Limited Atonement and the Divine Command to Believe Falsehood

(Revised 11/30/2014, removed a paragraph with little relevance and revised/expanded the conclusion. Much thanks to members of the Society of Evangelical Arminians for their feedback)

When Christians who aren’t from a Calvinist tradition hear about limited atonement, something usually seems entirely wrong about the idea. Indeed, in the face of having no clear biblical data to support such an idea, a substantial body of passages that seem to indicate just the opposite, along with numerous logical difficulties, something just seems entirely wrong with the idea that Christ didn’t die for the sins of a great many people.

Many times, an incorrect belief by itself isn’t particularly harmful, but if taken to its inevitable conclusions, tends to produce great inconsistencies. Limited atonement, if taken in conjunction with the common Calvinist beliefs about the gospel call, inevitably leads to the conclusion that God commands people to believe falsehood. I’ll start by postulating and defending the necessary premises.

Premise 1: God’s command for the non-elect to believe the gospel requires that they must believe that Christ can save them.

For the first part of the premise, we need only establish that the command to believe is given to all, including the non-elect (if limited atonement is true, the term ‘non-elect’ here describes the people for whom Christ did not die to save). Surprisingly, despite their belief in limited atonement, Calvinists are usually among the first to agree that the everyone, elect and non-elect, are commanded by God to believe the gospel.

“First, the preaching of Paul goes out to all, both Jews and Greeks. This is the general call of the gospel. It offers salvation to all who will believe on the crucified Christ. But by and large it falls on unreceptive ears and is called foolishness.” (John Piper, What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism)

“I can proclaim God’s command to repent and believe to all men, and I can do so with passion, not because I pretend to look into God’s heart and mind, but because I know the reality of God’s wrath, the sin of man, and I believe implicitly the promise of God that anyone who turns in faith to Christ will be saved.” (James White, “Phil Johnson on ‘Desire'”)

“If we take the command to believe, with the promise of life upon so doing, for an offer of mercy, there is an eternal truth in it; which is, that God will assuredly bestow life and salvation upon all believers, the proffers being immediately declarative of our duty; secondly, of the concatenation of faith and life, and not at all of God’s intention towards the particular soul to whom the proffer is made….” (John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ)

“The commission He has given His servants is to preach the Gospel to every creature, and they certainly have not fully obeyed until they bid their hearers “Repent ye, and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). Whom God quickens, is His own affair; ours is to faithfully warn the unsaved, to show wherein their sins consists (enmity against God), to bid them to throw down the weapons of their warfare against Him, to call upon them to repent (Acts 17:30), to proclaim the One who receives all who come to Him in faith.” (A.W. Pink, Duty-Faith)

“It is a command to enter and not to enter is disobedience. That is why judgment falls on those, 2 Thessalonians 1:8, “The retribution of God comes to those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. You obey because the gospel is a command. When you share the gospel, you command people to believe. You command people to repent so that it is crystal clear that what they have done is obey or disobey. That’s why I say invitation is not a word that is consistent with commanding. Better to finish your sermon with a command than an invitation.” (John MacArthur, “Two Paths, One Way”)

“We see that God commands men everywhere to repent, Acts 17:30, but it is God who grants repentance 2 Timothy 2:25. We see that God commands people to believe in him yet he opens their hearts to believe, as he did with Lydia in Acts 16:14….” (Matt Slick, Matt Slick vs Lou Rugg Discussion on difficult questions)

It seems that only a far-left-field-hyper-Calvinist could deny that the command to believe is given to everyone. Slick’s comment cites a key passage that makes it clear that the command to believe the gospel is for everyone, everywhere.

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent…” (Acts 17:30)

Disobeying such a command is mentioned as being among the reasons that sinners are condemned.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:18)

The command from God Himself, which goes from the mouths of His servants is for all, even people who ultimately end up being false teachers.

“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.” (2 Peter 2:20-21)

Notice that they turned aside from the holy commandment given to them, not a command given only to others.

1b. Obedience to the gospel entails believing that Christ can save you

Christians since the beginning have understood that believing in Christ is more than just assent that He died and rose (as James also notes, even the demons believe that). True and living faith in Christ requires that we trust in His work on the cross, and in Him as our Savior. Herein lies the second part of the premise: that the aforementioned command requires that they believe that Christ can save them. I don’t think any tenable objection can be raised to this point. One cannot trust Christ as his Savior without believing that He has power to save him.

Consider the counter-example of a lost man who has a Calvinist friend that faithfully witnesses to him. Despite not trusting Christ as his Savior, the man is convinced that limited atonement is true, and that Christ died to save some people. He’s convinced by his prior hardness of heart that he’s simply not one of the elect. As he lays dying, his Calvinist friend tries to persuade him to believe, to which he receives the sinner’s final declaration: “Therein lies life for you, but in that cross there is no hope for me.”

This man has accepted what are, according to Calvinism, the correct facts. But has he obeyed the gospel? No. By the measure of any Christian, he has rejected the gospel and rightly incurred eternal condemnation. To actually obey, he would have had to believe that Christ could save him, not just that Christ can save other people.

Thus is our first premise established: God’s command for the non-elect to believe the gospel requires that they must believe that Christ can save them.

Premise 2: If Limited Atonement is true, then the idea that Christ can save the non-elect is a lie.

Many Calvinists don’t like language that Christ cannot save certain people, but that is an inescapable ramification of limited atonement. Christ either can save one through His sacrificial death, or He cannot. Christ cannot save people for whom He did not die to save. The sacrifice has already been offered, there’s no going back and changing who it was for; there is no other sacrifice, and there is no other way. If the non-elect were excluded, that decision has already been made, and cannot be abrogated. It matters not how many sins the sacrifice was sufficient to cover, if its power to save is not applicable to a person, then Christ cannot save that person.

Thus to believe that Christ can save one of the non-elect, if limited atonement be true, would be a falsehood -often called a ‘lie’ when speaking in an objective sense.

Putting it together

Taking our premises,

P1: God’s command for the non-elect to believe the gospel requires that they must believe that Christ can save them.
P2: If Limited Atonement is true, then the idea that Christ can save the non-elect is a lie.
Conclusion: If Limited Atonement is true, God’s command for the non-elect to believe the gospel requires that they must believe a lie.

Conclusion

And herein lies a major inconsistency that holding to limited atonement yields. In short, if 5-point Calvinism is true, then God effectively commands the non-elect to trust in Christ to save them, when He’s already limited Christ’s atoning sacrifice such that He can never save them!

Besides the readily apparent absurdity of God commanding people to believe what is false, such an inconsistency raises other problems: Accepting and obeying the gospel is characterized throughout the New Testament as belief in the truth, while refusing to do so is opposition to the truth (c.f. John 8:32, Romans 2:8, 15:8 Galatians 2:5, 5:7, Colossians 1:5, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12, 2 Timothy 1:4, 2 Timothy 2:25, 3:8, Titus 1:1, James 5:19). Contrary to that description, if Calvinism is true, then the man in our example above is accepting the objective truth and rejecting a falsehood in his rejection of Christ as his Savior. Worse than that, not only is he believing the truth in his rejection of Christ, but he’s condemned for doing so!

Truly, one’s theology is built on shaky ground if it entails that God condemns men for believing the truth. I for one could not swallow such a preposterous ramification. The word of the Lord, especially the proclamation of the gospel -the holy commandment to trust in Christ for one’s salvation- is not given to induce anyone to believe deception. Christ Himself states,

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:7)

Calvinists should sustain the admirable zeal to proclaim the gospel to all people. Let us all do that without hampering it with tertiary doctrine that would lead to confusing and unscriptural ideas, such as God commanding a great many of those people to believe a lie.

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Debate With Turretin Fan, Rebuttal Essays

[Turretinfan’s Rebuttal Essay]

Perseverance of the Saints is consistent with the Scriptures. It is particularly consistent with the basic theme that God’s love is an unconditional love, that God is able to prevent apostasy, and that it is within Christ’s desire to save to the uttermost those he wishes to save. Furthermore, the concept of saved again / lost again / saved again is completely foreign to Scripture, as is the concept of Christ losing any that the Father gives to him.

In short, when we look at the specific passages that JCT has picked out, we realize that there are reasonable explanations of the verses that harmonize them with the rest of what we know about God. Furthermore, we find that the sense JCT has proposed for those verses actually forces the verses into more or less contradiction with other parts of Scripture.

Thus, not only has the “negative” side of this debate established that there are reasonable sense of the relevant verses consistent with the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, but in fact the “negative” side has established that the alternative sense proposed by JCT is not itself a reasonable interpretation of the verses.

At the heart of the matter, it seems as though JCT feels that the verses should only be there to describe a situation that is contrary both to the best interests of the person involved, and contrary to God’s own desires. Such an interpretation of the verse would require us, in essence, to discard our theology away from a theology including an omnipotent God, since it would in essence declare that God’s attempt to save genuine believers sometimes does not succeed to the uttermost.

Accordingly, we can conclude that contrary to the resolution, the doctrine that teaches that genuine Christians cannot end up in hell (whether due to unfaithfulness or any other reason) is and must be coordinate with the true sense of the largely unrelated passages of Matthew 5:27-30, Hebrews 4:9-11, and Revelation 22:18-19.

(Source)

[My Rebuttal Essay]

TF hurls a few elephants in claiming that I contradict scriptural principles, yet can cite no clear evidence as to how specifically. Apostasy wouldn’t require that God be less-than-omnipotent, merely that He allow its occurrence. His ‘reasonable explanations’ of the passages cited collide with problems I’ve already presented:

  • His interpetation of Matthew 5 explains nothing of how avoiding sin helps one enter into life (Matthew 18, Mark 9).
  • His suggestion that I’m confused concerning Hebrews 4 is confuted by his admission that conditions for Christian and heavenly life aren’t mutually exclusive (second response). He also grossly misrepresents my view as, ‘[by] works,’ which was nowhere suggested.
  • His view of Revelation 22 is self-contradictory: The unsaved aren’t being told what awaits them, since he denies that anyone’s part in New Jerusalem will ever really be taken.

His calls them ‘pastoral warnings,’ given to move believers to perseverance; but his case upon examination falls apart, answering nothing as to why God threatens consequences of damnation to those who can supposedly never suffer them. When finally asked how the consequences specifically would spur one on if they are not real-world possibilities, he appeals to a ‘logical connection’ between warnings and consequences, with no explanation as to how such a connection with what (in his view) amounts to an absurdity could spur on anyone.

His answer to the last question (which follows through with his ‘hypothetical’ interpretation), destroys his argument’s credibility entirely when he states, Hypothetical questions are dangerous, especially when they contradict reality. A ‘logical connection’ to a consequence that ‘contradicts reality’ won’t spur anyone on to anything. People aren’t motivated by what they’re told are hypothetical bluffs, they don’t strive to serve God for the sake of what they think is a hollow myth, and they aren’t driven to persevere by ‘logical connections’ to fairy-tales with no connection to reality –which is exactly what Calvinism makes the consequences of the warnings out to be.

Opening statements
Cross-exam, my questions
Cross-exam, TF’s questions

[Though we were slated for one more essay each, the debate ended here]

Perseverance & Warning Passages Debate With Turretinfan: Cross Exam, TF’s Questions

#1 Is God’s love for those humans whom he loves conditional on their behavior, or is God’s love for them unconditional on their behavior?

‘Love’ as it pertains to salvific effectuation is not conditioned upon behavior (in terms of good works) itself, but upon a relationship with Christ (good works being an outworking). God loves all sinners in that He has no pleasure in their deaths and desires their repentance (Ezekiel 33:11), but savingly loves those who receive and abide in Christ.

Continued faith and perseverance are not only qualities of Christian life, but conditions to eternal life. All the promises of God for salvation, preservation, spiritual life, and forgiveness of sin hinge upon remaining in His Son: we remain saved because we persevere in Christ, not vice-versa, for the promises are only for those who by faith and patience inherit them (Hebrews 6:12). Not surprising, since God’s promises of blessing carry conditions of faithfulness throughout scripture. To the profane Eli He says,

“‘I promised that your house and your father’s house would minister before Me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from Me! Those who honor Me I will honor, but those who despise Me will be disdained.” (1 Samuel 2:30b)

Even for one who has been known by God (and is thus born of Him), if he turns away, Christ will profit him nothing (Galatians 4:7-9, 5:2), for those who deny Christ will be disowned (2 Timothy 2:12). Such does not constitute God contradicting or denying Himself, since He Himself is the one who has justly declared the condition of perseverance, and remains steadfast to that declaration whether we remain faithful or not.

God desires that none of His apostatize, He also desires that we abstain from fornication (1 Thessalonians 4:3), but does not choose to imperatively halt either from occurring, but strictly warns us against them. Such warnings are of great import, since nowhere does God promise to unalterably cause us to persevere, but rather gives us all that’s requisite to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Unlike the old covenant that the nation of Israel forfeited, the new covenant of God’s law being written on our hearts will not be broken with His chosen people -He will bring the body to completion until the day of Christ. But God’s faithfulness to His covenant does not preclude individuals that have obtained its blessings and later despise Him from being cut off: even when the old covenant was in force, those who forsook it were severed from the covenant body, those unfaithful to it forfeited its promises (Exodus 6:4, Numbers 14:30). This is not unfaithfulness on God’s part, but man’s. Likewise, we under the new covenant are warned not to be highminded about our position, but reverently fear and endure lest we incur like punishment (Romans 11:20-22).

So the love of God is in Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant and Seed to whom the promises were made, in which we share if we abide in Him, and in doing so, keep ourselves in the love of God.

#2 Given your comment, “God desires that none of His apostatize,” (yet seemingly God might not prevent apostasy) is God able to keep people from falling away into apostasy or does something (man’s free will?) stop God from keeping them from falling?

God can do whatever He pleases within the range of His holy nature, nobody prevents Him. If God didn’t care if we apostatized, He wouldn’t give us sustaining grace enough to endure. The fact that men can still fall away despite His provision is easily reconciled by the fact that He doesn’t choose to apply His grace irresistibly. I’d pointed out this concept in 1 Corinthians 10:13, which states that God won’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can endure. ‘Can’ does not amount to ‘will;’ believers sometimes do fall, but due to our own failures, not want of God’s help.

His provision is evidenced in several passages often mistaken for support of eternal security. John 10:27-29 and Romans 8:35-39 for instance express that no one will ever tear us away from God (as countless martyrs for Christ have by their deaths triumphantly testified), but nowhere does scripture indicate that it’s impossible to willfully walk away from Him, since apostates themselves don’t separate/pluck themselves from God -scripture clarifies that God the Father Himself severs those who don’t remain in Christ (John 15:1-6). Hence, arguments such as the sealing with the Holy Spirit guaranteeing eternal security miss the mark as to how one can be lost: Since the sovereign God has both power and prerogative to cast out those who don’t abide, His own seal is no bar to Him doing so. Having the Spirit is both a gift and responsibility, for those in which the Spirit dwells are the temple of God,

…If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. (1 Corinthians 3:17b)

According to the riches of His grace, God preserves us, sustains us, and works in us to will and do His good pleasure, yet the apostles still plead with us, “not to receive the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1b). God is able to keep us from stumbling and to make the weak in faith to stand (Romans 14:4), yet we are still told,

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

It’s only by God’s grace that the heart can be established in persevering, but the scriptures never portray the operation of grace as something unconditional or irresistible. Grace to endure is never merited, nor is it inescapably instilled, but when enduring temptation it’s written,

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

So God is able to keep us from falling, but doesn’t choose to do so apart from our willing cooperation (we being freed by His grace to serve Him -Hebrews 12:28), and thus He warns us against the real dangers of apostasy and exhorts us to seek Him,

…be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall. (2 Peter 1:10b)

#3 Given your comment, “God can do whatever He pleases within the range of His holy nature, nobody prevents Him,” is it pleasing and within the range of Christ’s holy nature to save to the uttermost those whom he wishes to save by making intercession for them?

Most definitely. Just as the priests in the Old Testament made intercession for the people, so Christ eternally makes intercession for His, and is our Advocate with the Father if we sin, and the Mediator of the better covenant God has made with us. Unlike the Levitical priests which were imperfect and subject to death, Christ lives forever and is perfect, and so can save to the utmost, in contrast with the animal sacrifices by the Levite priests that could not. He being the sole way to God, our salvation wholly relies upon His mediation between ourselves and the Father. The question as far as the conditionality of salvation is concerned is not whether Christ makes intercession for us, but whether He’ll do so for one who departs from Him. He indicates that He won’t, as He states,

“But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33, similar statement made in 2 Timothy 2:12)

Some may argue that Christ’s intercession will imperatively keep all genuine believers from apostatizing, but such an idea is not found in scripture. Indeed the fact that His confession of us before the Father is conditioned upon our confession of Him indicates conditionality. Others point to Christ’s prayer in John 17,

…keep through Your name those whom You have given Me… (John 17:11b)

The conditional nature of salvation comes to light when one considers that God keeps us through faith (1 Peter 1:5), which we are exhorted to hold fast to, and told that not all have done so,

Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck… (1 Timothy 1:19)

It must be noted that Paul does not distinguish the latter as some superficial, ineffectual form of faith; nor would the exhortation to hold to faith be coherent if no one with true faith could ever forfeit it. The theme of continuance in the faith of Christ as being necessary to our being forgiven runs throughout the New Testament, many wicked acts such as unforgiveness being incompatible with saving faith:

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

This sentiment is also reflected in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. When scriptural warnings (including the three in question) indicate consequences of damnation for believers who unrepentantly commit certain sins, taking them as serious and violable is not salvation “by works” as was erroneously insinuated in the opening statements –such actions necessarily reflect a heart no longer in union with Christ.

So Christ saving those He wishes to the uttermost by making intercession for them is perfectly in line with conditional security, since the only ones He will confess before the Father are those who hold fast to their confession of Him.

#4 It appears that your position is that genuine believers can violate certain warnings, with the consequence of such violations being hellfire. Is that correct, or is the consequence merely a return to an unsaved (but re-savable) state from a saved state?

Varies. Denying Christ for instance will bring denial by Him, yet Peter repented of his denial and was restored. Speaking against the Spirit (Matthew 12:32) on the other hand, will never be forgiven. For some who have fallen into grievous sin, they can be ‘in danger of hell fire,’ but scripture indicates there’s hope of God restoring backsliders who have not sinned ‘unto death.’

If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. (1 John 5:16)

One can believe, yet be imperiled: the key is that salvation isn’t granted in its entirety when one believes, Paul writes,

…for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11b)

While the scriptures do tell us that we who believe are saved, it also indicates that final salvation isn’t obtained during earthly life:

…if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. …Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule…. (Philippians 3:11-12, 16a)

We have to a degree attained salvation through faith, but it’s ours probationally, its condition being continuance in Christ; final salvation is not attained until one has endured to the end. Romans 2 expresses that it is granted at the judgment,

“But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness–indignation and wrath….” (Romans 2:5-8)

Hence while we already possess eternal life in a sense (1 John 5:13), it is not contradictory to call it the ‘hope of eternal life’ (Titus 1:2) or to exhort a fellow believer to ‘lay hold’ on it (1 Timothy 6:12). Additionally, if eternal life were fully and finally ours now, then neglect thereof would be a non-issue,

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation…? (Hebrews 2:1-3)

From the scriptural record then, some fall into sin, but are brought back; while the completely apostatized are “twice dead, plucked up by the roots” (Jude 12).

#5 Given your assertion that, “We have to a degree attained salvation through faith, but it’s ours probationally, its condition being continuance in Christ; final salvation is not attained until one has endured to the end,” what shall we make of verses that suggest salvation is unconditional on works?

Neither remaining in union with Christ nor continuing in the faith are ‘works,’ otherwise ‘justification by faith’ would be ‘justification by works.’ It would be absurd to call continuance in Christ ‘works’ for being a necessary condition for salvation, as it was even stated from the negative: [if one] were to lose union with Christ and apostatize, there would be no hope for that person.” (Turretinfan’s fifth answer). The relationship between abiding in Christ and good works was touched upon in my first answer: good works are an outworking of a relationship with Christ, for one bears good fruit by remaining in the vine. Inversely, because sin proceeds from the heart, unrepentant iniquity denotes that wickedness is overcoming one’s heart, which is immiscible with abiding in Christ.

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26, 29)

Through His word, God is mighty to save and uphold His own, but this doesn’t constitute unconditional security, since He only grants such preservation based upon one’s relationship with His Son. By faith we stand (2 Corinthians 1:24), but He has no pleasure in anyone who withdraws from it (Hebrews 10:38). A believer who falls into unrepentant sin isn’t in danger because Christ “can’t forgive sin,” but because of the condition of his heart before God and his love towards Christ growing cold. If the sinner turns back to God and acknowledges his wrongdoing, God will gladly forgive him (1 John 1:9); but He rejects one who remains obstinate and proud.

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6b)

The real peril of a Christian growing proud is underscored in the warning against making elders out of new believers,

…not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. (1 Timothy 3:6)

The fact that salvation isn’t by works then doesn’t imply that one can remain saved when in willful rebellion against God, as scripture repeatedly states (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Ephesians 5:5, Revelation 21:8) -the doom of one who turns from Christ unto wickedness being worse for him than if he’d never known Him:

For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. (2 Peter 2:20)

Therefore taking the warnings against being surmounted by sin seriously, and regarding their disastrous consequences as real-world possibilities for believers is not ‘works righteousness’ as has been erroneously claimed by some.

Opening statements
Cross-exam, my questions
Rebuttal Essays

Perseverance & Warning Passages Debate With Turretinfan: Cross Exam, My Questions

#1 How exactly would something like damnation being the consequence to violating a ‘pastoral warning’ “have use in the form of preventing the warned person from ever doing” what is warned against?

To understand how this would work, I suggest making use of an analogy. We are sheep, God is the Shepherd. Suppose that we, the flock of sheep, are feeding at pasture that has, on one side, a sheer 200 foot cliff. Falling off the cliff is “something like damnation” for a sheep.

If the shepherd wanted to keep the sheep from falling off the cliff (i.e. preventing the warned person from ever doing what is warned about), one of the ways he could do so is by warning the sheep of the danger that would befall them if they walked over the cliff. This would spur a rational sheep not to try to walk over the cliff (i.e. not to violate the pastoral warning).

On the other hand, of course, it does not mean that if it looks to the shepherd like a sheep is going to try to ignore his warnings, that he is just going to let the sheep do this thing that would be bad. No, the warning is just one of the ways that the sheep are kept from falling.

This is, of course, an analogy: but it is founded on a Biblical analogy. The Good Shepherd not only warns, exhorts, and uses his rod and staff on the sheep, the Good Shepherd even goes so far as to die for the sheep.

If there is someone who is going to fall off the cliff, it is not going to be the sheep, but the good shepherd. He’ll do everything in his power to save the sheep whom he loves. That’s true, remarkable, self-sacrificing love.

I think it’s fair to say that a genuinely loving Shepherd uses every possible tool to save the sheep he loves: from warnings of the consequences of apostasy, to discipline (in the form of various temporal chastisements), and to promises of reward as well. Thanks be to God that he does, for if he did not, we’d be as helpless as sheep without a shepherd.

Source

#2 How is being diligent to enter into eternal rest so that we do not fall after Israel’s example of unbelief (for which they did not enter that rest) a “condition of Christian life” that is mutually exclusive of being a “condition for Heavenly Life?”

Of course, being a condition of Christian life is not inherently exclusive of being a condition for Christian life. Instead, the conditions of Christian life are a superset. For example, grace from God is a condition both for and of Christian life.

In other words, we view perseverance as fitting within a logical scheme such that all believers will persevere, but not that people are believers because they persevere. Instead, people persevere because they are believers.

John’s epistle is instructive in this regard. John explains:

1 John 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

1 John 5:18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

The apostle Peter explained the same thing, namely that we who are born again are born of incorruptible seed:

1 Peter 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

Thus, as a result those who are born again will persevere – but not contrariwise: in other words, they are not born again because they persevere: to suggest such a thing would be to put the cart before the horse.

To return to the question, it is not that I am claiming that the two ideas are mutually exclusive. In the case of being born again, the condition is both a condition of and a condition for Christian life. Instead, I’m trying to explain that continued faith, repentance, and perseverance to the end are qualities of the Christian life.

They can serve as evidences to us, justifying us (in the sense James speaks of) in the eyes of ourselves and our fellow men. They help us to distinguish the true faith that springs from being born again (1 John 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.) from a dead faith that illustrates that we continue in a state of bondage to sin, not having been freed by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Source

#3 If God unequivocally promises that the consequences of His warnings against apostasy given to the saints will never come to pass, then why should anyone pay any heed or caution to avoid them?

First: Because our paying heed and our giving caution to avoid them, is a means God has ordained to the end of our perseverance. In other words, as already explained, the cautions help us to steer clear of the danger.

Second: Because failure to heed these warnings may give rise to God taking further measures. In other words, if we do not heed these warnings, God may chastise us as sons (with a rod of correction) or as sheep (with a rod and staff), which will not be pleasant for us. Ben Franklin sagely said that experience is a dear [expensive] school, but a fool will learn in no other.

Proverbs 10:13 In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.

Proverbs 26:3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.

Third: Because God commands obedience to his warnings. It is a thoroughly sufficient reason to simply answer that God commands us to heed the warnings. That is a perfectly good reason to do something. Even when Abraham did not understand the reason why God wanted him to sacrifice his son Isaac, he obeyed, and that became a demonstration and witness of faith.

Fourth: Because we love God. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” This is connected with the previous item. Nevertheless, this is an answer to one’s naughty side that says, “Yes, it’s bad: but it’s not like God’s going to punish me eternally, right?” Love should and will constrain us from acting that way. If we love God, we will keep his commandments.

1 John 3:9-11
9Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. 11For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

1 John 5:1-3
1Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

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#4 If both the warnings against final apostasy and their consequences are given to motivate believers to persevere/avoid chastisement/obey/love/etc (as your responses indicate), yet the consequences are not even to be considered real-world possibilities, then how are the given consequences specifically meant to spur believers to perseverance?

The concept of “real-world possibilities” is inherently self-contradictory (i.e. an oxymoron) in the context of this debate.

To distinguish, the science of statistics is not meaningless. The concept of “possibility” exists. It relates to the orderly way in which many “random” events occur. Thus, for example, a meteorologist will predict the chance, possibility, or probability of rain tomorrow. Such discussion has meaning, and we speak reasonably when speak of a “fair coin” in statistical calculations.

Nevertheless, from God’s perspective, there is no such thing as “chance,” “possibility,” or “probability” (see also Ecclesiastes 9:10 and Proverbs 16:33). This is simply a logical consequences of God having omniscience: given omniscience, there is nothing left undetermined by His mind, and consequently, there is no real-world “possibility” from God’s perspective: only what will be and what will not be.

When God promises us, he communicates what will be. Thus, for example, Abraham knew that the Messiah would come, because God had promised it (though if Isaac had stayed died childless and stayed dead, God’s promise would have failed). It was not a mere possibility, but a certainty.

Because of the promise-certainty link, we can echo Paul:

Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

One might object that if no one actually apostatizes (i.e. the consequences are only in hypothesis: never actualized) then the warning lacks meaning (that seems to be the question’s unspoken premise). Two main responses come to mind:

(1) It seems absurd to suppose that a woman must sometimes let her children burn in order to give her warning meaning (all the more so, as to God’s warning to his children); and

(2) The truth value for the meaning is determined by the reality of the logical connection between the hypothetical premise (apostasy) and the hypothetical conclusion (hell).

Thus, rather than simply spurring us to obey (as already discussed in the previous answer), the consequences may promote gratitude in us for God’s grace. Just as the world’s continued existence day by day is only by God’s mercy, God does not have to prematurely end the world to make that proposition true. Likewise, God does not have to let any of his sheep perish to prove the truth of the premise consequence relationship.

Thus, the consequences specifically motivate by logical connection with their premise, as already noted in the previous answer, not by occasionally being actualized. In fact, such consequences could only be helpful to us if they are not actualized for us (just as the truth that long falls kill is helpful only to those who don’t fall).

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#5 Hypothetically speaking, if God did allow one who was born again and had his sins atoned for by the blood of Christ to sin by violating the scriptural warnings given against apostasy, would the violator then no longer be born again or have his sins atoned for?

Hypothetical questions are dangerous, especially when they contradict reality. That said, let me do my best to give some kind of meaningful answer.

a) Being born again (regeneration of the heart) is an event. It takes place in history.

b) Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (atonement for sins) was also an event. It also took place in history.

c) It would seem to be a fairly fundamental principle of history that what is done cannot be undone.

Thus (a) and (b) cannot cease to have happened. Nevertheless, if someone who had been born again and had received the benefit of the atonement in justification were to lose union with Christ and apostatize, there would be no hope for that person.

In other words, such apostasy would defeat the purpose of the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart (regeneration) and the purpose of Christ on the cross (atonement). Indeed, this is a powerful argument for why such a hypothetical situation (as JCT’s question describes) cannot occur. God cannot contradict himself.

If we were severed from Christ, we would perish, because our life derives from him. But we can have assurance that we will persevere, because of what connects to God is God’s “great love” (πολλην αγαπην) (Ephesians 2:4).

If God divorced us for our sins, we would perish. But the Lord is the God who hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). Instead, “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

In short, the hypothetical situation will not arise, because if it did, it would violate the principle enunciated in Isaiah 55:11, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

God accomplishes what he wants to accomplish. What is that? “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” John 6:39 And again, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

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Opening statements
Cross-exam, TF’s questions
Rebuttal Essays

Debate With Turretin Fan, Opening Statements

[This debate was in response to a challenge by Turretinfan over an article I wrote, challenging the idea of inevitable perseverance with facts from scripture]

[My Affirmative Constructive Essay]

I wrote a challenge to Calvinist doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints some time back to show that the concept of eternal security was incompatible with several key warning passages in scripture. An important principle of scriptural interpretation is that passages that are clearer should guide our understanding of those which are not as clear. Though many places in the Bible warn against falling away, I chose these particular three for two main reasons:

1.) Clarity of address, and 2.) clarity of consequence.

Matthew 5:27-30 – Escaping the snares of wickedness is not advice that would benefit one who was unregenerate, much less allow him to enter into life (see the parallel passages in Matthew 18:9 and Mark 9:47). Christ’s words were plainly directed at those who follow Him. The consequence of being overcome by sin is hell fire, it doesn’t get much clearer.

Hebrews 4:9-11 – The context of the whole discourse pertains to those who believe, notably where the author states that “we who have believed do enter into that rest,” and when he concludes his call to perseverance by stating of himself and those he addresses, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” The rest being spoken of can only be eternal rest given the context. Note that it is not something achieved when one believes, for we who have believed are entering it (verse 3), further indicated by verse 10, “for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.”

Revelation 22:18-19 – The consequence of having one’s part in the holy city taken being only applicable to those who possess a share of the heavenly inheritance, who is being addressed specifically isn’t hard to determine. Having one’s part in the holy city taken can realistically amount to nothing else than eternal separation from Christ.

Unlike many of the warnings in scripture which Calvinists write off as applying only to the unsaved or speaking of loss of tertiary rewards, these warnings with eternal and damning consequences are addressed to the regenerate specifically, eliminating any possibility of chalking them up to the “almost saved” or “false professors. Such clarity also renders the eternal securist arguments of violators getting their ‘potential’ eternal reward taken from them rather weak, such arguments made even more ridiculous by the Calvinist position, which effectively has God threatening to revoke an inheritance that He never planned on giving them.

The clarity with which these warnings are delivered has driven many Calvinists to view the passages as entirely hypothetical. Key to understanding where the error lies in such a position is how they employ the terms ‘hypothetical’ and ‘possible.’ This is not the same as being unsure whether the consequences are actual possibilities or not: in the Calvinist view, such a result must be strictly speculative. Some will say it’s ‘possible,’ but not possible in a sense that it could ever come to pass, thus not a genuine possibility (since in their view, it will definitely never occur).

With that in mind, it would be much easier for Reformed theologians to reconcile their views with just a command to persevere, but the consequences given with these divine warnings (especially Revelation 22:19, which pertains directly to the possession of the believer) pose a major problem in that the Reformed view of Perseverance turns them into absurd impossibilities contingent upon more absurd impossibilities. If a genuine believer falling into damnation would imply a change in the very nature of God (as was stated at Dordt), and hence God Himself ensures that such warnings can never be violated by believers, then Calvinism essentially makes these divine warnings say, “Don’t do something God won’t allow, or He’ll do something He would never do,” putting scripture through mind-boggling contortions to accommodate 16th century doctrinal silliness.

It’s true that impossible and completely speculative statements are occasionally made in scripture, Jeremiah 31:35-37 comes immediately to mind, where one is used to express that God being unfaithful is as feasible as a man being able to measure heaven and earth. In contrast, these warnings are not at all framed as anything speculative or hypothetical, nor does anything in the text suggest as much. Hence reinterpreting, “If you take away from this book, God will take away your part in His kingdom” as merely, “If God were to allow such a thing (which He won’t), then you would lose your part in His kingdom” is naught but wholly unjustified filtering of scripture through a dogmatic lens. The absolute negative of those consequences being, in the Calvinist view, due to and absolutely necessitated by the very faithfulness of God, one can only wonder as to why God would cast doubt upon His own faithfulness by proclaiming such consequences upon the redeemed who violate His command, without even a hint of the “but that could never happen” qualification that Calvinists are so quick to add.

The eternal securist defenses against the clear implications in these passages then fall far short of being either sound or convincing. Many instead like to point to assurances of salvation given in scripture as evidence against its conditionality, but a promise does not negate its own conditions — assurance with accompanying conditions is still conditional assurance. Bottom line, the Calvinist view of perseverance cannot be soundly reconciled with the scriptural warnings against believers falling into damnation:

Scripture says, “Be diligent lest you come up short!”

Calvinism adds, “But you can’t possibly come up short!”

Scripture says, “Take heed lest you fall!”

Calvinism counters, “You never can and never will fully fall away.”

Scripture says, “Do not be high-minded, but fear.”

Calvinism, despite any doubletalk about God filling us with fear and trembling, effectively states that there’s no reason to fear such warnings because God will never allow such consequences to occur, making the word of God of no effect.

[Turretinfan’s Negative Constructive Essay]

Negative Constructive – Perseverance of the Saints is Consistent with Scriptures
By TurretinFan

This debate is ultimately about whether the Reformed Doctrine of “Perseverance of the Saints” can be reasonably reconciled with three passages of Scripture. I’ll address each in turn and provide at least one reasonable alternative, thereby demonstrating that the passages can be understood consistently with that body of soteriology commonly called Calvinism. Afterwards, I’ll address miscellaneous points identified by JCT.

Matthew 5:27-30

JCT seems to suggest that the only reasonable meaning of Matthew 5:27-30 is that it is teaching that regenerate people can sin badly enough that they will be cast into hell-fire. An alternative explanation is that Jesus is explaining that lusting after a woman is a sin of sufficient gravity to merit eternal damnation, and that consequently merely abstaining from physical acts of adultery is insufficient to fulfill the law of God. After all, if we repent and trust in Christ not only lusting after a woman but also the physical act of adultery will be forgiven.

Hebrews 4:9-11

JCT seems to suggest that the only reasonable meaning of Hebrews 4:9-11 is that we do not have eternal rest yet, and consequently must keep on believing/working in order to obtain that. We agree that we do not yet have eternal rest, for that is a reference to heaven. Furthermore, the point of the passage is that since we have not reached the fulfillment of the Sabbath, we must continue to work. Nevertheless, as verse 9 indicates, the people of God have a future rest coming. JCT’s objection seems to confuse a condition of Christian life (to live on Earth is to work) with a condition for Heavenly Life (as though we receive heavenly rest not by grace but works). Verse 16 of the same chapter dispels this misconception.

Revelation 22:18-19

JCT seems to suggest that the only reasonable meaning of Revelation 22:18-19 is that people can only have a part in the holy city if they were regenerate. An alternative explanation is that those are being addressed who think they have a part. The elect will heed the warning, and the rest will be warned of what awaits them. After all, the command is – in essence – a command to believe the Scriptures. Those who willfully subtract from Scriptures refuse to believe what it says. Such an action is inconsistent with Faith in the Word and the Spirit.

Miscellaneous Issues

JCT acknowledges that some folks have interpreted warning passages in Scripture as entirely hypothetical. JCT responds that the “Key to understanding where the error lies in such a position is how they employ the terms ‘hypothetical’ and ‘possible.’ This is not the same as being unsure whether the consequences are actual possibilities or not: in the Calvinist view, such a result must be strictly speculative. Some will say it’s ‘possible,’ but not possible in a sense that it could ever come to pass, thus not a genuine possibility (since in their view, it will definitely never occur).”

JCT seems in this objection to confuse “will” with “could.” For example, it will not happen that genuine believers will eventually go to hell, but we could imagine how it may be that they could do so, if a different set of circumstances were present. For example, if genuine believers were not loved by God, God could let them separate themselves from Him. Objecting that such a description is “strictly speculative” or not a “genuine possibility” may or may not be accurate, but it is not a rebuttal.

JCT parodies the hypothetical interpretation this way, “‘Don’t do something God won’t allow, or He’ll do something He would never do,’ putting scripture through mind-boggling contortions to accommodate 16th century doctrinal silliness.” But the response is to turn to Genesis 15:8-18, where God in essence swears that he will do what he promises, or that he will be divided. One could parody this is as, “God promises not do something that he says he won’t do, or He’ll do something that he would never do.” Is that for the accommodation of “doctrinal silliness”? Surely not.

Indeed, JCT acknowledges that “It’s true that impossible and completely speculative statements are occasionally made in scripture, Jeremiah 31:35-37 comes immediately to mind, where one is used to express that God being unfaithful is as feasible as a man being able to measure heaven and earth.” JCT goes on to contrast these to the warnings discussed above, and properly so. These are not examples of hyperbole. Nevertheless, warnings for believers – even if they are warnings of dire consequences can have more than one purpose.

One purpose would be prophetic: you will do this, and you will fall. Another purpose, however, is pastoral: if you do this, you will fall. A pastoral warning can have use in the form of preventing the warned person from ever doing the “this.” The usual analogy is one’s child playing by the fire. We may properly warn the child that if they fall into the fire, they will be burnt to a crisp, without having the least intention of letting that happen. Why does JCT seem to want God from treating us like children?

JCT makes a final appeal to ineffectuality: “Calvinism, despite any doubletalk about God filling us with fear and trembling, effectively states that there’s no reason to fear such warnings because God will never allow such consequences to occur, making the word of God of no effect.” It is interesting that JCT would make this sort of claim. Yes, the fear of Calvinism is not the sort of servile fear in which man fears that he will do something that will separate himself from the love of God. No, it is a recognition of the power and majesty of the Most Holy God.

Sola Deo Gloria,

-Turretinfan

Source

Cross-exam, my questions
Cross-exam, TF’s questions
Rebuttal Essays

Brumbelow’s Bumbles

Had some interaction with a certain pastor David Brumbelow on the issue of alcohol and the Christian in the combox of the article: Deuteronomy 14:26 – Does it Commend Alcohol?

For background, despite the numerous good things the Bible says about wine, some militant abstentationists employ a hermeneutic of interpreting all positive mentions of wine in scripture as referring to non-alcoholic juice. For those who hold to such a self-serving interpretive bias, one passage that’s been pointed out that clearly and overwhelmingly does support proper use of strong drink is from Deuteronomy 14:26:

“…and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.”

Yet despite how clear the scriptures are on the matter, some would-be interpreters like Mr. Brumbelow try to explain it away.

My initial message to him:

You make several glaring errors here,

1. Your attempts at proof-texts that “speak against alcohol” don’t back your case.

Wine is a mocker etc per Proverbs 21 -in a specific context. Many things have a negative side if misused, such as warfare, money, etc. This is a plainly warning against being led astray/deceived by wine, not a wholesale command against ever drinking.

To Proverbs 23, context easily defeats your argument, since this is obviously directed at drunkards “Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, Those who go in search of mixed wine.” (29b-30)

1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 commands us to be sober -not drunk. Surely you can make the distinction between a command not to be drunk and a command to not drink whatsoever?

2. You erect an obvious strawman concerning the allowance of alcohol,

“It may seem strange that God would forbid His Old Testament priests to drink while engaging in worship, yet tell the people they were welcome to drink during worship without regard to age or amount.”

Newsflash: Hebrew society was high-context. A command not specifying every detail isn’t meant to infer no limits. Holding pointed out the problem when Bacchiocchi made the same error,

“But the command is not directed towards use of intoxicants; the command is to lay aside money for the purchase of goods, of which the wine and strong drink are just one of several listed, along with food and “whatsoever thy soul desireth.” This no more allows intoxication than the permission to buy oxen or sheep allows gluttony or overeating.” (http://www.tektonics.org/lp/nowine.html)

3. Your use of the NKJV as a source that suggests non-alcoholic shekar is misapplied. The text states,

“And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink….”

The “similar” is stated in reference to wine -which in English typically does denote fermented drink.

4. Shekar also implying sweetness doesn’t imply that shekar wasn’t alcoholic, since alcohol and sweetness aren’t mutually exclusive.

He responded:

I had thought of just letting J. C. have the last word, especially since I’ve answered his charges elsewhere in this blog and more extensively in “Ancient Wine and the Bible.”

But I’ve recently been asked to give my answer to his statements, so I will briefly do so.

1. He gives one view of Proverbs 20:1, I give another. This verse says directly that wine “is” a mocker; not if you drink too much it is a mocker.

2. Proverbs 23:29-35 is not merely written to drunkards, it is written to all, and specifically to “my son.” Just before this passage Solomon warns against adultery; that does not mean his son is necessarily an adulterer. Just so, all should take warning and not even look at beverage alcohol; that is another way of saying have nothing to do with it.

It is also significant that this passage meticulously describes alcoholic wine, not wine in general, and then says to leave it alone.

3. I disagree on the meaning of the word sober (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8). Ask someone in Alcoholics Anonymous the meaning of sober. The first drink ends your sobriety. Jerry Vines has said,“Moderate drinking is moderate intoxication.” Law enforcement will tell you many auto accidents are caused by drivers who are below the level of official intoxication.

Strange that God uses the word sober, literally meaning wineless, and people still say it does not prohibit alcohol.

4. I simply disagree with the view that God would tell His priests not to drink during worship, yet tell the worshippers to drink alcohol, during worship, to their hearts content. That just doesn’t match up.

5. The NKJV’s use of “similar drink” to wine in Deuteronomy 14:26 does not demand that it mean alcohol. It can be interpreted either way. By the way, your view is an interpretation, the same as mine. Wine meant either a fermented or unfermented drink. Shekar was the same.

Examples of unfermented wine being called wine: Proverbs 3:10; Isaiah 16:10; 65:8; Joel 2:24; Zechariah 9:17; Lamentations 2:11-12; Matthew 9:17. It should be remembered that just pressed grapes produce unfermented wine (grape juice), and ancients could easily preserve it in a nonalcoholic state. This is explained in another article.

6. The word shekar implying sweetness does imply it was not alcoholic. When unfermented wine or unfermented shekar (for example, cider) is fermented, the sugar is converted into alcohol and gas. What was sweet, has had it sweetness taken away. Yes, alcohol could then be sweetened (although they did not have cane sugar as we have today), but normally you could tell the alcohol by its lack of sweetness. Aristotle said sweet wine would not intoxicate.
David R. Brumbelow

I countered:

“This verse says directly that wine “is” a mocker; not if you drink too much it is a mocker.”

You’re apparently not very familiar with ancient forms of expression. Some trait can be attributed to a noun in context without it being a universal. For instance, Christ refers to the “deceitfulness of riches” (Matt 13:22, Mk 4:19). By your reasoning, this would entail that all riches in any circumstance are deceitful and a snare. Clearly, He is speaking of one allowing riches to become his master rather than God. To interpret this as a universal prohibition on money would be far-fetched to say the least, yet you make an almost identical error when interpreting passages that warn against over-drinking.

“Proverbs 23:29-35 is not merely written to drunkards, it is written to all, and specifically to “my son.””

Incorrect, its exhortation against wine is specifically written against drunkards. As quoted above, “Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, Those who go in search of mixed wine.” (29b-30) This bit of context makes it quite clear that your attempt to extend it into some sort of universal prohibition is simply bad, agenda-driven exegesis. But if you’re going to appeal to “his son,” then the burden of proof is upon you to demonstrate that this somehow makes it into a universal prohibition applicable to all people everywhere for all time.

“The first drink ends your sobriety.”

Here, you are employing a fallacy called “equivocation.” You’re changing the meaning of a standard term to make it fit your false conceptions. Standard definitions of drunkenness, e.g.-
“being in a temporary state in which one’s physical and mental faculties are impaired by an excess of alcoholic drink; intoxicated: The wine made him drunk.”
-define it with *excess*, and nowhere in the Bible or any credible dictionary will you find your redefinition of the term. The silliness of such an idea is also demonstrated via reductio ad absurdum: If any alcohol whatsoever ends sobriety/makes one drunk, then even a mild dose of cough syrup makes one a drunkard! Clearly, your position needs a reality-check here!

“Strange that God uses the word sober, literally meaning wineless”

The Greek “sophron” (such as is used in 1 Tim 3:2) implies, “of a sound mind, sane, in one’s senses, curbing one’s desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate.” It doesn’t imply complete non-consumption of alcohol.

“I simply disagree with the view that God would tell His priests not to drink during worship, yet tell the worshippers to drink alcohol, during worship, to their hearts content. That just doesn’t match up.”

There’s a huge difference between the priests not drinking when going about the sacred duties of the tabernacle (Lev 10:9), and the people being allowed to drink during a feast (Deut 14:26). Two very different contexts. That does match up quite nicely.

“Wine meant either a fermented or unfermented drink. Shekar was the same.”

Showing that the yayin/wine could possibly have a broader semantic range doesn’t prove anything about the semantic range of shekar/strong drink. Like it or don’t, the evidence for reinterpreting “shekar” as anything other than alcoholic drink is sorely lacking.

“The word shekar implying sweetness does imply it was not alcoholic. …the sugar is converted into alcohol and gas. What was sweet, has had it sweetness taken away.”

You are employing “all-or-nothing” reasoning here: sugar being converted to alcohol by no means implies that all sugar in a fermented liquid has been converted. Fermentation is a gradual process, it doesn’t just magically convert all sugar into alcohol in a single instant, and there are wines with varying degrees of sweetness w/o adding more sugar.

Secondly, alcohol actually contributes to the sweetness of the drink (along with remaining sugar), it’s the acids/tannins that counteract it.

His final response, shutting down the conversation:

J.C.,
It seems you do want to have the last word.

Proverbs 23:19 says, “Hear, my son, and be wise.” 23:15, “My son, if your heart is wise.”
Proverbs 23:29-35 is not merely addressed to alcoholics, but to Solomon’s son and to all who wish to be wise. Advice to the wise includes having nothing to do with alcoholic wine.
To say, “Look at that drunkard, and don’t be like him,” would not be advice only to drunkards.

The first drink ends your sobriety. That’s true whether you accept it or not. Bringing up minute amounts of alcohol or alcohol as a medicine is not a serious argument. Alcoholics at AA can easily figure that one out. 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 as well as 1 Peter 5:8 use the Greek word nepho (sober),literally meaning “wineless.” Sober and wineless are not hard for most to understand – they mean don’t drink.

The problem with arguing you can drink right up till you’re about to get drunk, is that no one knows exactly when that point is and the first drink makes it less likely you can rightly judge anything. The first drink adversely affects your judgment. Equivocation indeed.

The ancients as well as modern folk recognize that alcoholic fermentation affects the sweetness of wine. One maker of premium unfermented wine (grape juice) said the only ones disappointed in his product are those who expect it to taste like (alcoholic) wine. Unfermented wine does not taste like fermented wine (unless it’s been doctored).

By the way, riches “are” deceitful, and wine is still a mocker. Lendell Martin summed it up well, “I’ve never seen anything good come out of a can of beer.”

For more detail, my views on these and other subjects are given in other articles here, and more fully in “Ancient Wine and the Bible.”

But feel free, J. C. Thibodaux, to continue to defend taking a mind-altering drug for recreational purposes at your own site.
David R. Brumbelow

And since he apparently won’t take any further replies, I’ll post my response here:

To say, “Look at that drunkard, and don’t be like him,” would not be advice only to drunkards.

No one’s arguing that. But to say, “don’t touch wine” because, “At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, And your heart will utter perverse things.” (vs 32-33) clearly IS a command specifically for those who are weak to alcohol’s enticement. Case in point: contextually, this does not fit moderate drinking at all, since consuming smaller amounts of alcohol has never been realistically associated with hallucinations or loss of self-control. Such things are typical for those who lack self-control and drink to excess. I myself have a small drink on rare occasions, yet contrary to your reasoning, it’s inexplicably never caused me to hallucinate, et al.

The first drink ends your sobriety. That’s true whether you accept it or not.

No, it does not. You have to be either badly misinformed or simply dishonest to continue to press such an absurd equivocation. Looking at numerous standard definitions of “sober,” one wouldn’t get the idea that sobriety entails no drinking at all, but rather not being impaired by drink. Definitions include,

“not drunk”
“not given to excessive indulgence in drink or any other activity”

Likewise, its antonym, “drunken,”

“stupefied or excited by a chemical substance (especially alcohol)”
“Intoxicated with alcoholic liquor to the point of impairment of physical and mental faculties.”
“intoxicated with alcohol to the extent of losing control over normal physical and mental functions”
“stupefied or excited by a chemical substance (especially alcohol); “a noisy crowd of intoxicated sailors”; “helplessly inebriated””
“overcome by having too much alcohol”

The idea that someone drinking within their tolerance isn’t “non-sober,” i.e. “drunk” is laughable.

Bringing up minute amounts of alcohol or alcohol as a medicine is not a serious argument.

Yes it is: If any amount of alcohol produces inebriation, then the amount found in some medications makes one inebriated, by your logic. You simply refuse to face up to the ridiculous ramifications of your own position, and hand-waving it isn’t going to get rid of the problem.

1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 as well as 1 Peter 5:8 use the Greek word nepho (sober),literally meaning “wineless.”

Looked it up in Strong’s, nepho is of uncertain etymological origin, and their definitions included,

1) to be sober, to be calm and collected in spirit
2) to be temperate, dispassionate, circumspect

Which don’t really seem to indicate abstaining from all alcohol.

Sober and wineless are not hard for most to understand – they mean don’t drink.

Ask “most folks” if one “ceases to be sober” by having a small drink. Your own appeal defeats you yet again, since it’s common knowledge and near-universally accepted that “sober” means “not having drunk to excess.”

The problem with arguing you can drink right up till you’re about to get drunk, is that no one knows exactly when that point is

Which is a complete strawman. No one’s arguing that we should try and see how close we can get. I would insist on staying well within one’s tolerance.

the first drink makes it less likely you can rightly judge anything.

I would challenge what specific data you’re citing and question how significant the shift would be.

The ancients as well as modern folk recognize that alcoholic fermentation affects the sweetness of wine.

I never argued that it didn’t affect its sweetness, I was dismantling your argument that fermented wine was necessarily unsweet (which is easily disproveable given the amount of sweet wines readily available). You really need to lay off these all-or-nothing fallacies.

By the way, riches “are” deceitful, and wine is still a mocker.

In specific contexts, yes, they are. Wine truly does mock those who drink too much of it, just as riches deceive those who trust in them. But since you’re trying to decontextualize them, if wine is [always] a mocker and should therefore never be touched, should riches, being [always] deceitful, accordingly never be possessed? If you think so, I’d be glad to responsibly dispose of all your “sinful” financial holdings for you.

feel free…to continue to defend taking a mind-altering drug for recreational purposes

And of course you’d pull out the “mind-altering drug” canard. Alcohol isn’t the only thing commonly consumed that can be mind-altering in great enough quantities. Nutmeg, for instance, can cause hallucinations in great enough amounts; yet I don’t see you raving against the “mind-altering drugs” in spice cookies.

Further examples abound. Dr. Dan McBride cites research that suggests that several foods, including blueberries, spinach, swiss chard, beets, and asparagus, have mild mind-altering properties (The mind-altering effects of everyday foods).

The issue is not whether a substance can alter thought processes, but whether it’s being used in a quantity that can alter them in a significantly negative way. Despite all of their attempts to play fast-and-loose with terminology, the fact that the militant abstentationist crowd can’t get around is that modest alcohol consumption simply does not significantly impact the brain in any negative sense.

In conclusion,

* Context dictates that Proverbs 23 is giving a warning against excess; to interpret it as a universal condemnation is equivalent to condemning all money in all contexts as “deceitful.”

* The possible interpretations of “yayin” don’t affect what “shekar” means; they are two different terms. Further, there’s no cogent evidence that shekar was ever meant to express anything other than strong/alcoholic drink.

* There is no contradiction between priests being forbidden to drink wine while performing tabernacle service, and the common people being allowed to drink it during a feast.

* The idea that the first drink ends sobriety is utterly indefensible.

Coming June 12, 2007: Thermonuclear Excuses

[Older post I wrote back in 2007]

Coming June 12, 2007 from Yisrayl Hawkins and the “House of Yahweh”: Thermonuclear Excuses

Over the past few months, a religious cult known as the House of Yahweh (an anti-trinitarian, anglo-Israel Hebrew names cult) has been spouting off predictions about nuclear war taking place. If you go to the haven of maniacs unchained (also known as YouTube), you can still see their wild predictions of “September 12, 2006 – Nuclear War!” including a message by their leader, Yisrayl Hawkins stating as much. Well, they were braced for it, but that date came and went uneventfully amidst the protests of their members that at least one nuclear missile had been fired (must have had a stealth device equipped). Their leadership immediately went into damage control mode, but fortunately had made a provision for such an event failing: They left a window of time for the event which they claim will kill a third of the population over a
quarter of the earth to come true. After all, they only said it would BEGIN on 09/12/2006, not end. Their newsletter stated that on the date they predicted, a ‘nuclear baby’ was conceived, that within nine months would be born (fulfilled). Here are some excerpts from their newsletters:

The nuclear baby will not end these wars. These nuclear wars will kill a third part of man (Revelation 9:15) over a fourth part of the earth (Revelation 6:8) in and around the great River Euphrates (Revelation 9:14). That is, the nuclear baby taking nine months ending June 12, 2007, will do this. What proceeds after that is four more months of wars and the worst pains ever suffered by mankind ending only in nuclear wars and earthquakes that will darken the sun. The nuclear baby takes approximately nine months to fully develop which leaves four months to the prophesied end of man’s governments of and by the people.
– House of Yahweh Newsletter, November 2006

The nuclear baby that will take nine months from conception to delivery to kill a third part of man over a fourth part of the earth in and around the great River Euphrates, started September 12, 2006 and will end June 12, 2007. The worst part of the delivery pains will be suffered around the time of the baby’s birth in and around the great River Euphrates with nuclear wars.

These Scriptures show the four horsemen who are of the four beasts are the four messengers (Quartet). The nuclear wars that were held back until September 12, 2006, which started the nine month nuclear baby, will be completed by June 12, 2007. Then four more months of nuclear wars, involving all nations, will continue until the sun is darkened.
-House of Yahweh Newsletter, January 2007 “The Quartet of Revelation”

Can’t get much clearer. This prophecy now officially has a deadline by which a third of the world’s population is supposed to die. But as we get closer to that time, I’m thinking there is probably some doubt lingering even in the mind of their all-knowing prophet, Yisrayl Hawkins. Even now I think he’s probably brainstorming what to say if this does not come to pass. Doomsday cults have a long history of doing this, for this practice is nothing new. They usually set dates, get really excited, watch the dates fly by, then rush to do damage control all the while losing any members who can think for themselves and keeping the ones gullible enough to swallow their spin doctoring. While I have not been gifted as of yet by the Lord with prophecy, I am from observation of the past going to make a prediction of my own concerning the leadership of the House of Yahweh (please note that this is not a ‘thus saith the Lord,’ but a ‘thus thinketh J.C.T.’): In the event that
June 12 passes by just as September 12 of last year did, I predict we are going to get a mass of excuses from the House of Yahweh. It is possible that they will give up their cultic ways and seek Yahweh according to the gospel of grace (let us pray that I am wrong and this happens instead), but it is very likely that their leadership will simply try to save face. So I have compiled the list of excuses that I believe they are most likely to employ in ascending order (least likely to most likely). Please note that not all of these are mutually exclusive, so a combination of them may be used as well. The excuses we’re most likely to see are:

#12 – Blame it on over-zealous members
Works for the Watchtower. When someone mentions that 1975 came and went with none of their prophecies concerning that year coming to pass, JWs will often blame people who misinterpreted their organization’s writings. I find this excuse very unlikely since their leader has personally and publicly predicted these dates. Though if they could find a high-ranking sacrificial lamb in the leadership to be the fall-guy, they might satiate the thirst for blood of those who have had their trust betrayed.

#11 – Psycho route
One way to get out of getting caught in a false prediction is to declare that it did take place — just on another planet or even dimension. This excuse is rarely used for obvious reasons.

#10 – Appeal to mystery
AKA the Calvinist approach. Caught in a trap you can’t wriggle free from? Just declare that it must have been mysteriously fulfilled in some way beyond our comprehension despite all evidence to the contrary.
It must have happened, Yisrayl said it would!!

#9 – Roll the date back even more
Has been used before, e.g. Miller’s claiming to have miscalculated because he didn’t use the Jewish calendar. They’ve already rolled it back once, it’s doubtful they would do it again, but one never
knows….

#8 – “It’s a test of your faith”
God tests faith through hardship, not by lying. Some people use this one anyway, though it has the slight disadvantage of making God out to be a liar.

#7 – When all else fails, spiritualize!
Yes, spiritualizing can get you out of a lot of trouble, so a prediction of worldwide disaster can actually mean some intangible event that went on in the heavenlies unbeknownst to the populace below. Judgment on the whole earth can refer to resolutions you passed at an annual board meeting. Nuclear war could be just a metaphor for your fiery message spreading over the earth and heralding the destruction of the apostate churches that stand guilty of the heinous iniquity of not being you!

#6 – Pretend like it never happened, never mention it again; if someone brings it up, play dumb.
Not really an excuse, but still a simple, concise, and effective means of avoiding the embarrassing fact that you are a fraud. If you never mention it again, newer members will grow up having no idea that you’ve falsely predicted the end of the world various times and continue to hold your founders as inerrant prophets
of the Most High.

#5 – Head in sand approach
Already used to an extent with House of Yahweh’s claims of a nuclear missile being shot off. More extreme members may shout, “A third of the world’s population has died!! I DARE you to disprove it!!
Can you count them?!?!?!? Huh?!?!?”

#4 – Lame, overly technical excuse
There technically IS a nuclear war going on right now with Iran, not with nukes being fired per se, but the focus is, according to some sources (we only accept credentialed sources like Alex Jones, Chuck Missler, Wikipedia…) is in fact nuclear weapons. There was also a large dumping of nuclear waste within this time period in Southeast Asia that killed a population of fruit flies estimated to be a third of the size of the world’s human population, fulfilling the prophecy of…

#3 – “He was just ahead of his time, so was Paul”
I’ve heard this one used to defend Herbert W. Armstrong. The excuse is that Paul thought Jesus would return in his lifetime. Paul may have indeed thought that at some point, but Paul never predicted that or claimed that God revealed it to him. He may well return in mine, but I’m not setting any dates.

#2 – Red Herring
They’ve already started using this one. After September 12 passed with no nukes flying, they started bragging about how much Yahweh had used the prophecy to give exposure to their ministry! Note: Popularity is not always a good thing. If you are widely known for giving false prophecies, Yahweh may not be giving you the good kind of exposure. God does not lie to increase your membership, and the fact that your group has gained popularity does not change the fact that your leader is a false prophet.

#1 – And the Winner is: Declare divine reprieve!
The Jonah route. Yes, you can blame God for your false prophecy while throwing out a scripture reference in a feeble attempt to back it up. Background: Jonah by the word of the Lord prophecied to the inhabitants of Ninevah that their city would be destroyed within a set time; the entire Ninevite populace repented in sackcloth and ashes before God and He granted them a reprieve much to the chagrin of Jonah who apparently didn’t like them. The moral of the story is that when God decrees destruction, it is possible that He will show mercy to those who repent. I think this is the excuse we are most likely to
hear, though it is untenable for the following reasons: For one, the prophecies in Revelation (which they claim are being fulfilled, Hawkins even claims to be one of the two anointed witnesses) have a tone of utter finality,

“And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer…” (Revelation 10:5-6)

Secondly, God’s reprieve of Ninevah was not arbitrary, it was in response to their total repentance, which Revelation predicts the world’s populace in general at the time of the end will not do.

“And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.” (Revelation 9:20-21)

Knowing them, they will probably say that Yahweh granted a reprieve so that they could go out and win more souls for Him, or something to that effect. If this is truly the time of the end of which they speak (and make no mistake, it is) then this excuse is indeed not tenable. Their own newsletter in January of 2007 says:

We are in the time of the end, the last generation. But notice also what the Prophet Daniyl was inspired to write in:
Daniyl 12:10-12;
Many will be purified, and made white, and tried; tested; but the wicked will do wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but the wise will understand.

and closes with,

Yahweh is again calling for all religions on earth to repent. You are the cause of this great tribulation. If you will repent of sin, the world will follow and the problems will, after a time, stop. But you won’t repent, so you can expect these prophecies to come to pass.

The nuclear nine month baby was conceived September 12, 2006. By June 12, 2007 a third part of man will be killed over a fourth part of the earth in and around the great river Euphrates. Maybe you will start to believe then. For those who will believe, repent of sin and convert to keeping Yahweh’s Laws of righteousness, there is protection also prophesied. We await your call.

My Challenge:

I challenge all members of the House of Yahweh: If your prophecy concerning a third of the world’s population dying off does not come to pass, then do not make excuses, and do not accept excuses from Hawkins or his ilk! In the name of Yahweh the holy and pure who never lies, abandon this crazed cult and its false prophet leader! Turn to the God revealed in the scriptures (many of the Christian churches that you condemn preach His gospel). Do you believe the law? Then look at what the law says concerning false prophets:

But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)

Yes, if a prophet speaks in the name of Yahweh, and that of which he prophecies does not come to pass, then that man is a false prophet; a liar who presumptuously speaks his own words as if they were those of the Most High God. Yisrayl Hawkins has already predicted the start of nuclear war on September 12, 2006, which has not started yet; he’s predicted that it will be fulfilled by June 12, 2007, which I’m pretty sure won’t happen, and predicted that man’s governments will be destroyed by October 13, 2007 (House of Yahweh Newsletter, November, 2006), which I know won’t happen (there are biblical signs that precede that, but they have not occurred yet). Do you have the courage to be honest with yourselves? When these dates pass and the world’s governments are not destroyed, will you leave this crazy false prophet and his heretical cult, or just stay and continue to let him lead you on the path to hell? I tell you now Yisrayl Hawkins, you are a false prophet and a liar! Your words are not the words of God, but your own yammering! You are a well without water, a cloud carried about with the tempest, a viper, a thief, a corrupt tree! Repent of your wickedness and lies, step down teller of tales! When these dates come and go and your words do not come to pass, your shame will be revealed. You may scramble to find excuses, but there will be no excuses for you! Repent!

Members of the house of Yahweh, remember my words that I speak now: Yisrayl Hawkins is a liar who does not know God. He is a scam artist and his prophecies are from his own heart, not from Yahweh. When the times roll by and his prophecies turn out to be so much hot air, just remember that some Christians that you hold to be heretics warned you in advance. But have no fear, we do not hate you, indeed we wish above all that you would repent and turn from this false prophet and serve Yahweh in spirit and in truth; I for one won’t look down on you, for none of us is above being deceived, and there is not one of us that has never gone astray. I humbly implore you, when these dates pass, use the good sense God gave you and abandon this false prophet and teacher — or better yet, save yourself the trouble and embarrassment and get out now. The angels rejoice when one sinner comes to repentance, how can I do less? How can I not be overjoyed when my brother or sister who was dead comes home? The Savior is waiting with arms wide open.


The world is not ending yet

The world’s governments will not fall this year

Hawkins is a false prophet

Yahweh is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

In Christ,
J.C. Thibodaux

– March 5, 2007

Update: Looks like they settled on #7, the “baby” was spiritual, not literal.

The Cotton Candy Commandments

In discussions among Christians, when something gets heated, there will almost invariably be someone who throws the accusation that someone else is being ‘unloving’ or ‘prideful’ or some such. Now while love is indeed the greatest command for followers of Christ, many people who toss such accusations around have little clue what they are saying or what love really means, and are really only using it as a tarbrush (usually against someone who won’t agree with them on a point of discussion). Love is not some shallow sentimental attachment or all of us agreeing on everything all the time, the two in fact are often at odds. But to elucidate how someone can perfectly ‘walk in love’ by this skewed definition, I’ve put together ten very important rules to remember for everyday interaction if you are a Christian. They are sweet sounding at times, but unfortunately just as weightless and devoid of any real substance as actual cotton candy. Enjoy!

The Cotton Candy Commandments:

I. Thou shalt show love at all times, love being defined as emotional fluffiness that never involves anger or other negative emotions for any reasons. It’s a sort of cosmic karma, a Christianized Nirvana that everyone in any discussion is supposed to be aimlessly floating in so we all get along.

II. Thou shalt not love toughly. Love is never tough. Look at the list: patient, kind, trusts, hopes, perseveres…I don’t see ‘tough’ in there anywhere, do you? Could you imagine if God’s love were tough? He’d like, chastise people and stuff!

III. Thou shalt not act certain, for certainty is a sign of arrogance and pride. If you are certain, even about the fact that no one should be certain about anything, don’t act like you are so you’ll retain the moral high ground. It’s what other people think that counts after all, which is why,

IV. Thou shalt not under any circumstances hurt others’ feelings, because feelings are the most important thing in the universe. When Christ says “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck…”, He’s obviously talking about someone taking any kind of offense to anything you say, which is proof that feelings are the most important thing there is. The purpose of life is feeling, I mean, for crying out loud, haven’t you guys seen Equilibrium yet?

V. Negative feelings of any kind are a sin. Anger for instance, anger and hatred are the same thing. Think about it:

hatred->anger,

therefore, anger->hatred

Don’t you see, anger stems from fear, fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. First you’re a bit frustrated that someone refuses to listen to your point about Christian doctrine, next thing you know, you’re choking people through an intercom. Who? What? In the temple? With a whip? You’re making that up!

VI. Thou shalt not judge anyone else for any reason whatsoever. Not just their person or character, but their opinions and ideas as well.

VII. Thou shalt not tease. Any kinds of verbal pokes, funny names, puns or satires involving anyone else are an immediate sign that the one doing so is not truly saved.

VIII. For that matter thou shalt not make any attempts to be funny. Did you ever hear Jesus make a joke? Didn’t think so.

Serious note: I actually once had an individual who I discussed theology with claim that my actions were not Christ-like, citing the fact that I did a goofy stylistic impression of a cartoon character during another discussion. Uh, yeah…talk about deadly sins. If that’s not hating my brother I don’t know what is.

IX. Thou shalt not tell anyone that their opinion is wrong. Telling someone that their opinion is wrong is un-Christlike and bad.

X. Thou shalt not try and win a debate. Debate is a dirty word, the fact that you are trying to win a debate conclusively proves that you are carnal and interested only in winning, especially if you’re taking my arguments to the cleaners you pompous jerk!

Hopefully these ‘commandments’ will give you some idea as to the unspoken rules of dealing with really uptight people; or if you yourself are really on-edge, encourage you to lighten up just a little bit. Instead of the inconsistent and unrealistic, emotionally-driven expectations that try to pass themselves off as Christian love, the best rule to remember is the golden rule:

“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

Answering Greg Elmquist’s "Four Unanswerable Questions"

I came across a writing some time back by Pastor Greg Elmquist called, ‘Four Unanswerable Questions,’ which I’ve seen copied and pasted by Calvinists on forums as evidence that the doctrines espoused in Arminianism could not possibly be true. I decided to examine each of these supposed unsolvable Calvinist conundrums for myself and find out if there was a scriptural and logical answer to them. I’ll be going over his essay, which will be in italics, and my thoughts and commentary will be in normal type.

Greg starts out,

“There are four lies being told in Orlando today.”

I’ve been to Orlando, I’m pretty sure I counted more than that; but Greg is about to add a few more to the list.

“Modern, man-centered, Christ dethroning religionist would have us believe…”

At least he’s not poisoning the well….he then goes on to tell what those lies are:

“God loves everyone;”

Oh! How awful!

“it is God’s will for everyone to be saved;”

Nooooo!

“Christ died for everyone;”

The horror! The horror!

“and the Holy Spirit draws the saved and condemned alike.”

Eeeeeeek!!! Hide the children (at least the condemned ones)!

“These are well established suppositions, rarely questioned for their truthfulness.”

For rather obvious reasons.

“To call them into question is to unmask the faulty foundation of a false gospel and kindle the wrath of those desperate to protect their traditions.”

Or possibly reveal the terrible logic Elmquist employs in trying to harass other Christians with his bizarre doctrine and incite widespread laughter as it is refuted without any difficulty. He then gets to the questions:

1) “What sayeth the Scripture?” “The Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness” (Ps. 11:7). “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” (Rom. 9:13). God’s love is a holy love. He can no more love unrighteousness than He can cease to be holy. God’s love is for Christ, in Christ, and through Christ. Everything outside of Christ is under the condemnation and wrath of God. He has loved His elect with an everlasting love, having chosen them in Him before the foundation of the world.
Question #1: If God loves all men, those who receive eternal life as well as those who suffer eternal damnation, what does the love of God have to do with anyone’s salvation?

Answer: Everything, for without the love of God no one could be saved, but God’s love for men does not preclude the fact that He requires sinners to receive Jesus Christ to be saved.

Additional problems with Elmquist’s logic: God does hate unrighteousness, yet still does have love for sinners, else He could not love the elect while they were yet sinners (Romans 5:8).

2) What does the Bible say about God’s will and salvation? “Having predestined us according to the good pleasure of His Will” (Eph. 1:5). “Having made known to us the mystery of His Will according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself.” “I will have mercy upon whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion upon whomever I will have compassion. So then it is not of him who wills, or of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. Therefore, He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens” (Rom 9:15-18). “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He wills” (Jn. 5:21).
Question #2: If God wills for all men to be saved, what does the will of God have to do with anyone’s salvation?

Answer: Everything, for no one can come to Christ apart from the will of God. Yes God is willing that all be saved, yet is not willing to do so apart from Christ; and so He, foreknowing that not all would believe, did not choose everyone.

3) What do the Scriptures say about the purpose of Jesus’ death on the cross? Did He die for all men? “I am the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11). “Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people” (Titus 2:14). “who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal. 1:4). If Christ purposed to die for all men, did He not have the power to accomplish His purpose? God forbid! Did He die to make men savable or did He die to accomplish the salvation of a chosen people?
Question #3: If Christ shed His precious blood for all men, what does the work of Christ on the cross have to do with anyone’s salvation?

Answer: Everything, for Christ’s is the only way to receive forgiveness of sins, but receiving pardon by it is conditioned on faith.

Additional problems with Elmquist’s logic: He cites scriptures that say that Christ died for the elect (which is obviously true), yet none of them say that Christ died for only the elect and none else. In his disgustingly biased proof-texting frenzy, he simultaneously ignores numerous passages that testify to the fact that Christ died for all men (1 John 2:2, 1 Timothy 2:5-6, Romans 5:6, Hebrews 2:9). He also raises the old canard about Christ only making men savable, not factoring in foreknowledge.

Do the math: men now savable by the grace of God + foreknowledge that they will believe = accomplished salvation

4) What does God say about the work of the Holy Spirit in redemption? Are sinners dead (Eph. 2:1) in need of regeneration, or just sick in need of a little reformation? “He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). “The written code kills, but the Spirit gives life” (II Cor. 3:6).
Question #4: If the Holy Spirit draws the saved and the condemned alike, what does the Holy Spirit have to do with anyone’s salvation?

Answer: *SIGH* Everything, since no one can come to God otherwise. This has no bearing on the fact that some men resist the Spirit (Acts 7:51) and refuse to believe.

Additional problems with Elmquist’s logic: He makes an indirect appeal for the need to be regenerated before one believes, which is simply absurd. Grace is needed before one believes, yes, I believe that, but spiritual life comes by faith through the name of Christ.

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 20:31)

“The Truth: Salvation is of the Lord!”

Thanks…I don’t think anyone is arguing that point.

“Don’t believe a lie, it will damn your soul.”

It can also make you into a ranting, paranoid dogmatist with awful critical thinking skills and no discernment for sound doctrine.

Elmquist’s supposed Gordian Knot is easily sliced with the sword of the Spirit. The logical fallacy that he consistently employs is assuming that if some salvific operation of God (His love, His will, the death of Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit) does not irresistibly produce salvation, then it can have nothing to do with salvation at all, which is rather extreme all-or-nothing reasoning. His reasoning here is akin saying, “If suicide prevention counseling ever fails to prevent a suicide, then the counseling can have nothing to do at all with preventing suicides.” Such painfully oversimplified logic and excessively dichomatic thinking is the hallmark of cults everywhere, said mentality showing itself further in pastor Elmquist’s other teachings, such as that if you believe that you were saved as an Arminian (even if you’re a Calvinist now), then you aren’t really saved at all (What is the Gospel?, para. 4).

The Bronze Serpent Explained: A Monergist View of Divine Healing

And the LORD said unto Moses, “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Numbers 21:8-9)

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)

[Scene: The border of Canaan near the land of Midian, two Israelite men from the tribes led by Moses and a silent young woman all stand at a high point and look out over the promised land]

Zimri: Ah, finally on the border of the promised land!

Carmi: Yes, we’ve come a long ways.

Zimri: Now we get to enjoy the good part. Been quite a journey here, hasn’t it?

Carmi: Indeed. We’ve known nothing but the desert our whole lives.

Zimri: Yeah, the was was pretty dangerous too, but God’s been faithful to deliver us, even when we failed Him. Remember that time we all complained so much against Moses that God sent those vipers into the camp?

Carmi: All too well…

Zimri: But even then God’s mercy was amazing; when Moses put up that bronze serpent, all we had to do was look at it and God cured us. It was awesome, all God asked was that I look up and acknowledge my need for His help, and He healed me.

Carmi: But, what you are in effect saying is that you cured yourself.

Zimri: Cured myself? What are you talking about?

Carmi: I’m saying that you hold a man-centered view of divine healing, and lack vital understanding as to how God cured us.

Zimri: Vital understanding?

Carmi: Yes, when God delivered those He wished to from the serpents, He did so all of His own power, with no inherent cooperation from those bitten. This important teaching is commonly called the doctrine of snakes.

Zimri: You lost me. How did I cure myself?

Carmi: Looking up at the snake, in your beliefs, is something you did, and therefore you caused your own cure.

Zimri: That seems to be a bit of a stretch. God was the one who gave the cure, and commanded Moses to put up the bronze serpent, all he told us to do was look at it and-

Carmi: But looking at it was a work, it was something that you did.

Zimri: Wait, now looking is work? Remind me not to wake up on the Sabbath.

Carmi: Since it was you who effected the condition, it was in essence you who effected the cure.

Zimri: So you’re saying God just gave us the power to cure ourselves or something?

Carmi: Oh no, not at all. God had to revive you before you could look up at the snake at all.

Zimri: Revive me?

Carmi: Yes, you were actually already dead from your snake bite.

Zimri: Dead, like hyperbole ‘dead?’ Like a Genesis 20:3 ‘dead man?’

Carmi: No, literally dead.

Zimri: Like, “I am dead Horatio” dead?

Carmi: No, dead as in ‘physically decomposing’ dead, and therefore totally powerless to do anything but be a corpse.

Zimri: Uh, I don’t recall this.

Carmi: Of course not, you were dead at the time.

Zimri: Oh right, right.

Carmi: And because you were already dead from your snake bite, you weren’t capable of looking up at the snake, so you had to be brought back to life to do so.

Zimri: Well, I was certainly pretty delirious and weakened from the venom, so I have no problem buying that it was God who gave me strength to look up….

Carmi: No, no, God didn’t merely give you strength to look at the snake, He irresistibly changed you so you would both be capable and irresistibly drawn to look up at the snake.

Zimri: Changed me?

Carmi: By reviving you of course.

Zimri: Ah.

Carmi: It’s called the ‘irresistible snake.’ So you were literally dead and helpless, but God brought you back to life so you would be able and willing to look at the snake. See, it’s written right here, “…and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.”

Zimri: Um, isn’t that saying that the people who looked at the bronze serpent survived?

Carmi: No, it’s saying that those who lived, or rather were brought to life, looked on the bronze serpent.

Zimri: That sounds a bit backwards. It seems that our living was contingent on looking at the bronze serpent, and I distinctly recall feeling the effects of the poison subside when I looked at it, not before.

Carmi: Your mistake is a common one, but your being revived, cured, and looking at the serpent all happened at the same instant in time, it’s simply a logical necessity that your being revived came first. You have to study and think about it real hard for a long, long, long time before arriving at this important truth.

Zimri: I’m sure you do.

Carmi: Of course you being a Phinehasite wouldn’t understand it.

Zimri: A what?

Carmi: A Phinehasite. Followers of the beliefs of Phinehas, you know, Aaron’s grandkid – the priest.

Zimri: Oh, him.

Carmi: He holds to the heretical view that those bitten by the snakes weren’t yet completely, physically dead, but merely had the sentence of death working in them. Phinehas is under the delusion that he wasn’t irresistibly compelled to obey by being literally resurrected, but thinks that he somehow just ‘cooperated’ with God in performing the impossibly difficult task of looking up at the snake so that he could be healed! And since he believes that he had to make some kind of decision to look up (obviously a work meritorious beyond imagining), he is therefore robbing God of the glory in healing him! So anyone who believes that free will plays any role in divine healing is a Phinehasite.

Zimri: I barely know Phinehas, much less studied anything he wrote or said.

Carmi: Doesn’t matter, you still fall into that category. If you don’t believe in totally monergistic divine healing, then you’re automatically a Phinehasite of some kind. Of course, Phinehasism is really just semi-Nimrodism, and everyone knows that the Phinehasism eventually leads to either spirit channeling or sun worship, as that’s really what consistent Phinehasism amounts to….

Zimri: And I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Carmi: Hopefully God will reveal it to you and save you from your Phinehasite blindness. In fact, here’s a list of scrolls I recommend you read on the subject that will give you a better understanding of monergist divine healing and the Phinehasite error.

Zimri: So if God actually revived us so we could look at the serpent, then why did some people stay dead from the snake bites?

Carmi: Because God didn’t want everyone to look at the snake. God only intended that certain people look at it.

Zimri: Really? I didn’t get that indication at all.

Carmi: God’s ways are very mysterious.

Zimri: Yeah, but Moses invited anyone who was bitten to look at it.

Carmi: Yes, that was the ‘outward hiss’ but not the ‘effectual hiss.’

Zimri: The what?

Carmi: God only wanted certain people to be cured, so He made only a limited amount of antivenin,

Zimri: I wasn’t told this.

Carmi: -then He chose certain people to be cured and let the rest die.

Zimri: Ah, so He chose them because He knew they’d hear and respond?

Carmi: No, He chose them from eternity past based on nothing whatsoever about them, then after they died from the snake bites, He revived the ones He chose so that they would both have the innate desire and the irresistible unction to perform the action of looking up at the bronze serpent, thereby receiving a dose of the limited supply of antivenin that He’d prepared beforehand.

Zimri: Where exactly are you getting all this?

Carmi: I…it’s…it’s so elementary, even a child could see it.

Zimri: But, didn’t He say that anyone who was bitten could look and be cured?

Carmi: Oh He did, but that was God’s “I don’t really mean this, I just say stuff like this to relate to people” will talking. In God’s “super-duper-secret really, really I actually mean this” will, He didn’t really want everyone who was bitten to look at it, and hence wouldn’t revive them, which is why the antivenin was limited.

Zimri: ….This seems like a somewhat overly complicated system of beliefs.

Carmi: Well it has to be true, otherwise you must logically have cured yourself.

Zimri: Hmmmm…I see. So since the antivenin is limited, then what if I get bitten by another viper? Could God not cure me?

Carmi: That’s the best part. The fact that you were cured of your snake bite guarantees that you will make it into the promised land.

Zimri: Really?

Carmi: Yes, it’s like a divine seal of approval. To those who have been chosen and cured, God has unconditionally chosen to provide final entrance into the new land.

Zimri: I seem to recall Him listing some stuff we’d better not do, as well as what would happen if we disobeyed….

Carmi: Oh that’s just something God’s “I don’t mean this” will says to goad you into living right. It’s all up to His sovereign “super-duper-secret” will really.

Zimri: Hey, that kind of makes sense. I mean, He wouldn’t have cured us if He’d wanted us to die in the desert.

Carmi: Exactly. While being brought to life again will certainly make you want to avoid future snake bites, there’s no actual chance for you to fall short of entering, even should you run across every viper this side of the Jordan. You can rest in complete assurance that you will make it through.

Zimri: Oh wait, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a few of the people die who had previously been cured.

Carmi: They were never really cured. The belief that they were actually cured stems not from objective observation, but the influence of biased Phinehasite teachings.

Zimri: But they were, you know, walking around with no apparent problems.

Carmi: God provided them with a temporary means to give the illusion that they were alive and had been cured, so that we and even they thought that they were, but the fact that they have failed to make it to the promised land demonstrates that they were never truly cured.

Zimri: How could they think they were cured, or even move around at all if they were already dead?

Carmi: That- …That’s a mystery.

Zimri: So if someone might be walking around like they’re perfectly healthy, but in reality still be poisoned, and dead no less, then isn’t it possible that you or I might not really be cured as well?

Carmi: Technically, yes, but unlikely; and if you aren’t truly cured there’s nothing you can do about it anyway, so you really shouldn’t waste time troubling yourself about such things.

Zimri: Wow, that’s a relief. I was kind of worried about bringing this Midianite chick back to camp with me. If I didn’t know for sure that God was going to preserve me, I’d be scared of what Phinehas might try and do.

Carmi: I for one find it highly doubtful that he was ever cured in the first place.

Zimri: You’re definitely right on that one. He is so man-centered. Come on Cozbi, let’s get to the camp. I’ll show you the Tabernacle.