March 25, 2010

Finding Common Ground

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Listen to the Debate

Comment on Today’s Dr. Brown’s Debate with Dr. James White Here

182 Comments
  1. Harold said, “It simply seems strange to me that you would argue that those of OT times were saved outside of Christ. If that was the case then why did Christ ever need to come anyways?”

    I never said that the OT saints were saved outside of Christ. Also, I “could” say the very same thing about you with respect to the coming of Christ. If a person could be spiritually reborn prior to the death, burial, and Resurrection, why did Jesus have to die?

    I believe that “your” position circumvents the necessity of the Cross. Can a man be regenerated before he’s been declared just, before God’s wrath had been propitiated, and before his sins had been atoned for? How can you be regenerate before the atonement? It’s very problematic.

    I believe, according to how I understand the scriptures, that the OT saints were taken from Abraham’s Bosom (a place within Sheol) and brought to heavenly places with Christ when He ascended on high and led captivity captive (Eph.4).

    Of course the OT saints were saved through Christ, but their salvation did not occur until the Ascension. If you are in hades, and not in heaven, then you have not experienced spiritual rebirth.

    David had an understanding of these things when he commented in Psalm 16:

    “9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. 10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”

  2. LPC said, “However, from my perspective, the Lutheran point of view, God has a way of making us come to him, and it is by preaching to us the Law that convicts us of our sins, and the Gospel that answers our guilt.”

    Thanks LPC. Though I’m not familiar with Lutheran specific doctrine, I do agree with this statement. God bless.

  3. Greg,

    To be clear, what I’m saying is that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection effectively actually saves at the cross those before the cross and after it. So if there were no cross, no one could ever be saved by it before it.

    God, being outside of time, causes the salvation of all believers before and after the cross but all BY the cross.

    I do not have to disagree that there was a place where OT saints were before the cross, but I find no connection between that event and the actual belief and new life of OT saints.

    Also you should consider that the place from which Paul got the idea of regeneration was the OT in a number of places such as in Deu. where Moses says that God would circumcise the heart of Israelites and where Eze says that Gid would take out their heart of stone and put in a heart of flesh.

  4. Pat,

    It should be a huge red flag to you that you have to alter what the text says to try and establis hthe Calvinistic view. That;s one reason why I adhere to Arminian theology; it sticks to the text and exegesis.

    For example, you have to alter the point actually made in John 6:44 to try and slant it toward the Calvinistic view. Whereas the text makes the point that drawing is necessary for someone to be able to come (no one can come to me unless the Father draws him), you want to make the point that all that come are drawn, trying to edge toward the point completely absent from the text that all who are drawn come. I prefer to stick with Jesus’ emphasis, that no one can come unless drawn, or to put it positively, drawing is necessary for someone to be able to come to Jesus.

    And while you draw a parallel between 6:65 and 6:37, the parallel is actually with 6:44 (that’s the verse wit hthe same beginning). And strikingly, the same point is made with the same basic emphasis: no one can come to Jeuss unless the ability to come is granted by the Father. In v. 44 it was revealed that the Father’s drawing is what gives the *ability* to come, not that which irresistibly causes someone to come. John 6:37 speaks of the Father giving people to the Son. 6:65 speaks of what God gives to people, the ability to come to Jesus, which 6:44 reveals is an ability given by God’s drawing.

    Pat said: “Dr Brown or none posting have said what this whole context is about. The ones that were offended v61, that went away v66. Why? They were *not* drawn”

    **** This is exactly what the text does not say — anywhere. Do you see it saying that anywhere? I prefer to stick with the text and what it actually says. It is surprising and unfortunate that you find what the whole context is about to be what the text does not actually say or stress as opposed to what it actually does say.

    Despite what I regard as your mishandling of the text, I appreciate your brotherly attitude and manner towards us with whom you disagree.

    May God bless you brother Pat.

  5. Harold,

    You said: “The problem I see with this is that this does not explain the why Jesus would say, “No one can come to me unless it is granted to him by the Father.” If these people were already worshipers of God, then why would they need to be granted to come to the Father? Those who are worshipers of God (according to Dr. Brown’s interpretation) will just come to Jesus because they are already worshiping God. Why would they not have the capacity to come to Jesus unless he gives it, unless He grants it.”

    **** This is easily answered. Jesus says this to encourage unbelieving Jews not right with the father to look to the Father and get in line with him, which would then bring them to Jesus.

    The question you ask is really a problem for the Calvinist. If these people were not being drawn by God because they were not chosen to belong to God, and so could not come to Jesus by ivine decree, why is Jesus telling them this, to mock them, like, “Ha, ha, ha! You don’t believe in me because God has chosen not to draw you to me. You can’t believe and never will — Suckers!”

    It makes much more sense that Jesus is telling them tha tthey can’t come unless enabled by the Father to encourage them to humble themselves before the Father and look to him for the truth and to draw them to Jesus.

  6. Arminian,

    I don’t think you at all addressed my point.

    Basically Dr. Brown is reading the text like this, if I understand him: Jesus was in fact just saying, You guys can’t come because you’re not apart of the Jews who worship God and if you were then you would come because my Father gives all who worship Him to me.

    I do believe you at least agree that Jesus is making the point that no one had the capacity to come unless Jesus’ Father draws him, and I think Dr. Brown would agree.

    So my question is, Why would Jesus be saying that even those who are already worshipers of God (according to Dr. Brown’s interpretation) did not have the capacity to come unless the Father who sent Jesus draws ?

    Now, you say you’re just wanting to stick to the text, which is good, but why do you hear only the first half of the verse 44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” and not seeing that it says, “and I will raise him up on the last day.”

    Dr. Brown has said that what this is saying really is that no one can come unless the Father draws him and him who comes I will raise up on the last day.” However this is simply not what the text saya, nor do I think that it can be rightly understood thus, because that would make Jesus be changing the subject mid-sentence.

    When Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws *him*,” this “him” could only possibly be referring to any and every human being because Jesus says, “No *one* can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws *him*.” Therefore the first “him” must refer back to the subject which is “No one”. This is not limited to those who come because “can come” is describing the nature of anyone, as it were, saying that it is true that every single person in the world is unable to come without the Father’s drawing. I think you’d agree to that since you at least agree that Jesus is saying that every person needs to be drawn, so you must understand, if words have meaning at all, that the first “him” must refer to the subject and so be referring to anyone and everyone.

    So when Jesus says “and I will raise *him* up on the last day” the only subject in this verse is that anybody (him) who, if he is drawn, Jesus says, “I will raise HIM.”

    To sum up, the first “him” is anyone who cannot come unless drawn, and therefore the second “him” must also be the anyone who cannot come unless drawn. And why does the text say if “him”? It says, “and I will raise HIM up on the last day.

    To read the text other wise is to do damage to language in general, because it forces Jesus to be changing the “him” of whom he’s speaking mid-sentence. This seems strained and not consistent. The same “him” Jesus says I drawn is the “him” of whom he said, ” I will raise him up on the last day.”

    Thanks.

  7. Sorry, had a typo, so it should say,

    The same “him” Jesus says *is* drawn is the “him” of whom he said, ” I will raise him up on the last day.”

    All else the text says is true, like “all that the Father gives me will come to me,” but the text at hand must be rightly understood in order to rightly compare it with other texts.

    Peace.

  8. Harold,

    You’re confusing what I said about those who are given vs. those who are drawn — but I certainly don’t want to rehash the text yet again. Just for the record, though, you didn’t accurately state my position.

    No one can come unless drawn (which is a rebuke to our pride); those given will come; the Father gives to Jesus those who had responded and would respond to His drawing.

    Blessings!

  9. Harold,

    I would again encourage you to go back and read the posts in which I demonstrated that the the two “him’s” are one and the same, the person who has both been drawn and come.

    In such a statement as we have in John 6:44, the first him clearly refers not to one who simply can come, but who does come. This can be demonstrated by simply thinking up any number of statements of the same structure, and the point will become immediately obvious:

    No one can come to the party unless my father invites him, and I will show him a good time. (Undeniably, this does not mean that anyone in the world can come to the party and that the first “him” merely refers to those who can come but don’t, but the first “him” clearly refers to those who can come because invited and also do accept the invitation and come. Moreover, the second him obviously does *not* refer to everyone who can’t come to the party unless invited, but again to those who both get invited and come. I will give some more examples without explanation because this explanation applies to those as well with adjustment to the specifics.)

    No one can see the doctor unless an appointment has been given to him, and the doctor will give him excellent treatment.

    No one can ride the bus unless the bus driver open the door to him, and the bus will take him where he wants to go.

    No one can attend Harvard University unless the university admits him, and a great education will be provided to him.

    Now it is undeniable that in all of these the first “him” both receives the enablement and actually does the action. It is the obvious and natural way to take it. And it is it equally obvious and undeniable that the second “him” does not mean everyone who couldn’t do the action unless enabled, but to those who receive the enablement and actually do the action.

    Now I challenge you to think of a sentence of this structure in which this would not be true. You might even be able to think of one. But it would be unusual, and so not the typical way such a statement would be understood, and very importantly, that would only show you could conceive of a statement in which your reading is *possible*. But the Calvinist claim often is that their reading is virtually necessary from the grammar and the Arminian view virtually impossible, and this is considered one of their very best texts. . That claim has been definitively refuted. The best you might be able to do is show your view is barely possible, though it is questionable if you can even do that.

    Finally, Your problem could be that you are reading just half the sentence of John 6:44, and so reading it out of context. It is true that “no one can come to me unless my Father draws him” alone would not *necessarily* have “him” be someone who has been drawn and comes (though it would be the normal way to take it). But the second half of the sentence makes this clear and so establishes the first “him” as those who have been drawn and come. It is ironic that you suggested I was not taking the second half of the sentence into account!

  10. Dr. Brown,

    Thanks for your comment; I don’t want to misrepresent your position. I’ll consider it further when I’ve a min.

    The same to you Arminian; I’ll read your post again when I’ve a min.

    Peace.

  11. Harold,

    Yes, I’m sure we’re all jealous to represent each other accurately, but sometimes we’re not exact (put me at the top of the list for sometimes failing to read a post carefully enough), so it’s always good to clarify for each other.

    Blessings!

  12. Corporate Election is not even election.

    If I choose a plane, everyone who gets on the plane is elected, because I elected (chose to use a plane).

    Actually, election – in the Biblical sense occurs back further.
    Election is choosing *out of*. The election, choosing “out” occured when there were multiple methods of travel. Train, Car, and Plane. By choosing the plane, it was chosen out – elected.

    Calvinistic election is out of mankind,
    God elects or chooses out. The corporate election theory leaves the “out of” part – misses it completely.

    There are three flavors of ice cream. Vanilla, Strawberry and Chocolate. True election, is choosing one *out*. If Jesus is the elect, and just all those in him are elect de facto, there has been no election.
    Those become elect when they come into Christ, is not election. Arminians have a form of “ratification” but not election.

    If I want to have a baseball team. Like at the school yard, there is a pool of players that I choose “from”. I pick “out” and those chosen go from one category to (into) another. They are not on the team, and they are put on or into the team. That is election.

    Not just a “decision” or a plan, making a plan is not the same as election.

    Years ago, they used to . . . probably still do, said God votes for you, the Devil votes against you, and you have the deciding vote. That means the Devils vote cancels out God’s and you save yourself. If God saves us with our help, that is the same as we save ourselves with God’s help.

    There is much to the Synergism / Monergism concept.
    What I appreciate here is all the folks looking to the Scriptures, even if I don’t always agree with certain conclusions. God Bless, keep praying and loving our Lord Jesus Christ.

  13. Harold said, “To be clear, what I’m saying is that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection effectively actually saves at the cross those before the cross and after it.”

    I understand you’re position Harold.

    Is it fair to say, according to this position, that you believe that Lot was **regenerate** “during his lifetime” and was thus justified and sanctified while living?

  14. Harold

    You said effectively actually saves at the cross those before the cross and after it

    You mean to say those who believe in Jesus before he came and after he came, correct? I am highlighting the faith as instrument of salvation.

    LPC

  15. LPC,

    Yes I do mean all who ever were saved and all who ever will be, for by Him, for Him, and through Him are all things, to Him be the glory.

    Yea, I do think that are saved are saved by faith, which is the reception of God’s grace. I would also want to say “as many as received Him, who believed in His name…were born not of blood[line], nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

    I’m not really sure how you would understand it, as a Lutheran.

    Actually I would like to ask you about the law/gospel principle you mentioned earlier. I do believe in a distinction of law and gospel in that the law is first and drives the sinner to the gospel, and that the distinction must be made clearly between the two. However, is there something really more to the principle of law and gospel that you mentioned?

  16. Hello Harold,

    Have you considered my last question? Was that a reasonable assumption?

    Also, Jeremiah 9:25-26 says, “25 Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “that I will punish all who are circumcised with the uncircumcised— 26 Egypt, Judah, Edom, the people of Ammon, Moab, and all who are in the farthest corners, who dwell in the wilderness. For all these nations are uncircumcised, and ALL the house of Israel are *uncircumcised* in the HEART.”

    If, according to your “looking forward to the Cross” theory, OT saints were already regenerate, why did the Holy Spirit use Jeremiah to say that they were ALL *uncircumcised* in their heart. Would not regeneration “generate” a heart that is circumcised?

  17. Oh, the painful irony! It’s so interesting to hear the Calvinistic complaints over Michael Brown’s exegesis of the texts presented by James White last week. Mr. White has also expressed grievance over Dr. Browns holistic consideration of scripture when interpreting any given passage. Of course this accusation is completely bogus. When I initially heard/read those types of complaints I said to myself “They’re only unhappy with this type of hermeneutic when it can provide a reasonable alternative explanation to some of the traditional ‘Calvinistic’ passages.” Of course going outside the immediate text for clarity/understanding is legit. Dr. White himself has said so, written so, and does so continually. For a perfect example of this, listen to Dr. White’s podcast from yesterday (March 30). And again I say, “Oh the irony!!!” Both a caller and Dr. White discuss how Dr. Brown (supposedly illegitimately) draws from other places in scripture to bear upon a given passage, saying that it muddies the issue or allows theology to interpret text instead of text defining theology, etc. These are important considerations, and there are checks and balances that need to be in place for each. But notice, in light of this accusation, how absurd Dr. White’s response is to the last caller on that show. The caller asks about Gen. 4:7 – which clearly shows how the choice is up to Cain. God himself says the choice is Cain’s etc. etc. The text couldn’t be any clearer. So what does the always-consistent Dr. White do? Where does his air-tight logic and exegesis lead him? To everywhere but Gen 4:7 !!! He discusses Romans, Galatians and illustrations from today’s society to answer the question. I’m sorry, but somebody needs to blow the whistle on this. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. And of course using other texts to bear upon the present scripture in consideration is legitimate. Theologians constantly do this. Constantly. It’s just that Dr. White only recommends doing it when doing so would help provide a Calvinistic interpretation for any given passage.

  18. John,

    Thanks for your post. I haven’t heard any of Dr. White’s show since our debate, but having spent years working on scripture commentary (as well as years working on a scholarly monograph on biblical exegesis and theology), I do believe I have a good idea of how to exegete a text and yes, it is quite interesting to me to observe how looking first at the larger context, then looking in detail at how certain vocabulary is used is somehow deemed illegitimate. Fascinating!

    And, with all respect to my friend Dr. White, I did notice on his radio debate with Roger Forster on Unbelievable in the UK that when Roger challenged him on a particular issue of God’s justice (based on a biblical text), there was constant recourse to Romans 9 to answer the question.

    Hopefully, our debate tomorrow will shed further light on what the Scriptures say.

  19. Harold,

    You asked I do believe in a distinction of law and gospel in that the law is first and drives the sinner to the gospel, and that the distinction must be made clearly between the two. However, is there something really more to the principle of law and gospel that you mentioned?

    This is correct, this is what we call the uses of the Law, to drive sinners to despair so that they may be raised up to life by the Gospel.

    Regarding something more… yes, Law/Gospel can be seen even in the Epistles.

    For example, I can drive you down if you are a husband, by quoting St Paul to you in the epistles when he says – husbands love your wives. That is law and by all accounts I am guilty of that when I am not loving to my wife when I treat her harshly, not looking after her needs etc. When the HS convicts me of these, I run to the Gospel of forgiveness, which then results in gratitude giving me strength to love again.

    We do not look at Christian life as a linear progression from sin to going to no sin. The Christian remains simul iustus et pecator – saint and sinner at the same time – Romans 7. Those with Arminian understanding like Wesley will differ with us on this take on Romans 7.

    Rather we look at it as a cycle. When I get cocky and I think I am pulling it off with my good works, and becoming a pharisee, that is the time the HS will use the Law again to me. So that in the end I cleave again to the Cross – Phil 3:9. The Christian lives in the state of repentance – meaning, he only sees himself as worthy of damnation but for Christ’s sake he is only forgiven. He does not long to be accepted by God on the basis of his works but only on the basis of Christ’s work, this is our view anyway.

    Jesus used Law and Gospel many many times. For example “be perfect for your father in heaven is perfect”. This is Law. Technically we can never be, so by this account we are doomed, even after we have become believers we still fall short of this – by word, thought and deed. So when I see that, I am convicted – it makes me look inside and so I see my emptiness, there is nothing in me (says St Paul – in my flesh there is no good thing). Hence, I must look outside, to Christ.

    LPC

  20. John 5:33-40…..
    You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
    ………………………………………………………………………
    In the debate Brown asked White regarding “‘…that you may be saved’…did He mean that or not?”

    White’s response: “he means that to those that the Spirit is going to draw to him……. ….preaching is always used as the means by which the elect people are brought into a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

    However, in the context here, the “you” in John 33 thru 40 is the obstinate, unbelieving Jews. The “you” here are those who sent to John to testify the truth. The “you” in this context are those who “chose for a time to enjoy John’s light”. The “you” in this context are those who have never heard his voice or seen his form. The “you” in this context are those who do not have God’s word in their hearts. And the “you” in the context are those who refuse to come (or believe) so that they may have (spiritual) life (which is ironic considering that Calvinism teaches that one must first have spiritual life in order to believe).

    For White to take the “you” in these verses and to translate to mean “only those select few that God has unconditionally elected to salvation” is a complete stretch and absurd. White would have us believe that when Jesus said “I mention it that you may be saved”, what Jesus really meant was “I mention it that you may be saved, well, I don’t mean you specifically, but rather a predetermined group. In fact, I don’t mean you at all because you have no chance of being saved.”

  21. wingedfooted1,

    You’re dead-on. I’d love for any Calvinist to try to explain that passage without appealing to other scriptures (or just general theology) to work their way out of it. Ain’t gonna happen.

    Dr. White proves this in his response (which begged the question anyhow. Dr. Brown’s position is that God *is* drawing all men, and this text was cited to prove it. So it does no good for Dr. White to say “He means that to those the Spirit is going to draw…”). And he appeals to general Calvinist theology to beg the question nonetheless. So much for “contextual exegesis” of that one, Dr. White 🙁

    Is it ok for Reformed folks to consider other scriptures in their interpretation of this passage? Sure. But what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If Calvinists (Dr. White included) appeal to other scriptures when exegeting a text such as this one, then don’t cry “foul” when Dr. Brown and others do the same 🙂

  22. Wingfooted (post of March 31, 2010 at 6:48 pm),

    Thank you for mentioning that concerning John 5:33-40. I wanted to do so but decided not to for time’s sake, etc. Dr. White’s answer/interpretation was completely illegetimate special pleading, and would make a good textbook example of exegetical fallacy. It violates basisc principles of exegesis and would be recognized as invalid by the vast majority of biblical scholars, including Calvinist ones.

  23. Dr. Brown, the only thing I would add to the Romans 9 discussion is to acknowledge James White’s point that Paul cites individuals (Ismael, Jacob, Esau, Pharoah). Calvinists many much of this point. However, Paul is simply citing them as examples or illustrations of God’s freedom to make a choice according to His will–in this case the nation of Israel and God’s apparent rejection of Israel. This has nothing to do with the salvation or eternal condemnation of any of those people, rather it is about God’s dealing with nations and his covenant that He made with Israel. The point is it’s based upon God’s grace, so that it may be by faith. So the persons cited are merely illustrations from the Bible of God acting and making choices, relevant to the nation of the Jews now (the subject of chapters 9-11), but not having to do with individual salvation or anything like predestination. But neither is Romans 9 irrelevant to us as individuals before God. We see here the principle, relevant to all of us personally, that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

  24. Nick writes: “…in this case the nation of Israel and God’s apparent rejection of Israel…”‘

    How is Pharoah related to Israel? 😉

  25. Clarifying things for Mr. Jabez:

    “It seems as if the Calvinist wants to judge the intention of the heart prematurely”

    Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)
    The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;
    who can understand it?

    We believe the Bible teaches that man comes into this world under the headship of Adam and thus a born a sinner. We believe the Bible teaches that Adam’s sin is our sin, and thus by faith in Christ, Christ’s righteousness becomes ours. (Rom 5).

    Thus we believe it is God who judges the intentions of all men’s hearts and finds them wanting. (Rom 3:10-12)

    “If that is reneged earlier, after a faith profession, then it never happened according to this theology”

    A mere profession of faith does not obligate God to save anyone. There are many who profess faith in Christ and yet deny him. We believe the Bible teaches that there are many who are connected to the Christ through the church who are in fact not his people. (Matt 7:23, Heb 6, etc.)

    “It seems like a core question, no matter what one holds to, is why do we need to know these completely unknowable answers with absolute certainty (where we literally can only know in part until confirmed by a heavenly affirmation of that person’s presence there, as eventually witnessed as such)?”

    An excellent question and one the Calvinist answers Biblically stating that while we can know our own salvation as far as our faith takes us, we can never know for certain the salvation of another apart from knowing them throughout their lives and subsequent death in faith.

    “By also advancing attributing the actions involved of the Holy Spirit as foreknowing what God will achieve in seeking and finding a confessing new believer and sustaining that one, or not, aren’t we smart!”

    I’m not sure I follow what this means. We believe that the Bible teaches that those whom God has chosen for redemption, of the mass of sinful mankind deserving of death and hell, He will indeed regenerate and cause to persevere to the end. The believer must certainly persevere, but the impetus, engine if you will, for that perseverance is God Himself.

    Micah Burke

  26. With regard to the theory of “looking forward to the Cross” to support the regeneration of Old Testament saints, could the Israelites “look forward” to Yom Kippur in order to be cleansed of their sins? Specifically, if an Israelite committed adultery 10 months before Yom Kippur, could he “look forward” to this day and be cleansed of his sins?

    Similarly, after Martha confessed in John 11, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God…” could she “look forward” to the Cross to receive the benefits of the Atonement? If not, you have someone, WHO AT THAT MOMENT, is simultaneously both regenerate and under God’s wrath.

    It wasn’t until AFTER His Resurrection in John 20 that Christ breathed on His disciples and told them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

  27. I should have added “according to Calvinism and its doctrine of total depravity” before I wrote in my previous post “…is simultaneously both regenerate and under God’s wrath.”

  28. why did the Lord put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden if He didnt want choice?? why not just force the love for Him at the first?? why so much suffering just to later force a choice?? thank you

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