couple of good ones

I have had a couple of windows open the last couple of days in order to post about them. one political and one theological. here we go.

first the political:

I believe it is crucial to understand that it doesn’t matter if the people engineering a collectivist state have sinister motives or not. In fact, the belief that their intentions make a difference is incredibly dangerous. It’s related to the catechism of the faculty-lounge Marxist, which holds that communism and fascism only failed because bad people were in charge of them.

It doesn’t matter if this is his sincere belief, spoken straight from the heart. His health-care plan was still an awful idea that united the country in opposition against the increasingly thuggish and arrogant methods he used to advance it. Those methods are integral to the collectivist enterprise. It will always become thuggish and arrogant, because when all virtue resides in the State, those who oppose the growth of the State become villains by definition. Consider the President’s assessment of his Republican opponents:

My hope was a year ago today when I was being sworn in that reversing that process was going to be easier partly because we were entering into a crisis situation and I thought that the urgency of the moment would allow us to join together and make common cause. That hasn’t happened. Some of it, frankly, is I think a strategic decision that was made on the side of the opposition that… I think that some of it had to do with a sense that the best political strategy was to simply say no.

Here, in a nutshell, is the heads-we-win, tails-you-lose mentality that keeps the State plodding blindly forward, crushing a formerly vibrant economy beneath it. If you don’t answer Obama’s trillion-dollar health-care plan with your own trillion-dollar program, you’re an obstructionist – not an opponent to be debated, but an obstacle to be swept aside.

emphasis added.

next the theological:

We know that, as believers, we are chosen from before the foundation of the world. We also know that God loves the whole world and desires all men to be saved. We know that whosoever will may come and that if we don’t share Christ with people then there is no other way they can be saved. How all that fits together might really stretch our minds, but in trying to resolve the tension we must not neglect the things that have been clearly revealed (Deut 29:29).

In other words… It is clearly our responsibility to share the message of Christ and our failure has eternal consequences for people (Acts 20:28). Yet, God also wants me to know, and be blessed by the fact, that I have been loved from all eternity and that was not conditioned on any merit or action of my own.

How both truths fit together may be one of the “secret” things (Deut 29:29) that belongs to God. We can ponder and write books about it, but the “paradox” should never keep us from obeying what has been revealed. Our responsibility to choose Christ and to share Christ; our responsibility to is rejoice in the security that comes from knowing we are foreloved from all eternity. Failure to do either because we can’t resolve the tension would be sin.

emphasis added.

go read the rest of both of these. There is some good stuff out there on the interwebs.

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Choice, Sovereignty and an example

John Piper recently explored free will, God’s sovereignty and Paul’s example. fascinating stuff.

One of the most influential passages in the Bible that God used to open my mind to his sovereignty over my will is Philippians 2:12-13.

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

So my working and willing are necessary. They are real. But they are not first or ultimately decisive. God’s willing and working is decisively under and in my willing and working. The word “for” is crucial. I work because he is working in me. I will, because he is willing in me.

Believing this precedes understanding how it works. God says it. I believe it. Now I am spending a lifetime learning what it is like to live this way.

go read the rest (its short).

powerful stuff

Timmy Brister posted this video “Choosing Thomas” and like he says it is worth the next ten minutes of your time.

somewhat related, Randy Alcorn talks here about the absolute necessity for Christians to have a well developed theology of suffering to avoid falling into serious error when something like the events in the video above come into our lives.

I wrote If God Is Good because the question of suffering and evil is the most commonly raised and perplexing problem there is. It’s unusual to have serious prolonged interactions about believing in God, with either believers or unbelievers, without them raising it.

I am also deeply concerned with how radically unbiblical viewpoints are being assimilated into the thinking of evangelical Christians. In If God Is Good, I wrote four chapters critiquing the attempts of misguided theologians to resolve the problem of evil by minimizing the divine attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, goodness, or love.
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I also wanted to address the issue of mystery and faith, and our need to trust God even when we can’t see his purposes. That used to be a central part of faith, but somehow it seems more difficult for modern Christians. I argue that while the nature of faith is to trust God for what we do not see, we may base our trust in him on many things we have seen—His Word, His creation, and how he has shown himself in others in our lives and throughout history. I point out that if you write down the worst things that have ever happened to you and then write down the best things, there is often, especially when sufficient time has passed, a shocking overlap of the lists, confirming the workings of God’s sovereign grace.

The Meaning of Man’s Will

R. C. Sproul has a three part series on what it means when we say that man has free will. Fascinating stuff. This is the kind of stuff that keeps a person from swearing off the internet altogether.

Here are the links:

part 1
part 2
part 3

and here is a bit of the introduction:

The term free will as applied to man is often glibly declared with little or no understanding of its meaning. There is actually no unified theory of man’s free will, but a variety of competing, and often conflicting, views about it.

The question of man’s free will is made more complicated by the fact that we must examine it in man, in terms of how the will functioned before and after the fall of Adam. Most important for us today is how the Fall affected man’s moral choices.

It was St. Augustine who gave the church a close analysis of the state of freedom that Adam enjoyed before the Fall. Augustine’s classic concept of freedom distinguished four possibilities. In Latin, they are:

1. posse pecarre–referring to the ability to sin.
2. posse non-pecarre–referring to the ability not to sin, or to remain free from sin.
3. non-posse pecarre–referring to the inability to sin.
4. non-posse, non-pecarre–referring to the inability not to sin.

Considering Adam before the Fall, Augustine argued that Adam had possessed both the ability to sin (posse pecarre) and the ability not to sin (posse non-pecarre). Adam lacked the exalted state of the inability to sin that God enjoys (non-posse pecarre). God’s inability to sin is based not on an inner powerlessness of God to do what he wants, but rather on the fact that God has no inner desire to sin. Since the desire for sin is utterly absent from God, there is no reason for God to choose sin.

Before the Fall Adam did not have the moral perfection of God; neither did Adam have the inability to refrain from sin (non-posse, non-pecarre). During his time of “probation” in the garden, he had the ability to sin and the ability not to sin. He chose to exercise the ability to sin and thus plunged the race into ruin.

As a result, Adam’s first sin was passed on to all his descendants. Original sin refers not to the first sin but to God’s punishment of that first transgression. Because of the first sin human nature fell into a morally corrupt state, itself partially a judgment of God. When we speak of original sin, we refer to the fallen human condition which reflects the judgment of God upon the race.

and here is the first paragraph of part 3.

But what about man’s will with respect to the sovereignty of God? Perhaps the oldest dilemma of the Christian faith is the apparent contradiction between the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man. If we define human freedom as autonomy (meaning that man is free to do whatever he pleases, without constraint, without accountability to the will of God), then of course we must say that free will is contradictory to divine sovereignty. We cannot soft-pedal this dilemma by calling it a mystery; we must face up to the full import of the concept. If free will means autonomy, then God cannot be sovereign. If man is utterly and completely free to do as he pleases, there can be no sovereign God. And if God is utterly sovereign to do as he pleases, no creature can be autonomous.

and where he gets to the meat of the coconut here:

I leave the question of explaining the Fall of Adam by virtue of the exercise of his free will to the hands of more competent and insightful theologians. To blame it on man’s finite limitations is really putting blame on the God who made man finite. Biblically, the issue has been, and always will be, a moral one. Man was commanded by the Creator not to sin, but man chose to sin, not because God or anyone else forced him to. Man chose out of his own heart.

Consequently, to probe the answer to the how of man’s sin is to enter the realm of deepest mystery. Perhaps all we can do in the final analysis is to recognize the reality of our sin and our responsibility for it. Though we cannot explain it, certainly we know enough to confess it.

wow. These are from the book How Can I Know God’s Will by R. C. Sproul and here on this page are downloadable MP3 lessons on it.

sovereignty

John MacArthur nails it with the opening sentence of this post (the second and third sentences are excellent as well) which is an excerpt from the book Ashamed of the Gospel.

No doctrine is more despised by the natural mind than the truth that God is absolutely sovereign. Human pride loathes the suggestion that God orders everything, controls everything, rules over everything. The carnal mind, burning with enmity against God, abhors the biblical teaching that nothing comes to pass except according to His eternal decrees. Most of all, the flesh hates the notion that salvation is entirely God’s work. If God chose who would be saved, and if His choice was settled before the foundation of the world, then believers deserve no credit for their salvation.
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Scripture affirms both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. We must accept both sides of the truth, though we may not understand how they correspond to one another. People are responsible for what they do with the gospel—or with whatever light they have (Rom. 2:19, 20), so that punishment is just if they reject the light. And those who reject do so voluntarily. Jesus lamented, “You are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life” (John 5:40). He told unbelievers, “Unless you believe that I am [God], you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). In John chapter 6, our Lord combined both divine sovereignty and human responsibility when He said, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (v. 37); “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life” (v. 40); “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (v. 44); “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life” (v. 47); and, “No one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father” (v. 65). How both of those two realities can be true simultaneously cannot be understood by the human mind—only by God.

Above all, we must not conclude that God is unjust because He chooses to bestow grace on some but not to everyone. God is never to be measured by what seems fair to human judgment. Are we so foolish as to assume that we who are fallen, sinful creatures have a higher standard of what is right than an unfallen and infinitely, eternally holy God? What kind of pride is that? In Psalm 50:21 God says, “You thought that I was just like you.” But God is not like us, nor can He be held to human standards. “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isa. 55:8, 9).

We step out of bounds when we conclude that anything God does isn’t fair. In Romans 11:33 the apostle writes, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” (Rom. 11:33, 34).

Is Obama Pro-Choice?

not for doctors, he’s not. In fact, when it comes to doctors, President Obama believes they should not have the choice to refuse to perform abortions.

“By his rule issued today, President Obama is utterly refusing to enforce these conscience protection laws, resulting in a situation where doctors may be forced to participate in abortions and patients may be forced to have their babies delivered by doctors who perform abortions,” Bowman explains.

“Whatever happened to the so called ‘right to choose?'” he asks. “The Obama administration is quite simply collaborating with Planned Parenthood and their allies to allow pro-life medical professionals to be punished for their beliefs, with the punishment to be funded by your federal dollars.”

Hat tip to Vitamin Z

suffering

I noticed in the sidebar at the Straight Up blog a three part series on God’s role in suffering by Gerald Hiestand. Here is part three which contains links to the first two parts. Go check it out.

I like these bits here especially well, but it is all good and very much worth a read:

And it is at this particular point that I find indeterminism wanting. As a theodicy, indeterminism generally attempts to lessen the tension between God’s goodness and human suffering by appealing to moral freedom. It is through the wrong choices of free moral agents, we are told, that suffering has been introduced into the world. Well and good—even determinists would agree so far. But then indeterminists often (not always) make a logic-leap and conclude that when faced with suffering, we should look not to God, but rather man, Satan, and the random effects of a fallen world as the ultimate source. The subtle and (often not so-subtle) implication of indeterminism is that God has no causal relation to our suffering. Now I affirm human freedom. And I affirm that much of the suffering we experience is the direct result of creation’s choice to live independently of God. But one cannot simply sprinkle the pixie dust “free will” over all suffering and magically resolve the tension between God’s goodness and human suffering.

At the end of the day, there’s no way around it. God, by very nature of his being, is the ultimate “buck stops here” person in the universe. Nothing can happen apart from his divine sovereignty. He could have prevented the planes from crashing into the towers. But he chose not to. From massive natural disasters, to the death of the smallest creatures, God’s eye beholds all; his hand oversees all. And nothing happens apart from his divine counsel. Not even open theism, with it denial of God’s exhaustive foreknowledge, gets God off the hook. Even the open theist has to admit that God knew the intentions of the terrorists—if not from the dawn of time—then at least on the morning of 9/11. And still he chose not to intervene. The fact remains that creaturely freedom, however immediately the cause of suffering, does not operate outside the exhaustive scope of God’s sovereignty. The story of Job is a classic example.

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As far as theodicy is concerned, I prefer determinism’s willingness to call a spade a spade. It acknowledges up front that God is the ultimate first mover, the One who ordains all things. Nothing happens apart from his divine will. At the end of the day, peace in the midst of suffering comes through submission to the divine will. It comes through trusting that God has a good reason for why he ordains what he ordains in relation to my life. And perhaps even more significantly, it acknowledges that he has the right to do so. Any theodicy that attempts too vigorously to wipe the blood off of God’s hands robs us of the rest that comes from resting submissively in the wisdom of God’s divine care. Such theodicies are an emotional quick fix, but they can’t satisfy the hurting heart in the end. Like Job, we find our ultimate peace in bowing before the mighty hand of a sovereign God who, beholden to no one, has the right to purposefully ordain all things—even suffering—for our good and his glory. Determinism reminds us that God owes us nothing, and yet has given us everything.

that bit about trying to wipe the blood off of God’s hands reminded me of Roger Olson being scared of the “calvinist” (I think he means the Biblical) God. The way I read the Bible it says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. As a matter of fact, the Bible talks a lot about fearing the Lord. hmmmmmm.