Monthly Archives: July 2013

Only Paul [Satire]

What was the purpose and extent of the atonement?  Was it to merely make salvation possible for all and secure it for none?  Or was it to definitely secure salvation for Paul?  After setting aside man-centered thinking, it can be proven with certainty that Jesus died to effectually secure salvation for Paul of Tarsus, and for Paul alone.

First, take a look at Galatians 2:20. This is the most important verse in the Bible, because it explicitly states the extent of the atonement (bold mine):

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This verse indisputably proves that Jesus died only for Paul.

It’s worth noting that some liberal theologians have referenced other passages in vain philosophical attempts to apply the atonement to others for whom it was not intended. These heretics fail to make an important distinction.  Ambiguous verses should always be interpreted in the light of more explicit verses. Galatians 2:20 clearly limits the scope of the atonement to only Paul.  Other less clear passages should be interpreted accordingly.  If Galatians 2:20 was the only verse that declared the extent of the atonement, the heretics might have a point. By God’s providence, it is not. Let’s study some additional passages.

In Matthew 18:12 we learn that the shepherd purposed to save one sheep. In fact he abandoned 99 sheep to save the one (bold mine):

What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?

The text is clear.  The shepherd found and saved only one sheep.  He left the 99 other sheep on the hills. By doing this the shepherd maximized his glory. Moreover, he increased the appreciation and adoration of Paul, whom was effectually retrieved. If other sheep had also been retrieved, it would have diluted the value of the shepherd’s act.

To make his point extra clear, Jesus repeats the account in Luke 15:4-6 (bold mine):

Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.”

One again, we see the shepherd saving only one sheep. He leaves the reprobate sheep in open country, puts the one sheep on his shoulders, and goes home.

Theologian James White gives additional insight on the use of the word sheep (bold mine):

“The good Shepherd lays down His life in behalf of the sheep. Are all men the sheep of Christ? Certainly not…”

Before commenting on this quote, it is necessary to exegete White’s use of the term “sheep”. To the untrained mind, it appears that White is using the word “sheep” to refer to more than one person. That is not the case. In English the word “sheep” can be singular or it can be plural.  This is defined by the context in which the word is used.

Singular example:  Look! There is one sheep over there!
Plural example:  Look! There are a boat load of sheep over there! We must be in New Zealand!

Untrained and tradition entrenched readers do not often note this subtle distinction in the usage of the word “sheep”. Nor do the misguided plural atonement heretics who resort to man centered thinking over exegesis. White’s context is plain. When he uses the phrases “the sheep” and “the sheep of Christ”, he is referring to only one sheep. White does not use the term “boat load of sheep”, nor does he refer to New Zealand. He properly defines his context by singularly stating “the sheep” (which of course we know is Paul).

Enough with vain philosophy, let’s get back to God’s word and take a look at 1 Corinthians 9:24 (bold mine):

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Again, Paul himself writes that only he will get the prize.

Another critical passage is Acts 9:3-7 (The Damascus Road story). In it we see with clarity that Jesus chose only Paul: (bold mine)

Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”….the men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.

This passage indicates that only Paul heard Jesus’ voice and saw the light from heaven. The travelers with Paul heard the voice but did not see the light. Clearly the light wasn’t intended for them because they were reprobate. Of course they would be, they were not Paul.

Philosophical Arguments Proving Atonement for Paul:
Philosophy is usually evil, however, it may be used sparingly when it is girded by God’s word.   There are three philosophical possibilities for the extent of the atonement:
1) The atonement was for everyone
2) The atonement was for no one.
3) The atonement was for Paul.

We know that #1 is false, that is universalism. We know that #2 is false because Paul was saved. Option #3 is all that is left. The atonement was for Paul.

Common objections to Atonement for Paul:

Q: What about the many passages that speak about “the world”? Isn’t the world more than Paul?

A: In light of the explicit statements of Gal 2:20 and 1 Cor 9:24, it is clear that the ambiguous passages that refer to “world” are more accurately translated as “the world of the one elect person whose name is Paul”. Remember, ambiguous passages should always be interpreted in the context of explicit ones.

Q: But doesn’t Romans 1:16 state salvation is for both Greek and Jew? How can this be the one person Paul?

A: Quit imposing your own biased interpretation on the word. Read scripture and let it speak for itself. Paul easily answers this objection in 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 “To the Jews I became like a Jew…To those not having the law I became like one not having the law…“ You see, Paul is both Jew and Greek. Romans 1:16 refers only to Paul.

Q: But what about Mark 10:45?  It says Jesus gave his life as a ransom for many.

A: Scholars are divided on the issue, but the most likely explanation is that Paul’s nickname was “Manny”.   The verse should be read as “ransom for Manny.”

Q: Okay, What about Mary, Jesus’ mother? She wasn’t Paul and yet the Bible says she was blessed.

A: What are you, some kind of closet Catholic? That line of reasoning always leads back to Rome.

Q: This whole system is not fair. If only Paul is saved, what about everyone else who perishes? This is a bum deal for everyone except Paul.

A: Paul anticipates your objection and addresses it in Romans 9:20 “Who are you oh man to talk back to God?.” In other words this may seem unfair from your man-centered view, but it is God’s sovereign choice to individually and effectually save Paul alone. This gives God more glory, and makes Paul’s salvation more valuable. Don’t talk back to God.

Q: I’m not talking back to God, I’m saying that your system unfairly distorts the character of God.

A: That’s because you’re depending on philosophy instead of scripture.  Besides, only one person usually wins the lottery too.  Do you complain about that? Sometimes no one wins the lottery and the jackpot grows even bigger. If everyone won the lottery it would dilute the value. For example if the jackpot was $1 million and 10 million people won it, they would each get only 10 cents. What a ripoff! The same principles apply to salvation. Paul hit the jackpot.

Q: But wasn’t it a waste of Jesus’ sacrifice to apply it only to Paul when it could have covered more?

A: Not at all, this was planned by divine decree before the creation of the world. Jesus blood was only intended for Paul, and it effectually secured Paul’s salvation. The atonement did not make salvation merely possible for Paul, it secured it.

Q: I don’t find this doctrine very motivating to preach the Gospel.

A: That is a straw man. Paul taught this doctrine, and he was very motivated. Besides, scripture commands us to preach the Gospel.

[Note: this post is an attempt at satire.  Any similarities to another theological system are entirely coincidental.  ;) This is also an updated version of a post I did a few years back.  You can find the original here.]

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Filed under Calvinism, Election, limited atonement, satire

Seven Female Authors of Scripture

Miriam

“Sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.”
Exodus 15:21

Deborah

“In the days of Shamgar son of Anath,
in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned;
travelers took to winding paths.
Villagers in Israel would not fight;
they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
until I arose, a mother in Israel.
God chose new leaders
when war came to the city gates,
but not a shield or spear was seen
among forty thousand in Israel.
My heart is with Israel’s princes,
with the willing volunteers among the people.
Praise the Lord!”
Judges 5:6-9

Ruth

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
Ruth 1:16-17

Hannah

“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
in the Lord my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.
There is no one holy like the Lord;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.”
1 Samuel 2:1-2

Esther

Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
Esther 4:15-16

 
Elizabeth

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Luke 1:41-45

Mary

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
Luke 1:46-55

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The Arminian Theology of C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is one of the most widely read Christian writers of the last 100 years.   Although he doesn’t seem to have ever directly referenced Arminius or Wesley in his writings, his theology is nonetheless generally consistent with Arminain thought. Below are some quotes from Lewis that indicate his Arminian leanings.

Lewis did not hold to “irresistible grace”.  He believed that God limits his power and will not unilaterally change a person.  From The Trouble with X, Lewis wrote:

God has made it a rule for Himself that He won’t alter people’s character by force. He can and will alter them – but only if the people will let Him. In that way He has really and truly limited His power. Sometimes we wonder why He has done so, or even wish that He hadn’t. But apparently He thinks it worth doing. He would rather have a world of free beings, with all its risks, than a world of people who did right like machines because they couldn’t do anything else. The more we succeed in imagining what a world of perfect automatic beings would be like, the more, I think, we shall see His wisdom.

Lewis expanded on this in the Screwtape Letters, when the demon Screwtape comments on the character of God:

You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more han during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be.

Lewis approached the problem of evil from an Arminian view – that evil came about by God giving freewill to creatures.  Lewis also argued for the typically Arminian view of libertarian free will (A person can choose either A or B), rather than Calvinistic compatibility (A person always follows his strongest desire, and can’t do otherwise).  And Lewis argued for an Arminian view of God that is a relationally based.  Mere Christianity book 2, chapter 3:

Is this state of affairs [evil]  in accordance with God’s will or not? If it is, He is a strange God, you will say: and if it is not, how can anything happen contrary to the will of a being with absolute power?

But anyone who has been in authority knows how a thing can be in accordance with your will in one way and not in another. It may be quite sensible for a mother to say to the children, “I’m not going to go and make you tidy the schoolroom every night. You’ve got to learn to keep it tidy on your own.” Then she goes up one night and finds the Teddy bear and the ink and the French Grammar all lying in the grate. That is against her will. She would prefer the children to be tidy. But on the other hand, it is her will which has left the children free to be untidy. The same thing arises in any regiment, or trade union, or school. You make a thing voluntary and then half the people do not do it. That is not what you willed, but your will has made it possible.

It is probably the same in the universe. God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata-of creatures that worked like machines-would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.

Lewis also had an Arminian understanding of the existence of hell.  Some end up in hell because of their choice to reject God’s provision.  In The Great Divorce, Lewis writes:

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.

Lewis also seemed to lean towards Arminian understanding of apostasy – that it is possible for a person who was formerly saved to cease being a Christian. In The Screwtape Letters he writes (again, from Screwtapes view):

I note with grave displeasure that your patient has become a Christian…There is no need to despair; hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a brief sojourn in the Enemy’s camp and are now with us. All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily, are still in our favour.

And again Mere Christianity, book 4, chapter 10:

The world does not consist of 100 per cent Christians and 100 per cent non-Christians. There are people (a great many of them) who are slowly ceasing to be Christians but who still call themselves by that name: some of them are clergymen. There are other people who are slowly becoming Christians though they do not yet call themselves so. There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand.

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For a nice detailed essay on the Arminianism of Lewis, check out C.S. Lewis: Calvinist or Classical Arminian?   by Rev. Zach Dawes

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Filed under Arminianism, C.S. Lewis