whose work was one of His holy heavenly Father putting to death His only begotten Son for the sake of vile sinners.  These things and others like them are regarded by unbelievers as absurd contradictions in the Bible.  Even some believers endeavor to resolve the apparent contradictions by their opting to believe one doctrine, such as human responsibility, while denying or at least ignoring the companion doctrine of divine sovereignty.  Such endeavors issue from man’s reliance on their own powers of logic instead of their trusting in the Lord to reconcile such apparent contradictions.  Precisely speaking, these sorts of challenging doctrines are not contradictions, but rather vital companions.  How they go together may be mysterious to us, but their incomprehensibility does not make them untrue.  In fact, the intellectual and emotional tension that results when we assert the compatibility of such seemingly inconsistent doctrines provides the energy that drives us on prayerfully to explore the depths of the Word.  We do this not in a quest to discover a unifying principle so much as to embrace the person of God, who alone understands every jot of His Word and how all aspects of it cohere perfectly.

The first thing to notice is that for Harrell the apparent contradictions of Scripture are not difficulties or puzzles to be solved.  To harmonize, say, divine sovereignty and human responsibility, is to betray the Christian faith.  That’s because these seemingly contradictory and incompatible doctrines provide “the energy that drives us on prayerfully to explore the depths of the Word” even if it can’t  provide a solution.  What the prayerful exploration of God’s Word should do, at least according to Harrell, is cause us realize that God alone understands how His Word “coheres perfectly” even if we have no clue.  Harrell assures us that

Precisely speaking, these sorts of challenging doctrines are not contradictions, but rather vital companions. How they go together may be mysterious to us, but their incomprehensibility does not make them untrue.

Think about this for a moment.  Doctrines that appear to be contradictory to us are really “vital companions.”  Even more troubling, precisely how these “vital companions” fit together (i.e., are harmonized) “may be mysterious to us,”  but this unintelligibly “does not make them untrue.”   Now, it is correct that just because we may not know how certain doctrines logically cohere this does not necessarily make them untrue.  However, if paradoxical doctrines cannot be reconciled so as to be shown to be no contradictions at all (that is, after all, what the word paradox means), then the truth of at least one of these “vital companions” is, at best, suspect.

If we are to accept Harrell’s “vital companion” theory then the truth of the entire Christian system is suspect.  Normally when faced with a seeming contradiction the intellectually honest thing to do is to recheck our premises.  Perhaps we have misunderstood a particular doctrine or incorrectly defined one of our terms?  Historically “inconsistent doctrines” have provided the impetus that would drive theologians to attempt to resolve these seemingly contradictory doctrines of Scripture.  Not any more.  Modern day Calvinists like Harrell assures us that the Word of God provides no “unifying principle”  that can unite seemingly contradictory doctrines.  Could anyone imagine John Calvin making such a claim when defending “the necessity of faith and good works being joined together in the believer’s life”?  I would think the papist wolves would have torn Calvin to shreds, and rightly so, if he appealed to mystery and the unintelligibly of Scripture in his explication of the relationship between faith and works, or, more broadly, between justification and sanctification.  If Calvin held to the belief that in Scripture there is no “unifying principle” and that the teachings of Scripture do not logically cohere,  it is hard to imagine how the Reformation could have advanced beyond being just a minor blip in history.   Frankly, I am convinced that if Calvin abandoned logic at this point, a point on which the entire Reformation would stand or fall, we’d all be genuflecting before the effete derriere of the pope instead of fighting for the centrality of justification by faith alone (as if  anyone really fights for that anymore) or any other major Christian doctrine for that matter.

The rub is that since the Scriptures themselves do not logically cohere in any number of places and instead confront the believer and unbeliever alike with irreconcilable points of “tension,” how can Harrell or anyone else  know that for God all aspects of His Word “cohere perfectly”?   Can he appeal to Scripture?  Not at all.  Again, Harrell assures us that Scripture provides no “unifying principle.”  So what is the solution that Harrell proposes?  It is this; we are to have faith in faith that for God all aspects of His Word “cohere perfectly.”  But, the reality is this isn’t faith in God at all.  Rather, this is faith in what Harrell and those like him tell us about these doctrines and the apparent insufficiency of Scripture.  On what authority can Harrell assure us that these irreconcilable and apparently  contradictory doctrines are “vital companions” and not the contradictions he admits that they appear to be?   If they appear to be absurd contradictions to unbelievers and mysterious and incomprehensible points of tension to believers, isn’t Harrell just advocating a veiled form of “implicit faith”?

Concerning the Romanish doctrine of implicit faith Calvin writes:

But besides wearing down the whole force of faith and almost annihilating it by their obscure definition, they have fabricated the fiction of “implicit faith.” Bedecking the grossest ignorance with this term, they ruinously delude poor, miserable folk. Furthermore, to state truly and frankly the real fact of the matter, this fiction not only buries but utterly destroys true faith. Is this what believing means — to understand nothing, provided only that you submit your feeling obediently to the church? Faith rests not on ignorance, but on knowledge. And this is, indeed, knowledge not only of God but of the divine will… .

Indeed, I do not deny-such is the ignorance with which we are surrounded — that most things are now implicit for us, and will be so until, laying aside the weight of the flesh, we come nearer to the presence of God. In these matters we can do nothing better than suspend judgment, and hearten ourselves to hold unity with the church. But on this pretext it would be the height of absurdity to label ignorance tempered by humility “faith”! For faith consists in the knowledge of God and Christ [John 17:3], not in reverence for the church [or in the affirmation of ignorance as the substitute of genuine faith – SG]. We see the sort of labyrinth they have constructed with this “implication” of theirs! Anything at all, provided it be palmed off on them under the label “church” — sometimes even the most frightful errors — the untutored indiscriminately seize upon as an oracle. This heedless gullibility, although it is the very brink of ruin, yet is excused by them; only on condition that “such is the faith of the church” does it definitely believe anything. Thus they fancy that in error they possess truth; in darkness, light; in ignorance, right knowledge. (Inst. III.ii.2,3)

I can think few things are more destructive to the Christian witness than Harrell’s “vital companion” theory.   The message to the unbeliever who thinks the bible consists of a series of “absurd contradictions” is that he is basically correct. Yes, the truths of Scripture, whether it is the doctrine of divine sovereignty and human responsibility, the relationship between faith and works, or the very person and work of Jesus Christ, all defy logic.  The message to the believer as he energetically and prayerfully searches the Scriptures is that his hope to resolve even one of these various points of “tension” is futile.   In fact, even attempting to resolve any of these biblical antinomies reveals a sinful reliance on the “powers of logic instead of their trusting in the Lord….”  The answer for the Christian is to repeat in mantra like fashion  “there are no contradictions in Scripture, just vital companions.”  Be satisfied with the belief that “How they go together may be mysterious to us, but their incomprehensibility does not make them untrue.” The answer to both the believer and  unbeliever is just more pious misology: if you want to be a Christian, specifically of the Calvinist variety, you need to check your mind at the door.

So, let’s look at just one of these points of  “tension” pastor Harrell asserts “may be mysterious to us, but their incomprehensibility does not make them untrue” and that is the apparent contradiction between divine sovereignty and human responsibility.  To put question simply; since God is sovereign and determines all things so that whatsoever comes to pass does so in accordance with His own will and good pleasure, including the sinful thoughts and actions of men, how then can men be responsible for their sin?  Implied in this is the belief that responsibility requires a free and undetermined will.  In this scenario any form of determinism is antithetical to human responsibility.  In order to be responsible men must be undetermined in at least some of their thoughts and actions ( particularly their sinful ones).  While God may have some limited influence over some of their thoughts and actions, in order to be responsible men must possess the freedom to choose without any prior cause or divine determination.  It is this underlying belief in man’s free will that is the sine qua non of human responsibility.

This is, after all, the Arminian and semi-Pelagian solution to the problem of sin and evil.  In this regard Harrell is correct and “some believers endeavor to resolve the apparent contradictions by their opting to believe one doctrine, such as human responsibility, while denying or at least ignoring the companion doctrine of divine sovereignty.” But, where does that leave the Reformed believer?  After all, one of the cornerstones of the Reformation is the denial of free will.  For example, the one work that Martin Luther hoped would survive his passing and the book that is without question his masterpiece, The Bondage of the Will, is a complete and utter rejection of the  notion of free will.  Herein lies the apparent contradiction or “tension” Harrell and others like him see in Scripture: God is sovereign and determines whatsoever comes to pass, whereas in order for man to be responsible requires that he too is his own sovereign and determines whatsoever comes to pass.  God’s sovereignty and human responsibility so conceived are mutually exclusive and logically contradictory.

So what is the solution?  Do we simply affirm that both sides of the above contradiction are both true?  Do we assert with Harrell that these doctrines while apparently contradictory are really “vital companions”?  Thankfully, and as most of the readers of God’s Hammer already know, this little conundrum of Scripture was masterfully solved more than 70 years ago by Gordon Clark.  Clark first published his solution in 1932 in a piece entitled, “Determinism and Responsibility,”when he was just 29 years old.   Clark’s arguments were later expanded and republished by the Trinity Foundation in Religion, Reason and Revelation under the chapter, “God and Evil.”  Later, the Trinity Foundation published just that chapter in a separate volume, God and Evil: The Problem Solved.  These are clearly works that pastor Harrell did not consider when he referenced this particular “tension” of Scripture.  Perhaps Harrell’s ignorance can be excused since there is not one major Reformed seminary that I know of that teaches even one work by Clark. Since nobody reads Clark it would explain why so many pastors and churchmen are so hopelessly ignorant of the fact that Clark solved this problem decades ago.  However, ignorance of Clark is no excuse.  Robert Reymond builds on and further explicates Clark’s solution to the problem of evil in his New Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion,  so I suppose there really is no excuse.

So, how does Clark purpose to resolve the problem of divine sovereignty and human responsibility?  After all Harrell says that “Even some believers endeavor to resolve the apparent contradictions by their opting to believe one doctrine, such as human responsibility, while denying or at least ignoring the companion doctrine of divine sovereignty.”  Clark was a believer, did he deny or at least ignore the doctrine of divine sovereignty?  Not in the slightest.  In fact, Clark argued that the key to the problem hinges on how we define responsibility.   To this end Clark writes:

Let us call a man responsible, then, when he may be justly rewarded or punished for his deeds. That is, the man must be answerable to someone, to God, for responsibility implies a superior authority who punishes or rewards.  Now since in theology the crux of the matter is in the eternal punishment of some sinners, we may disregard other elements in the definition and emphasize that by calling a man responsible we mean he maybe justly punished by God. For this definitional truth is the key to the explanation of why a man is responsible for the act God determined him to do.

While ersatz-Evangelicals, assorted Arminians, Roman Catholics, and others enamored by the illusion of their own “free will” will certainly balk at Clark’s definition, I am hard pressed to see why any Calvinist would likewise object?  Here we have a simple definition of responsibility that completely affirms, or, rather, requires divine sovereignty.  Since the definition offered implies a superior authority, whether it is the relationship between parent and child, employer and employee, or God and man, it quite naturally harmonizes and obliterates any “tension” between divine sovereignty and human responsibility and in no way implies or requires a “free will.”  Simply put, Clark resolved this “tension” of Scripture in a single sentence.

Of course, Clark was aware that other objections could be raised:

More than one person, with caution born of experience, has replied at this point, that although they did not see the trap they could always escape the disagreeable Calvinistic conclusions by clinging to the saving adverb “justly.”

While I encourage readers to study the rest of Clark’s argument for themselves, the one thing to notice is that Clark here summons John Calvin as the one who provided the key to overcoming this objection.  Calvin writes:

In the first place they inquire, by what right the Lord is angry with His creatures who had not provoked Him by any previous offense; for that to devote to destruction whom He pleases is more like the caprice of a tyrant than the lawful sentence of a judge; that men have reason, therefore, to expostulate with God, if they are predestinated to eternal death without any demerit of their own, merely by His sovereign will. If such thoughts ever enter the minds of pious men, they will be sufficiently enabled to break their violence by this one consideration, how exceedingly presumptuous it is only to inquire into the causes of the Divine will; which is in fact, and is justly entitled to be, the cause of every thing that exists. For if it has any cause, then there must be something antecedent, on which it depends; which it is impious to suppose. For the will of God is the highest rule of justice; so that what  He wills must be considered just, for this very reason, because He wills it.  When it is inquired, therefore, why the Lord did so, the answer must be, because He would. But if you go further, and ask why He so determined, you are in search of something greater and higher than the will of God, which can never be found.

The problem of divine sovereignty and human responsibility has been solved and justice has been defined along the way.  Now, doesn’t that feel good?

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52 Comments on “Sweet Relief”

  1. David Reece Says:

    I am arguing with members of my Church about the ability to know things that God knows and about Common Grace and the Free Offer of the Gospel. I am also working with my wife on a letter to an acquaintance of ours about Roman Catholicism.

    This article was a sanity saver.


  2. Sad to say, I’ve heard the word “tension” thrown around by Reformed Baptists in part to affirm a “free offer of the gospel” teaching. And it is claimed that by affirming God’s sovereignty we are over emphasizing one doctrine of Scripture over another in order to remove the tension, that they claim the Bible clearly presents.

    BTW, R.C. Sproul answered the question “why do bad things happen to good people” by saying “they don’t, since there are no good people.” Is this a satisfactory answer? Or is he avoiding the real issue behind the question?

  3. Hugh McCann Says:

    Good sermon from MacArthur @ Ligonier in 2007 on “The Problem of Evil”: http://www.gty.org/Resources/Videos (Had he read Clark?!)

  4. Hugh McCann Says:

    LT,

    On R.C.: It would have been cold comfort for Job, that’s for sure!

    Isn’t that what Job’s pals said: ‘What goes around comes around’?


  5. Thanks for this, Sean. There is currently an ongoing discussion at my blog on the topic of determinism and responsibility. Praise God that He is sovereign!

  6. Louis Says:

    I have read Luther and Clark, but thank you for this excellent exposition. To me it is a reminder that our faith rests in revealed truth; the Word of God.

  7. Sean Gerety Says:

    I like Sproul’s response. It’s pithy. 🙂


  8. Hugh,

    The link doesn’t take you to MacArthur’s sermon at Ligonier. BTW, it would be surprising to hear MacArthur speak well on the subject. He haa alwayss been one to foster the “tension” idea, to the point of denying limited atonement to the exclusion of unlimited atoneement. He has always seemed confused regarding Reformed doctrine.

    So, if someone asks “why do bad things happen to the righteous?” what should be our answer?

  9. Hugh McCann Says:

    LT,

    Yes, the site is GTY. Click on “Conferences,” and scroll down to 2007 Ligonier Conf., “The Problem of Evil.”

    Sean: Pithy & true enough, yes, but too terse to be pastoral, esp. in time of grief.

  10. Paijo Says:

    Just to share my experience in Indonesia. I have been translating some excerpt from Clark’s and John Robbins books that I have in possession and also some material from Vincent Cheung. I also have engaged in discussion with people on topics related to logic and God’s Word, logic and theology, logic in daily life and other relevant issues. About a month ago or so, a university lecturer contacted me, asking to write differences of van Till and Clark for a theological journal run by his university since they noticed that I lean towards Clark and he (and others like him) toward van Till. He admitted he has no familiarity with Clark but is willing to learn from Clark.

    May the works of Clark bring glory to God in Indonesia. I still hope someday Clark’s and Clarkian’s works will be available in Indonesian.


  11. David Reece

    what’s so common about “Grace”? the term “Common Grace” use by many, its misleading(designed to deceive) and cannot be found in the Bible!; for if we are “justified freely by his grace” (Romans 3:24;also read Ephesians 2:4-10; Titus 3:1-8), how then can this “Grace” be common? does everyone partake of this kind of “Grace”? or rather does God’s undeserving gifts of sunshine, rain, etc. are “providence”, the just and on the unjust(Matthew 5:43-48)?

    Rommel

  12. Hugh McCann Says:

    Romme — I believe if you read David Reece’s posts elsewhere at God’s Hammer, you’ll see he is arguing in his church AGAINST ‘common grace’ (so-called) and the ill-conceived ‘free offer’ of the gospel.

  13. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sorry, Rommel.


  14. David Reece, my sincere apologies.

    Hugh McCann, thanks for the info, I will be reading that post and others, I have come to enjoy and have been benefiting from the writing here at God’s Hammer, thanks…

  15. David Reece Says:

    Rommel,

    Apology accepted. Honestly, I’m just happy that you are fighting the false doctrine of “Common Grace” as well.

  16. Battlefield Christian Says:

    Job 2b: ‘But how can man be just with God?’ (ASV 1901)
    [Because, or, Since] God is sovereign, [therefore] man is responsible.

  17. Battlefield Christian Says:

    correction .. Job 9.2b .. my apologies.

  18. brandonadams Says:

    Sean, sounds like you need to read this book: http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/code=3420

    It was recommended to me by Facebook

  19. Sean Gerety Says:

    “John Wilkinson contends that the irrationality of faith is its greatest asset.”

    Besides, any book endorsed by Tony Campolo has to be good, right. Thanks Brandon 🙂

  20. Hugh McCann Says:

    Above photo recalls that of any purported ‘biblical paradox,’ Gordon Clark said that it is simply “a charley-horse between the ears that can be eliminated by rational massage.”

  21. LJ Says:

    This is off the topic but, being new and ignorant of where to post something independent of a particular topic, I thought I might be forgiven a question:

    Has anyone read Clark’s doctoral dissertation on Aristotle? I did once upon a time and was absolutely blown away; of course, intellectually, I’m easily blown away. But his ability to write and the depth of scholarship was, simply marvelous. Of course he got even better as he got older, but this was some read.

    I don’t think the PHD nowadays compares to what it used to mean back in them thar days.

    LJ

  22. lawyertheologian Says:

    Thanks LJ. I just checked and discovered that I hadn’t gotten around to reading Clark’s doctoral dissertation on Aristotle which I’ve also discovered is found in his book “Ancient Philosophy.” Though I have read his treatment of Aristotle in his book “Thales to Dewey” and found it helpful when taking my Ancient Philosophy class (I hadn’t known about Clark’s book at the time). Yes, Clark was brilliant, far surpassing my professors and other philosophy writers. And he provided a Christian perspective and analysis.

  23. Steve M Says:

    My opinion is that what actually drives those who propose “tensions” in Scripture is the hatred of the natural man for God. These seem to set themselves up as judges of what God ought to be like. The idea of God simply doing as He pleases with His creation is offensive to them and strikes them as unfair. It becomes necessary to find a god who is more to their liking than the God of Scripture. Their god must desire the salvation of those he does not choose to regenerate.

    If God does not desire the salvation of even those for whom he did not send Christ to die, then this would make Him evil in their eyes. Any standard outside of Himself that someone believes they can hold God to is the product of “knowledge” they gained in the Garden of Eden.

    I find this notion of “tensions” in Scripture to be a very nefarious thing. It is not at all innocent.

  24. lawyertheologian Says:

    I agree with Steve M’s opinion. The natural man has a natural hatred for God, because He is sovereign/God and he is not, though he likes to think himself to be god or like God, having intrinsic rights and knowing what is right apart from God. And though we have the Spirit, and are not natural men, we still have to put the natural man to death, to bring our thoughts into captivity unto Christ, that is, have our minds ruled by the Scriptures.

    Yes, an appeal to “tensions” is an appeal to accept inconsistent thought, in order to allow one to believe what is incosistent with the Scriptures. Indeed it is a very nefarious thing.

    I find such most nefarious when coming from those who are or desire to be teachers in the Church. Such I find to be inconsistent with being mature in the grace and knowledge of Christ. For it is not love of God that deprecates logic. Indeed, hatred of logic is hatred of God. I wonder if others here would agree that those who hold such views (God desires the salvation of non elect) are unqualified for the ministry of the Word.


  25. Ditto Steve M. It baffles me how such error is pronounced “truly Reformed” in light of WCF I.v-vi. Do the parts consent, or don’t they? Or perhaps we are to understand “the heavenliness of the matter” to mean irrationality?

  26. Hugh McCann Says:

    Patrick, “the heavenliness of the matter” reminds me of 1 Cor. 15:51. As well in Rom. 11:25 & 1 Cor 14:2, the Geneva Bible translates _musterion_ as “secret thing,” the ESV/ KJV saying “mystery.” (GB also sees “tongues” as languages.)

    One wonders how translations affect doctrine among those ignorant of the Greek.

    And at how Writ’s “heavenliness” is lost on many: “among the which some things are hard to understand, which they that are unlearned and unstable, wrest, as they do also other Scriptures unto their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3:16).

  27. Hugh McCann Says:

    Wow, LT! This puts out not only all Arminians, but most(?) ‘Calvinists,’ as well: “I wonder if others here would agree that those who hold such views (God desires the salvation of non elect) are unqualified for the ministry of the Word.”

    After reading _The Clark – Van Til Controversy_* and Hoeksema’s simple, Scriptural clarity, I am hard-pressed to disagree with you.

    But then, I am ex-PCA-er and knew when I did pulpit supply in OPCs that my clandestine Clarkianism (Scripturalism) would have been grounds for banishment if not tar & feathering!

    * http://www.trinitylectures.org/product_info.php?cPath=21&products_id=67

  28. Hugh McCann Says:

    From the latest Trinity Review (Mar-May, 2011):

    “The laws of logic are not created by God or man; they are the way God thinks. And since the Scriptures are a part of the mind of God (1 Corinthians 2:16), they are God’s logical thoughts. The Bible expresses the mind of God in a logically coherent fashion to mankind.”

    “Scripturalism: A Christian Worldview”
    By W. Gary Crampton
    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/Review%20299%20Scripturalism%20by%20Crampton.pdf

  29. Battlefield Christian Says:

    2 Peter 3.16 ‘some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unstedfast wrest’
    – Notice Peter does not write “impossible,” and clearly identifies those who will not “get it.”

    1 Corinthians 2.12 ‘But we received .. the Spirit which is from God; that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God.’
    – God has provided His word and His Spirit to ensure that His peolpe will certainly “get it.”

    Deuteronomy 29.29 ‘the things that are revealed belong unto us .. that we may do all the words of this law.’
    – Do we not hold that the 66 canonical books are indeed the complete revelation of God?

    Acts 20.27 ‘For I shrank not from declaring unto you the whole counsel of God.’
    – The apostle Paul was confident that he could make, and had made, the Ephesian church overseers fully aware of God’s ways.

  30. Hugh McCann Says:

    I think lawyert is right, “that those who hold such views (God desires the salvation of non elect) are unqualified for the ministry of the Word.”

    They are quite possibly 2 Peter 3:16 (& 2:1) men!

  31. David Reece Says:

    LT for the win.

  32. Denson Dube Says:

    Pat,
    “The natural man has a natural hatred for God, because He is sovereign/God and he is not, though he likes to think himself to be god or like God, having intrinsic rights and knowing what is right apart from God. And though we have the Spirit, and are not natural men, we still have to put the natural man to death, to bring our thoughts into captivity unto Christ, that is, have our minds ruled by the Scriptures.

    Yes, an appeal to “tensions” is an appeal to accept inconsistent thought, in order to allow one to believe what is incosistent with the Scriptures. Indeed it is a very nefarious thing.

    I find such most nefarious when coming from those who are or desire to be teachers in the Church. Such I find to be inconsistent with being mature in the grace and knowledge of Christ. For it is not love of God that deprecates logic. Indeed, hatred of logic is hatred of God. I wonder if others here would agree that those who hold such views (God desires the salvation of non elect) are unqualified for the ministry of the Word.”

    Wow! This is the most accurate assessment of the false piety of believing contradictions, its true source and nature, and that is, rebellion, rejecting God’s word and stark unbelief!

    God’s sovereignty in election and reprobation is an incontestable truth that people understand well enough to realize that it contradicts their own vain fantasies but still go ahead and hold on not a mystery

  33. Denson Dube Says:

    Pat,
    OOPS! …..but still go ahead and hold on to their false beliefs and demand that they be taken together with the Word of God.

  34. lawyertheologian Says:

    Hugh:I think lawyert is right, “that those who hold such views (God desires the salvation of non elect) are unqualified for the ministry of the Word.”

    They are quite possibly 2 Peter 3:16 (& 2:1) men!

    Possibly also is that these are godly, gifted men who need correction. Greater accountability is needed among leaders/teachers in the Church. Of course, it propogates itself and the laymen accept and propogate the same teaching. BTW, am I denying that someone like C.H. Spurgeon was called of God to be a pastor? Not sure, but I find his teaching this (God desires the salvation of the non elect) outrageous, and thus he may have done more harm than good. I wouldn’t have offered a consenting vote for his ordination. BTW, I told a Seminary professor and pastor that he was unqualified for such thinking/teaching. Was it wrong for me to do so?

  35. Sean Gerety Says:

    Spurgeon, really? But to answer your question, yes, I think so. Seminary profs and pastors say stupid things from time to time, I don’t see why that would necessarily disqualify them? I guess it comes down to 1) emulating the Bereans, and, 2) not to make the perfect the enemy of the good. I know of only one perfect collection of propositions and those are found in Scripture. Hopefully you can find pastors who know more of those than most and can faithfully explicated them, but I just don’t expect divine inspiration and inerrancy from the pulpit and less so in the classroom. I hope for as few errors as possible, but I like to think that is what most pastors are shooting for.

  36. Sean Gerety Says:

    Of course, a lot of errors could be avoided if most pastors and profs had a biblical epistemology. But, then, that is why places like the Trinity Foundation exist.

  37. lawyertheologian Says:

    “Spurgeon, really? But to answer your question, yes, I think so. Seminary profs and pastors say stupid things from time to time, I don’t see why that would necessarily disqualify them?”

    I’m not talking about saying something incorrect, but actively, agressively, persistently promoting an incorrect teaching (which if confronted in the church and not repenting would be a sign of a heretic). The Pastor/Professor/Dean and the Seminary promotes this false teaching (God desires the salvation of the non elect).

  38. lawyertheologian Says:

    I take Piper to be claiming that God has desires that He has not decreed. Whether he would say or has said that God desires the salvation of non elect I do not know. But a conflicted God is not a proper conception of God. “But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.” Cf. Isa.46:10.

  39. lawyertheologian Says:

    The quoted verse in Psa.115:3.

  40. Sean Gerety Says:

    Piper does say that God desires the salvation of the non elect.

  41. lawyertheologian Says:

    Not in the linked article though, right?

    So, I guess I would disqualify him as a competent teacher/Elder, (but again I wouldn’t say he is a false teacher/heretic) though I do like his book “The Future of Justification.”

  42. Sean Gerety Says:

    I guess you would 😉

  43. LJ Says:

    I didn’t know where to post this question so I chose “Theology” and just scrolled down to the last post. I have been discussing “propositions” with a friend and he asked:

    >In virtue of transparency, just curious: What is (hint, hint) a ‘proposition’? Yes, of course, as a card-carrying presuppositionalist myself, I realize the epistemic descriptions of this bearer of truth and falsity including the ‘given’ that God is the sine qua non of propositional truth.

    However, even still, are the properties of propositions metaphysical or ontological in essence?<

    I was hoping some of our erudite philosophers would help me answer my friend's question. The epistemic value seems clear to me, but in the statement "God is …" the metaphysical implication is also embedded is it not?

    Thanks!

  44. lawyertheologian Says:

    The properties of propositions is truth and falsehood. But I assume your friend meant the subjects of propositions. The reality of the subject is assumed in the proposition or else defined as such within, as in tautological propositions.

  45. LJ Says:

    LT,
    Thanks. He must have meant the subject. We shall see.
    LJ

  46. LJ Says:

    LT,
    Be patient with me since I’m very likely not up to your speed on this. Is the so-called Van Tilian “Transcendental Argument” a TAG (Transcendental Argument for the existence of God) as TAG is usually conceived? Do you agree with the Van Tilian TAG?

    It is my understanding that a TAG, Van Tilian or otherwise, proves only a G-O-D and not “The One True and Living God” as revealed in the Bible. That seems to be the weakness in any ontological type argument is it not? And wasn’t that Clark’s primary disagreement with rationalistic arguments, i.e., TAG’s of any type?

    If this is too elementary not need to start with Philosophy 101 and attempt to educate me from the beginning. If you don’t have the time or inclination to respond that’s fine and …

    Thanks anyway,
    LJ

  47. lawyertheologian Says:

    LJ,

    The “Transcendental Argument” or better the Transcendental Method is a reductio ad absurdum. It is an indirect argument: the impossibility of the contrary. Such would not make Christianity, that is, the belief that the Bible is the Word of God, true.

    Yes, some concept of God but not “The One True and Living God” as revealed in the Bible is the basic weakness of any ontological as well as any cosmological/teleological argument.

  48. LJ Says:

    Thanks LT, I think Im good to go on TAG’s. Funny how every time I enter into a discussion with someone regarding these things, what I gleaned from reading Clark over the years ends up coming to my rescue, even if I’m not immediately aware of it.

    Thanks again,
    LJ

  49. Max Says:

    Look, every philosophic argument in the apologetic vein has its faults. Nothing can full convince all the time. And of course, we must remember that the Bible alone must be accepted by faith. That faith will beget understanding.

    But again, you will find no proof anywhere. Only evidence. And the strength of that evidence will depend on the person; their readiness, standpoint, etc.

    Hence, to argue for one philosophic position or apologetic stance is senseless.

  50. Battlefield Christian Says:

    “I’ve done my best to persuade him. But I will have another try. That a fellow is out of his mind is no reason why he should be unassailable by good logic–that is, if you take him on his own admissions.”
    Geroge MacDonald, “Thomas Wingfold, Curate.” chapter 30


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