Monday, August 27, 2007

The Role of Apolegetics

I just got out of a very interesting class, Dr. Moore's Systematic Theology class. We were discussing General Revelation today. One branch of apologetics, following the thinking of Thomas Aquinas, believes that by using apologetics, you can form some solid convincing proofs about God, man, creation in order to lead someone ultimately to Christ. These people would be considered evidentialists. I am not trying to attack Evidentialists, because some of them are men who I love to read and learn from who have a wonderful ability to present the truths of Scripture. What I am calling into question is the use of this type of apologetics in evangelism. Is it possible to make some good arguments using general revelation to then point someone to special revelation, or is it even necessary.

It sounds really good. However, look at Romans 1. Paul says that the unbeliever already has a knowledge of God within him. Unbelievers already have knowledge of what the evidentialists are trying to prove. The problem is not that they haven't heard some good fool proof arguments about Christianity, the problem is, they are sinful and depraved. No matter how good your arguments are as evidence for the validity of the Christian faith, the unregenerate will ALWAYS rebel against that knowledge (that they already know, but are suppressing in unrighteousness) no matter what, because they are sinful and hate God. This form of apologetics is not very productive because it presupposes that the problem is people just don't have good enough reason to believe, but the real problem is people won't believe no matter how good the evidence seems to be because of their sinful nature.

This form of apologetics is not very necessary either because the only thing that will change the unbelievers' "belief" is not good arguments, but the message of the saving gospel of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. This sounds very foolish, but doesn't the apostle say that it is through the foolishness of preaching that God has decided to save sinners?

Although I do not see the usefulness or the necessity of evidentialism in evangelism, I believe it has significant value in discipleship. I believe God uses these things to strengthen our faith in Jesus, the reliability of the Bible, God's faithfulness, etc.

Just some thoughts from class. Perhaps this will spark some good discussion.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Welcoming Mike Young

The Reformed Mafia has picked up some new "talent" from the West Coast region. I am pleased-as-punch to introduce to you my friend and fellow ex-Navy man, Mike Young.

His gifts and talents as related to the defense of the faith will make themselves evident. There is no need for me to detail them in advance.

So let it suffice for me to tell you that Mike has proven to be an amazing friend on a personal level. I believe he is a man who, once he considers you a friend, will happily go to great lengths for you, proving himself loyal and steadfast. And, I've seen that he has a great deal of passion for reaching the lost, but not in the "door knocking" or "tract passing" manner. No, Mike actually wants to go where the people are and relate to them.

So, welcome, Mike. Have it at!

Friday, August 24, 2007

American Christianity: Emasculated and Feminized!

Brandon Vallorani of American Vision examines how the church in America has "been slowly emasculated and feminized" in his aricle entitled "Wonderful Wednesdays" and other reasons most men hate going to church...

Monday, August 20, 2007

David Cloud: Lessons in Exegesis

I'm pressing on with my fairly detailed answer to IFB pastor David Cloud's article against Calvinism. I know it's looking bad for him, like another Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, but it's really not. He's built his empire, and a low-level wise guy like me ain't about to dislodge him. I am no threat to pastor Cloud, and do not desire to be. But his article is a convenient target for two reasons: First, he claims to be an expert on the topic. So much so, that if he still doesn't understand what's going on after all the detailed study he's done, then Calvinism is well nigh incomprehensible to all but the most impressive, bulging craniums. And second, his article consists of many isolated, out-of-context proof texts, which lends itself well to evaluation one-by-one.

As always, Pastor Cloud's words are in blue below. Enjoy.

THE JEWS BROUGHT THE WRATH OF GOD UPON THEMSELVES -- “For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost” (1 Thess. 2:14-16).

According to this passage, the Jews that killed the Lord Jesus and persecuted the early believers were not sovereignly reprobated to that evil work. They filled up their sins and brought God’s wrath upon them by their own actions.

This is such juvenile exegesis, that I loathe calling it by that term. I’m sorry, but it is a bit ridiculous, especially coming from one who claims, because of the plethora of books he’s written, that he is an expert in the field of Bible doctrine.

Here is the argument: The passage doesn’t mention God’s predestination at all. Therefore, it argues against it. See, what could be simpler?

You will go a long way in your Bible study by assuming that what the Bible doesn’t say would surely argue against what it does say…a long way toward making shipwreck of the faith, that is. Since it doesn’t mention anything about God’s preordination of the evil done by men in Christ’s crucifixion, then it must necessarily argue against what the Word says about that very topic in other places. Ah, yes, it's all making sense to me now. Since this passage puts the blame on the Jews, then God could not have ordained it…even though He says He did in other places! (Specifically, Acts 2:23, for only one such instance.)

Cloud is obviously confused on this point. He thinks no one can be blamed for doing evil if God ordained the evil should be done. So, if the Jews are to be blamed here, then God must not have ordained it, since any such ordination would release them from their responsibility.

Again, I find myself scratching my head in wonder at the fact that even in a tome like Calvin’s Institutes, which Cloud supposedly studied, he never ran across the notion that God can both ordain evil and yet still hold men morally responsible for their choices.

David Cloud may have a philosophical reason for hating that idea (as do some of the Mafia’s regular commentors) but this verse gives no ammunition for that hatred. Every Calvinist can heartily amen everything in the text.

Note, too, that Paul says the Jews forbade the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles “that they might be saved.” Thus we see that the Gentiles to whom the gospel would otherwise have been preached could have been saved through that preaching.

Again, Mr. Cloud proceeds on a false notion. If the Gentiles might be saved through preaching, or “could have been saved,” that is a much different thing than saying that any particular one of them would have been saved. Could have and would have are different concepts. Calvinists fully affirm that God could save the whole world through the preaching of the Gospel, the world without exception. But will He? Obviously not, since many have since perished without the knowledge of God. But He could, if that’s what He wanted to do.

So the fact that many Gentiles might have been saved, or could have been saved, by the preaching of the gospel to them, is no ammunition against Calvinism. It is certainly no obstruction of near-camel-size that a Calvinist must swallow in order to maintain his doctrine. We fully affirm that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and that the shed blood of Jesus Christ has enough virtue to save the entire world. The issue isn’t can it? But rather will it? And if it does not, and only some are saved, what is it that makes the final difference in their destinies? Every synergistic answer to that question necessarily throws the glory for man’s salvation back on the man.

THOSE WHO ARE SANCTIFIED BY THE BLOOD CAN COUNT IT AN UNHOLY THING AND DESPISE THE SPIRIT OF GOD -- “Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:29).

Either this verse means that a saved person can lose his salvation, or it means that a person can come close to being saved without actually being regenerated and can then turn away finally from salvation by rejecting the efficacy of the blood and the gospel of grace. We believe that it teaches the latter.

In our church planting ministry we have seen many Hindus and Buddhists attend church services and purchase Bibles and look eagerly into the things of Christ and even desire to be baptized and publicly testify that they believed the gospel only to finally turn away and to return to human religion and idolatry and to renounce the blood of Christ and salvation by grace. These were not sanctified in the sense of salvation but they were sanctified in the sense of having been enlightened and convicted by the Spirit and in the sense of having professed to believe in the covenant or gospel of grace.

There is nothing in any of these three paragraphs that represents a Biblical argument against Calvinism. Many Calvinists could’ve probably written them. So, where’s the beef?

This verse contradicts the Calvinist doctrines of Limited Atonement and Irresistible Grace.

This baffles me. No explanation given: It’s sort of, “I said it, so you ought to believe it.”

Limited, or Particular Atonement means that although the virtue of Christ’s atoning sacrifice was infinite, yet He did not actually atone for every individual man (or else all would be saved!) but He died specifically for the elect of God. His sacrifice was sufficient to save every man, but will only actually save those whom God has predestined to glory.

And, as we’ve seen before, Irresistible Grace means that the elect are not able to thwart God’s saving purpose in the process of salvation, beginning with regeneration, and culminating in glory. Jesus will lose none that the Father gives to Him, but will surely save them. Though the elect may struggle and resist in their carnal flesh for a season, their hearts and minds eventually warm to the things of God and they most willingly come to Christ for salvation. Their temporal resistance will not be enough to cause their loss.

Okay, now that we’ve got those definitions, I still don’t see how David Cloud thinks the verse in question argues against either doctrine. If one falls away from the status of his former confession, and ends up despising the blood of Christ, all that means is that he was never regenerate in the first place. If he persists in that state to death, then we can be assured that he was not one of the elect, for if he had been, he would most surely have repented and found new life in Christ.

At the verse [sic] least this verses [sic] teaches that the blood of Christ was available to them for salvation but that they rejected it.

No Calvinist would argue anything different (although most would care enough to half-way fix the grammar.) The Gospel offer is free and sincere, given in good faith to all who hear it. But it is often rejected. Calvinism isn’t at odds with that. Cloud may be unknowingly addressing Hyper-Calvinism as opposed to Calvinism on that count, for Hypers do not believe that the Gospel is truly or properly offered to all men.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

J.C. Thibodaux on Election

A very interesting article indeed. I highly recommend that the Mafia read it!

It's always interesting to me when people will teach that God does indeed choose people to be saved (even if by mere prescience) and yet teach that the person can lose the Salvation that they were chosen to receive... I mean, don't they think God saw that coming too? Why did He choose them to be saved if He already knew they would eventually fall away? By this scheme, did those who forfeit salvation ever really receive the gift of "eternal life"?

Somebody help me out here...

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Perseverance of the Saints

1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith: Chapter 17

Of The Perseverance of the Saints

1._____ Those whom God hath accepted in the beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, and given the precious faith of his elect unto, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved, seeing the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, whence he still begets and nourisheth in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality; and though many storms and floods arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon; notwithstanding, through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sensible sight of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured from them, yet he is still the same, and they shall be sure to be kept by the power of God unto salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being engraven upon the palm of his hands, and their names having been written in the book of life from all eternity.( John 10:28, 29; Philippians 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:19; 1 John 2:19; Psalms 89:31, 32; 1 Corinthians 11:32; Malachi 3:6 )

2._____ This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father, upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ and union with him, the oath of God, the abiding of his Spirit, and the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof. ( Romans 8:30 Romans 9:11, 16; Romans 5:9, 10; John 14:19; Hebrews 6:17, 18; 1 John 3:9; Jeremiah 32:40 )

3._____ And though they may, through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God's displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to have their graces and comforts impaired, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves, yet shall they renew their repentance and be preserved through faith in Christ Jesus to the end. ( Matthew 26:70, 72, 74; Isaiah 64:5, 9; Ephesians 4:30; Psalms 51:10, 12; Psalms 32:3, 4; 2 Samuel 12:14; Luke 22:32, 61, 62 )


Thursday, August 16, 2007


This is the latest in my series of posts responding to Pastor David Cloud’s attack on Reformed theology, “Calvin’s Camels.” His words are in blue below.

THE JEWS RESISTED THE HOLY SPIRIT -- “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye” (Acts 7:51).

Stephen charged his Jewish persecutors with resisting the Holy Spirit. Here again we see that the Holy Spirit strives with men and that they can willfully resist Him.

As I’ve pointed out previously, Cloud thinks that any instance in which men resist God is proof that man’s will can thwart God’s purposes in the earth. He keeps harping on this in an effort to show that God is not sovereign (at least not in the Calvinistic definition of “sovereignty”.) But we’d stress that the Bible shows men doing evil things that God has ordained must be done. Therefore, their rebellion is no threat to our take on sovereignty. God has ordained their sin, so their sin is no threat to God’s rule.

The Calvinist answer [sic] this by claiming that the “bondage of the will” works only one way, meaning that the unsaved can reject the truth but they cannot, on the other hand, receive the truth.

Yes, but we didn’t make that up. We get that from places like 1 Corinthians 2:12-15. It says we have “received the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand” and that the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit. In the context of the passage, from the beginning of the book, it is the Gospel of Jesus that is being discussed, and nothing else. We are given the Spirit to understand it, and if left to ourselves, we cannot receive it. Calvin didn’t write that passage of Scripture.

We would also stress that man’s inability to receive the truth is not something that is forced upon him. His inability is not due to the fact that he’s not “allowed” or even that he doesn’t have the mental capacity to make a choice. He doesn’t choose righteousness because he hates it. Men love darkness rather than light, for their deeds are evil. Fallen man is free to repent and do right, but he simply will not. He isn’t “bound” by anything other than his own affections. It is not as if God has to force him to choose the wrong option.

According to this doctrine, only the elect are given the ability to believe the gospel while the non-elect are left in their Totally Depraved condition with their will in bondage and unable to believe. The Bible nowhere teaches this.

This is a very bold statement. And, we note, it is an assertion totally lacking an argument. You see, I thought that’s what this whole article was about: showing where Calvinism disagrees plainly with the Bible. Simply stating what you need to prove is not the same as actually proving it. I find it amazing that in all of the studying of Calvinism that David Cloud has done, he’s found not one instance in which a Calvinist has offered Biblical proof of this doctrine. In all the volumes he poured through in an effort to get this right, not one scholar pointed to places like Romans 9:15-18, or to the conversion story of Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened so that she could receive what Paul preached?

Instead, from the beginning to the end of the Bible, from Cain to those who follow the antichrist, men are called by God and are expected to respond and obviously are able to respond and are condemned when they do not.

I am at a loss to think which particular Scriptures show that the fallen people of the world “obviously are able to respond.” Which text or texts make that obvious? I see many places where the command to repent is given. I see no places where the Bible makes it obvious that every person who hears the call is able to do what is commanded. Surely, these places ought to be legion in the Scripture for Cloud to argue that it’s obvious, right? Or, is it possible that this is a philosophical presupposition he has brought to the text, one in which responsibility can only be co-extensive with ability (which, by the way, was the founding principle of the Pelagian heresy?)

Where does the Bible teach that everyone who is commanded a thing is fully capable of doing what is commanded? Many have pointed out that Scripture commanded the Jews to keep all the commandments of God, knowing full well that the sinfulness of their flesh made this an impossibility. Scripture also commands us to be perfect. So, logically, and obviously, the Bible teaches perfectionism, since we have got to be able to do what it tells us to all on our own.

That some do and some do not respond to the light that God gives is not because only some are pre-ordained to respond.

Okay. I’m glad to see David Cloud come this far in being honest about his beliefs, but he stops here, just on the verge of dropping off the cliff. He’s bold enough to say that the difference between belief and unbelief does not lie with God’s election. So, where does that difference lie? When one believes and one does not, what is the explanation for the difference? Who gets the credit? He’s already said it isn’t God, so…am I over-reaching here to suggest that the only other option is the believer himself? “Thank you, Lord, that I am not like other men. I fast twice a week. I give alms of all I have to the poor. I was spiritually sensitive enough to respond to the Gospel where others failed.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A Raid on the Speak-Easy

It always happens. It never fails. The party just gets going and the joint is hopping, and along comes some G-man trying to make a name for himself. He shows up at the secret entrance, axe in hand, hoping to smash all the barrels of our best Prohibition hooch. He wants to be Elliot Ness. He wants to make the evening papers as an Untouchable.

Okay. Generally, we at the Mafia consider this the cost of doing business.

The aspiring hero is named Josh, and he's come looking for our stash of the good stuff, the Perseverance of the Saints. This is the text of an email I received.

Greetings to all members of the 'Reformed Mafia,'Rhett, Joshua, Seth, Douglas, Sam, Gordon, and sure,Trevor too if he's reading.

I have posted a challenge to the Calvinist doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, and would like to present it to you directly and give you the opportunity to publicly respond to it if you wish.

The challenge in a nutshell is this: There are several extremely clear and unmistakable warnings against Christians falling away unto perdition given in scripture (Matthew 5:27-30, Hebrews 4:9-11, and Revelation 22:18-19 specifically), establishing the fact that it is possible for a believer to forfeit salvation. All attempts to explain the warnings and consequences in the passages away or reconcile them with teaching eternal security are either completely untenable, or in the tradition of the Scribes and Pharisees, make the biblicaladmonitions of no effect.

You can read the challenge in its entirety at:

I look forward to your response, and may God bless you.

And we've found that at the same site, he's got a chart posted with all of our names on it, with blank spaces awaiting the dates of our responses. Like wanted posters back at the squadroom. LOL.

Well, copper, Knuckles ain't a-scared a no heat, ya hear?! As soon as I post this, I will begin posting the first part of my personal response to this challenge. I'm going to do that at Incrediblog! in order to keep from clogging the Mafia blog with this messy business. [Late edit: Part 2 and Part 3 are now up as well.]

Other members here may or may not respond. Or, they may simply pass me ammo. Either way...

Monday, August 6, 2007

David Cloud's Disappointed God

This is Part 3 of my evaluation of David Cloud's article against Calvinism. Again, his words are in blue below.

JESUS WOULD BUT ISRAEL WOULD NOT -- “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Mat. 23:37).

Here we see that it was the will and desire of the Son of God to save Israel throughout her history and He sent His prophets to her, but He was refused. Christ would; Israel would not. Knowing that Christ is God, this teaches us that God’s will can be thwarted by man’s will?

I’m guessing that Cloud didn’t mean to end that paragraph with a question mark, but from my perspective, I think it’s more appropriate than the other, possible punctuations. Question mark, as in, “Huh?”

But before showing why Cloud is wrong about this, take careful note of what he is positively asserting. “God’s will can be thwarted by man’s will.” That is what he believes. Let’s make no bones about it and be sure that’s out in the open. What God wants to do can be blocked and thwarted by man’s will. Not only can it happen, but it happens literally all the time as unsaved people die, having rejected the Gospel offer of salvation in Christ. God’s will is thwarted continuously in Cloud’s world. But brother Cloud began this article protesting that it was unfair to charge him with not believing in the sovereignty of God. I would dearly like to hear his definition of sovereignty, then, because it apparently does not have anything to do with being in charge.

As to the text itself, Cloud’s interpretation suffers from his reading his preconceived image of God into it, rather than simply reading what it says. You see, for Cloud, God has to actively desire the salvation of every individual on the planet. That’s a given, before he even comes to the text. So, it is no surprise that he finds in this verse a statement of the heart of Jesus toward the unsaved Jews. He finds Jesus shedding tears over their obstinacy. He finds Jesus sorely disappointed by how things have turned out.

But if we’ll just read the text, here is a startling thing: it really doesn’t say a thing about how Jesus felt at the time. Cloud has to “feel” the Lord’s disappointment for Him, because it is not present in the text itself. What Jesus says is that He would’ve gathered the Jews as a hen gathers her chicks, if they had responded to His overtures through the prophets and those sent to her.
All this has to mean is that when the Spirit of Christ spoke by the prophets, the promise of Israel’s restoration upon their repentance was a genuine promise that He was fully ready to keep. When the prophets said things like, “If you will do A, then I will do B, says the Lord,” then the Lord really meant that. If the people had kept their end, He would’ve done what He promised.

Sometimes that’s called the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel. When Calvinists (as distinguished from Hyper-Calvinists) speak of the Well-Meant Offer, we mean that it is right and good to preach the Gospel to people even though they may not be the elect of God. The things said in the Gospel offer are still true. Repent, believe, and you will have eternal life in Christ. If you do A, then God will give you B. We believe that’s really true.

Where we differ from Cloud and other synergists, is our belief that the natural man, who is dead in sins and trespasses, lacks the ability on his own, apart from the regenerating work of the Spirit, to do what the Well-Meant Offer requires. God will do what He’s promised, but the fallen man can’t keep his end of the bargain without miraculous help.

So, in the text in question, all Jesus is saying is that He made real, genuine offers of restoration to the nation of Israel, conditioned on their repentance. And they chose not to repent.

What is absent from the text is any hint that Jesus is all broken up about it. Cloud’s theology must manufacture God’s dismay, because the Spirit opted not to put it into the text. All the verse is saying is, I would’ve kept my end of the covenant bargain, but you did not keep yours.

Cloud’s next spoof-text against Calvinism is of the same sort, where Paul writes to the Roman church, “But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people” (Rom. 10:21).

If we’ll confine ourselves to the actual words of the text, and not bring along all our emotional baggage with it, we’d see immediately that there is no hint of God being thwarted or disappointed here, either. He is merely saying that He has put up with Israel for a very long time (“all day long”) and has made sincere offers (“I have stretched forth my hands,”) which were rejected.

There is nothing that argues against Calvinism in that. Monergists agree that the Well-Meant Offer is often rejected. That’s not the issue.

The issue is this: when the Well-Meant Gospel offer is accepted by some, and rejected by others, what is the ultimate reason for the differing response? We further assert that this is very close to exactly the question Jesus was answering in John 6:44: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” The differing reactions of men to the gospel are to be attributed to the active will of the Father.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

David Cloud on Limiting the Holy One

I'm continuing with my evaluation of pastor David Cloud’s article against Calvinism, called Calvin’s Camels, in which his premise is that Calvinism strains out gnats and swallows camels. (The first installment of this evaluation is found here.) Now, we find out that the camels of which he speaks are a series of isolated “proof texts,” which Cloud is convinced argue strongly against ideas like God’s ultimate sovereignty in salvation. I look at the first of these below. Pastor Cloud’s words are all in blue.

GOD CAN BE LIMITED -- “Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel” (Psalm 78:41). [sic]

According to Calvinism, if man can resist God or thwart His purposes then God is no longer a Sovereign God and man must be Sovereign. Thus they claim that it is impossible that man could accept or reject God’s salvation. But the fact is that the Bible says man does resist and reject God on every hand, and this has been going on since the earliest days of his history. Adam rejected God’s Word. Cain rejected it. Noah’s generation rejected it. The men gathered at the Tower of Babel rejected it. And it will not do to allow that man can resist God in some things but not in the matter [sic] salvation. If man can resist and reject and limit God in any way and God can still be God, then God can still be God if He offers salvation to all and some receive it and some reject it, as the Bible so plainly says. “And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).

I confess that I hardly know where to start with this. Is it possible for a paragraph to contain more misconceptions than actual words?

I guess prudence dictates starting at the beginning.

1. Cloud yanks a verse out of its context, (Psalms 78:41) and uses it to prove that man has the ability to “limit” God. It is apparent from what he says about it, he believes the “limiting” mentioned is one in which actual boundaries or limitations are placed on God’s ability/authority/power to do what He pleases.

However, if we go back and read the verse in its context (imagine that) we would see without much trouble that this is not what is meant. Rather, what it is saying is that the unbelieving nation, by forgetting God’s power (v.42), failed to believe that He could accomplish what He promised to do for them. In fact, this is the thrust of the entire Psalm. They forgot His power, and failed to believe His promises.

Thus, they limited God in v.41, but this was not a thwarting of His sovereignty. Rather, they merely ascribed to Him some grossly limited sovereignty. They didn’t actually limit God’s power: they only believed it was limited.

Ironically, that is the same error David Cloud winds up advocating. Israel tempted and provoked God by believing He was limited in what He could do. And Cloud’s interpretation winds up saying a big, hearty “Amen” to that. He freely, and apparently without any shame, teaches that God’s power can be and often is thwarted by man’s will. Cloud’s version of God really is limited.

2. Commenting on his spoof text, Cloud explains: “According to Calvinism, if man can resist God or thwart His purposes then…man must be Sovereign.”

There is a sense in which this statement is true. That is what Calvinists think. However, it is apparent in Cloud’s article that he would define that “resist” a bit more broadly than we would.

Calvinists do not believe, for instance, that if the kingdom of God on earth experiences opposition, and even apparent defeat, that this is proof of a lack of total sovereignty. Cloud believes that any instance in which humanity opposes God’s work, is proof that God can be resisted, and therefore God’s grace cannot be Irresistible Grace.

Rather, we believe that when God sets out in time and history to regenerate one of His elect, then the human in question has no power to thwart this intention. Irresistible Grace (the I in Calvinism’s TULIP) is not about whether or not sinful man will rebel and offer opposition to the kingdom of God in the earth. Irresistible Grace is speaking specifically of saving grace, and the fact that God gets every one He goes after. He loses none. He wins out over man's opposition. It is impossible that one who has been eternally elected to salvation in Christ would be able to resist this and wind up in hell. This is so basic to Calvinism, I really have to wonder how someone who has studied this could mess it up.

3. And speaking of things that someone who has diligently studied this issue ought not be caught saying, Cloud goes on: “Thus they claim that it is impossible that man could accept or reject God’s salvation.” (Emphasis mine.)

I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and approach this as if what he meant to say was that it is impossible for fallen man to accept God’s salvation without first being regenerated. (That would be the Calvinistic view.) And, it is impossible that the elect man could ultimately reject God’s salvation and end up damned. That would also be Calvinism.

But the way he wrote it leaves open the interpretation that he thinks Calvinists believe that no reaction at all to the gospel is possible. That’s not Calvinism.

4. Cloud says, “But the fact is that the Bible says man does resist and reject God on every hand, and this has been going on since the earliest days of his history. Adam rejected God’s Word. Cain rejected it. Noah’s generation rejected it. The men gathered at the Tower of Babel rejected it.”

This quote is perfectly true in all it asserts. But Cloud thinks it does much more than it really does.

See, David Cloud thinks this proves that the doctrines of Irresistible Grace and God’s Ultimate Sovereignty are wrong.

Quite to the contrary, what it does prove is that the Calvinistic doctrine of Total Depravity is correct. It doesn’t speak to Irresistible Grace at all, as explained above. Irresistible Grace is not damaged; nay, it’s not even touched, by the fact that sinners reject the offer of salvation. For Irresistible Grace to be harmed, you’d have to prove, for instance, that those who perished in Noah’s flood were the elect of God, but then wound up condemned for their unbelief. That would destroy Irresistible Grace. Or, you’d have to show that Adam was predestined for heaven, and yet is in hell.

That the reprobate reject God’s offer of mercy, or that the elect sometimes rebel and sin, are facts that are not playing on the same ball-field as the doctrine of Irresistible Grace. Irresistible Grace means that all the elect wind up saved, without exception, in spite of their temporal rebellion. They eventually come to faith. So pointing out their temporary resistance in no way disproves our doctrine. Calvinism fully acknowledges that fallen man will reject God at every opportunity, so how can spotlighting that rejection be damaging to Calvinism?

5. More, “And it will not do to allow that man can resist God in some things but not in the matter [sic] salvation.”

Depends on your definition of "resist." We believe men resist God all the time, including in the matter of salvation (the preaching and receiving of the Gospel.) What we deny is that any of this resistance actually hinders God’s plan. In fact, we’d assert that God preordained every detail of this resistance. If God ordained the rebellion of sinners, and then they go on to sin just as He ordained, I’m not seeing how this is any proof that God can be thwarted.

Cloud thinks man “resists” God in the sense of actually, genuinely, foiling or disrupting His purposes. But he cannot prove this, and to try to prove it, he must carefully avoid any passage at all that shows God ordaining evil for His own purposes. The presence of evil does not disrupt God's plan. It is rather part of God's plan.

That's not a Calvinistic concept only: there are synergists who recognize that as Bible teaching. To deny that concept is to launch out into Open Theism, in which the good god is always doing his best to eliminate the bad god, but can't seem to get it done.

6. Finally, David Cloud quotes Revelation 22:17, apparently as proof of his assertion that some of the elect may reject God’s salvation and end up condemned. But this baffles me utterly: there is nothing in this verse that even comes close to touching on that matter. The only reason I can think that he has quoted it here is that it contains the Arminian Holy Grail, the wording of “whosoever will,” which many synergists believe is some magic bullet against the monster of Calvinism. Again, it leaves me wondering how much study was really done to understand Calvinism, if Cloud has yet to be disabused of that sort of thing.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Confronting Modern Christianity

I have to admit, I have never heard of this guy until visiting Reformed Mafioso, Sam Meza's blog, In Awe of Christ, but this video from David Wilkerson is worth the watch as he talks about the decline of Christianity. A Faith that used to be about redemption and justification, has now become a movement about dieting strategies and business methods. What has happened to Christianity today?

Postmodern Christianity: A biblical answer for the man on the island scenario

Acts 10:34, “So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.’”

In this verse, one can either learn wonderful biblical truths, or one can become greatly confused. One one hand, Peter clearly communicates that God does not favor any particular race of people — salvation is for everyone. On the other hand, the second half of Peter’s statement almost sounds like a man can become acceptable to God by his works. How should a Christian interpret and apply this verse and its context, while not ignoring difficulties?

One of the questions that often arises in one’s mind after reading this verse is, “Was Cornelius already saved?” The response to this question has been answered in different ways for centuries. Both Augustine and Calvin wrote that Cornelius had saving faith prior to Peter’s coming. Recent theologian John Piper gives good reasons why Cornelius did not have saving faith. My own own investigation of this question has ended still in mystery, to a degree. I see a case to be made for both sides of the argument, and I will discuss this later on.

Solving this mystery, however, is not the point of the passage. Regardless of Cornelius’ state of salvation prior to Peter’s coming, Acts 10:34 and the surrounding context reveal very important truths about Christ, the gospel, and missions.

One of the most important truths taught is that there is salvation through no one else but Jesus Christ. One cannot find salvation through “highways” of different religions. Acts 10 is a great illustration of the fact that faithfully following a non-Christian religion is not good enough for salvation.

Let me explain why. As I have stated in the past, proper biblical study considers not just a word, a verse, a chapter, or even an entire book. One must consider the purposes of the whole Bible — all 66 books, in order to even come close to interpreting a passage properly. That being said, one must remember that over 4,000 years of events have occurred leading to this point in the history of Christianity. Wars have been fought, sons have been born, kings have been assassinated, Israel has been exiled twice, and prophecies have been fulfilled. All these plus many other events have led up to the coming of Christ, Who came to fulfill the old covenant and establish a new covenant.

I say these things to support my next statement: What happened to Cornelius was part of the fulfillment of promises made by God thousands of years beforehand, and these were promises of a Messiah, a Savior, and a Redeemer who would come and save people from their sin. In the book of John 8:56, Jesus spoke about how Abraham looked forward to His coming as Messiah. Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” Peter also wrote of how the prophets waited for the fulfillment of Messianic promises: “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.”

These verses must be considered carefully. It is immensely important to realize that Abraham, the prophets, and many others waited thousands of years for salvation through the Messiah to come. Most men consider an engagement period of six months or even a year to be an eternity. Sellers of antiques will have to wait at least fifty years for modern-day items to become valuable treasures. The people of China waited over two thousand years for the Great Wall of China to be completed. Yet the lengths of all these events are nothing compared to four thousand years of waiting for salvation through the promised Messiah.

The weight and gravity of the promises hoped for is so deep that to suggest salvation in God can be gained by following another religion or god is laughable. Even to hint at the idea that a man on a deserted island can come to faith without Christ is to deny a foundation of promises so longstanding, that only an unlearned or ignorant person would dare suggest such a possibility.

God promised to the saints of old the coming of Christ and all that He brings in His person,

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

And in speaking of His plan to bring salvation to the whole world, God says through Isaiah the prophet,

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).

What is meant by this “light for the nations”? It speaks of the coming of Christ and the message of salvation to the whole world through Him. After a wait of thousands of years, this and many other promises erupted into the worldwide explosion of the gospel as we see recorded in the events of Acts. Starting with the apostles, the gospel would be preached to the Jews, who mostly rejected it, and then received by the Gentiles, in fulfillment of Isaiah 49:6. Notice what Paul says in Acts 13:47 and the response of the Gentiles: “For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”

This is astounding. This event, which Isaiah had prophesied about some eight hundred years earlier, was now becoming a reality. And what was this reality? That a message of hope and salvation would come through Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and many other religions? No. God had not designed these events and carried them out so that Christ’s coming was of little consequence. Instead, salvation came through the climactic conclusion of salvation alone through Christ. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” said Peter.

We must understand this! There is no other name, no other person, no entity, no spirit, and not anything under heaven that can save us accept Christ. And in case there is confusion in the interpretation of the word “name” here, let there be no mistake. Grammatically, the Greek word “onoma,” according to Thayer’s lexicon means “the name is used for everything which the name covers, everything the thought or feeling of which is aroused in the mind by mentioning, hearing, remembering, the name, i.e. for one’s rank, authority, interests, pleasure, command, excellences, deeds etc.”

There is no room for misinterpretation here. Any idea, thought, or feeling that even is associated with anything else other than Christ cannot save a man. Salvation is through Christ alone.

God revealed Christ to Cornelius through the appearance of an angel, a vision, and the sign of the Holy Spirit. Cornelius needed Christ, otherwise God would not have gone to such trouble to reveal Christ to Cornelius. If Judaism is an alternative path to Christ, then why bother with 4,000 years of promises and prophecies of a Messiah? Judaism is not an option, and neither is any other religion or religious figurehead. That is because Cornelius, along with every other human, needs a redeemer for their sins so that they may have a right standing before God. They need salvation, and that salvation comes only through the name and person of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

In Honor Of The Feast Of St. Alphonsus De Liguori

Unless I am mistaken, yesterday was a feast day in the Catholic church. It was to honor Alphonsus De Liguori. He is better known as the author of the book The Glories Of Mary.

Of him, it was written:

When the grave of Alphonsus was opened at Nocera, three fingers of his right hand were taken and sent to Rome. This was the wish of Pope Pius VII, who said: "Let those three fingers that have written so well for the honor of God, of the Blessed Virgin and of religion, be carefully preserved and sent to Rome."

In honor of his feast day, here are a few snippets of his aforementioned work. I am going to post an opening scripture before each quote, just to add a little perspective.

John 3:16 states:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

de Liguori writes:

But again, we are exceedingly dear to Mary on account of the sufferings we cost her. Mothers generally love those children most, the preservation of whose lives has cost them the most suffering and anxiety; we are those children for whom Mary, in order to obtain for us the life of grace, was obliged to endure the bitter agony of herself offering her beloved Jesus to die an ignominious death, and had also to see him expire before her own eyes in the midst of the most cruel and unheard-of torments. It was then by this great offering of Mary that we were born to the life of grace; we are therefore her very dear children, since we cost her so great suffering. And thus, as it is written of the love of the Eternal Father towards men, in giving his own Son to death for us, that God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son ("Sic Deus dilexit mundum, ut filium suum unigenitum daret."—John, iii. 16). "So also," says St. Bonaventure, "we can say of Mary, that she has so loved us as to give her only-begotten Son for us" ("Sic Maria dilexit nos, ut Filium suum unigenitum daret"). And when did she give him? She gave him, says Father Nieremberg, when she granted him permission to deliver himself up to death;Chapter 1, Section 3

Jeremiah 17:5 states:

Thus says the LORD,
"Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the LORD."

de Liguori writes:

"Modern heretics cannot endure that we should salute and call Mary our hope: "Hail, our Hope!" They say that God alone is our hope; and that he curses those who put their trust in creatures in these words of the prophet Jeremias: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man ("Maledictus homo qui confidit in homine"—Jer. xvii. 5). Mary, they exclaim, is a creature; and how can a creature be our hope? This is what the heretics say; but in spite of this, the holy Church obliges all ecclesiastics and religious each day to raise their voices, and in name of all the faithful invoke and call Mary by the sweet name of "our Hope,"—the hope of all."
-- The Glories of Mary Ch.3 section 1 "Mary, Our Hope"

de Liguori goes on to state:

"The King of Heaven, being infinite goodness, desires in the highest degree to enrich us with his graces; but because confidence is requisite on our part, and in order to increase it in us, he has given us his own Mother to be our mother and advocate, and to her he has given all power to help us; and therefore he wills that we should repose our hope of salvation and of every blessing in her. Those who place their hopes in creatures alone, independently of God, as sinners do, and in order to obtain the friendship and favor of a man, fear not to outrage his divine Majesty, are most certainly cursed by God, as the prophet Jeremias says. But those who hope in Mary, as Mother of God, who is able to obtain graces and eternal life for them, are truly blessed and acceptable to the heart of God...

de Liguori writes in support of the above:

St. Ephrem, reflecting on the present order of Providence, by which God wills (as St. Bernard says, and as we shall prove at length) that all who are saved should be saved by the means of Mary, thus addresses her: "O Lady, cease not to watch over us; preserve and guard us under the wings of thy compassion and mercy, for, after God, we have no hope but in thee" ("Nobis non est alia quam in te fidueia, O Virgo sincerissima! sub alis tuae pietatis protégé et custody nos"—De Laud. Dei Gen.). St. Thomas of Villanova repeats the same thing, calling her "our only refuge, help, and asylum" ("Tu unicum refugium, subsidium, et asylum"—In Nat. B. V. Conc. 3). St. Bernard seems to give the reason for this when he says, "See, O man, the designs of God,—designs by which he is able to dispense his mercy more abundantly to us; for, desiring to redeem the whole human race, he has placed the whole price of redemption in the hands of Mary, that she may dispense it at will" ("Intuere, O homo, consilium Dei, consilium pietatis: redempturus humanum genus, pretium universum contulit in Mariam"—De Aquaed).

Philippians 2:9-10 states:

9. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
10. so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth

de Liguori writes:

The great name of Mary, which was given to the divine Mother, did not come to her from her parents, nor was it given to her by the mind or will of man, as is the case with all other names that are imposed in this world; but it came from heaven, and was given her by a divine ordinance. This is attested by St. Jerome (De Nat. M. V.), St. Epiphanius (Or. de Praes. Deip.), St. Antoninus (Hist. p. 1, t. 4, c. 6, #10), and others. "The name of Mary came from the treasury of the divinity" ("De thesauro Divinitatis, Mariae nomen evolvitur"—S. de Annunt.), says St. Peter Damian. Ah, yes, O Mary, it was from that treasury that thy high and admirable name came forth; for the most Blessed Trinity, says Richard of St. Laurence, bestowed on thee a name above every other name after that of thy Son, and ennobled it with such majesty and power, that he willed that all heaven, earth, and hell, on only hearing it, should fall down and venerate it; but I will give the author's own words: "The whole Trinity, O Mary, gave thee a name after that of thy Son above every other name, that in thy name every knee should bow, of things in heaven, on earth, and under the earth" ("Dedit tibi, Maria, tota Trinitas nomen quod est super omne nomen, post nomen Filii sui, ut in nominee ejus omne genu flectatur coelestium, terrestrium, et infernorum"—De Laud. B. M. l. 1, c. 2). But amongst the other privileges of the name of Mary, and which were given to it by God, we will now examine that of the peculiar sweetness found in it by the servants of this most holy Lady during life and in death.
chapter 10, paragraph 1

Happy belated Feast Of St. Alphonsus De Liguori Day!