March 4, 2010

Dr. Brown Tackles the Controversies and Takes Your Questions (including Satan in the OT and NT; and the Sovereignty of God)

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14 Comments
  1. I don’t know if you responded on the radio to the question I posed about polygamy because I couldn’t get stuff working on my laptop here.

  2. Dr. Brown – My presuppositions about scripture are so strong at this point that it is hard for me to read Genesis 50 without mapping my prior convictions onto the text. But I have genuine misgivings about my theology and a plain reading of John 3:16 among many other passages. But then there is a sort of cascade effect I see taking place across a whole range of issues; for instance, how do I read john 10:29, end of Romans 8, etc. My question Dr. Brown, is how on earth did you wade through this massive issue if you were, as it seems, at the same place I am, yet some 30 years ago. Any prayers/insight would be much appreciated. – Bobby

  3. I’ve been thinking about Genesis 50 and this is how I read it now: Strictly speaking, the brothers’ selling of Joseph into Egypt was not evil because of the act, but because of the heart which gave rise to the action. They made real decisions out of a real freedom. Conversely, God made the decision to sell Joseph into Egypt, through the free decisions of the brothers. His motive was to preserve many, and was therefore ‘good.’ I have a problem with the apparent mental gymnastics I have to perform to get to this understanding. I’m not sure I buy it. I feel as if there should be a more elegant answer. The argument is based upon several assumptions as far as I can see. 1) One action can have two actors (this would also require, if true, that all human actions have two originators, God and man.) 2) God making a parallel decision does not impinge on the freedom of the man. 3) God’s bringing about His good ends are good even though he brought them about through evil.

    Am I way off in left field?

  4. There is a book referred to in the Bible called the “book of Jasher”. Although it is not scripture i have found it to be some very interesting reading and has some really good insights. Dr. Brown, are you familiar with that ancient text and if you are what is your opinion of it?

  5. Greg,

    The Book of Jashar mentioned in the Bible is lost and we have no clue as to what was in it beyond the reference in the Bible. What is called the Book of Jashar has no connection with the ancient, lost book and was written centuries later. So, whatever value it has is somewhat secondary.

  6. Robert,

    I wish I could get into more detail in terms of my own journey, but perhaps a few thoughts will be helpful (and I so appreciate you sharing the journey you are on!).

    First, I couldn’t deny the overwhelming testimony of Scripture, literally from Genesis to Revelation, that real choices were being made by people, and that God genuinely offered life and death to His creation. Choose life, He says! For me, rather than having to read hundreds of verses through Calvinistic lenses, and to explain that the warnings of apostasy were real warnings, but it was impossible for us to fall away — God using the warnings to keep us on track, etc. — I simply accepted the text for what it said. So, rather than having a whole Bible that I had to fit into a theological system, I just had a few verses that I needed to prayerfully reexamine.

    Second, my personal assurance was actually deeper as an Arminian than as a Calvinist. As the former, I took God’s promises to keep me safely to the end and never worried for a split second about falling away from the Lord. I loved the Lord and wanted to serve Him, and He promised to keep me. That was it! As a Calvinist, though, because friends claimed it would lead to complacency, and I was determined not to fall into that, I wanted to “make my calling and election sure,” hence more times of self-examination — rather than resting in assurance. So, for me, Calvinism gave me less assurance than Arminianism. And honestly, the only way a Calvinist can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he or she is one of the elect is to make it safely to the end.

    Third, as for specific verses, John 10:29 is a promise given to the sheep of 10:28 who know Jesus’ voice and follow Him (as opposed to those who turn away from Him). Again, we have nothing to fear. He will keep us safely to the end, as the end of Romans gloriously affirms. Can we turn our backs on Him and deny Him? Certainly, as many NT warnings affirm. The promises are to those who desire to follow the Lord: No one can snatch us out of His hand!

    Fourth, as far as election, let the light go on with this: It is corporate, not individual, in terms of salvation. That is to say, God determined before the foundation of the world that He would have people for Himself whom He would shape and mold for His eternal purposes, a people “chosen in Christ,” consisting of all who would receive His gift of salvation. So, when you receive the Lord, you become part of that predestined people. Meditate on this, and things will fall into place for you.

    A useful, non-polemical book to study on these issues, laying out both sides and coming to excellent conclusions, is Robert Picirilli’s Grace, Faith, Free Will.

  7. This is in response to the Wall controversy.

    I’m a former architectural drafter, and am writing to say that what is known as the “Western Wall” or “Wailing Wall” — is what’s known in architecture as a retaining wall. If the retaining wall were not there, the hillside would’ve slid down at some point. The retaining wall is there to hold up the dirt upon which the temple floor would have been. The temple floor (and up) IS gone. So the entire temple is actually not there. A retaining wall is not actually a foundation wall. It’s used to shore up the dirt upon which a structure will be built.

    So I think Jesus can be taken quite literally in regards to this.

  8. I left out a word in my previous post.

    Let me correct the sentence:

    The retaining wall is there to hold up the dirt upon which the temple floor would have been built.

  9. I should add that a retaining wall could be incorporated into a foundation wall, but more typically, foundation walls are built at some distance from the edge, or top, of the retaining wall. This is because, again, the primary purpose of the retaining wall is to hold back the dirt under the foundation from sliding down; so it functions as a sort of container. Also, with most buildings, especially places of worship, people want to be able to walk around the entire structure, and would need safe ingress and egress, so it would be rare for a building to meet the very edge, or top of an adjacent retaining wall.

  10. Dr. Brown – The Lord knows I am deeply touched by your care and authenticity toward me; I’m overwhelmed. I’m going to press in and call upon the Lord to give me a revelation of his glory. Point four is deep, by the way. You can pray that, if this is revealed to me, I would be willing to leave all intellectual pride in my life, for I already feel the panic/fear of leaving what ‘great’ men of God have believed, and what ‘sophisticated’ individuals hold to. How humbling it might be. (How exciting!) Somehow I think you know what I am talking about. Thanks again. 🙂 – Robert

  11. Thanks for responding as you did to “Jane”

    Through the years I’ve been able to identify with Abraham waiting for Isaac . . . 25 years. I long for our ministry to be filled to overflowing with the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of every person who comes to any service. Please pray with me for the H.S. to have the freedom in these days with so many people hurting and needing the Lord so much.

    For over 20 years I’ve suffered with ideopathic sensory polyneuropathy. The pain meds I have had to take for quite a number of years are opioids and I believe they are taking a toll on my spirit as well as my body.

    I shall make a list of my husband’s many wonderful traits and pray for him to receive all that for which he has been created but which are not yet his. May God grant me the words to bring this to fruition. From time to time I pray in the spirit for him.

    “Jane”

  12. Hi Dr Brown

    Would you agree that the agent in Job “ha satan” is a job description, It’s not a name and it was only till later on in the NT that this role was designated to the devil the enemy of God ?

  13. Robert,

    It is my joy, and yes, I deeply understand the issue of having to humble ourselves when and if we recognize intellectual pride (it was certainly the case in my life). As for worrying about which “great men” held to which doctrines, I’m glad to be in the camp of Wesley and Oswald Chambers and C. S. Lewis — but all that is quite immaterial. The key thing is to embrace what God Himself says to us through His Word.

    Grace on your journey!

  14. Jay,

    Basically, yes, that’s correct. It’s an example of progressive revelation — but not something that only happens in the NT. It would be better to say, “By the time of the NT, the revelation of the Satan was more clear, becoming clearly associated with the work of the devil.”

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