December 17, 2007

Forgiveness Gone Bad

In light of the recent tragedies in Arvada & Colorado Springs Colorado churches there have begun the healing process and begin moving forward with their churches and their lives. However, in a recent article in the Christian Post I found a somewhat disturbing comment made by both leaders there:

Now most Christians would agree that we should forgive others as one of the fundamental points of Christianity. Some of the key verses that most people will quote is Matt 6:14-15

"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions".
For years I have heard people say if someone wrongs you must forgive them, regardless if they seek forgiveness. But the more I read God's Word the more I see this is in fact not found in the scriptures. Clearly Matt Chapt 18 is a key parable on the concept of Christian or biblical forgiveness. First, let me say that we are to forgive others just as our Father forgives us. Most don't care to really think about what all this entails. The first order of business before God ever forgives us is what?? Repentance! Does God just freely forgive sinners, does God go around in His kingdom throwing pardons to the wind and say all has been forgiven? Clearly not. God in his wisdom knows that prior to forgiving someone the guilty party must first have a repentful & broken heart over their actions and seek forgiveness or provide restitution to the victim.

As we look at Matthew 18:21-35 we begin to see a clear idea of how forgiveness is to be extended and under what conditions. The first thing we see is we have a servant who owes a tremendous debt to the king. Note that the king has not made some broad proclamation of forgiveness, but rather is now seeking to reclaim that which is rightfully his from his debtors. Next we see the servant coming before the king and is pleading and broken over his debt and seeks mercy from the king. Friends, this is an example of repentance - a broken condition whereby we fall before the Lord and seek mercy and forgiveness of our moral debt we have incurred against our good king. The king being good and merciful forgives the servant of his debt. No where do we see in this parable that the king was going to forgive the servant prior to him coming before his court, instead the verses states,

"........the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slavesWhen he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25"But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made"

Clearly the king was going to rightly administer justice against this servant in order to settle the debt that had been incurred. In todays' church we have such a distortion of forgiveness. As in the case of the Arvada YWAM and New Life Church murders, this is by no means a situation that warrants a blanket of forgiveness to be extended to the murderer who took four innocent lives. First, we see this man was by no means repentant of his actions - as a matter of fact he was very rebellious and sinister. Secondly, would it be right for this murderer to stand before God on judgment day and God say "OK all is forgiven, you can enter in well done good and faithful servant? " Of course not! God's character would instantly be under suspicion for forgiving such a criminal into his kingdom. We see further in the parable that once the servant had been forgiven and he had failed to show mercy just as the king had shown him, his debt was placed back in full upon him and he was forced to repay all that he had owed the king.

When Christ says that we should forgive someone, this is in reference to the other person coming before us and asking for our hand of forgiveness. If we as believers fail to forgive someone once they have come before us and asked us to forgive them, then this is when we are in jeopardy of sinning ourselves. Luke
17:2-4 is a good example of this whereby Jesus says:

"Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him."

In the case of this murderer in Colorado, the church first can not speak on behalf of the victims and extend forgiveness on their behalf. Secondly, it would be unjust if we would extend forgiveness to this unrepentant murderer as clearly he was neither filled with regret or repentance for his actions. As Christians, let us be on guard how we portray biblical or Christ-like forgiveness. Clearly, before we were forgiven by God we must exhibit true and genuine sorrow for what we have done to the heart of God.

18 comments:

Melody said...

Interesting. When I was a kid Reader's Digest ran an article complaining of how Christians forgive too easily these days rather than holding people accountable.

The article was in response to a shooting as well. Maybe Columbine, I don't remember.

I think most people think more of Jesus forgiving the people who killed Him and telling his disciples to turn the other cheek, walk two miles, etc. than the parable about the king or that we have to ask for forgiveness for Jesus' death to be applied to our sins.

Jonathan Erdman said...

If forgiveness is conditional, then it is not pure forgiveness. It will always be a quid pro quo: I will "forgive" you if you do something for me.

But this type of forgiveness is more in line with an economic transaction. Perhaps we should put a spiritual price tag on our lives that states the cost of earning our forgiveness.

I don't know about the repentance thing. I like to believe that God's forgiveness of me is unconditional, but you make good points here and it is definitely something worth thinking and studying further. Derrida and other French (and German?) thinkers in recent years have explored this issue in quite some depth.

Preston N said...

Jonathan

Thanks for your comments. You may want to explore Hugo Grotius writings on his view of governmental atonement theory - De veritate religionis Christianae.

This model goes along the lines of forgiveness is conditional and rightfully so. Take for example a criminial. He or she has violated not only the moral law, but they have shown to be a danger to society. As a result, the court puts them in prison so they will no longer be a threat to society or themselves. If the governor of the state came along and forgave (pardoned) all criminals and set them free back into society would this be a good thing? Would this be truly a benevolent action by the governor? Would this be "OK" with the citizens? God is obligated by the very "moral government" he oversees to assure that the well being of every inhabitant is assured. As with this example, it would be irresponsible for God to freely forgive sinners without somehow obtaining they have truly changed and repented. Biblical forgiveness is not universal - if this were so why did Jesus, John the Baptist, Paul, John, Peter, James etc all preach repentance leads to salvation? If we look in the OT we see that Israel's sacrifices where deemed unacceptable if they did not repent from the heart. There is a distinct difference in universal pardon and biblical forgiveness.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Preston. Here is the first problem I note. You said,

"If the governor of the state came along and forgave (pardoned) all criminals and set them free back into society would this be a good thing? Would this be truly a benevolent action by the governor? Would this be "OK" with the citizens?"

This line of thinking runs into serious problems with atonement theology. For example, what if the governor said, "Look, this criminal has found someone to take his punishment and serve his jail time for him!" Would we say that this situation is "just"? Probably not. 'The soul who sins shall die,' as the Good Book says. But atonement theology suggests that there was a similar switch-a-roo. In real justice there is not substitution allowed. No one is allowed to take the punishment that each one justly deserves.

I'm not using this as an argument against justification through substitution - that's another monster in and of itself. All I am saying is that you are going to run into some serious problems if you start using these common sense type examples as a way of supporting theory. In other words, you can't have it both ways. If you use familiar examples as illustrations, you have to let them work all the way through, which neither one of us probably wants to do!

So, for this reason, I think the implications of your analogy are unsteady:

"God is obligated by the very "moral government" he oversees to assure that the well being of every inhabitant is assured. As with this example, it would be irresponsible for God to freely forgive sinners without somehow obtaining they have truly changed and repented."

God cannot properly be said to be a moral governor, b/c any governor we know would not let someone else do time for prisoners. That's just irresponsible for any governor that we know here on earth.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Preston said:
"Biblical forgiveness is not universal - if this were so why did Jesus, John the Baptist, Paul, John, Peter, James etc all preach repentance leads to salvation?"

Do you have any specific examples?

Preston:
"There is a distinct difference in universal pardon and biblical forgiveness."

Well, I'm a bit confused, b/c you were the one who seems to want to draw a parallel between these two. So, let me ask you this, Are you saying God can pardon someone he doesn't forgive or that God can forgive someone he doesn't pardon?

Preston N said...

Jonathan

First you state: "All I am saying is that you are going to run into some serious problems if you start using these common sense type examples as a way of supporting theory". Do you want my response to make sense then?? Common sense and right reason is the heart of all biblical hermeneutics - (For Example John Welsey Quadrilateral - True to Life, True to Reason, True to Scripture, True to Tradition or Charles Finney Tripod - True to Life, True to Reason, True to Scripture). We MUST use common sense when reasoning any theological concept - how else then do you suggest I understand any biblical principle - through absurdities? Not to mention isn’t this how Jesus taught through the use of parables? Common sense examples! Jesus once never made a point through the use of illogical examples. So if I were you let’s not go in this direction, I would rather stick with logic and reason any ole day.

Next, the bible is not precise on any particular atonement model. Therefore, it would seem your approaching this issue with a particular presupposition in mind from what I can tell that would be retributive/satisfaction model. You state God did a “switch-a-roo” however you stated yourself that this does not make sense. I agree completely! This is why I do not agree with Retributive or Satisfaction Atonement models as they bring up some real character issues with God. In this case you’re exactly right in saying no governor in his right mind would allow an innocent man to take the place of a guilty man. This is why I propose the Governmental atonement model as a more “common sense” or logical theory.

As for your comment as God being unable to be a moral governor I take serious objection to this comment – we clearly see God holds various positions in the universe. One he is a Father, He is a King – was Jesus just speaking figuratively when he said “the Kingdom of God is like a ……….”? He is a Judge, and he is a Savior. Positional, God is first and foremost King and then a Father. I recommend you read 2 Samuel 19:1-8 as a good example of this. My argument here would be that God never has a forgiveness issue – therefore the atonement is not necessary for forgiveness, as God on many occasions in both the OT and NT forgave people without an atonement (Read Mat 9:2,6 Mk 2:5,9 Lk 5:20, 7:47 - then ask yourself this - from you current atonement model can you explain how Jesus forgave each and every person without an atonement?).

The atonement was necessary because God had a governmental issue not a forgiveness problem – The character of God had to be maintained (He is just), God had to show that sin will not be tolerated, the Law had to retain its moral deterrent value, God needed to uphold Justice, God needed to protect his Kingdom and subjects from Law breakers, God desires to reform the Law breakers (repentance), God sent his Son to provide a way in which we would change, so that He could forgive without damage to His subjects, His Law, His character, or His Kingdom. Governmental Atonement in a nutshell!

Preston N said...

Jonathan states: "Do you have any specific examples (Jesus, John the Baptist, Paul, John, Peter, James etc all preach repentance leads to salvation??")

Sure try these:

(Mat 4:17) From that time began Jesus to preach, and to say, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

(Mar 1:15) and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe in the gospel. (Note this is a key or primary text as we see that for a person to inter into the kingdom of God a necessary requirement is to repent)

(Mar 6:12) And they went out, and preached that men should repent.

(Luk 5:32) (Jesus said) I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.

(Luk 13:3) (Jesus said)I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish.

(Luk 13:5) (Jesus said) I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

(Luk 15:7) (Jesus said) I say unto you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine righteous persons, who need no repentance.

(Luk 24:47) (Jesus said) and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

(Luk 17:4) And if he sin against thee seven times in the day, and seven times turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.

(Mat 21:32) For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not; but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye saw it, did not even repent yourselves afterward, that ye might believe him.

(Act 2:38) And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

(Act 3:19) Repent ye therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord;

(Act 8:22) Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray the Lord, if perhaps the thought of thy heart shall be forgiven thee.

(Act 17:30) The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent:

(Act 26:20) but declared both to them of Damascus first and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judaea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance.


Rom 2:4-5 Or do you think so little of the riches of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing that it is God's kindness that is leading you to repentance? (5) But because of your stubborn and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.

2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some people understand slowness, but is being patient with you. He does not want anyone to perish, but wants everyone to come to repentance.


AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST!

2Co 7:8-11 For though I made you sorry with my epistle, I do not regret it: though I did regret it (for I see that that epistle made you sorry, though but for a season), (9) I now rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye were made sorry unto repentance; for ye were made sorry after a godly sort, that ye might suffer loss by us in nothing. (10) For godly sorrow brings repentance unto salvation, a repentance which brings no regret: but the sorrow of the world brings death. (11) For behold, this selfsame thing, that ye were made sorry after a godly sort, what earnest care it wrought in you, yea what clearing of yourselves, yea what indignation, yea what fear, yea what longing, yea what zeal, yea what avenging! In everything ye approved yourselves to be pure in the matter.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Preston: The atonement was necessary because God had a governmental issue not a forgiveness problem – The character of God had to be maintained (He is just), God had to show that sin will not be tolerated, the Law had to retain its moral deterrent value, God needed to uphold Justice, God needed to protect his Kingdom and subjects from Law breakers, God desires to reform the Law breakers (repentance), God sent his Son to provide a way in which we would change, so that He could forgive without damage to His subjects, His Law, His character, or His Kingdom. Governmental Atonement in a nutshell!

Ok. But in your posts you didn't answer my primary objection, at least as far as I can see.

How is it Just to punish someone else for the sins of another.

Remember I cited Ezekiel 18 (specifically see vv. 4 and 20) that the soul who sins will die; that God doesn't visit the sins of one person on another. That would not be just. A Just Governor would not condemn an innocent man in the place of the guilty. It wouldn't matter how many innocent men would die, if the guilty person has not been punished then Justice would not be met.

That was my point.

Let's spell this out in common sense way, since you seem so keen on that!

The Law says that if a person sins they must die.
Petey sins.
The Governor sentences someone else (Johnny) to die.
The result: The Law has not yet been satisfied. The people are outraged. Justice has not been served.

Preston N said...

Jonathan

I think we may have gotten off the wrong foot here. I agree with your point that it is absolutely wrong to punish someone for the sins of another person - however this is exactly what the Retributive (Calvinistic) model does - God takes out his "wrath" on an innocent person (Jesus) so that his wrath or justice could be met.

Governmental atonement is completely different in its theory. So that you understand where I am coming from may I recommend you read this short explanation on governmental atonement.

God has a problem. The one He created has disobeyed, and has incurred the penalty of the law. But He loves that person, and wants to find a way to restore him to Himself without destroying His kingdom. So He designed the atonement, and put it into operation when it became necessary after the first sin. The problems God face were not personal, but governmental. How could He show mercy to the sinner, without encouraging everyone to break the law and expect similar mercy? Mercy always weakens the law, as our justice system shows. This is demonstrated by King Darius' failure to find a legal way to save Daniel from the lions' den (Daniel 6). God's mercy has to be exercised in such a way that it does not violate His justice, nor the greatest good of all. How could God set aside the penalty of the law without leaving the impression that He somehow approved of sin and did not really love righteousness? If He left this impression He would destroy the authority of His law since the public would conclude that He was lenient, and did not mean what He had said. He needed to do something that would demonstrate His justice, that He hated sin as much as when He had pronounced the penalty, and loved obedience because it was the way of duplicating His character in this world.

The penalty of the law was not an end in itself, but a means to an end. God gave the law, and then attached the penalty to show His idea of the value of the law. However, when a person broke the law and incurred the penalty, paying the penalty was not what God wanted. If a person paid the full penalty for breaking a single law by spending eternity in hell, would God be satisfied? Would the purpose of the law be accomplished? No! Revelation 14:10 shows me that God has wiped away all the tears from the eyes of all who will be saved, the Lamb will suffer for eternity over those who are lost, because it is such a waste. That for which He created them was not accomplished, and He is never separated from the consciousness of their suffering.

God became a man in the person of His Son, living a perfect life under His own law, dying a terrible public death for the sins of men, and declaring that only upon the condition of faith in this sacrifice may sinners be pardoned and their penalty set aside, a real forgiveness. The atonement was objectively necessary, not to pay for sins, or to satisfy some offended characteristic in God, but to make it possible for God to be "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:26)Through this means, God has accomplished more than the infliction of the penalty would have accomplished, because there will now be less suffering in the universe, God's law and character will be safe from misunderstanding, and God can safely pardon the repentant sinner who puts his faith in this atonement. This is real forgiveness, not justice, and when a person sees Christ's death as the only basis for forgiveness, not question about God's character or love remains.

Chris said...

Preston,

I hope you don't mind me jumping in here in the middle of the discussion, but someone has to take up the Calvinist's position here. :-)

Preston said:
I agree with your point that it is absolutely wrong to punish someone for the sins of another person - however this is exactly what the Retributive (Calvinistic) model does - God takes out his "wrath" on an innocent person (Jesus) so that his wrath or justice could be met.

That is because that is exactly what the Bible teaches! How can you look at a passage like Lev. 4:14-21 and conclude anything other than Substitutionary Atonement?

I understand your objection that it is unjust for one to be punished for the sins of another, and the reference to Ezekiel 18:20, however; let me quote Norm Geisler (who is NOT a Calvinist by the way)

"...It is definitely unjust to punish an unwilling person for another's sin. But Christ was willing to die for us. He died voluntarily (John10:17-18). Even in ordinary life, some people (like soldiers)are willing to die for others (like their countrymen). Such a deed is considered not only moral but noble.
Further, Christ is God. The One who demanded the penalty (God) is the One who paid it. The judge paid the fine for the defendant. Like an earthy judge who takes off his robe, reaches into his wallet, and pays the fine for his accused son, even so God did this for us. In such a case the complaint that it is unjust to pay the fine for another's sin vanishes.
In addition, it is unjust to charge another person for my crime, but it is not unjust for him to voluntarily pay the fine. A voluntary substitutionary atonement is the apex of morality."

So one has to then ask the question, what was the death of Christ for if it was not the payment for our sin; the taking upon Himself the full wrath of His Father that was intended for us?

Isaiah 53:10 tells us that His Father crushed Him and caused Him to suffer. Why? Because He made Him a guilt offering for His people.

Hebrews 10: 4, 10-14 makes it clear that Jesus' death did what the blood of bulls and goats could not do - it forgives us of our sin.

And in 1 John we see that Jesus became the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2 & 4:10), which means that He expiated the wrath of God and He made atonement for our sin.

I just don't see how you could take this any other way than substitutionary atonement and still be Biblical.

God Bless,
Chris

Anonymous said...

Right on, Chris!!!

Preston N said...

Chris

Sorry for not responding sooner here to your post. I was enjoying Christmas blog-free for a couple of days :) Again, I must address your use of hermeneutics here. Your approaching many if not all of these verse with tremendous presuppositions (a Calvinistic one at that). When we approach scriptures we must allow the word of God to develop our theology and doctrine – not the other way around. For example, how do you get from Lev 4 substitution or retributive atonement? After much research on this particular subject the Jews never considered sin literally being placed on the animal. Instead, sacrifices were to be a negative experience and that a “life” had to die as a result of sin.

In addition, in your quote from Norm Geisler (BTW HE is a Calvinist, Geisler claims to be what he calls a "moderate Calvinist," in his book Chosen But Free, 1999). Geisler says:

“The judge paid the fine for the defendant. Like an earthy judge who takes off his robe, reaches into his wallet, and pays the fine for his accused son, even so God did this for us. In such a case the complaint that it is unjust to pay the fine for another's sin vanishes.
In addition, it is unjust to charge another person for my crime, but it is not unjust for him to voluntarily pay the fine. A voluntary substitutionary atonement is the apex of morality."

Would you be OK if this happened in reality?? Recently there was a murder in Seattle whereby a woman killed 6 members of her family (including 2 children). Do you think the victim’s family members be OK with this judicial arrangement?? Would society be OK with this also? I think not! This concept strike against the very concept of natural law and it does not sit well with us as it violates our right reason – therefore this is not a good concept or an attribute I would place against God.

The example Geisler is using is a universal pardon and NOT atonement. Atonement is unique in the sense that its supposed to change or radically reform the criminal prior to releasing them from his or her sentence. God will not and can not “pardoned” someone without first making sure he has obtained their “good behavior” or as I would put it “proper motivation of the heart”. Calvinism does neither, as it is strictly transactional . Secondly, God through the use of governmental atonement has decreased the moral suffering of the universe – Calvinism does not as they consider man being incapable of doing ANY thing righteous.

As for your comment regarding Christ voluntarily death I do agree with your statement as this is highly noble and this is why the death of Christ is to break our hearts – Titus 3:4-6

But when the kindness of God our Saviour, and his love toward man, appeared, 5 not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 which he poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour;

Chris said...

Preston said:

"how do you get from Lev 4 substitution or retributive atonement? After much research on this particular subject the Jews never considered sin literally being placed on the animal. Instead, sacrifices were to be a negative experience and that a “life” had to die as a result of sin."

If this isn't a picture of Substitutionary Atonement I don't know what is! If a "life" had to die, and it wasn't the life of the one who sinned, then it is substitutionary. Also, if the Bible doesn't teach that Jesus died for us how do you explain verses like 1 Cor. 15:3, Gal 1:3-4, Heb 2:17, 1 Pet. 3:18, 1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:10? These verses all teach that Jesus died For Our Sin.

Preston wrote:
"God will not and can not “pardoned” someone without first making sure he has obtained their “good behavior” or as I would put it “proper motivation of the heart”.

This is works righteousness and it is NOT Biblical. We are save by grace alone, apart from anything we have done (Titus 3:4-5, Eph 2:8-9). It is all of God, and it is all of grace and there is nothing that we have to offer Him and nothing we can do to earn or merit our salvation. And if we are trying we are not saved! We have believed another gospel (Gal 1:6-9).

We have been having this discussion in various forms for about 6 weeks now and I now have just one thing to ask: can you explain the gospel to me, because that is all that really matters?

Chris

Preston N said...

Chris said: If this isn't a picture of Substitutionary Atonement I don't know what is! If a "life" had to die, and it wasn't the life of the one who sinned, then it is substitutionary.

Not necessarily. First sin is Non-Transferable. It is not a “thing” but rather a moral choice, a willful decision to violate God’s known laws. It is not something I can pass on to someone. Sin can not literally be “transferred” to an animal or a person for that matter. God established the sacrificial system with Israel in order to show or impress upon them His hatred of sin. Animal sacrifices is an extremely unpleasant process (I am an avid deer hunter and I can tell you first hand if I had to slaughter an animal every time I sinned it would definitely help me in seeing that sin is something I do not want to do on a continual basis). Again the sacrifice was never for God – if so then we are not to far from how the pagans made sacrifices to their gods.

Chris says: Also, if the Bible doesn't teach that Jesus died for us how do you explain verses like 1 Cor. 15:3, Gal 1:3-4, Heb 2:17, 1 Pet. 3:18, 1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:10? These verses all teach that Jesus died For Our Sin.

BTW – in no way do I deny here that Christ died for our sin – its just that we differ in what context. When Paul says Christ was made as a sin offering for us or He died for our sins all Paul is saying here is that God willfully laid down his life for us to SHOW us how much he hates sin and how much he loves us (There is also the issue of the demands of justice being met, again we differ here as to the context – you state that Jesus was a literal payment for the penalty and I would claim he is representative) This very act should break our hearts as to the depths of what sin does to the heart of our Lord and Savior. Not only that, but how willingly he was to go to the cross to show us that.

Chris writes: This is works righteousness and it is NOT Biblical. We are save by grace alone, apart from anything we have done (Titus 3:4-5, Eph 2:8-9). It is all of God, and it is all of grace and there is nothing that we have to offer Him and nothing we can do to earn or merit our salvation. And if we are trying we are not saved! We have believed another gospel (Gal 1:6-9).


You’re kidding right? Wherever does it say in the Bible “Grace Alone”? Calvinist are always going around saying Grace Along, By Faith Alone and by Scripture Alone. So which “alone” is it?? God does not literally give us faith. Faith (evangelical that is) must always begin with intellectual truth. We can not believe in that which we do not understand. So faith begins in our minds or intellect – thus this is the reason and the importance of man obtaining the truth and knowledge of God and his Word as one of the first principles of obtaining faith. Faith implies that we have an appropriation of the truths of God, in other words each one of us must heed the Word of God for our own circumstances. Faith requires that we must repent. Therefore it is from hearing and understanding truth that will help lead us to repentance. From what you’re saying here Chris is that God is the one who is doing the repenting for us. Of course this stems from your belief that man is uncapable of repenting as this would infer he is able to make a moral choice and we are all just to evil to do so on our own (you state “It is ALL of GOD). Really! If Faith & Repentance is ALL OF GOD, then why doesn’t God give EVERYONE Faith and just save us all! This is ridiculous theology! You make God's character a mockery! Faith clearly requires cooperation on the part of man! God will not save anyone until they repent or change the motive of their heart (will). Do you agree? Repentance thus requires action and if you want to call this a work then by all means do so! The confusion you have is when Paul speaks of “works” he is speaking to Jews and Judiazers who were trying to convince believers that a change of heart was not what was necessary for salvation, but rather “activities” or works of the old Jewish laws and customs. Clearly man must move his own will towards God in order to be saved. Granted, God plays a tremendous part in leading us to the truth through his word and Holy Spirit, but He does not do it 100% for us! If this were so, then all of mankind would be saved.

As for what is the Gospel (in a nutshell), it is through the kindness and love of Christ demonstrated through his life, death and resurrection that reconciles us back to right relationship to the Father. This reconciliation occurs through the atoning death of God’s Son Jesus Christ. The purpose of the atonement is twofold. First, the atonement was to bring man to repentance. Secondly, in order to meet the conditions of Justice, Christ death meet those demands in a representative sense. Repentance only occurs once a person has understood the truth of who Christ fully is (Faith) and understands how his death demonstrates the love and benevolence of the Godhead. The death of Christ is meant to humble us in such a tremendous way that we become so broken over our sins. This “Godly Repentance” (2 Cor 7:9-12) then brings us to salvation whereas repentance is a change in the ultimate intention of our heart, from loving of self to loving God. Once our will (motive for living) has been changed through the atoning death of Christ, it frees us from the bondages of sin and reconciles us to God. Once we have been humbled by the cross and it has changed the motive of our will, God can then entrust us and imparts to us his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our comforter and guides us in all matters of truth and righteousness.

Chris said...

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ... (Ephesians 2:4-5a)

Jesus said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. (John 6:44)

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor the will of flesh nor the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1 Peter 1:3)

If a person is dead they cannot make a decision to come to God any more that a dead man can decide to get up out of his coffin; he must first be made alive. Paul tells us in Ephesians that that was exactly our condition - we were dead.

But God made us alive, and he drew us to Christ; he caused us to be born again. It is not by our will that we are born again, it is by the will of God.

Through the prophet Ezekiel God said, "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules." (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

Notice in this passage there is not one single reference to anything that man does, but God says "I will" six times. And why does God do this? Verse 22 says it is for his holy name!

Romans 9 tells us that God will choose whom he chooses and that "...it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy." (Romans 9:16) then this passage goes on to say:
"For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.' So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?" (Romans 9:17-24)

God saves whom he will, and he does it for his glory and his glory alone.

The Gospel is simply this: We are saved when we repent of our sin and put our faith fully in Jesus Christ. And we do this because God has chosen to make us alive and draw us to himself.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this in not your own doing; it [faith] is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

That is what the Bible teaches.

Chris

Preston N said...

As Leonard Ravenhill once quoted:

"By overstating the sovereignty of God and blundering on in an atmosphere of stagnant dispensationalism, you safeguard your spiritual bankruptcy, all the while Hell fills."

Sadly Chris your theology says it is God's desire and plan to send billions upon billions of people to Hell. What a horrible claim against the wonderful loving character of God and our Savior. When I read of scriptures where it says God's heart grieves for the lost or his heart is broken over the sins of the people and the fact God will know of every soul that is in Hell and that will cause him much sadness for all eternity - all the while you lay the claim that this is truly his desire for it to be so. You have placed the importance of God's power over that of God's love. This is not the picture of Christ nor the lamb of God - but a picture of a tyrant!

Chris said...

Preston,

The fact that God chooses to save anyone proves that he is a loving God. Every last one of us should be condemned to Hell for all eternity. The question you need to ask is not why does God let people go to Hell, the question you need to ask is why does He choose to not send all of us there? The answer is clear from Scripture - God is love!

You present argument after argument as to why my theology is "wrong" and how it attacks the very character of God, but you have failed to address the Scripture that I provided that shows beyond any doubt that salvation is by God's choosing, not ours, and that it is for His glory that He saves.

I cannot tell you why God chose to reveal Himself to me, it was certainly not because of anything I did! But He did, and I responded in faith, repented of my sin, and put my trust in Jesus, His Son. I didn't seek God, I wasn't looking for God, and I didn't do anything to merit God calling or choosing me. He did so out of His own good will, for His glory, and for no other reason. If that's not love I don't know what is!

Chris

Preston N said...

Chris

You seemingly contradict yourself. On one hand you claim God should send every one of us to Hell because we are sinners. I agree but for all too different reasons. According to your theology God is the one predetermining who is elected and who is not. You speak as if man has a choice in the matter, but yet your theology says otherwise. Do you pray for sinners or the sick? Why!? What's the point!

Let me ask you this Chris. When you evangelize to your friends and neighbors, do you tell them to repent from their sins and turn to the Lord Jesus or do you tell them of the inspirational message that God has already predetermined certain people to Heaven and certain people to Hell? If you preach a message of repent and turn from your sins – then you’re a hypocrite and your living in complete contradiction to your theology. I realize that sounds harsh, but a hypocrite is someone who is living contrary to what they believe! Why are you debating all this with me – have you just not come to the conclusion in your own mind that I am predetermined to have my position and your predetermined have yours! Why all the fuss!?? Like I have said before, I find most Calvinist can not live consistently with their theology.

The scriptures say that sinners are rebels - this very word implies that we willfully turn away from right and CHOOSE for ourselves evil. How can we be rebels when we have no choice in the matter! Yet, Calvinism makes men nothing more than robots who are preprogrammed by God to be either sinner or saint.

As for the scriptures you quoted whereby according to your interpretation (or should I say John Calvins), God has chosen us, is again a matter of hermeneutics. Again, you’re taking these verses out of their context and you’re isolating them. You’re not harmonizing these with the whole of scripture

You claim Romans 9:16-24 is a proof text to support your theological view. First, the context of this chapter Paul is writing to the Jews specifically. Whereas the Jews had come to believe God had chosen them on the basis of their race (v5), lineage (v7), and works without faith. Secondly, v16 does not mean that men become Christians against their own choice. It is true that people have no desire of holiness, because they would rather choose selfishness. But it is through the influences of God’s Spirit and Word on mans will (his conscience, intellect and sensibilities) that move him to be “willing in the day of his power" - Psalms 110:3. When v16 says “So then it is not of him that willeth” means that salvation is not bestowed because man had any original willingness or disposition to be saved. The second half of v16 is “nor of him that runneth” this to show it is not earned through some type of work as the Jews had come to believe. But it is because God has mercy upon man and pursues his heart through influence of his word and Spirit.

Verse 16 is not implying that the sinner does not make an effort to be saved; there is no effort more intense and persevering, no struggle more arduous or agonizing, than when a sinner decides to seek eternal life. I would suggest that if you have never become broken over the sins you have committed against God, then there is a good possibility that you might not be saved (2 Cor 7:10-11). If we sincerely knock at the door of Christ he is sure to answer (Mat 7:7)! Is it not man who is required to knock before Christ will answer or God knocks for us? God is merciful that He even provides us with a door to knock upon, let alone open it!

So verse 16 can be summed up:
(1) That the sinner would not put forth any effort himself. If left to his own course he would never seek to be saved. However, it is through the Holy Spirit and Gods Word that "Draws" us to his mercy and kindness. To "Draw" means not to manipulate as you have interpreted, but rather God beckons, calls, implores us and appeals to our sense of reason and our heart to seek his mercy and repentance. How then do you interpret these verses (Heb 4:16, 7:25, 10:22 & James 4:8).

(2) A sinner is forgiven, not “on account” of his effort; not because he makes an effort; but because God chooses to pardon him. An analogy of this would be like saying that someone should pay you for being honest - how foolish. You should do it because it is the right thing to do. Same applies to the sinner - his repenting is not meritous or deserves some type of reward (such as salvation), but he repents because it is the right thing to do!

As for your interpretation of v17-24 these verses of course are the Calvinist so called proof text for election and denial of free will. But yet again I say context, context, context!

Something to think about regarding v17. Paul is referencing Ex 9:16 “made thee stand,” that is, sustained thee. The Greek word used by the apostle is exēgeira, means I “have excited, roused, or stirred” thee up. That is, God saying here about Pharaoh I have preserved you from self ruin; I have strengthened Pharaoh, so that his full character will be used for my purpose to show to show both Egypt and Israel his power. It does not mean that God had infused into his mind evil, but that he had kept Pharaoh in circumstances which Pharaoh had already willingly put himself into. God “hardened” Pharaoh’s hearts is not to be interpreted to say God was manipulating or compelling him to be evil, but rather God was sealing him to his own devices. In other words God was saying, “if this is the way you want it, then fine I will seal your heart (will) in such a way that you will not be able to back out even if he wanted to”. Again, this is a topic of study that I could spend a great deal of time on, but just know that there is another interpretation of these verses – one that is more in line with the character of God than the one put forth by the Calvinist.

My point here is this Chris, most Calvinist such as yourself approach scripture with a distinct presupposition, rather you read all your theology through a filter - Calvinism. Instead of allowing scripture to develop your theological construct, you approach all scripture through the interpretation of one man – John Calvin. When we stand before God on Judgment Day and give an account as to how we believed, John Calvin will give only an account for John Calvin as to how he believed, but we will have to give an account only for ourselves. I would pray that you look at not only who John Calvin was as a person (see Michael Servetus), but consider if you reading the scriptures for yourself or through one man’s opinion. God created the Word for all men to discern for themselves – Luke 12:56, 2 Tim 3:15.