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.


Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

WOW....I just actually read all of your David Cloud Articles....I wonder if they will let him post in the Christian Index. He probably has had coffee with Nelson Price, Bill Harrell, Ergun Caner, and Jerry Vines.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

And where did our bullets go?

gordan said...

Duh, I never noticed the bullet holes were gone. Mr. Observant, my wife calls me.

To my credit, though, I did notice that the machine gun is a different one.

Rhett said...

Said by an IFBx trained SBC preacher:

"God is constantly having to change His plans because man is constantly messing them up!"

You did a fine job on this series Gordan. :)

Hindsey said...

"God is never thrwarted or disappointed..." My question on this post then is, Why did God stretch out His hands to Israel if He didn't really want to receive them? And if He did really want to receive them, what happened?

And why did Jesus weep over Jerusalem in Luke 19:41? I have always understood that it was in line with Matthew 23:37.

Thanks again for your time.