Thursday, April 10, 2008

Monkeying with the Bible

It never ceases to amaze me how the Arminians wriggle out of obviously Calvinistic passages of Scripture. Reading Dave Hunt's part of Debating Calvinism with James White is physically painful, and Steve Gregg's efforts on his radio debate with the said Dr. White caused a similar reaction.
But there is nothing new about this. Here is a section from Adam Clarke's Commentary on the New Testament that I found while preparing a sermon on 1 Thessalonians 5.9. "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by Our Lord Jesus Christ." Verse 10 goes on: "Who died for us, that, wheher we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him."

Verse 9. For God hath not appointed us to wrath
"So then it appears that some were appointed to wrath, ειςοργην, to punishment; on this subject there can be no dispute. But who are they? When did this appointment take place? And for what cause? These are supposed to be "very difficult questions, and such as cannot receive a satisfactory answer; and the whole must be referred to the sovereignty of God." If we look carefully at the apostle's words, we shall find all these difficulties vanish. It is very obvious that, in the preceding verses, the apostle refers simply to the destruction of the Jewish polity, and to the terrible judgments which were about to fall on the Jews as a nation; therefore, they are the people who were appointed to wrath; and they were thus appointed, not from eternity, nor from any indefinite or remote time, but from that time in which they utterly rejected the offers of salvation made to them by Jesus Christ and his apostles; the privileges of their election were still continued to them, even after they had crucified the Lord of glory; for, when he gave commandment to his disciples to go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature, he bade them begin at Jerusalem. They did so, and continued to offer salvation to them, till at last, being everywhere persecuted, and the whole nation appearing with one consent to reject the Gospel, the kingdom of God was wholly taken away from them, and the apostles turned to the Gentiles. Then God appointed them to wrath; and the cause of that appointment was their final and determined rejection of Christ and his Gospel. But even this appointment to wrath does not signify eternal damnation; nothing of the kind is intended in the word. Though we are sure that those who die in their sins can never see God, yet it is possible that many of those wretched Jews, during their calamities, and especially during the siege of their city, did turn unto the Lord who smote them, and found that salvation which he never denies to the sincere penitent.

"When the Jews were rejected, and appointed to wrath, then the Gentiles were elected, and appointed to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, whose Gospel they gladly received, and continue to prize; while the remnant of the Jews continue, in all places of their dispersion, the same irreconcilable and blasphemous opponents of the Gospel of Christ. On these accounts the election of the Gentiles and the reprobation of the Jews still continue."

Note how Clarke does not actually quote any Calvinists at all, but gives what may be seen as his summary of what Calvinists say: " These are supposed to be "very difficult questions, and such as cannot receive a satisfactory answer; and the whole must be referred to the sovereignty of God."
Ah, but, Clarke replies: "If we look carefully at the apostle's words, we shall find all these difficulties vanish."
What is his solution? Very simple, it is the Jews who were appointed to wrath, and the Gentiles to salvation. Really? Dr. Clarke, Paul says 'US', not 'YOU'. What was Paul, Jew or Gentile? Was he not "an Hebrew of the Hebrews", an Israelite? Therefore he CANNOT have in mind a distinction between Jew and Gentile in this passage. In any case, as Paul says in Romans 11, "God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew" (in passing we have to ask how the Arminian fiction of prescient election applies to Israel). The trouble is that Clarke has an Arminian presupposition operating here. He has already concluded that election is always of nations to privilege, so that he takes this verse as saying that the Jews have been appointed to wrath (i.e. AD70), while the Gentiles have been appointed to what? To the possibility of obtaining salvation! But there is nothing here about possibility, it is a real obtaining of salvation. Verse 10 makes it clear that those for whom Christ died (only Gentiles, Dr. Clarke? But that is the implication of his remarks on verse 9!) will certainly live with him. This is not about possibilities, it is about realities and certainties.

This is not some way-out free-will preacher (although some of Clarke's ideas are a little far-out, most notably his belief that the serpent in Genesis 3 was an orangutan, hence the pictures on this post), it is one of the most respected and used Arminian commentaries in existence. Yet the best Clarke can do here is to try to say that elction is of nations to privilege, a common Arminian dodge, popular with Dave hunt in the present day (though Adam Clarke knew Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, Persian, and about a dozen other languages, while Dave Hunt does not). This is not the only passage in the Thessalonian epistles that Clarke uses this method of eisegesis on. In his comment on 2 Thessalonians 2.13 Dr. Clarke maintains that 'God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation' actually means:

" In your calling God has shown the purpose He had formed from the beginning, to call the Gentiles to the same privileges with the Jews."
Really? is that all Paul is saying, that he gives thanks for the Gentiles because God has appointed a plan of Salvation for them? Or that he gives thanks for the Thessalonian Church because God has chosen to save them?

Well, Adam Clarke still has some supporters here, but for myself, I think this is blatant Arminian eisegesis. Not to mention monkeying with Scripture.


Gordan Runyan said...

Nice, HH. Clark's interpretation commits the same basic grammatical error as synergistic takes on Acts 13:48. That is, when the Bible says they were ordained, somehow what that really means is that they ordained themselves by the their free-will decision. I don't believe the Greek allows for that. Those who are ordained are the objects of that verb, not the doers.

Gordan Runyan said...

That one monkey picture is disturbing. I fear some may find it offensive...him being draped in a flag and all that...

rhettsrants said...

Actually, the ape with the itchy eyes may be offended at being called a monkey. I think they're really cool creatues no matter what they're called...

Good post HH!

Highland Host said...

Adam Clarke's Orangutan was popularly referred to as a monkey in days gone by, earning his commentary the name of 'The Monkey Bible'.
The flag-wrapped Orang is a patriotic ape from Chester Zoo, in England, supporting the national football team in its hour of need.

Rev. said...

That "Arminian" Orangutan is flipping off "Calvinists"!

arminianperspectives said...

Hey HH,

Nice post. I have benefitted much from reading Adam Clarke, but I, like you, find his controlling hermeneutic concerning the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem to sometimes cause him trouble.

It should be noted, however, that Clarke uses this controlling hermeneutic with regards to passages which Arminians often appeal to in a way that often reders those passages far less friendly to Arminian theology.

Therefore, I am not convinced that Clarke is most concerned with defending Arminianism in this passage. Rather he is more concerned with what he believes are escahtological emphases in the passage based on his undertsanding of Matt. 24 and similar passages.

Anyway, I disagree with Clarke here as I disagree with him in many other areas, though I still consider him a generally excellent exegete.

God Bless,