Monthly Archives: September 2008

Calvinist Proof Text Series: Romans 9 (part 2)

I’m doing a series to address the major Calvinist proof texts: Romans 9, John 6, and Ephesians 1.

Recap of Romans 9 (part 1)
In the previous post we looked at the context of Romans 9: Has God broken his promises to the Jewish people? He has not. We also noted that Jacob and Esau (9:11-13) were nations, and that the election spoken of for the patriarchs is in regards to the human ancestry of Christ (9:5).

Romans 9:14-17 – What’s up with Pharaoh?
Paul has been speaking of Israel. Pharaoh is referenced because he provides a parallel to the Jewish nation. Both Pharaoh and Israel are used by God to accomplish His purposes, despite their disobedience. The way God deals with Pharaoh in Exodus is similar to the way he later deals with Israel.

The Israelites had been disobedient throughout their history. They had broken their covenant with God. However, God showed mercy to them over and over again. Why? Because he wanted to make his name known to the world. He had decided to accomplish this through the offspring of Jacob.

Recognizing the parallel (Israel / Pharaoh – both disobedient, both shown mercy to accomplish a purpose), let’s look at Romans 9:14-17 (bold mine):

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all!
For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

This passage parallels Exodus 9:15-16 (bold and parenthesis mine):
(God speaking to Pharaoh through Moses) I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up (have spared you) for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

To raise up means “to spare”. Pharaoh deserved instant death, yet God spared him for a time. Sometimes God spares the least deserving, because by doing so he is able to accomplish his greater purpose of revealing and reconciling himself to the world.

In the process God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Was this unjust? Not at all! If God arbitrarily and capriciously hardened Pharoah from birth, that would be unjust. However, the accounts don’t indicates this. The hardening was an act of judgment against a man who had committed much evil, and had positioned himself against God. Calvinists sometimes imply that God “made” Pharaoh wicked. Pharaoh was already wicked. God didn’t need to control Pharaoh like a puppet to “make” him do evil things. He knew of how Pharaoh would respond in different situations (Exodus 7:10-13). He had no need to violate Pharoah’s will in the process.

When a matador waves a red flag in front of a bull, he doesn’t need any magic to get inside the bull’s head. He already knows what the bull will do.

What was the purpose of God’s interaction with Pharaoh? Proclaiming His name in all the earth! Understanding that God showd undeserved mercy to Pharaoh (and later Isreal) changes the focus of Romans 9:22-24 (parenthesis mine):

What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath (Pharaoh, Israel) —prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

God loves the world. He wants everyone to know who he is. God showed mercy to both Israel and Pharaoh when they didn’t deserve it, so that his name would be known. Morover, He acted justly and fairly in all of His dealing with both.

Who are you oh man to talk back to God?
Romans 9:19-21 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

This has nothing to do with unconditional election or reprobation. Rather, the Jews of that time were making the argument that they ought not to be condemned for doing evil if their evil brought glory to God and helped accomplish his purposes. This is similar to the question that Paul addresses in Romans 3:5-8 (bold mine):

But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Why not say—as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—”Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved.

Israel freely committed evil actions contrary to what God desired. And they rejected the means of salvation that God had provided (they rejected Jesus). If Israel (or anyone) acts in a way that God does not prefer, God still has the right to use their actions to further the advancement of his kingdom. This in no way clouds the character of God, because he did not determine the disobedience in the first place. In the case of Israel he did everything possible to cultivate their obedience (Isaiah 5). It follows then that Israel has no grounds to talk back to God. This is Paul’s point.

Next up: a look at Romans 10.

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Calvinist Proof Text Series: Romans 9 (part 1)

I’m doing a series to address the major Calvinist proof texts: Romans 9, John 6, and Ephesians 1.

Calvinism is a philosophy based upon exhaustive determinism (that God controls us like puppets). George Bryson summarizes Calvinism as follows: “You will be saved or damned for all eternity because you were saved or damned from all eternity.” (1)

Romans 9.
Inevitably, the first passage Calvinists turn to is Romans 9. They argue that the passage teaches unconditional individual election – that God determines to save specific individuals. Those whom God has chosen will certainly be saved. Everyone else is without help and without hope. Calvinists teach that God passes over the larger part of mankind (Pharaoh and Esau are examples). These individuals are decreed to be vessels of wrath (9:22). Calvinists believe that God does not intend for most to be saved, nor does he provides means for them to be saved.

The background for Romans 9: Has God broken his promises?
During early church history (and now) most of the Jewish people had rejected Jesus. This grieved Paul deeply. The question being asked was: Has God broken his promises to Israel? If the Jews don’t believe, does this mean that God’s promises are untrue? Has God failed to keep his word? This is first asked in Romans 3:3What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?

The answer to the question is no. God is not unfaithful. He has not broken his promises to the descendants of Abraham. Paul explains why in detail in chapters 9, 10, and 11. His scope is identified in the opening of Romans 9:1-5 (bold mine):

I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit—
I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

The Jews of that time thought that God had unconditionally elected them to salvation by their birthright as children of Abraham. Paul was showing this is not the case. He says, hey look! Not all of Abraham’s descendants are God’s children (9:6), only those who have faith are (9:32).

What about Jacob and Esau?
Romans 9:11-13: Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger. Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.

The passage is about the nations of Jacob and Esau (Israel and Edom – see Genesis 25:23). The election in scope is not salvation of the individual. Rather, it is for the human ancestry of Christ (Romans 9:5). Jacob was elected to be a forefather of the Savior. Jesus came through the line of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.

A parallel situation occurs with Isaac and Ishmael. This is addressed in Genesis 21:12-13 (also mentioned in Galatians 4:21-31 and alluded to in Romans 9:7): “But God said to (Abraham), “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the maid servant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

Isaac was blessed in a special way that Ishmael was not. Jacob was blessed in a special way that Esau was not. Isaac and Jacob were forefathers of Jesus! This does not mean that Ishmael and Esau were not blessed at all, or that they were eternally hated and dammed by God. God loved both of these men. He made promises to both. In fact, both became nations. And they may both be in heaven today. However, God elected to bring the Savior through the line of Isaac, and Jacob. That was his right as God.

Coming up next in the series: Romans 9 (part 2), then we’ll boldly go where no Calvinist has gone before – a look at 10 and 11. :)

(1) George Bryson, The Five Points of Calvinism

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Arminian Audio: Keith Green

Keith Green preaches a sermon entitled: Devotions or Devotion?

It was a pleasure to hear a little bit from the heart of Green. We need more of this kind of challenging message today. I miss this man of God.

mp3 link
Video link

Warning: he quotes from that wicked heretic Finney. :)

Here is another link with some sermons by Green.

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Welcome to Wesleyan Arminian!

Welcome to my new blog: WesleyanArminian.wordpress.com

The focus of this blog will be Arminian theology from a Wesleyan perspective (if the title doesn’t give it away). Since I am a layman, this blog will come from a layman’s view. I write with conversational words (like “salvation”) instead of more academic terms (like “soteriology”). Big words distract me.

Coming up in the near future, I want to take a look at some key Calvinist proof texts. I’m planning an overview of: Romans 9, John 6, and Ephesians 1. I also want to address other topics of interest to Wesleyan Arminians. Stuff like: open theism, holiness, views of the atonement, inerrancy, the state of the church universal, etc.

This blog needs a face lift. If you have some suggestions, drop me a note.

In addition, I plan on updating the labels / tagging on some of the old posts to make them easier to find.

I will still be posting on my old blog here: seekadoo.blogspot.com. That blog will be devoted to family, politics, hobbies, and other sorts of interests.

To Him who is not willing that any should perish. To Him who is worthy to be praised. Further up and further in!

Kevin Jackson (Pizza Man)

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Book Review: The Shack

What would you do if you were invited to spend a weekend with God? What questions would you ask him? Maybe why evil exists? Why is there pain? That is the background for the book “The Shack” (Author: William P. Young).

The Shack has become a phenomenon. As of today (9-8-08) it is ranked #6 in sales on Amazon.com, and has over 1,200 reviews.

There is a dual reaction to the book in Christian circles. People either love it or despise it. I fall into the former category, with a reservation. I enjoyed the story. It brought me to tears a number of times. As the father of two girls, I empathized with the main character, “Mack”.

The Shack is about the problem of evil. Why does God allow for terrible things to happen? Mack’s youngest daughter Missy is brutally raped and murdered. This causes a rift in his relationship with God. Mack cannot trust a God who would allow such a terrible act. In the story God invites Mack to come to meet him at the site of the murder. Mack goes to meet God, and so the story continues.

The Trinity is represented by three persons: Papa (who is a black woman), Jesus (as himself), and Sarayu (an Asian woman). Some people have been bothered that the Father and the Spirit were represented by women. However, in the storyline it is made clear that they are not really female, they are simply an anthropomorphism of God – much like “Aslan” represents God in the Narnia books.

What I liked about the book was how well the author illustrated the loving nature of God. This aspect of God’ s character shined through. God deeply loves Mack. He desires to heal Mack, to be in relationship with him, and to set him free. God loves all of us that way, the author makes it clear. A phrase that is repeated is that God is especially fond of you (each of us).

In the story God does not desire evil, it is not ordained by him. Yet God is able to accomplish his purposes through the way he responds to evil – with his unconditional love.

One concern I have about the book is that it seems to imply universalism – the idea that everyone will be saved in the end. This concept is not explicitly stated, but I can see readers arriving at such a conclusion.

The outright hostile reviews of the book are unwarranted. They seem to primarily come from Calvinists who have an ax to grind with the (Arminian) theology of the author. This is unfortunate.

In conclusion, I recommend this book. However, it should not be taken as “gospel”. It should not be read in place of scripture. In the end it is simply a story – but a very moving one at that.

Some other reviews:
Greg Boyd (positive)
Tim Challies (negative)

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General Atonement

Truehope over at Thru Faith has a new post entitled: Atonement for All. He gives a great overview of General Atonement, and how it is biblical. Be sure to check it out.

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