Tuesday, July 29, 2008

No Original Sin!

The idea of original sin isn't just Biblical, it's absolutely necessary to avoid a number of really strong pitfalls. Below is a list of some reasons why original sin is foundational to Christendom.

1. If people start perfect and gradually go bad, at what point does a person cross over the threshold into the unforgivable age, typically called the ‘age of accountability?’ If it is different for everyone then what is the average age of the population? Does a really big sin like murder when you are young count more than other smaller sins? How much sin does it take for God to finally say, "Enough!" Are teenagers liable for their sins? Are preteens? Toddlers? If the first sin committed is at age one then how is that different then a baby being sinful? 

2. If everyone starts without fallen natures then why is sin so universal? Why is every last society, man, woman, and child broken?

3. Why, if the Bible is sufficient in giving us everything we need to know, does God refuse to disclose the age of accountability? Why would He withhold critical information on salvation? How come none of the inspired writers wrote anything like this concept?

4. If babies go to heaven because they don't understand (or don’t knowingly commit sin) then what's to stop adults from getting a free ride on the same train? If God is willing and able to turn a blind eye to wicked creatures in one case why might He not do so elsewhere?  Since ignorance does not count against us, is all we need to forget about our sins to be saved? This is tantamount to insisting that Jesus was superfluous, and His death for our sins was merely a nice idea, not an essential event.

5. A man without original sin is a man capable of achieving salvation. But scripture does not allow us of this, instead speaking in the strongest terms of our moral inability and fallen hearts: But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away (Is 64:6, Eph 2:8,9) For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

4. This directly contradicts scripture: “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies" (Ps. 58:3). “Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5). Man does not become a sinner when he sins, he sins because he is a sinner.

5. A clean slate has no need of grace. If you have no sin, then you have no Christ, for no sin means no grace. If kids are sinful then Christ may offer his grace, but if they are born free then they are born free from a need for Christ in God.

6. Men can be, and are sinless.  This one goes way back to a British monk named Pelageus, whose heresy is thus:
(1) Adam was created mortal, and would have died even if he had not sinned;
(2) Sin injured Adam alone, and not the whole human race (hence no original sin)
(3) Infants at their birth are in the same condition in which Adam was before the fall;

(4) Infants, as well as others, will obtain eternal life; 
(5) Mankind neither died through Adams death or transgression, nor would rise again through Christs resurrection; 
(6) The law had the same effect as the gospel in leading men to the kingdom of heaven;
(7) Even before Christ came that there had been sinless men.
So if man is not morally culpable for his sins, even as a child, and dies, then he dies perfect.  If you believe point 3 then logically point 7 must be true. 

The idea of being personally evil and repulsive is so appalling to the flesh, to the sinful nature that it seeks to be free of original sin.  But we must suppress this desire to justify ourselves and instead insist that people are tainted to the core, and God is a merciful God to have sent the Bleeding Christ to swap our situation for His.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dr. Dabney on Foresight and Predestination

People who don't feel comfortable with the idea of God choosing us before we chose Him will sometimes argue that God looks into the future and sees how we will respond to His free offer, then makes His choice. This of course, flies in the face of Romans 9, but that aside, consider this rational argument from an 1800's theleogen:

Whether God's election of a given sinner, say, Saul of Tarsus, is based on the foresight of his faith, if God's foresight is eternal and omniscient then the outcome is certain, or else God did not see it correctly. Common sense says: no cause, no effect; an uncertain cause can only give an uncertain effect. Says the Arminian: God certainly foresaw that Saul of Tarsus would believe and repent, and, therefore, elected him. But I say, that if God certainly foresaw Saul's faith, then Saul's faith must have been certain to take place, for God cannot make mistakes. Then, if this sinner's faith was certain to take place, there must have been some totally certain cause insuring that Saul would believe. Now, no certain cause could be in the "free-will" of this sinner, Saul, even as aided by "common sufficient grace." For Arminians say, that this makes and leaves the sinner's will contingent. Then, whatever made God think that this sinner, Saul, would ever be certain to believe and repent? Nothing but God's own sovereign eternal will to renew him unto faith and repentance.

Clever isn't it? The argument is this: if God knows the future salvation of Saul with certainty then God knows that no matter what, something will happen to make Saul change his mind. But if this event causing Saul to change his mind is 100% certain then Saul is predestined by this event to change. It is far better to be predestined by God's grace and loving kindness than by some random accidental force.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Problem of Suffering

The argument goes that if God is all powerful and allows suffering then he is a mean God. Has God orchestrated our suffering as well as our glory? Is God in control? A comforting answer is to say God doesn't interfere in the world, he just lets it go where it wills, man is the author of suffering. In this typical worldview man gets the blame for the bad, but God comes out of it as a helpless non soverign old man who wrings his hands from the sky, "Oh I wish I could stop their suffering, but I promised I wouldn't bother them."
Utter nonsense.
Man suffers because man is sinful. While it is true that man does it to himself, God does permit it, uses it, guides it. He is not the author of sin, but he is in control of the universe, and all in the universe.
The wages of sin is death, therefore every sinner at any point in their life deserves death. To not recieve immediate death is wholly gracious of God. Sinners bring suffering on themselves, choose suffering any time they sin, and so earn suffering by being alive. Are you perfect? Then you are suffering. In fact, the only man ever to not sin, who therefore deserved no suffering or death at all, suffered more than anyone could possibly comprehend.
Does your ariminian viewpoint insist that God does not foreordain suffering? Does a child suffering shake your faith in God?
I see your suffering child and raise you a suffering, bleeding, broken man on a Cross who was predestined to die for your sins. By becoming sin and pouring out his life he atones for you, adopts you, declares you to be perfect and righteous.
End discussion.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

1 John 5 & Spurgeon Quote

If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.

“Hearken, O unbeliever, you have said, ‘I cannot believe,’ but it would be more honest if you had said, ‘I will not believe.’ The mischief lies there. Your unbelief is your fault, not your misfortune. It is a disease, but it is also a crime: it is a terrible source of misery to you, but it is justly so, for it is an atrocious offense against the God of truth.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Reason vs. Belief

One thing Christians must never fall into saying is that we don't need science, or proofs, we have faith. As if the idea of faith is in direct contradiction to the intellectual faculties we are given, and if the going gets tough in a debate we can always rely on, 'you can't tell me what to think, I am going to go on believing despite your best evidence' to bail us out.
Thats the tone that atheists and unbelievers take, no matter how irrefutable or persuasive the point, they will not let their will change their mind. We have no business trying to convence people while we have a closed and frightened mind. We have been redeemed and liberated from that kind of bondage! That is exactly the kind of attitude that got man where he is in the first place, that ultimate rebellion deep down which refuses to square with facts.
Faith is not what happens when you are out of options. Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive. If they were then faith and irrationality would be partners, "Oh I know Satan is trying to destroy me but I have faith that he won't. Or if he does then he won't." In the final analysis there is no faith without reason. Praise the Lord for that, and be transformed by the renewing of your minds.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Faith and Works

Justification is by faith alone, but it is not by faith that is alone. -Martin Luther
Faith without works is a faith that is dead. -James, brother of Jesus
Justification is not by anything we do or don't do. Romans is quite clear about this. And after we understand that, we can undersand that justification brings with it sanctification, with birth comes growth, with salvation comes proof. The proof is not the thing itself- a wedding ring is proof of marriage, but it is not the marriage itself. Let us never be confused about this.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Justification and Sanctification Analogy

People are born as little helpless infants at the mercy of their parents. In the same way we are born physically, we are reborn spiritually. John 3 says as much.
This is a great way to think of a Christian's progress.
Being born again is being justified and starting as a helpless baby. You did not earn birth, you did not respond to a calling, you certainly had no free will choice in the matter. Your mother decided it was time to get you out, so out of the water you came. Had you done anything other than scream when your parents fell in love with you? No again. And once you are born, welcome to the world because there is no going back to how things were before.
Learning and growing and maturing is being sanctified. Gradually we learn to walk, talk, read, run, dance, and do a million other things that we are capable of as adults. Yet, if a teenager throws a temper tantrum and acts like an infant is they are not in danger of being unborn or blinked out of existence are they? Obviously not. God is Good.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Point vs. Process Salvation

At what point in time are you saved? At baptism, before baptism, at your death? Never? Knowing the difference between the two ideas, and their logical consequences, explains everything about why Catholics and Protestants disagree with each other. For example, if you are saved by a process then it makes sense that the process goes on after you die in purgatory. If you are continually getting better and better it only makes sense that this would go on in the afterlife right? Get ready to struggle your whole life under process salvation, but on the other hand if you are saved at a point in time then you can relax, because you are already saved. What you do after you have secured eternity becomes a thing called Sanctification.

These two ideas of salvation are not just a little different, they are a lot different. You will read wildly different results out of the Bible depending on which one you read into the Bible. If you hadn't guessed already, believing in process salvation is very damaging. The issue is thus: If salvation is a process then you have earned heaven as your reward. Did God help you? Did His grace give you a boost? It matters not, you did the work you share in the rewards. Salvation is something God owes you. Even if he started the good work and you continued in it you are still owed by him. The more you do the less room you leave for God- the more works, the less grace.
Process salvation of course flies in the face of Romans 3:21+. Paul says the law and being obedient to it was meant to bring us to an understanding, not to perfect us. When the engineer who makes cars tells you the F-150 you are driving is not intended to be a boat would you doubt him? Yet we doubt God when he tells us why he gave us the law.
Yet the worst thing here, the biggest causality to believing process salvation is in losing the concept of Sanctification and the ability to trust and rely on God.
If once saved not always saved then you better be on guard, because you could lose it at any moment for any reason. Worse, you might not even know you lost it, the line between winning it and losing it is totally invisible, and God has not told you where it is. How much adultery is acceptable? Does God indeed demand the perfection from the sermon on the mount? Good luck. Trusting God is out because he has explicitly turned you loose, it's up to you to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

All the passages in the Bible about Sanctification must then necessarily become about justification, even when it doesn't make sense to do so, as in Heb 10:14. God's promise in Deut. 30 is life or death serious, and you won't even realize the meaning in Deut 30:6, so concerned will you be with your part in the deal.
The alternative is to accept that you are saved at a point in time. Accept that He has already secured salvation. Never will he leave you, never will he forsake you. A much better way to live your life.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

On Redeemed Will

If God has predestined us, why should we be baptized? If God has made us for eternal life and secured us, why do anything at all? Why evangelize? Won't God save people anyway? Why bother helping? Why do anything really?
This is a valid question, but not a difficult one to answer. We have previously established that the natural man has enmity to God, and is free to choose how much evil he wants to revel in, but what happens to the elect? The opposite of the reprobate: we are free to choose as much good as we like. Remember at no point does man lose freedom of choice, but his will to choose is enslaved at all times. Either to God or to sin (Romans 6)

In John 2 Jesus is at the wedding feast of Canaan and has the servants fill the jugs with water, even though he could have done that himself. 2 Kings 3:14, if God is all powerful then why do anything, surely he could have won the battle without human intervention? What do these verses teach us?

That God wants and encourages our participation. He enjoys it. He graciously allows us to toil alongside of him, even though he could do it all himself. Think of your infant son helping you fix the house and you will have the idea. A father does not benefit when his son hands him the needed tools to work on the car, he could just as easily grab the tools himself, but he chooses to let his son experience it with him. He is training up his son and showing him while accomplishing his will.

So God has allowed us to share and enjoy working with Him. Not to bring Salvation to ourselves, salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps 3:8), but to choose Him back, and practice choosing him, and participate in it. God chose us before we were able or wanting to choose him, and is willing that. If we do a bad job of it we still go to heaven if we do a poor job, God has guarenteed us, but if we do a good job we are rewarded for it. This is the clear meaning of Philippians 2: Work out salvation with fear and trembling for it's the Lord who works in you. God is allowing you to share in your sanctifacation, but he is the backstop for you.
In essence He has redeemed our wills from darkness to light. He does not cancel them or undo them, they are still us, our decisions, our mind, but he guides them. Think of a train on tracks, it is our train to go fast or slow or backwards, but He has decided what tracks we are on and where we are going. It is a very great joy to participate in a project with Him, by Him, and through Him.